Useful and Interesting 3D Prints for 2024
January 23, 2024
As outlined in previous posts, including this one from April 2023, having a 3D printer opens up a wide range of build possibilities. From an engineering perspective, this can facilitate prototyping, as well as the creation of custom implements that can be used for a wide range of purposes. Here I’ll outline several interesting prints and techniques that you may find useful in 2024 and beyond!
Solder Paste Dispenser
There are several options for solder dispensing. You can squeeze paste out of the syringe manually (typically with a lot of waste) or use an electromechanical dispensing unit that may be expensive and will likely require some setup. For the cost of some filament, a few screws and nuts, and a rubber band, you can instead use this lever-actuated device to “get a grip” on filament dispensing.
Caption: Dispenser with reduced diameter plunger / Image Credit: Jeremy Cook
While I’ve only lightly tested the device, I found it to be a pleasure to use. Its 52 reviews (as of this writing) would seem to overwhelmingly agree. In my case, the paste that I was using needed a plunger with a slightly smaller diameter than what was supplied. Fortunately, this was an easy to fix with a bit of work in Fusion 360. If you have the same plunger needs my version can be found here. Such is the beauty of 3D printing and design!
While this is a good option, I would certainly still vote for purchasing (or even making) a solder stencil when you have the choice.
Key Chuck Holder and Other Custom Bend-in-Place Solutions
To help finish a recent garage storage project, I purchased a 90º drill chuck adapter. This comes with a chuck key that I would no doubt lose at some point. To prevent this situation, I created a device that holds onto both the key and the adapter via C-shaped sections. Each section must be forced open further to accept its part and clamps down to hold things in place. It took some experimentation to get things right, but when the next project comes up (perhaps years later) I won’t be fumbling about for the key.
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook
As another bend-in-place solution, this tool tidy consists of 3/4 inch drilled holes. I wanted to semi-permanently modify some of these holes to accommodate different tools and used 3D-printed inserts in semi-flexible “C” configurations. Both insert designs are relatively hard to bend allowing them to be pushed in place semi-permanently.
Taking the flexibility/bend-in-place example to an extreme, this cabinet latch uses a bending spring pattern to fix a hinge in place until it’s pushed in for removal/opening. It has largely worked well for its intended purpose, though one of the two did break overtime, and had to be replaced. One could consider this extruded spring technique for other semi-flexible printing arrangements, or even laser-cut designs.
A Bit of Fun: Snowflake TIE Fighter, Voroni Elephant, More?
Image Credit: fixumdude https://www.printables.com/model/91927-snowflake-tie-fighter-kit-card-ornament
For a bit of nerdy fun, 3D printing is, of course, a perfect solution. After printing the excellent Snowflake TIE Fighter Kit Card Ornament by fixumdude, I ended up printing another 20+ for my son’s class at school. This Voroni Elephant is another fun print with both an organic and mathematical flair. If neither of those suits your mood or style, poke around on Printables or other print repositories for a few minutes, and you’ll likely find something that is right up your alley!
Go Print (and Design)
Caption: Perhaps 3D-printed spacers (bottom) and racket holders (top) weren’t 100% necessary, but they helped facilitate my garage storage system nicely. / Image Credit: Jeremy Cook
The print files I’ve outlined here may work well for your purposes, but the real magic of 3D printing is being able to create something new for your specific needs. One might argue that creating custom designs and prints isn’t always worth it timewise, however, I find it enjoyable… plus it is something fun to write/post about.
On the other hand, since I share many of my designs online (and others share theirs), the multitude of people who use them helps push the usability/time ratio much higher. If you want others to get the maximum use of your designs, it can be very helpful to share the actual CAD files to facilitate modification (rather than only the STL or other mesh file).
I hope you have a great 2024. With technologies like 3D printing, on-demand custom PCB fabrication, massive online learning resources, and more, there’s never been a better time to create something awesome and new.