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The simple post-processing techniques presented in this guide are an excellent way for professionals to create low-cost silicone molds, threaded inserts for enclosures, vacuum formed parts, and more.
Threaded brass inserts can be a great way to add longevity to 3D printed enclosures that need to accept screws.
In this “how to” we will show you some of the best practices associated with installing threaded brass inserts into your 3D printed enclosures.
Working time will vary depending on your model and how many inserts you plan to install. The process shown took us about 10 minutes from start to finish.
Threaded brass inserts with matching machine screws
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STEP 1: OBTAIN YOUR MODEL
If you are designing your model to meet a specific need, remember to design the holes in your model slightly smaller than the inserts you plan to install. This will account for any plastic that melts when installing inserts. If you are adding inserts to a downloaded model, purchase your inserts with the hole diameter in mind.
For our model, we chose this “Light Switch Box” designed by Thingiverse user qbasan.
Manufacturers of threaded brass inserts specify the hole size needed for the insert.
Step 2: Prepare & Print
When installing inserts, changing a few print settings in MakerBot Print can be a big help.
Increase the number of shells in your print. This will leave more plastic around inserts.
Once you have selected your settings you can print your object. We chose to print our model on the MakerBot Replicator+.
STEP 3: ROUGHING
Supplies Used: Needlenose pliers
Once your model has been printed and removed from the build plate, remove any rafts or support material.
STEP 4: HEAT SOLDERING IRON
Supplies Used: Soldering Iron
Allow your soldering iron to heat for 3-5 minutes before installing inserts. This will ensure that you have to use the least amount of force to install inserts.
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Step 5: Secure Print in Place
Supplies Used: Soldering Iron
Before installing your inserts, it’s also important that your model be secure. If your model moves during installation of an insert, you could damage the void or even the model itself.
We used a multi-axis vice that allowed us to work on the model from a few different angles.
Secure the model
Adjust the angle of the model
STEP 6: PARTIALLY INSTALL INSERTS
Supplies Used: (continued use through Step 9) Multi-axis vice, soldering iron, threaded brass inserts, and pliers
Because PLA has a relatively low heat deflection temperature and can deform at moderate temperatures, it is important to install inserts gradually.
A: Grasp your insert with pliers
B: Position insert over hole
C: Press the insert half way into your print holding the soldering iron vertically
D: Move on to the next insert
Push lightly, your soldering iron should do most of the work for you
STEP 7: ALLOW TO COOL
As brass transfers temperature relatively quickly, your inserts should be cool within a minute or so.
STEP 8: COMPLETELY INSTALL INSERTS
Once you’ve allowed your model to cool for a minute or so, install the inserts until they are flush with the top of your model.
When completing the installation of inserts be sure to avoid:
Installing too quickly
Pushing down on your inserts with too much force
Never attempt to hold inserts in place with your hand when installing. Always use pliers.
Step 9: Install Screws, Washers
or Other Hardware
Screws & washers
Thread in your screws using a screwdriver or drill.
Insert washers and screws
Insert additional hardware
Caution: Be sure not to over tighten. This can force the insert free from the surrounding plastic.
If you over tighten your screws, you may need to melt out your inserts and reinstall.
Here is our final part. After installing inserts, screws, and washers, we added the final switches to this electrical enclosure.
Visit one of our other applications pages for tips on how to take your print even further.
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Last but not least, remember to share your work with us on Thingiverse and social media @MakerBot.
We can’t wait to see what you make!
Light Switch Box
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