Sacrificial Bridge Avoids 3D Printed Supports

[Tommy] shares a simple 3D printing design tip that will be self-evident to some, but a bit of a revelation to others: the concept of a sacrificial bridge to avoid awkward support structures. In the picture shown, the black 3D print has small bridges and each bridge has a hole. The purpose of these bits is to hold a hex nut captive in the area under the bridge; a bolt goes in through the round hole in the top.

Readers familiar with 3D printing will see right away that printing the bridges might be a problem. When a printer gets to the first layer of the bridge, it will be trying to lay filament in empty space. By itself this is not usually a problem as long as a bridge is short, flat, and featureless. Unfortunately this bridge has a hole in it, and that hole means the printer will be trying to draw circles in mid-air, rather than simply stretching filament point-to-point across a gap. One solution would be to add a small amount of support structure, but that just moves the problem. Removing small supports from enclosed spaces can be a real hassle.

To solve this [Tommy] added what he calls a “sacrificial bridge”, shown as blue in the CAD image. He essentially gives the hole a flat bottom, so that the printer first lays down a thin but solid bridge as a foundation. Then, the portion with the round hole is printed on top of that. With this small design change, the print becomes much more reliable with no support structure required.

There is a bit of post-work involved since each hole needs to be drilled out to punch through the thin sacrificial bridge underneath, but it definitely beats digging out little bits of support structure instead.

3D Prints and Food

We recently ran a post about a cute little 3D printed elephant that could dispense booze. The design didn’t actually have the plastic touching the liquid — there was a silicone tube carrying the shots. However, it did spark a conversation at the secret Hackaday bunker about how safe it is to use 3D printed objects for food. In particular, when I say 3D printing, I’m talking fused deposition modeling. Yes, there are other technologies, but most of us are printing using filament laid out in layers with a hot nozzle.

There’s a common idea that ABS is bad in general, but that PET and PLA are no problem because there are food-safe versions of those plastics available. However, the plastic is only a small part of the total food safety picture. Let me be clear: I am not a medical professional and although my computers have run a few plastics plants in years past, I am not really an expert on polymer chemistry, either. However, I don’t use 3D printed materials to hold or handle food and while you might not drop dead if you do, you might want to reconsider.

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3D Printed Tyres Let You Drive on Water

[Jesus] apparently walked on water, without any tools at all. But when you’ve got a 3D printer handy, it makes sense to use it. [Simon] decided to use his to 3D print some tyres for his R/C car – with awesome results.

[Simon] started this project with a goal of driving on water. Initial experiments were promising – the first design of paddle tyres gave great traction in the sand and were capable of climbing some impressive slopes. However, once aimed at the water, the car quickly sank below the surface.

Returning to the drawing board armed with the advice of commenters, [Simon] made some changes. The paddle tyres were reprinted with larger paddles, and a more powerful R/C car selected as the test bed. On the second attempt, the car deftly skipped along the surface and was remarkably controllable as well! [Simon] has provided the files so you can make your own at home.

It’s a great example of a practical use for a 3D printer. Parts can readily be made for all manner of RC purposes, such as making your own servo adapters.

Dumbo Never Forgets to Fill Your Glass

What do you get if you have a 3D printer, some booze (or any beverage), a pump, and an Arduino? If you are [RobotGeek] you wind up with an elephant that will pour you a shot on demand. The project was inspired by the ShotBot, but we have to admit the elephant sells it.

Conceptually, the device is pretty simple. A pump and a light sensor do all the real work. When you cover the sensor with a shot glass, the pump dispenses liquid. What we found of interest, though, was the process of starting with an elephant model and then modifying it for the purpose at hand. In addition to making it larger, they also cut off the trunk and replaced it with a spout. The steps show Fusion 360, but you could apply the same concepts using your choice of CAD programs.

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3D Printing Aluminum with Nanoparticles

We love our 3D printers. But sometimes we really wish we could print in metal. While metal printing is still out of reach for most of us, HRL Labs announced a powdered aluminum printing process that they claim is a breakthrough because it allows printing (and welding) of high-strength aluminum alloys that previously were unprintable and unweldable.

The key is treating the metal with special zirconium-based nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as nucleation sites that allow the aluminum to form the correct microstructure. The full paper on the process appears in Nature.

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The Narrowing Gap Between Amateur and Professional Fabrication

The other day I saw a plastic part that was so beautiful that I had to look twice to realize it hadn’t been cast — and no, it didn’t come out of a Stratysys or anything, just a 3D printer that probably cost $1,500. It struck me that someone who had paid an artisan to make a mold and cast that part might end up spending the same amount as that 3D printer. It also struck me that the little guys are starting to catch up with the big guys.

Haz Bridgeport, Will Mill

Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting a hold of the equipment. If you need a Bridgeport mill for your project, and you don’t have one, you have to pay for someone else to make the thing — no matter how simple. You’re paying for the operator’s education and expertise, as well as helping pay for the maintenance and support of the hardware and the shop it’s housed in.

I once worked in a packaging shop, and around 2004 we got in a prototype to use in developing the product box. This prototype was 3D printed and I was told it cost $12,000 to make. For the era it was mind blowing. The part itself was simplistic and few folks on Thingiverse circa 2017 would be impressed; the print quality was roughly on par with a Makerbot Cupcake. But because the company didn’t have a 3D printer, they had to pay someone who owned one a ton of cash to make the thing they wanted.

Unparalleled Access to Formerly Professional-Only Tools

But access to high end tools has never been easier. Hackerspaces and tool libraries alone have revolutionized what it means to have access to those machines. There are four or five Bridgeports (or similar vertical mills) at my hackerspace and I believe they were all donated. For the cost of membership, plus the time to get trained in and checked out, you can mill that part for cheap. Repeat with above-average 3D printers, CNC mills, vinyl cutters, lasers. The space’s South Bend lathe (pictured) is another example of the stuff most people don’t have in their basement shops. This group ownership model may not necessarily grant you the same gear as the pros, but sometimes it’s pretty close.
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I’ve Seen the Future and It’s Full of Freakin’ Huge Bricks

“Did you know you can 3D-print LEGO bricks that can actually be used as regular LEGO?”–me, in 2009

Those magical words made real to me the wonder that was 3D printing. It was a magical time! Everyone was 3D printing everything, though most of it wasn’t very good because the technology wasn’t there. But just as every technology goes through an evolution, the goalposts of coolness move on past what used to be remarkable to the new thing everyone’s talking about.

These days, no one is going to be more than mildly curious about your 3D-printed LEGO brick. Still, when you look at that uneven lump of plastic as being just one step in an evolution, it’s pretty momentous. What I’m saying is that we’re looking at a future that can be described in three words: Freakin’ Huge Bricks.

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