Ultra-Thin Rubber Parts Made With A 3D Printed Plug

We generally think of 3D printed components as being hard bits of plastic, because for the most part, that’s what we’ve got loaded up in our desktop machines. But outside of the normal PLA, PETG, and ABS, you can also print with various flexible filaments such as TPU. This can be handy for producing custom seals, or rugged enclosures.

But what if you want to make very thin rubberized parts? In that case, the 0.4 mm nozzle on most desktop machines will be your limiting factor. But not so with the method [Daniel Bauen] demonstrates in his latest Engineerable video. The trick here is that the printer isn’t producing the final product — it’s making a water-soluble plug that has been slightly undersized for the application at hand.

Once the plug has been printed, [Daniel] sprays it with several coats of Plasti Dip. This builds up a rubberized coating on the printed part, and once it’s reached the desired thickness, the whole thing gets tossed into an ultrasonic cleaner to break up the filament. What you’re left with is a silicone-like part that has the same shape as your original print, but is far thinner than anything you could have extruded normally.

So what is [Daniel] looking to accomplish with this technique? We’ll admit the shape of the object is rather suggestive, but in that case, the dimensions just leave us with more questions than answers. Perhaps we’ll learn more in the next video, which we’re told will see the plugs get dipped into latex.

If subtractive manufacturing is more your speed, you can always freeze a sheet of rubber and use a CNC to cut custom parts out of it.

21 thoughts on “Ultra-Thin Rubber Parts Made With A 3D Printed Plug

    1. Intentional and extremely widely thought comment / joke about large hole in the end.

      On a more serious note, Plasti Dip is not even remotely close to silicone in terms of safety or reliability or UV resistance or shrinkage (or off gassing) during curing or quite a few other things.

  1. I have wondered if it might be possible to set a3D printer to put it’s nozzle closer to the work piece than the diameter of it’s aperture and then move the head faster so it smears the filament out like a pritstick, effectively forming layers that are very thin, at the expense of some horizontal resolution.

    1. This is the default behavior of a 3d printer. Most have nozzles with a 0.4mm diameter, and are configured to print layers with height between 0.1 mm and 0.3 mm. This “squishing” is critical for the layers to adhere to each other.

  2. I mean the technique is interesting, like molding and casting in metal and similar.

    But I can’t think of an application, besides maybe making gloves. Or… Maybe it’s supposed to be a bit of a thick robot hand finger phalanx (had to look up what it’s called, interesting, star trek also talks about phalanx to describe ship parts).

    Back to topic, it could be useful for designing the shape of a robot hand but then make it more flexible so it can be more compliant to objects to grip.

    Maybe you could even make bone-like structures, then layer various materials on top of it, insert touch sensitive sensors, some minor pneumatics to vary stiffness, and you would have a very comfortable to the touch and agile robotic hand.

    Also if you don’t want to go all out on the complexity, it could still be useful for animatronics.

    Essentially all the gamout of sculpting opens up, just that you can design precisely on a computer.

    So maybe the first step is doing it manually, so you fight less with software and processes, and then make it more professional using a computer.

    Lots of options.

        1. I haven’t tried anything else, shame on me but Ultimaker PVA filament will melt an object the size of the one in the video in less than an hour with just warm water in a bucket, guess that’s why I haven’t used anything else.

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