Discover these Cost-Effective Techniques for Creating Realistic Prototypes, Molds, Functional Machines, and More
It’s clear that desktop 3D printing has had a dramatic impact on how professionals work and what students learn. However, for all this value, many overlook what’s possible with the 3D printed objects themselves.
A 3D print can be more than an early concept model, a teaching aid, or a student project. It can be an aesthetically realistic prototype, or a mold for an end-use product or packaging material, or even a functional machine or electronic device.
Over the last several months we’ve been hard at work developing step-by-step guides that will help you take your ideas beyond the build plate. We created these guides based on feedback from our customers and the wider 3D printing community. Each guide offers effective powerful techniques for getting even more from your 3D prints.
Sanding, Gluing, & Painting
Sure, you can sand down a rough PLA surface to make a nicer model, but did you know that with a little elbow grease, glue, and paint, you can create fully realistic models or end-stage prototypes?
Sanding, gluing, and painting your models is also a great way to create objects larger than the build volume of your 3D printer or to conjoin multiple parts of an assembly. In our guide, we walk you through all three methods to create a prototype hairdryer shell designed by GrabCAD user Ferro.
Silicone molding is a powerful manufacturing method that allows users to create objects in materials typically not supported by 3D printers. Because 3D printing allows users to quickly and inexpensively create objects with complex geometries, it’s a great tool for creating molds.
We offer two different guides using silicone. One guide shows you how to create a mold by pouring silicone around a 3D printed master; the other shows you how to 3D print a mold and pour silicone into it.
With these molding techniques, you can create objects much faster than you could print them, and you can do so in a wider variety of materials. As an example, we cast a rubber bicycle handlebar grip into a 3D printed mold.
Threaded Brass Inserts
Think of the most common devices in your home. A TV, a remote control, a gaming console — many of these have plastic enclosures. If you’ve ever printed an enclosure or assembly that needed to be fastened together using screws, you know that plastic threads don’t hold up against the forces of common metal machine screws. Installing threaded brass inserts helps ensure that your enclosures will last longer. With these inserts, you can reliably fasten and unfasten your enclosures hundreds of times.
In our guide, we show you how to use a soldering iron to quickly install threaded brass inserts in a lighting enclosure (Light Switch Box). It was designed by Thingiverse user Qbasan and printed here at MakerBot.
Vacuum forming is a commonly used manufacturing process that involves heating and forming a sheet of plastic over a mold. Products like food containers, bathtubs, and interior car panels are all frequently made with vacuum forming.
Molds made for vacuum forming are typically milled out of aluminum, which often costs several thousand dollars and consumes loads of time. 3D printing offers manufacturers the ability to create complex and inexpensive molds for vacuum forming.
In our guide, we show you how to vacuum form with a 3D printed mold so you can create objects like the sign that lights up on top of an NYC taxi. You can also choose a variety of plastic types and thicknesses.
To learn more, check out our step-by-step guides and how-to videos online at https://www.makerbot.com/post-processing/.
As always, if you try this at home, school, or in your office – share it with us on Thingiverse and social media, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every innovation starts with an idea, and we’re here to help you take your ideas further. We can’t wait to see what you make!