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  1. #1

    NEED TO SCAN AND PRINT, starting from zero

    I work on a steamboat in the engineering department. I have zero 3D experience but think maybe a scanner and printer would save us money on buying certain plastic parts, such as a breaker handle that costs us $450 a pop. I need a simple system that can scan a part and print it out without alot of user inteligence lol. My budget is $3,000 or little more to start. Any advice for this newbie? Thanks.
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  2. #2
    Staff Engineer
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Oakland, CA
    While that will work to produce a rough facsimile of the things you're scanning, if you want to produce working mechanical parts, you need to start with clean geometry. A scan can give you a head-start on that by capturing points on the surface which can be used to reconstruct the "design intent" of the part, and a clean CAD file you can then print. This process is called Reverse Engineering. It requires not only a scanner but some specialized software, and a trained operator to use it - it's not going to work without some of that "user intelligence".

  3. #3
    Ok. Looks like I will need to do some learnin. I have used Painthop befrebut that's about it. So can you recommend a complete package including printer, scanner, software in which I could get started with? Thanks.

  4. #4
    Engineer Marm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Add Marm on Thingiverse
    Well, I'm the resident SketchUp flag waiver here, so I can recommend that, especially cause it's free. There's also a few other ones too.

    But as Awerby mentioned, that geometry is so simple, I bet you could have a working model of it after 1 day in SU. I don't think you need a scanner, you'd spend too much time cleaning up the artifacts. Invest in a set of digital calipers instead and get all your measurements that way. There's only 5 shapes in that switch; an oval and 4 rectangles. 7 if you count the oval as another rectangle with 2 half circles on it. With just a bit of practice, that's a 20 minute design, if that.

    Most of the FDM printers out there would be able to handle that design no problem, read a bunch of the articles and threads here to get a feel for whats out there and how they meet your requirements. But, I can only assume that at $450 each, these handles are quite large. They will have to be if you want those little tabs to hold up. A 3d printed model is inherently weaker than an injection molded one of the same design.

    My one concern would be codes or liability. Would your handles half to be certified by somebody, or would they have to meet some code? Will the manufacturer say making your own violate some aspect of a warranty or safety regulation they have in place? I know I've worked on ovens the size of a football field that certain modifications would have to be removed or the manufacturer was threatening to call OSHA. (I had nothing to do with said modifications for the record ). I'm just imagining the headlines "Steamboat fire kills 20".

  5. #5
    Thank you for the info and reply Marm. Yeah there's no issues with liability or warrantes but stregth may be an issue. The handles that are in place now have been in place since 1994 and have turned brittle so they break pretty easily. I really have no idea how strong printed parts are in comparison to injected but that could be an issue. the handles are about 5 inches tall. Not much to them and I have no idea why they cost so much but that is the going rate so if I could find an alternative way to make them myself or have them made for me then that would be a score.

  6. #6
    Staff Engineer
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Oakland, CA
    You don't think there are any issues with liability until a serious accident occurs - then fingers start pointing everywhere. You don't want them pointing at you and your 3D-printed kludge. I believe in saving money too, but if these were my old breakers that are breaking repeatedly, I'd just replace them with new ones - the whole things; not just the plastic handles.

  7. #7
    Lol thats funny awerby. Thanks for your opinion but like I said, that isn't the issue. The handles are actually remote extensions that fit over the actual breakers. These handles break all the time so having one 3D printed breaking would cause no issues with liability nor warranty. If you want to replace a $7,000 breaker just because a plastic handle broke off then you wouldn't be in business for long lol. We fix things, that's what we do and if we can't fix it then we replace it. Plastic handles are one of the least of my worries. Thank you Marm for the excellent answer to my question.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Looking at the switch in question. It would be very easy to copy with digital calipers and openscad - for me anyway.

    The zeus is probably the best 3d photocopier currently around and under $3000. To be honest the only other one I can think of is the xyz aio - and that's best avoided !
    Also bear in mind that all the poor(ish) reviews are from it's launch. if you look at the more recent reviews they are far more positive (universally 5 stars). IE: they've fixed the initial issues you always get with a new machine.

    Given that you can produce a switch for a few cents with a 3d printer.
    If the copy you get isn't exactly the same as the one you currently use - just make enough to replace them all and nobody will be any the wiser.
    You'll need to do a little post processing. Adding the text (cheap transfers or stencils and paint) maybe some sanding and a little varnish.
    But print them right and they'll be as least as strong as the ones you're currently using (look like they might be bakelite - which is brittle as hell).

    Alternatively, send me one, slightly broken would be fine, or fully broken with the bits (glue works fine if you're just measuring) and I'll produce the digital file for you - at a small cost. Lot less than $450 that's for sure :-)
    Making the swiutches also would not be a problem. Weirdly most of the jobs I've had through this forum have been in the states, I'm in the uk.

    But for $450 I could easily make and send you a bunch of switches.

    Sounds like the zeus might work for you. It's the closest thing to a star trek replicator currently on the market. ;-)
    And obviously it's not limited to just the one part.

    As far as strength of 3d printed versus injection moulded goes. I believe the things I make are not only lighter then injection moulded, but if printed in the right orientation and with the right material - are stronger. They are certainly more shatter proof due to the internal non-solid matrix that doesn't ransmit shockwaves anywhere near as efficiently as a solid piece of plastic.
    It's swings and roundabouts, but I doubt you'll notice much difference.
    There are some really great materials around for fdm 3d printing and you can print the part with the best characteristics for the job in hand.
    All the replacement parts I've made over the last 3 years for broken household widgets are stronger than the originals and last longer.

    If you like send me a pm and I'll be happy to phone you and have a chat :-)
    I get free calls to the states landline and cell phones.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 02-27-2017 at 05:57 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    I don't know why a company charges $7000 for a circuit breaker and $450 for a switch lever.

  10. #10
    It's ok, I dont know why either.

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