Printing Plastic Replacement Parts

  • Printing Plastic Replacement Parts James

    On a number of occasions I've broken small plastic parts that are nearly impossible to replace but could easily be 3-D printed. The latest such mishap is the volume knob on the factory-installed radio on my car.

    I have little experience in 3D printing, and would like to be able to replace these parts with something very close to the original. Spending hours measuring and designing a replacement part that should be $5 isn't really an option. I need something to scan the broken pieces in 3D and somehow just seal up the seam where it's broken.

    Is there a scanning/printing/software system to do this that doesn't require a lot of 3D design experience?

  • The easiest way is as you currently do: model the pieces by hand, using (digital) calipers to measure them.

    Scanning technology isn't very good, and the models are not of printable quality. Usually, fixing a scan is more work than modeling an item from scratch.

  • There is scanning technology: either hardware or software (such software typically works from multiple 2D photographs). It has limitations, but is an active research area, and getting better all the time. "Autodesk 123D Catch" and "3-Sweep" are a couple examples.

    One tradeoff between automatic and manual is the complexity of the shape you need to duplicate. Sometimes you can make a much simpler shape that still works, and/or thicken the part so it doesn't break the next time. That can make manual design much more attractive.

software scanning replacement-parts
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