3D printers are quite common nowadays, but we’re still far from exhausting new ideas to try with them. [Angus] of [Maker’s Muse] recently got interested in 3D printing small mechanical assemblies that can be put together by folding them up, and also depend on folding linkages for the moving parts. (Video, embedded below.) The result would be lightweight, functional assemblies that would be simple to manufacture and require very few parts; but how to make the hinges themselves is the tricky part. As a proof-of-concept, [Angus] designed a clever steering linkage that could be printed flat and folded together, and shows his work on trying to make it happen.
[Angus] points out that that 3D-printed hinges have a lot of limitations that make then less than ideal for small and lightweight assemblies. Printing hinge pieces separately and assembling after the fact increases labor and part count, and print-in-place hinges tend to have loose tolerances. A living hinge made from a thin section of material that folds would be best for a lightweight assembly, but how well it works depends a lot of the material used and how it is made.
[Angus] tries many different things, and ultimately decided on a hybrid approach, combining laser cutting with 3D printing to create an assembly that consists of a laser-cut bottom layer with 3D printed parts on top of it to create a durable and lightweight device. He hasn’t quite sorted it all out, but the results show promise, and his video is a fantastic peek at just how much work and careful experimentation can go into trying something new.