Copper tubes formed by 3D printed press dies

Can 3D Printed Press Tools Produce Repeatable Parts?

When we think of using a press to form metal we think of large stamps with custom made metal dies under unimaginable hydraulic pressure. It’s unlikely we’d e think of anything 3D printed. And in a commercial environment we’d be right. But your average garage hacker is far more likely to have access to a bench vise and a 3D printer. It’s in this context that [The Shipping Container Garage] has spent considerable time, effort, and money perfecting a process for pressing copper parts with 3D printed dies, which you can watch below the break.

In the quest to make a custom intake manifold for his project car, [The Shipping Container Garage] first made 3D printed jigs for cutting out a manifold flange that bolts to the cylinder head. It’s a process he calls Analog CNC, as all the cutting is done by hand.

Buoyed by his success, he proceeded with the next step: making manifold runners. His metal of choice was copper. While softer than many metals such as steel, he found it too hard. In the video, he describes his method for annealing the copper. Once cooled, two 3D printed dies are pressed into the copper tubes to progressively shape them. Watch the video to find out one of the neatest details of the die itself: how he gets it out!

Of course no matter how clever this all is, it’s useless if it produces poor results. And that’s where the most astounding part of the build is: The parts are all the same within 0.006 inches (0.15mm) of each other, and the parts fit the manifold flange they were made for. Additionally, the die can be used for the duration of the project at hand. For low volume production, this appears to be a viable method. It’ll be interesting to see what others do to iterate these processes to even more advanced stages.

You may also like to see 3D printing used in leather working and in jigs for beautiful circuit sculptures. A big thanks to [JapanFan] for the tip! If you have your own pressing hacks to share, let us know via the Tip Line!

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Upside-down c-clamp held in a frame, forming a crude press

C-Clamp Becomes Light-Duty Arbor Press

[ThingaUser] made a tool to solve a specific problem of theirs, but the design also happens to be a pretty good way to turn a c-clamp into a poor man’s light duty arbor press.

The frame is made for a common 4-inch c-clamp.

The problem they had was a frequent need to press nuts and occasionally bearings into other parts. Some kind of press is really the best tool for the job, but rather than buy a press, they opted to make their own solution. By designing and 3D printing an adapter for a common 4-inch c-clamp, a simple kind of light duty press was born.

Sure, one has to turn the handle on the clamp to raise and lower the moveable jaw, and that’s not the fastest operation. But the real value in the design is that the clamp can now stand by itself on a tabletop, leaving the operator to dedicate one hand to manipulating the part to be pressed, while twisting the clamp’s handle with the other hand. There’s no need for a third hand to keep the clamp itself stable in the process. As a bonus, it can print without supports and the clamp secures with zip ties; no other fasteners or glue needed.

Not all c-clamps are the same, so there is a risk that this frame that fits [ThingaUser]’s clamp might not fit someone else’s. In those cases, it’s best to have access to not just the STL file, but also to a version in a portable CAD format like STEP to make it easy to modify. But there are still ways to make changes to an STL that isn’t quite right.

3D Printing With VHS Tape Filament

If you have a pile of old VHS tapes collecting dust in your attic or basement that you know you’ll never watch again, either because all of those movies are available on DVD or a streaming service, or because you haven’t had a working VCR since 2003, there might be a way of putting them to good use in another way. With the miles of tape available in just a few cassettes, [Brother] aka [Andrew] shows us how to use that tape as filament for a 3D printer. (Video, embedded below.)

The first step of the build is to actually create the filament. He uses a purpose-built homemade press to spin several tapes into one filament similar to how cotton or flax is spun into yarn. From there the filament is simply fed into the 3D printer and put to work. The tape filament needs to be heated higher than a standard 3D printer filament so he prints at a much slower rate, but the resulting product is indistinguishable from a normal print except for the color. It has some other interesting properties as well, such as retaining its magnetism from the magnetic tape, and being a little more brittle than PET plastic although it seems to be a little stronger.

While the VHS filament might not be a replacement for all plastic 3D prints, it’s still a great use for something that would likely otherwise head straight to the landfill. There are some other uses for this magnetic tape as well, like if you wanted to build a DIY particle accelerator.

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Building An Affordable Press For Heat Set Inserts

If you’re building mechanical assemblies with 3D printed parts, you’ll quickly realize that driving machine screws into thermoplastic isn’t exactly an ideal solution. It can work in a pinch, but you can easily strip the threads if you crank down too hard. The plastic holes can also get worn down from repeated use, which is a problem if you’re working on something that needs to be taken apart and reassembled frequently. In those situations, using brass heat set inserts gives the fasteners something stronger to bite into.

You can install these inserts by hand, but if you plan on doing a lot of them, a dedicated press station like the one [Chris Chimienti] recently put together will save you a lot of aggravation in the long run. In the video after the break he walks viewers through the design and use of the device, which itself relies on a number of 3D printed parts using the very same inserts it’s designed to install.

The spring-loaded arm can slide up and down the extrusion to adjust for height.

To build this tool you’ll need a piece of aluminum extrusion, some smooth rod, a couple springs, and an assortment of fasteners. Nothing that wouldn’t likely be in the parts bin of anyone who’s been tinkering with 3D printers for awhile, though even if you had to buy everything, the Bill of Materials will hardly break the bank. For the base you can use a piece of scrap wood, though [Chris] has opted to make it a storage compartment where he can store the inserts themselves. We really like this approach, but obviously you’ll need to have access to woodworking tools in that case.

Clearly shopping on the top shelf, [Chris] purchased a kit that actually came with a Weller soldering iron and the appropriate tips for the various sized inserts. If you’re like us and just buy the inserts that come in a plastic baggie, you may need to adapt the arm to fit your iron of choice. That said, the idea of having a dedicated iron that you can leave mounted in the press makes a lot of sense to us if you can swing it.

[Joshua Vasquez] wrote up a phenomenal guide to getting started with heat set inserts last year that’s an absolute must-read for anyone interested in the concept. Whether you build a dedicated press or just push them in freehand, his tips and tricks will help insure you get the best result possible.

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Under Pressure: How Aluminum Extrusions Are Made

At any given time I’m likely to have multiple projects in-flight, by which of course I mean in various stages of neglect. My current big project is one where I finally feel like I have a chance to use some materials with real hacker street cred, like T-slot extruded aluminum profiles. We’ve all seen the stuff, the “Industrial Erector Set” as 80/20 likes to call their version of it. And we’ve all seen the cool projects made with it, from CNC machines to trade show displays, and in these pandemic times, even occasionally as sneeze guards in retail shops.

Aluminum T-slot profiles are wonderful to work with — strong, lightweight, easily connected with a wide range of fasteners, and infinitely configurable and reconfigurable as needs change. It’s not cheap by any means, but when you factor in the fabrication time saved, it may well be a net benefit to spec the stuff for a project. Still, with the projected hit to my wallet, I’ve been looking for more affordable alternatives.

My exploration led me into the bewilderingly rich world of aluminum extrusions. Even excluding mundane items like beer and soda cans, you’re probably surrounded by extruded aluminum products right now. Everything from computer heatsinks to window frames to the parts that make up screen doors are made from extruded aluminum. So how exactly is this ubiquitous stuff made?

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3D Printed Tools For Quick Press Brake Jobs

Press brakes are a workshop staple when working with sheet metal. They’re ideal for executing accurate and repeatable bends over and over again. Typically, they’re fitted with steel tooling that can hold up to thousands of press cycles. However, such tooling is expensive, and time consuming to produce. [Anthony] recently had a job come through the shop that required a unique internal radius. Rather than rush out and buy tooling, he decided to 3D print his own instead!

The press brake tools were printed on a standard Prusa i3, using regular PLA filament. There’s nothing particularly special in the process, with the prints using 12 perimeters and 20% infill. Despite being made of plastic, the tools held up surprisingly well. In testing, the parts were able to bend up to 3.4 mm steel, undergoing several cycles without major visible wear. [Anthony] also experimented with gooseneck parts, which, while less robust, make it easy to accommodate more complex sheet metal parts.

3D printing is a great way to produce custom press tooling, and can be done far more cheaply and quickly than producing traditional steel tooling. While it’s unlikely to be useful for long production runs, for short runs that need custom geometry, it’s a handy technique. We’ve even seen 3D printed punch-and-die sets, too. Video after the break.

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Retrotechtacular: The Iron Giants That Built The Jet Age

In the closing months of World War II, the Axis and the Allies were throwing everything they had at each other. The tide was turning to the Allies’ favor, but the Germans were showing a surprising resilience, at least in terms of replacing downed fighter and bomber aircraft. When the Allies examined the wreckage of these planes, they discovered the disturbing truth: the planes contained large pieces forged from single billets of metal, which suggested a manufacturing capability none of the Allies possessed and which allowed the Germans to quickly and cheaply make better and faster planes.

When the war was over, the Allies went looking for the tools the Germans had used to make their planes, and found massive closed-die forging presses that could squeeze parts out of aluminum and magnesium alloys in a single step. The Soviets carted off a 30,000 ton machine, while the Americans went home with a shipload of smaller presses and the knowledge that the Russians had an edge over them. Thus began the Heavy Press Program, an ultimately successful attempt by the US military to close a huge gap in strategic manufacturing capabilities that [Machine Thinking] details in the excellent video below.

One doesn’t instantly equate monstrous machines such as the Mesta 50,000-ton press, over nine stories tall with half of it buried underground and attached directly to bedrock, with airplane manufacture. But without it and similar machines that came from the program, planes from the B-52 to the Boeing 747 would have been impossible to build. And this isn’t dead technology by any means; sold to Alcoa in 1982 after having been operated by them for decades, the “Fifty” recently got a $100 makeover after cracks appeared in some castings, and the press and its retro-brethren are still squeezing out parts for fighters as recent as the F-35.

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