Homebrew Wrist Brace Helps Beat Injury with Style

Repetitive motion injuries are no joke, often attended by crippling pain and the possibility of expensive surgery with a lengthy recovery. Early detection and treatment is the key, and for many wrist and hand injuries such as [ktchn_creations] case of “Blackberry thumb,” that includes immobilization with a rigid brace.

Sadly, the fiberglass brace her doctor left her with was somewhat lacking in the style department, and rather than being left with something unappealing to wear for half a year, she 3D-printed a stylish and functional wrist immobilizer. Starting in Autocad, she designed the outline of the brace, essentially an unwrapped version of the splint she started with. For breathability as well as aesthetics, a pattern of tessellated hexagons was used. The drawing was then exported to Fusion 360 for modeling and printing in black PLA. We were surprised to see that the brace was printed flat and later heat formed around her wrist, but that makes more sense than printing it in its final wrapped state. With a few velcro straps, the thermoformed brace was ready for service on the long road to recovery.

While [ktchn_creations] stipulates that looks were the motivator here, we’re not unaware that a 3D-printed brace might be more affordable than something dispensed by a doctor. But if you do build your own DIY appliance, whether for bracing your wrist, your knee, or your wayward teeth, you’ll want to run it past your health care provider, of course.

Locally Sourced: PLA Adhesive

When I first started getting into 3D printed projects that would require final assembly from multiple parts, I wanted to make sure I had an adhesive that would really hold up. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than spending 10’s of hours printing and assembling something, only to have it fall apart because my adhesive wasn’t up to the task. So I spent a lot of time trolling 3D printing message boards and communities trying to find the best way of gluing PLA. It should come as no surprise that, like everything else in the world, there are a ridiculous number of opinions on the subject.

If you’re printing with ABS, the general wisdom is that solvent welding with acetone is the best bet. You put some acetone on the printed parts, rub them together, and the plastic fuses together. This happens because the ABS melts slightly when exposed to the acetone, so they end up essentially melding into one piece. This sounded like exactly what I wanted, but unfortunately, acetone doesn’t have this same effect on PLA.

After some more research I found people suggesting Weld-On #16, an acrylic adhesive that will actually melt PLA. A little of this applied to the parts, they said, and you can solvent weld PLA just like acetone on ABS. Sure enough, the stuff works great and I’ve used it to put together nearly everything I’ve printed in PLA over the last few years. Only problem is, this stuff is a bit nasty, takes 24 hours to fully cure, and nobody has it locally.

So as an experiment I thought I’d take a look at a few adhesives sold at the local big box retailer and see if I couldn’t find something comparable. Do I need to keep ordering this nasty goop online every time, or can I pick something up off the shelf? More to the point, is solvent welding PLA really any better than just gluing it?

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3D Printering: Printing Sticks for a PLA Hot Glue Gun

When is a hot glue stick not a hot glue stick? When it’s PLA, of course! A glue gun that dispenses molten PLA instead of hot glue turned out to be a handy tool for joining 3D-printed objects together, once I had figured out how to print my own “glue” sticks out of PLA. The result is a bit like a plus-sized 3D-printing pen, but much simpler and capable of much heavier extrusion. But it wasn’t quite as simple as shoving scrap PLA into a hot glue gun and mashing the trigger; a few glitches needed to be ironed out.

Why Use a Glue Gun for PLA?

Some solutions come from no more than looking at two dissimilar things while in the right mindset, and realizing they can be mashed together. In this case I had recently segmented a large, hollow, 3D model into smaller 3D-printer-sized pieces and printed them all out, but found myself with a problem. I now had a large number of curved, thin-walled pieces that needed to be connected flush with one another. These were essentially butt joints on all sides — the weakest kind of joint — offering very little surface for gluing. On top of it all, the curved surfaces meant clamping was impractical, and any movement of the pieces while gluing would result in other pieces not lining up.

An advantage was that only the outside of my hollow model was a presentation surface; the inside could be ugly. A hot glue gun is worth considering for a job like this. The idea would be to hold two pieces with the presentation sides lined up properly with each other, then anchor the seams together by applying melted glue on the inside (non-presentation) side of the joint. Let the hot glue cool and harden, and repeat. It’s a workable process, but I felt that hot glue just wasn’t the right thing to use in this case. Hot glue can be slow to cool completely, and will always have a bit of flexibility to it. I wanted to work fast, and I wanted the joints to be hard and stiff. What I really wanted was melted PLA instead of glue, but I had no way to do it. Friction welding the 3D-printed pieces was a possibility but I doubted how maneuverable my rotary tool would be in awkward orientations. I was considering ordering a 3D-printing pen to use as a small PLA spot welder when I laid eyes on my cheap desktop glue gun.

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Repairs You Can Print: Broken Glue Gun Triggers Replacement

Picture this: you need to buy a simple tool like a glue gun. There’s usually not a whole lot going on in that particular piece of technology, so you base your decision on the power rating and whether it looks like it will last. And it does last, at least for a few years—just long enough to grow attached to it and get upset when it breaks. Sound familiar?

[pixelk] bought a glue gun a few years ago for its power rating and its claims of strength. Lo and behold, the trigger mechanism has proven to be weak around the screws. The part that pushes the glue stick into the hot end snapped in two.

It didn’t take much to create a replacement. [pixelk] got most of the measurements with calipers and then got to work in OpenSCAD. After printing a few iterations, it fit well enough, but [pixelk] saw a chance to improve on the original design and added a few teeth where the part touches the glue stick. The new part has been going strong for three months.

We think this entry into our Repairs You Can Print contest is a perfect example of the everyday utility of 3D printers. Small reproducible plastic parts are all around us, just waiting to fail. The ability to not only replace them but to improve on them is one of the brightest sides of our increasingly disposable culture.

Still haven’t found a glue gun you can stick to? Try building your own.

They’re Putting Soy In Your Wires, Man

I’ve got a friend who tells me at every opportunity that soy is the downfall of humanity. Whatever ails us as a society, it’s the soy beans that did it. They increase violent tendencies, they make us fat and lazy, they run farmers out of business, and so on. He laments at how hard it is to find food that doesn’t include soy in some capacity, and for a while was resigned to eating nothing but chicken hot dogs and bags of frozen peas; anything else had unacceptable levels of the “Devil’s Bean”. Overall he’s a really great guy, kind of person who could fix anything with a roll of duct tape and a trip to the scrap pile, but you might think twice if he invites you over for dinner.

A column of soy soldiers stand at the ready.

So when he recently told me about all the trouble people are having with soy-based electrical wiring, I thought it was just the latest conspiracy theory to join his usual stories. I told him it didn’t make any sense, there’s no way somebody managed to develop a reliable soy-derived conductor. “No, no,” he says, “not the conductor. They are making the insulation out of soy, and animals are chewing through it.”

Now that’s a bit different. I was already well aware of the growing popularity of bioplastics: the PLA used in desktop 3D printers is one such example, generally derived from corn. It certainly wasn’t unreasonable to think somebody had tried to make “green” electrical wiring by using a bioplastic insulation. While I wasn’t about to sit down to a hot bag of peas for dinner, I had to admit that maybe in this case his claims deserved a look.

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Print a Sacrificial Magnet Square

Here’s your quick and dirty hack for the day. Sometimes you just need something that will work for what you’re trying to do, and you don’t want to go through the motions of doing what’s prescribed. When this happens, it’s a cheap, disposable tool that fits the bill. No, we’re not talking about Harbor Freight—we mean those need-driven tools you make yourself that get the job done without fuss. If you’re really lucky, you can use them a couple of times before they break.

This is one of those tools. [Jake’s Workshop] wanted to be able to quickly tack a corner weld without getting out the clamps, so he thought, why not print some magnet squares? [Jake] hollowed out the triangle to save filament, but this also gives it a nice advantage over store-bought magnet squares: instead of grasping and pulling it off,  you can hook your finger through it and then hang it on the pegboard for next time.

[Jake] got lucky with the pocket sizes and was able to press fit the magnets in place, but it would be worth it to add a drop of CA glue to help with strain. He seems to have forgotten to upload the files for his various styles, but a hollow triangle with chamfers and magnet pockets should be easy enough to replicate in OpenSCAD or  SolidWorks, which he used in the video below.

There’s something special about a cheap tool you make yourself. Even though you know it won’t last forever, it’s just more meaningful than some cheap, rage-inducing tchotchke or assemblage from a place where the air is ~85% offgasses. We love necessity-driven self-built tools around here so much that we gave them their own Hacklet.

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Using Nanotubes to Strengthen 3D Prints

3D printing has brought the production of plastic parts to the desktops and workshops of makers the world over, primarily through the use of FDM technology. The problem this method is that when squirting layers of hot plastic out to create a part, the subsequent vertical layers don’t adhere particularly well to each other, leading to poor strength and delamination problems. However, carbon nanotubes may hold some promise in solving this issue.

A useful property of carbon nanotubes is that they can be heated with microwave energy. Taking advantage of this, researchers coated PLA filament in a polymer film containing carbon nanotubes. As the layers of the print are laid down, the nanotubes are primarily located at the interface between the vertical layers. By using microwaves to heat the nanotubes, this allows the print to be locally heated at the interface between layers, essentially welding the layers together. As far as results are concerned, the team reports an impressive 275% improvement in fracture strength over traditionally printed parts.

The research paper is freely available, which we always like to see. There’s other methods to improve your print strength, too – you could always try annealing your printed parts.

[Thanks 𐂀[d] 𐂅 for the tip]