My favorite thing about 3D Printing

I’ve been doing 3D Printing for a long time. Most of the time not very successfully, but still doing it. The reason I’ve held onto it for so long, more than any other, is the promise of what it can be. That you can make the thing you want, exactly how you want it. A week ago or so, my son came into the office and asked me if we could use our printer to fix his toy garbage truck…

A few years ago my kid was really into Garbage trucks. So some close friends bought him a toy garbage truck. He was really excited and played with it daily.

The toy in question – though this is an image from the Amazon page.

After a fair bit of rough usage, the arm that picks up the garbage cans snapped off. I had hoped I’d be able to fix it with some glue or something, but unfortunately it was in pretty rough shape.

Back to the present. As I said he asked if we could print a new arm for it. This was unprompted – he came up with the idea all on his own which I find really delightful. I said “yes” and we got out some calipers. We took measurements and wrote down the numbers. I opened up FreeCAD and gave it a shot. The first attempt was alright. It was an arm, but it didn’t hold to the truck very well, and wasn’t very strong. I had designed it to snap-fit into place, and it was pretty loose.

Attempt #2 was a total redesign. In fact, halfway through attempt 2 I threw it all out and started over because I realized I was taking the wrong approach in CAD.

The assembled arm in FreeCAD
Prep for print
He was adamant that we print it in orange

It fit snugly in the location of the old arm. It operates on the same hinge and knob. And it’s adjustable. We probably could do another iteration and have a little more interactivity here, but this serves it’s purpose fine. The garbage truck picks up cans like a champ again.

This is what I love about 3D Printing. Have a part that’s broken? Fix it. Have an idea on how to improve something? Improve it. 3D Printers are little magic factories that are able to make your product for just one customer. It’s amazing.