Since desktop 3D printers have become more common, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in all kinds of areas such as rapid prototyping, antique restoration, mass production of consumer goods, or even household repairs that might not have been possible otherwise. There are a lot of unique manufacturing methods that can be explored in depth with a 3D printer as well, and [Slant 3D] demonstrates how one such method known as the living hinge can be created with this revolutionary new tool.
Living hinges, unlike a metal hinge you might pick up at a hardware store, are integrated into the design of the part and made of the same material. Typically found in plastic containers, they allow for flexibility while keeping parts count and cost low. The major downside is that they create stresses in the materials when used, so their lifespan is finite. But there are a number of ways to extend their life, albeit with a few trade-offs.
The first note is to make sure that you’re using the right kind of plastic, but after that’s taken care of [Slant 3D] builds a few flexible parts starting with longer circular-shaped living hinge which allows greater range of motion and distributes the forces across a wider area, at a cost of greater used space and increased complexity. A few other types of living hinges are shown to use less space in some areas, but make the hinges only suitable for use in other narrower applications.
One of the more interesting living hinges he demonstrates is one that’s more commonly seen in woodworking, known there as a kerf bend. By removing strips of material from a sheet, the entire sheet can be rotated around the cuts. In woodworking this is often done by subtracting material with a CNC machine or a laser cutter, but in 3D printing the voids can simply be designed into the part.