3D Printer Capability

patlaw

Mike
Corporate Member
It seems that a 3D printer would be a good candidate to make a replacement meter bezel, like the one in the picture below. How durable would such a bezel be? These pieces of plastic have gotten brittle over the last 40 years, and the metal side brackets are causing them to crack. The magic question is, how do you get a file to duplicate a piece like this one? Does a mechanical designer have to create one?

s-l1600.jpg
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
The prints are pretty durable. You can create very strong parts if you print it in ABS, but PETG and even PLA are fine too as long as you don't have to worry about heat. I've printed blast gates and stop blocks using PLA and expect them to last many, many years. UV light is one of the biggest enemy of plastic, if it needs to be outside that will significantly decrease the life expectancy.

You will need to create a custom 3D model of the bezel, since it's unlikely someone has already built one. You'd use 3D modeling software such as Sketchup or Fusion360, then export/ slice/ print it. The modeling itself is fairly straightforward if you have the measurements, but there is usually some tweaking to do for tight-fitting parts. For example, you may find that a tab or recess has to be adjusted ever so slightly for a good fit.

It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that parts custom built this way won't be terribly affordable. By the time an experienced engineer has provided you with a proposal, gotten the specs, built the model, sent you the result, billed you, and made any adjustments necessary you're looking at $50 - $200 for even the simplest of designs. And then you still need to print it. A better option is to make friends with someone who is good at modeling, retired, and is desperate to justify the purchase of the printer to his or her spouse :)

There is software available that can create the model from photos, but this is more to duplicate things like a statue/ sculpture, not machined parts. Maybe i a couple of years....
 

patlaw

Mike
Corporate Member
I'm actually going to talk with the company to see if they will do one more run of them. They may still have the tooling. There's probably a market for 1000 of them. There were 9000 of these units built. There are three meters on each one. At least one in 27 is broken. It's surprising how many of these boxes are still in service.
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
I'm actually going to talk with the company to see if they will do one more run of them. They may still have the tooling. There's probably a market for 1000 of them. There were 9000 of these units built. There are three meters on each one. At least one in 27 is broken. It's surprising how many of these boxes are still in service.
That's different. If you can reuse the design 1,000 times, then it's definitely economical.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
To answer your question, yes someone has to create a 3D model of one and export an .STL file to create a "copy".
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
I could create a 3D model of the thing and create the .stl file for printing but if there's a market for a bunch of them and the manufacturer is able to do a run, that would probably make more sense.
 

KenOfCary

Board of Directors, Secretary
Ken
Staff member
Corporate Member
thingaverse.com has many sample models and once you have a model coded you can contract with them to print it for you. Not a totally simple process, but it can be done even if you don't own a 3D Printer.
 

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