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Anyone Played With 3D Printer? Make Custom Bike Parts?


Q-Dawg
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Thinking about trying my hand at 3D printing, for a variety of reasons. I think it is a wave of the future, and more importantly, suitable for making small run plastic parts. Some of these parts I had planned in my head and was struggling to come up with a way to manufacture for my own use.

Just wondering if anyone here has played with one.

I think they offer a lot of possibilities in their current form, but once metal printing becomes more attainable it will turn the manufacturing world upside down.

I want to try to make custom light housings among many other personal things.

I am particularly interested in how to interface with Google Sketch-up, and if that is a good software platform to begin with.

I know it may not seem like much of a bike mod question, but it has a lot of applications that could be useful in this area.

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3D printers have come a long ways in the last 5 years. Yes you can make actual parts from your solid models. Most of the printers come with a software package that will facilitate your printing needs. But they aren't usually helpful if you want to actually model up your ideas.

There are a lot of "free" solid model apps, but solidworks is probably the leader in the cad world. Yes there are higher end products that the huge manufacturers use, but solidworks can do just about everything NX, ProE, and the others can. And it's learning curve it's as bad as the other high end apps.

As far as producing a finish product that depends on what you are going after and willing to live with. Most plastic 3D printers lay down .002"-.010" thick "layers". Which seems pretty good until you delve deeper into their function and realize that they aren't laying down solid layers, for many reasons, cost, time, weight, thermal issues. And what you end up with are very small voids throughout the finished part. For quick mocking up or laying out parts they are hard to beat. It would take many hours of CNC machining to do what a 3D printer can do but there difference is that the CNC part could be used in it's final state. Where as the 3D part is a layered plastic model of what you wanted.

There are sintered metal 3D printers which can make anything out of such materials as aluminum, titanium, various steels, inconel, and almost anything you ever heard about or would need. The same limitations apply and any close toleranced feature would have to be machined after the part was made.

This technology will continue to improve but it will be a while before "anyone" can make a high precision part, with little or no manufacturing or machining experience.

I'll give you a real world example: Have you seen the 3D scanners or mobile CMMs? The Faro arm is one such machine and a few years ago it was speculated that within a couple years it would totally dominate the CMM market. Well it's been more than a few and the classic immovable large granite based CMMs are still the only way to measure parts that have close tolerances. Yes the movable or portable CMMs and 3D scanners have their place but it's not in the world of +/- .001" tolerances. They are several decimal places still off. But when something is large and the tolerances are not in the thousandths, they have their place.

Sorry for the long winded and rambling answer.

I'm not sure exactly what you want to accomplish but if you think you can "print" out custom bike parts, in many colors, and just package them up and ship them out right off the printer you have a few years to wait.

Because there is a considerable amount of finishing work that would need to be done to them to make them presentable or marketable.

If on the other hand you simply want to quickly mock-up actual size creations and trial fit them to other pieces this may be the way to go to get you to market the quickest.

But you will still have to fall back on traditional manufacturing methods for the actual finished product.

Good luck in your project and if this is something that interests you I'd find a community college or industrial training center that teaches CAD-CAM, and take some solidworks modeling courses. Maybe a CAM course or two also.

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:unsure: Why are they called 3D printers? They don't print. They do something more like create, true? :unsure:

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:unsure: Why are they called 3D printers? They don't print. They do something more like create, true? :unsure:

No, they print.

There are a ton of desktop average joe 3D printers out there now. The problem is that they still aren't fully reliable. A friend of mine had one, and because of the software, sometimes the printing would stop partway though and you would have to start over. 3D printing is also REALLY slow.

It's good for simple, small things. For large parts it gets pretty costly from a time and equipment standpoint.

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Well...I just don't understand. I mean...isn't printing like the act of putting something on paper? Either I'm missing something here or in my brain. Probably both. :wacko:

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GE Aviation is working with this technology in a big way for some next generation of jet engine parts. Of course the equipment they are using are in the mega high dollar range out of reach for us working stiffs.

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Well...I just don't understand. I mean...isn't printing like the act of putting something on paper? Either I'm missing something here or in my brain. Probably both. :wacko:

3D printing is the act of adding a material digitally as opposed to removing material in the case of a CNC machine. The object is not milled it is actually built. To print is to leave something on a surface, loosely put.

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We have two at work. Both high end models. Not suitable for production quality parts, we use them as proof of concept, to see CAD files in 3D. Yes, they are printers, they use a laser to harden thin layers of plastic, or other photo reactive material into a solid. So image stacking many layers of a print up to make the part. The parts from some models can be used to make cast part, but you could not use them to make parts on your motorcycle. The material is too fragile. We have an Objet, and an Envision machine. Probably 50K each. The other limitation you will have is the CAD software. We run Unigraphics and Alias, which cost at least 10K per seat. Both are high end modeling software. I don't think Sketchup would make quality CAD, but I could be wrong. The quality of your part depends on the quality of your CAD data. Right now they are suitable for making RPs (rapid prototype) parts, but nothing else. There maybe so very expensive machines that can make actual metal parts, but we are a ways of from that being the norm. Would be cool for my line of work though.

Good luck. Probably better off to have parts machined at this point.

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The other limitation you will have is the CAD software.

For the DIY that wants to have a go at 3D printing there are fablabs all over the world where you can print your own design, drawn using opensource software that is also free of charge (Blender, KISSlicer etc..)
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I know they aren't as strong as a solid part, and can suffer from poor fusing of layers adding to weakness of part.

Some people are reporting that dipping their ABS parts in acetone helps "glue" any poor bonds and results in a smoother, glossier part.

I don't mind doing a bit of sanding, etc.

I wouldn't be expecting to mass produce parts, just make some things otherwise difficult to make and might have to be made of fiberglass otherwise. Custom gauge / car stereo pods, some small molds for making C/F parts for bike, etc.

I am also very much into plastic model making, and these machines are good for that (as long as you have one running good resolution) to make model kits or model kit conversion parts. Say you buy a Japanese car model kit with the RHD version only offered but want to make the US version. Scan the dash, flip it with the software, and print out the correct version. May not be that simple in practice, but these are the sort of ideas I am toying with. Also a set of plans for a model kit could be scaled into different model scale sizes at the push of a button without investing in expensive injection mold tooling. And model kits do not have to be overly strong; they just sit on a shelf anyway.

I agree the technology has a ways to go, but I think there are some good niche markets outside the rapid prototyping world.

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Don't these 3D printers have some sort of limit in terms of printing scale/area/field. Wouldn't bigger sized objects need a format as big as a "plotter" where the printing feild and scale would be bigger....so it's not like one can already print things like fairing panels these days, unless you have access to a very expensive commercial version of the 3D printer, which I suspect is only affordable to big companies with big R&D departments presently...... I suspect that the printing materials/media most cost a lot of money too, and you cannot just run to your local Office Depot to get "refills"....

I think we are still a ways from having 3D printing really accessible to the regular Joe who wants to do their own 3D prototyping for their latest bike project.....

Edited by Beck
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Thanks to everyone who posted that has exp. with these items. You helped me make some decisions. :biggrin: For us old guys that have regular work exp., it's great to find out the pitfalls before spending money.

Edited by dr.toto
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Don't these 3D printers have some sort of limit in terms of printing scale/area/field. Wouldn't bigger sized objects need a format as big as a "plotter" where the printing feild and scale would be bigger....so it's not like one can already print things like fairing panels these days, unless you have access to a very expensive commercial version of the 3D printer, which I suspect is only affordable to big companies with big R&D departments presently...... .

Brammo used 3D printing for their bodywork: http://www.3dsystems.com/sites/www.3dsystems.com/files/3DS-Brammo-case-study.pdf

Very large scale 3D printers have been made that can print a house in concrete.

Attached is an article taking about 3D printers being used in Rapid Manufacturing by race teams. It shows what is currently possible with these machines.

Racecar_Engineering_Advanced_Engineering_2013_.pdf

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By sheer coincidence I was at a clients today and one of the engineers who knew I rode motorcycles thought I would be interested in this website that he was using to fabricate some parts he needed. http://www.emachineshop.com/

From what he was telling me, they provide the software and make it pretty easy to submit what you design. They have different materials you can get your parts made from, of course small quantities and "demo" pieces will cost more. He was also telling me that the parts he was having made cost $500-$600 for the prototype but was going to cost $22 each for 40 pieces.

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eMachineshop = VERY expensive. Try a local machine shop and I think you will be able to cut the price in half.

I've used 3D printed parts on some of my motorcycle products. They work really well. The printed ABS parts are 70-80% as strong as their injection molded counterparts. That said, there isn't very many applications for what I do that a plastic part is appropriate. The printed parts are good for making physical prototypes just to check that everything works the way I want it to do. I have a bunch of these sitting on the shelf - at least they look pretty!

All of that said, I have found that having parts CNC machined from aluminum and paying for the 1-2 qty piece price is about the same as a 3D printed plastic part. So, for the same $$$ you can have a real functional part. I have found 3D printed parts work best when the final result is a complicated piece that would take fixturing to machine.

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Thanks for the ABS info, Jamie. It confirms my guesses on the strength of an ABS printed part. I think that would work adequately for my needs, should I decide to pursue my projects further.

Well for my immediate (starter) project, I think I will look at just buying some ABS sheet, cutting and gluing/welding the parts together.

I may decide to make a production run of about a dozen of these parts, just for fun.

But I think it would be just as easy to cut pieces from a pattern and shape by hand, as it is a fairly simple shape.

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I think we are still a ways from having 3D printing really accessible to the regular Joe who wants to do their own 3D prototyping for their latest bike project.....

...or plane hijacking. Seems now you can download files to print a working handgun, just need a nail for the firing pin. Makes gun safes obsolete, little Jimmy can just sit down with his buddies and have a gun in just a few hours. Won't that open up a can of hurt for society.

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