Help me get this little thing 3D printed, please
April 14, 2017 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm having problems finding some little plastic end-caps for some 30-year old Velux skylight mini-blinds I have. I want to find someone who can 3D print them for me. Details within.

Here is a pic of the busted part I need. I used to be able to get them from a couple of obscure sources on the net, but now the part is discontinued and it just isn't out there in the usual places or ebay or anywhere else, as far as I can tell.

It seems like a natural for 3D printing. I see some services online where you can upload an stl file that you created and they'll make the part from that. Thing is, that's easier said than done - you've got to find and install software compatible your gear, than go through the process of learning how to use it right, producing prototypes that probably have issues because it's your first try, etc. etc. All for a crappy little plastic part.

What would be perfect is if I could bring the part to someone who knows how to do all that, and have them create the file and print the part from my sample. Is that possible? Anywhere in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville would work for me. You'd think this would be a perfect area to find makers that could do it. Thanks for any help.
posted by Right On Red to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
A lot of local libraries are installing 3D printing software and equipment so I suggest checking there first.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:49 PM on April 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would try Artisan's Asylum in Somerville (which even I've heard of out here in the West, they provide a lot of awesome online documentation for people wanting to build similar spaces) or the Cambridge Hackspace. Libraries at both Northeastern and U Mass Boston have 3D scanning and 3D printing as well, but it looked to me like those spaces were limited to current students, staff, and faculty; might be worth a call to double check, though.

You're right that someone can take the dimensions of the part you need, 3d model the part and then 3D print it; you might also see if anyone would be willing to help you 3D scan it and then help you clean up the file for 3D printing. Sometimes that can yield better results, YMMV.
posted by stellaluna at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: Maybe also try Shapeways? I think they have an online community of makers with 3D printers.
posted by mark7570 at 3:09 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For a replacement plastic bit to be functional and durable, it needs to
1. fit well to its mating part
2. not fall apart with daily use

DIY-space and hobbyist printers are usually extrusion based and will not hold up to use. Think of thin plastic noodles stacked up in layers - it will pull part between the layers.

So, for the final product you need Shapeways. Depending on how the parts fit together, you may or may not need some elasticity in the material. The extrusion printers are useful for refining the 3D model to make sure it fits.

Modelling the bit needs a pair of calipers and, like you said, some software.

Alternatively, use room temperature vulcanizing kits to make a mold, then use the mold to make the part by casting.

The easiest way is to use Sugru - it's like Fimo, but doesn't need baking. It won't be removable, and how good it looks is up to you.
posted by metaseeker at 8:23 PM on April 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've got to agree with metaseaker, I've got a 3D printer and would have offered to do it for you (though I'm not in the Boston area) if I thought I could get good results. The wall thickness are bordering on too thin for a home machine and it will have an obvious "grain" that doesn't look great (matching color/texture is going to be hard no matter what).

Sorry I don't have a good solution for you.
posted by Medw at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

3d printing isn't the only way to make small plastic things.

you can make a sillicone mold of this and then use resin to duplicate it.
posted by joshu at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2017

I live in Somerville near Davis/Tufts. I'm an engineer. I used to work at a 3D printing company, and I currently have access to CAD and high resolution 3D printing.

I'd be happy to design and print something for you for free. Or I could design it and you could get it printed through a service bureau. MeMail me if you want to get a beer and discuss.
posted by KevCed at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you haven't already, you could checkout Thingiverse. There are some 3rd party integrated printing services, too.
posted by wintrymix at 7:26 AM on April 17, 2017

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