Combining Metal Parts with 3D-Printed Parts
For years I have been combining 3D-Printed parts with Metal Fasteners :
Nuts, bolts, screws, washers, threaded rod, rivets, etc …
Recently I had the need for a Vise/Fixture with a very soft-touch to clamp delicate parts – and my metal vises were too strong – so decided to 3D-Print a ‘softer’ clamping fixture with Jaws on 2 sides.
GrabCAD Files ~ 3D Printed ‘Soft-Touch’ Vise/Fixture
Actually, could have made it much simpler out of larger 3DP parts and not needed all the connections … but the point was to show Metal-to-3DP part connections, so I worked them into the design.
So please don’t waste your time 3D-Printing this fixture, because I’m only sharing it as a teaching CAD example to show Metal-to-3DP connections.
This 2-Jaw Vise is actually a fixture I use for a very specific purpose, and it will not be strong enough for most purposes when used as a table vise.
I am connecting servos to it and wanted to make sure it could not clamp hard enough to crush my fingers without bending first – Hurts but doesn’t crush. 🤣
( Click on any of the images to see a Larger View )
In addition, I like to design projects whereby parts from initial simple projects can later be used in more advanced project assemblies.
Just for fun, I decided to design two Multi-Jaw Fixtures whereby many of the parts from the ‘Soft-Touch’ 2-Jaw can be used to create another rotating 5-Jaw Turret Fixture that could be mounted on my workshop table.
I’m not going to 3D-Print the 5-Jaw Version because ( as designed ) it would not be strong enough for most uses, but it was fun to show how many little 3DP parts can designed to fit together using Metal-to-3DP part connections.
Reusable 3DP parts are great way for individuals (new to 3D-Printing) to build confidence by printing just a few parts to make an initial project … then later, they can use many of those early parts to build future projects.
If you would like to view additional projects I created using 3D-Printed parts combined with metal items – The Links are Shown below :
Many smaller parts fit on the platform for 3D-Printing at the same time …
I had a lot of fun testing different mounting solutions using 3DP parts …
SolidWorks CAD Files & 3D-Printing .STL files are on GrabCAD
GrabCAD Files ~ iPhone 3D-Printed Mount
GrabCAD Files ~ Workshop Camera Mount
Combining Metal with Other Materials
For decades, designers have combined together ‘dissimilar materials’ – using the materials they had available – to create objects for specific purposes.
Years ago, while visiting a friend’s family farm, I noticed how vintage machinery was created using a combination of forged iron parts and wood.
This gave me the idea of using softer 3D-Printed materials combined with stronger metal fasteners & parts to create very durable items.
Even if the 3D-Printing technology isn’t available yet for 3D-Printers to make items the size – and out of the materials wished for – I still continue to design items, preparing for future 3DP fabrication methods.
Learn By Reverse-Engineering 3D-Printed Assemblies
Instead of writing out in detail how I design each 3DP-to-Metal connection, decided to provide the CAD files for the 3D-Printed Vises on GrabCAD :
GrabCAD Files ~ 3D Printed Turret Vise/Fixture
You can download the SolidWorks CAD files, and/or .STL files, and review the parts to see the sizes & shapes I used to create 3DP-to-Metal Connections.
Specifically made the designs using many different 3DP connection methods.
In addition -Uploaded a 3DP Test Block to GrabCAD that you can print out to get the feel of the ‘fit-up’ dimensions used for many of my 3DP Projects :
GrabCAD Files ~ 3D Printed Fastener Test Block
The Test Block has all the different connections I use in my 3DP projects.
Since I live in the United States, I used No.6-32 TPI screws and 1/4″-20 TPI threaded fasteners as the examples in the Test Block; however, the 3DP connection methods will work on all sizes, metric, etc.
It does make a difference how you place items in your 3D-Printing software to print … Possibly in a future post I will go into greater detail … but if you want to see it for yourself just print the Test Block sitting vertical vs. horizontal on your 3D-Printer’s platform. ( As shown in above image )
You can also tap threads directly into your 3D-Printed parts, so I added 2 holes in the Test Block that are the correct size for tapping No.6-32TPI screws & 1/4″-20TPI threaded fasteners. ( Also the taper for flathead screws )
Dovetail joints are a great way to connect 3DP Parts ~ I used a few dovetail connections on the 2-Jaw 3D-Printed vise design.
Also used dovetail joint connections on a project for my friend Keith –
Video by Keith Rucker ( Vintage Machinery Museum ) using one of my notched & threaded 3D-Printed Patterns – You can click on the image below if you wish to view the YouTube Video.
The Same 3DP Parts Used for Multiple Projects
Was talking with Brook (Founder/CEO of Printrbot) who has lots of cool ideas … and we discussed designing some projects whereby each 3DP project builds upon future projects … 3DP .STL part files work on many projects.
It’s about time to upgrade to a Printrbot with a large print platform!! 😜
For this project used the AFINIA 3D-Printer I have had for many years …
I’ve had a Multi-3DP .STL File Project Build concept for awhile, and have wanted to expand it so that when individuals, families, schools, and organizations buy a 3D-Printer they have numerous .STL file project options.
… So they aren’t just printing Yoda Heads* and Fidget Spinners 😜
( *Personal Note ~ Yoda head is VERY cool to print )
The goal is to have thousands of 3DP .STL file options to 3D-Print projects & experiments, whereby many of the 3DP parts already printed will work as parts in other future projects.
While the 3D Printed 2-Jaw Vise/Fixture does have many parts that can be used to make the 5-Jaw Turret Vise/Fixture – I would like future creative & scientific projects to have even more interchangeable parts.
These 3DP Vise/Fixture designs are just examples to show the many different ways to connect 3D-Printed parts with metal items.
Made this fixture to hold delicate items that I do not want to crush; thus, this design might not be strong enough as a table vise, and would suggest you create your own 3DP vise design that may work better for your projects.
Hopefully the Metal Fastener Connection information will help. 😀
… CHEERS!!! Charles Marlin (@MetalDesigner)
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