Replacement-as-a-Service: Tales from 3D printing land

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When I backed the New Matter Mod-t Campaign on Indiegogo, I did not exactly know what I could expect from a printer that would be up to 3 times cheaper than any other “consumer” model available at that time. When it arrived, shortly before Christmas, I spent most of the time printing ornaments, funny but eventually useless stuff for the kids, friends, and the occasional Christmas tree: What else could or should I print when there was no need? 

From “regular” stuff …#

A while ago, then, I needed a case for my BananaPi. Since the case I had for my RaspberryPi wouldn’t fit, I looked out – and eventually printed – a design from ThingiVerse: It was readily available and was printed within a night and a half…

… to 3D printing’s true value at Home#

But recently, when I upgraded the electrical wiring with some z-wave controllers, a small plastic clamp holding the glass of a ceiling-lamp broke. Since this was an IKEA lamp, and long gone from their offering (Ed. at least in Switzerland, see update at the end), getting a replacement for this small plastic part would be impossible. I would have been forced to buy a new lamp, and living with the “planned” obsolescence of this product.

Not anymore. Since I still had two identical pieces, I could simply take one, get it’s shape somehow into some 3D modelling software. And print a new one.

Replacement-as-a-Service: Scan, Vectorise, Extrude, Print#

And here I am, with a working (although not perfect) replacement clamp, less than 24 hours after it broke. Getting there was quite easy, and I didn’t need expensive software either:

  1. Put the old piece on the scanner to get an image of the outline
  2. Clean that outline into a black and white image (Challenge: the piece was transparent)
  3. Vectorise it online 
  4. Convert the 2d vector outline to an extruded 3D model 
  5. Add some elements that were not visible for the scanner with 123D (Free) 
  6. Export as STL and Upload to the New Matter Store
  7. Print it.  Since this was my first replacement part, it went not that smoothly the first time. In fact, measuring that thing and getting the dimensions of the printed part approximately right was quite a challenge due to the irregular shape and lack of measurement options in the software. But besides that, the resulting piece is even stronger and sturdier than the original. Although next time, I’ll probably choose another color than pink. :-)

Update 22.1.2016: While I was looking for the name of the Lamp (it’s “LOCK”, which is still available in the US, but not in Switzerland), I also found a (much better looking) clamp on ThingiVerse.

Some impressions from scan to print#

Figure 1: The scanned image of the hinge. Figure 2: The cleaned-up and vectorised version that was the basis for the 3D Model Figure 3: The model of the hinge as it appeared in the New Matter Store Figure 4: Printing! From my Phone.

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