The Most Utilitarian 3D Print Has the Widest Reach

3D Printing is often heralded as a completely new fabrication method, creating things that simply cannot be manufactured in other ways. While this is true, the widest reaching usefulness of 3D printers isn’t for pushing the limits of fabrication. The real power is in pushing the limits of manufacturing for individuals who need one-off parts.

The proof point is in the story shown above. A missing key on a keyboard could have meant an otherwise fine piece of hardware headed for recycling, but was saved by a single part printed on a desktop 3D printer. Multiply this by the increasing number of people who have access to these printers and you can see how using 3D printing for repairs will have a huge impact on keeping our gear in service longer.

We want to see how you’ve saved things from the rubbish pile. Show them off in Hackaday’s Repairs You Can Print contest. The best Student entry and the best Organization entry (think Hackerspace) will each win a high-end 3D Printer. But anyone can enter, with the top twenty entries receiving $100 credit for Tindie.

If you’re like us though, these prizes are just icing on the cake. The real reward is showing what some think is mundane but the Hackaday crowd believes is worth celebrating. Check out all the entries so far and join us below for a few highlights.

Good Ideas That Will Nod Your Head

On the open Internet you’re more likely to see online love for a suit of Fallout 3 armor printed over five months than you will a keyboard kickstand. But to be honest, these repairs are like the hammer and nail of 3D printing: not much thought is paid but they hold the world together.

Toolboxes get used and they’re designed tough to protect what’s inside. But when those latches are open they can get caught and that’s what led to the demise of the one shown above. No problem, the replacement for the broken latch is going strong. Shown in the middle above is a hinge repair for a laptop that proves it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to work well. And finally, It’s a pain to take a shower if you can’t hang the showerhead. This shower head worked fine and just needed a replacement cleat.

Headphones are all different and good luck finding replacement parts. This one’s not finished yet but the idea behind printing a Beats headphones part is to keep the perfectly good audio in use. In the middle we see a highly recognizable part; tape dispensers are worthless unless you have the hub that holds the tape. And finally, broken wings won’t keep this keyboard kickstand from going back into service.

Show us what you’ve got, you have a week left. We want to see the Repairs You Can Print!

21 thoughts on “The Most Utilitarian 3D Print Has the Widest Reach

  1. I was looking at the Contest web page yesterday.
    At the bottom, I clicked the “All Submissions” button.
    At the bottom of the next page, I clicked the “More Submissions” button.
    And with each succeeding page, there were submissions from previous pages mixed in…
    I wish they had displayed sequentially instead of randomly.

    1. This is a part of contest entries that was put in place in hopes the earliest entries aren’t monopolizing the browsing by always being on top.

      I have not seen the same behavior as you, when I load more entries it actually loads more entries. But when I visit the page anew the entries will be in a different order.

      1. Thx for the reasoning. I figure, you print what you want/need, which is different for everyone. Nothing I have read is worthy of hack-notice. If I voted, it would be for the UNprinted VW auto-vent fix. When you remake a part by printing, you repair by replacement. Where is the hack in that? HE at least hacked, by AVOIDING a need to create a new part. THAT, sadly, is a workaround… a hack… but best or only hack I see in the above examples. The rest are remaking a replacement part.

  2. My ‘Repairs you can print’ that I’m most proud of was so easy.

    My wife bought a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle second hand four years ago, she loves that car. Grabbed the lever to adjust the AC vents and all the louvered vanes slumped into a pile. All crooked, couldn’t shut the air vents off, nor direct the air where you wanted to anymore.

    Looked up the price for that assembly and…… noooooope! Don’t remember the figure, but I do remember it was hundreds of dollars beyond my comfort zone to pay.

    At the time the car was new enough that junk yard finds weren’t plentiful.

    Pulled the dash apart, got to the offending vent and got it apart to see what failed. One of the vanes had a single pin broken off. Each vane was connected to the one above and below, so one broken vane made the rest fall like dominos.

    My plan was to get the calipers out, measure it to death, print a few iterations till I found one that worked.

    But then realized while measuring the pin that had broken off was 1.75mm in diameter. The exact same width of my ABS filament I use on my printers. So I snipped off a 1/8″ piece and glued it on. Worked perfectly and has been working for 4 years!

    Like I said, was the easiest 3D printing project fix of my life. So easy I didn’t even have to hit print.

      1. I’ve fixed the backspace key on my keyboard by heating a piece of plastic and pulling it into a very fine filament, and then using that, plus a soldering iron held very close, to rebuild the tiny tab that keeps the metal bar in place to align the key.

    1. I think that’s a great contest entry. The whole point here is to show off the fixes that people assume aren’t cool enough to warrant attention. That’s a poor assumption, as seeing how others have fixed stuff means more tricks get filed away in your brain to draw upon in the future. I love this contest!

      1. They actually had a sticky on that sub linking to the contest for awhile, though looks like it’s not up currently. Definitely right up their alley, I notice a number of recent posts on there have been entered.

  3. “The real power is in pushing the limits of manufacturing for individuals who need one-off parts.”

    Having an at-home factory is the second-most holy grail.*

    *Number one is the replicator.

  4. The biggest roadblock for 3D printing repair parts is actually getting a model. Most parts don’t have models available online so if you aren’t familiar with modeling software you’re often shit out of luck. The market is aching for a good, cheap 3D scanning solution.

    1. 3D scanning doesn’t help if the part is missing or broken – which is usually when you need a replacement.

      I wonder if it would be feasible (and not too expensive) to have professionals crank 3D models out based on a few photos and measurements. Most parts are simple enough that they shouldn’t take too long for someone who knows what they’re doing.

      I’m a neophyte modeler, yet I managed to do my first 3D replacement piece (a mount for a socket and lights switch for a bathroom cabinet, which had partially burned due to faulty wiring), despite only knowing how to use Sketchup. I think a pro could have done it blindfolded if he had the exact sizes.

    2. I thought this too when I first got a 3D printer; it seemed logical that the second purchase would be a 3D scanner.

      But the reality is that you’re almost always going to be better served getting a decent pair of calipers and just measuring up the original part and knocking the design out manually. Even if you use something as simplistic as TinkerCAD, it’s almost always going to be easier than all the post-scan cleanup you’d need after doing a scan.

      In practice, most parts you might want to swap out for a printed replacement aren’t that complex geometrically. After all, somebody had to design the thing in the first place, and it’s not like they were trying to make their own jobs any harder than necessary.

    3. This is why I don’t understand why people who are unable and unwilling to learn how to model go out and buy printers. It’s just a garbage producing machine if you don’t put in a little time in blender or openscad or whatever. If that sounds like you, give it a try. It’s way more satisfying to realize your own design from a screen to your hand. Definitely beats printing fidget spinners off thingiverse.

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