Rufledt UltraDork
4/28/16 9:23 p.m.

What the title says. I recently shifted careers and started working for my dad fixing appliances. Every now and then we run into a situation where 1 small plastic part, which is vital to some aspect of operation of the machine, will fail and will no longer be available. In some cases it's on an old lady's really old microwave or something, in other cases it's because certain manufacturers don't offer parts after 5 years (cough-samsung/LG-cough) so the customer is SOL. For want of a cheap plastic part. I told my dad about 3D printers and their ability to make small plastic parts, and now he wants one, if for no other reason than to screw around. Sure, screwing around with one doesn't help customers, but we are leery of replacing anything on a customer machine with anything other than a factory part. It makes sense if you know him.

So, have small parts (think less than 1 cubic foot) printers gotten past the incredibly fiddly stage yet? also, any suggestions on which ones to look into? For budget i would say keep it limited, but knowing him he'll buy a holy-crap-edition if he's impressed enough. Also he uses tools for decades, too, so longevity would be a plus. Have any of them been around long enough to see how they age? I know sketchup pretty well, and i'd be willing to learn other CAD programs if that helps. How about those 3D scanners, anyone have experience there?

paranoid_android74 SuperDork
4/29/16 10:38 a.m.

I saw a 3D printer at Lowe's the other day. No idea what brand or the price, so not much help there.

Also I have been volunteering time at a local "maker space", they have three machines that were DIY'd. I know that's not the solution you are looking for, but it's more common than you may think.

No experience with the scanners...

JamesMcD Dork
4/29/16 10:47 a.m.

They still force you to print either a Vader or Yoda head on your first print for calibration purposes.

ProDarwin PowerDork
4/29/16 10:55 a.m.

What kind of material do you want to print with? What resolution?

Are you talking about a DIY $1000 machine? Commercial $50-100k machine? $500k unit?

They have a really wide rage of capabilities. Commercial units work very well. DIY are a pain in the ass.

What do you want to 3d scan?

aircooled MegaDork
4/29/16 11:02 a.m.

There are a number of places that have printers you can use. Maybe a good way to do some tests. The software modeling of course will take some learning. Even with a good scanner I suspect you will need to do some modeling on most parts (e.g. voids for mounting etc.)

revrico Reader
4/29/16 11:23 a.m.

The reprap project is still going strong. It's an open source 3d printer designed to be self replicating. They even suggest building a spare one you put your kit together to have parts. Aside from circuitry, it can rebuild the whole machine, I've had my eye on it for awhile.

Home depot started selling I think make bots, could be a different brand though. Although I believe maker has a 3d scanner available.

I'll have to go through my bookmarks and get back to you, I've been specifically watching a printer with an 18"x18x18 printing area. Bigger than I should ever need, but I'd rather to big than to small. It's also under the $1k-2k price range.

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/29/16 11:27 a.m.

I have a Prusa style, very coming style. I got mine from Maker Farm and can't say enough good things about the printer or the company. I got mine, with a 2 lb spool for about $600. It has a 10"X10X10" print area with beey good resolution. The only issue with what you're talking about is that you either have to design, or 3D scan the part to replicate it. I say do it. It's the coolest technology since something else that wasn't quite as cool (can't think of an example).

foxtrapper UltimaDork
4/29/16 12:38 p.m.

No personal experience, but I have observed people printing unobtainium plastic parts for cars. Fiddly stuff, like switch actuators, door handle rod holders, etc. So I'd say it's quite viable.

Rufledt UltraDork
4/29/16 2:30 p.m.

A 10"x10"x10" area would probably be enough actually. The goal is to print small parts in plastic only. DIY isn't a problem, but It would help if it wasn't a PITA to use. I'll have o check out that Prusa style thing, that sounds like a decent deal.

I'm secretly hoping to use this to print unobtanium plastic parts for lots of stuff, not just appliances.

tuna55 MegaDork
4/29/16 2:38 p.m.

Don't worry about scanning too much, unless you're trying to reverse engineer complicated things. If you're just printing out a new plastic part, just get decent with some CAD flavor and measure well with a set of calipers.

motomoron SuperDork
4/29/16 3:57 p.m.

Bear in mind that most of the parts you'll want to replace are solid but the consumer grade 3D printers will make the part hollow with a matrix of internal webs. Structural strength can be an issue. Tolerances close enough for fits to shafts, other parts and fastener locations are hard or impossible to hold.

Anything bigger than say, a cell phone can take overnight to print.

I design, machine and fabricate stuff for the life sciences field and the consumer grade machines aren't capable of making anything I can use.

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/29/16 5:28 p.m.
motomoron wrote: Bear in mind that most of the parts you'll want to replace are solid but the consumer grade 3D printers will make the part hollow with a matrix of internal webs. Structural strength can be an issue. Tolerances close enough for fits to shafts, other parts and fastener locations are hard or impossible to hold.

I have to disagree on both points. I can print solid, that's all up to the slicing software. It takes longer, but it's 100% doable. You can chose any percentage of fill you want, even the style of fill you want.
And if I print something with a 3mm hole, that hole is 3mm. That comes down to the printer and the design to some extent

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/29/16 5:31 p.m.

If you want to see what it takes to assemble my kit, have a look-see At my build thread.

NOHOME PowerDork
4/29/16 5:56 p.m.

We have a Soliddoodle and a Formlabs SLA in my department. $800 and $5,000 respectively.

Both are quite busy and useful enabling us to validate ideas and make jigs. Together they have replaced at least $10,000 worth of business that I used to do with a local machine shop. The SLA is a world apart in quality from the extruder style printer.

Part of making the printer useful was to send three people out for solidworks training and then buy solidworks seats at $5000 a seat. Have not bought a scanner of any sort yet.

I would be concerned that time spent drawing the part would make it cost prohibitive plus you are on the hook to warranty something that is made from a questionable material for the job. For us, the big savings is in the fact that we can discuss a part and have it there tomorrow to see if it will work, rather than waiting two weeks for the machine shop. I have to account for my guys labour to draw and hit print so the actual book cost is not as low as you would think.

If you can draw the part, the SLA would be a huge bonus to any restoration effort.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/29/16 7:35 p.m.

We have a Solidoodle. It's been a bit of a disappointment to me, through either a lack of skill on the part of the user (not me) or the machine itself it's only good for rough approximations. The strength of the parts is not in the same league as a cast part, so I'd be concerned about using it to replicate broken plastic doohickies.

We have a scanner as well. I'm not convinced it's saved us any money yet, but it has required a computer upgrade and has sucked up a huge amount of time on our R&D guy. But we can make some cool looking pictures.

paranoid_android74 SuperDork
4/29/16 8:10 p.m.
DrBoost wrote: If you want to see what it takes to assemble my kit, have a look-see At my build thread.

Whoa! I totally missed your build Dr.- that is way cool!

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/29/16 9:53 p.m.
paranoid_android74 wrote:
DrBoost wrote: If you want to see what it takes to assemble my kit, have a look-see At my build thread.
Whoa! I totally missed your build Dr.- that is way cool!

Thanks. It's a really cool hobby, one that I believe is incredibly useful. Check out for TONS of free downloadable files.

travellering Reader
4/29/16 10:31 p.m.

This one ( ) is currently in use by one of the guys I work with. Out of pure self-interest, being a machinist and all, I would not say the parts he has made are as strong as billet aluminum. They are more flexible, so they can take more abuse, and they are miles stronger than the SLA prints I've seen from Makerbots and their home-hobbyist ilk. I would say you could certainly make functional replacement parts with it.

He has made a flashlight mount that has one 10-24 bolt through holding its clamp to the picatinny rail of his AR, and it's held through several enthusiastic sessions at the range...

Gieb New Reader
4/30/16 3:40 a.m.

For cost, ease, material selection, and quality, I would highly recommend using a company that does the printing for you. There are quite a few out there. You just upload your CAD model, they provide you an instant quote, you buy it, and you get your part in the mail as soon as next day.

I really can't think of a reason to purchase a 3D printer itself other than if you want a project to tinker on. The low cost ones are unreliable and the technology itself (FDM typically) has a number of inherent flaws. Beyond that you're looking at industrial printers using different technologies (SL, SLS, DMLS) that are actually capable of making great parts, but they're $100k+. The simple solution, as I mentioned above, is to buy the high-quality parts from the companies who are able to produce them. You'll spend a lot less than buying your own printer, you won't have to tinker, and you get great quality.

A few companies printing parts that I would recommend: (also offers CNC machining & injection molding with online, instant interactive quotes) (less expensive but lead times are longer) (fast and inexpensive but they use lower-resolution FDM technology)

For 3D CAD, use Onshape ( It was started by ex-Solidworks people, and is a very powerful, free 3D CAD program that works entirely online so you don't even need a high-end computer.

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/30/16 7:08 a.m.

IN reply to Gieb: This is GRM, we ARE tinkerers. When I bought mine, I specifically wanted a kit so I knew how it worked and went together. I suspect most of us here are in the same boat.

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