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  1. #1

    Buy and build or hire and buy

    Hi All,
    Never had a 3D printer know very little CAD (Did some in school and a little as a hobby several years back) but willing to learn. I do know a decent amount about electronics and working on cars, just a general jack of all trades.
    So I have been looking at 3d printers for a few weeks to possibly solve a hard to find car part issue and possibly make some thing new for an old car. I am not sure if I should buy a 3D printer and design and make my parts or if I should higher someone to help me design the parts and print them. I guess I will start with what I want to make, then hit you guys up with what I think I know and then ask my questions.

    I want/need to make the center vent holder assembly for a 69 Chevelle it needs to be very roughly 9X2x4 inches generally rectangular in shape with a divider in the front and small supports in the sides to hold two vents and then a movable block off door to block them off in the back there will also be an arm on the left side that controls the door. with this I need to make a center duct that will attach to the back of this assembly and have two 2.5 inch in diameter inputs and two 2.5 inch diameter outputs on the side. These parts are hard to find due to only being in production for one year and are generally in poor shape and if they are in good shape the plastic is 50 years old and brittle, I will have to modify the factory center duct to work with the aftermarket A/C system in the car. when the parts are available tend to go for around $300 US.

    In the more of a want category I am going for a more of a modern look with the interior of the car and would like to upgrade the A/C controls. the front face would be about 9X2 inches with 3 knobs that would control the A/C system I want to back lite the face plate like in modern cars to show what each knob does. (Now lets see if I can accurately describe the next part.) on the knobs them selves I would like to have a little ring set in a little from the edges that act as a diffuser for an RGB LED so the knobs them selves can match the color of the gauges in the dash at night. I have not looked super close at the set up for the A/C controls one is for sure a mechanical linkage so will have to convert the rotational action of the knob to a lever action and the others might be a Rheostat but I am not 100% on that yet. similar type items go from anywhere for $300-600 US.

    So what I think I know is that, I need to print in ABS and to do that I need a heated bed and an enclosure and I also need a large print area. I do know from looking pictures of 3D printed parts that I am going to have to do some finishing work and possibly painting to make the parts look right in the dash.

    So if I buy the 3D printer I could potently make some of my money back by selling what I end up making and designing. but I could probably get a faster end result if I am able to higher some one especially if the person is local. but I also like the idea of being able to make other parts that might come to mind later and also teaching my daughter.

    As of the moment I am leaning on 2 3D printers, a Creality 3D CR-10 S4 (I will need to make an enclosure for the Creality.) or a QIDI TECH 3D Printer, Large Size X-Plus. the later is at the extreme end of my budget but I like the fact that it seems a little more plug and play so I can focus on the design of what I am trying to make.

    My questions are.
    Do you guys think I should buy and build or Hire? (The reason I ask is the learning curve I don't want to spend 6 months just trying to make the center vent holder and every one seems to be saying that printing in ABS is a pain.)
    Can I hire some one that does quality designs and builds for under the max end of my budget?
    What do you think of my choices which one would you pick or is there another one I should consider?

    Thanks for the Help and sorry for the super long post.

  2. #2
    Engineer-in-Training
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    264
    A brief summary of your quest would be more easily split into two parts, with sub-parts for the two sections.

    Section one is the tough one. Designing a custom part of the type you describe is going to take some CAD skill. If you had substantial experience, aka skill, you would be able to save a bundle on the out-sourcing part of your question. It's good that you're willing to learn the process, because that will benefit you in the long run.

    I'd recommend Autodesk Fusion 360, free for hobbyists and low grossing businesses, requires renewal each year, no big huhu. It will give you greater control of your model revisions, especially if you learn parametric modeling aspect of the program. If you're more of a coding/programming person, OpenSCAD (also free) is a descriptive language modeling program that also provides great parametric control.

    On the printing side, ABS is not a pain, or at least isn't if approached with an open mind. I've been printing custom brackets these past few days in ABS and have had a couple failures, but I expect to have the occasional problem. Build your model in the CAD program of choice, print it in PLA and when you're happy with the iteration, print it yourself in ABS or farm it out. Once you have a good design, you aren't limited to PLA or ABS or PETG, because you can use an outside print resource and get exotic materials like SLS nylon, strong, heat resistant, attractive (no layer lines!)

    The model building is the right place to start.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by fred_dot_u View Post
    A brief summary of your quest would be more easily split into two parts, with sub-parts for the two sections.

    Section one is the tough one. Designing a custom part of the type you describe is going to take some CAD skill. If you had substantial experience, aka skill, you would be able to save a bundle on the out-sourcing part of your question. It's good that you're willing to learn the process, because that will benefit you in the long run.

    I'd recommend Autodesk Fusion 360, free for hobbyists and low grossing businesses, requires renewal each year, no big huhu. It will give you greater control of your model revisions, especially if you learn parametric modeling aspect of the program. If you're more of a coding/programming person, OpenSCAD (also free) is a descriptive language modeling program that also provides great parametric control.

    On the printing side, ABS is not a pain, or at least isn't if approached with an open mind. I've been printing custom brackets these past few days in ABS and have had a couple failures, but I expect to have the occasional problem. Build your model in the CAD program of choice, print it in PLA and when you're happy with the iteration, print it yourself in ABS or farm it out. Once you have a good design, you aren't limited to PLA or ABS or PETG, because you can use an outside print resource and get exotic materials like SLS nylon, strong, heat resistant, attractive (no layer lines!)

    The model building is the right place to start.
    Thanks for the info for the CAD program. no reason I cant start relearning everything I forgot. I learned on some old version of auto cad from around 01 and I used to play around with 3d Studio Max.

    Designing the center vent and duct should be easy enough they are just basic shapes and something good to start with. I have the dash and the vents that are going into the vent housing that I can use for measurements. and I can use card stock and wire to make a rough prototype with a working door so I can get the basic angles for the lever down.

    and thank you for the info on materials and idea of farming out the end result. that is the part that I am afraid is going to be the biggest learning curve not necessarily what material to use but how to print it right and what modifications I would or might need to make to my printer to have a good end result.

    the A/C contols are

  4. #4
    Engineer-in-Training
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    264
    That you have the parts in hand for measurement makes your life a good bit easier! Once you have a set of dimensions and an approach to create the solid model, the fine tuning should be much simpler. Your attitude about basic shapes is a good approach as well. As you develop the individual parts, you can either post them here for constructive criticism or send via private message and I'll take a look at them. Open posting of the model means that others with more skill than I would also be able to examine them.

    For an example of criticism, please consider the following: a model can have a wall thickness of 1 millimeter which would print on an FDM printer, but the typical nozzle diameter is 0.4 mm. You'd want the wall thickness to be either 0.8 mm or 1.2 mm for optimum results. This is for prototype purposes, as one can have almost any value if the final product is going to be SLS nylon. The resolution of that method is typically 0.05 mm.

    SLS does not have problems with requiring support material and the attendant surface irregularities of removal, but it should be considered when building the prototype. An example of this sort is better left for later, when you have a model design.

    Projects of this sort is why I purchased a 3D printer. I don't frequently print "artistic" parts on my printer, and prefer to build things that I can use elsewhere. Your project falls perfectly into this category.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Posts
    6,987
    it might be worth approaching a print bureau, with regards to getting the parts made from nylon.

    3d printed abs is not great. pet-g is better, doesn't need heated enclosure, but is problematic to get the settings just right.

    But then all filaments have their own particular quirks.

    The qidi is by far the superior machine - also comes with hittemp extruder - currently at no extra cost and is just better all round.
    I3 style printers are currently popular, mainly because the design can be solid (just don't get an ender 3) and it's really cheap to design and make.
    But if it were me - I'd get the qidi and not bother with abs just go straight to working out how to use pet-g.
    Pla is also seriously good - ignore all the archaic crap about it being brittle - I've always found 3d printed pla it to be stronger and tougher than 3d printed abs.
    Americans making parts for cars always bang on about it needing to bear up under 70c in car temps and that's why they have to use abs - that kind of heat inside a car is not an issue in the uk :-)
    Pet-g has a higher glass point than abs, and once you get a profile set up right - is really tough.
    So is just better all round.

    Then there is hi-temp pla.
    2 types.
    1) slightly cheaper you cure in an oven after printing, you have to factor in a slight shrinkage, but after curing that's good for over 100c.
    2) just print as normal and is good for over 110c - not cheap, but impressive stuff.

    Then you've got the pricey engineering filament types like ninjateks armadillo.
    That's pricey, but really amazing stuff. A rigid polyurethane that prints as easily as pla (I know this as I accidentally used a sample of it instead of pla and it came out fine :-) The rigidity and toughness specs are off the charts and it's glass point is also much higher than abs.

    One of the problems is that the 3d printing materials industry is churning out new filaments at a phenomenal rate while the user base is largely using the basic 3 and is - generally - stuck five or six years in the past.

    I try and test as many different materials as I can and generally only make practical items.
    So just bear in mind there are a lot of options beyond the basic pla, pet-g and the obsolete abs.

    Design wise, it largely depends how your brain works. I use openscad, because my brain seems to only work in 3d. Just can't do 2d drawing by hand or mouse. I find openscad so much easier to use than standard design packages.

    Tinkercad is also supposed to be very good - haven't tried it myself, but supposed to be easy to use - for a wysiwyg package.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 05-06-2019 at 07:05 AM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by fred_dot_u View Post
    That you have the parts in hand for measurement makes your life a good bit easier! Once you have a set of dimensions and an approach to create the solid model, the fine tuning should be much simpler. Your attitude about basic shapes is a good approach as well. As you develop the individual parts, you can either post them here for constructive criticism or send via private message and I'll take a look at them. Open posting of the model means that others with more skill than I would also be able to examine them.

    For an example of criticism, please consider the following: a model can have a wall thickness of 1 millimeter which would print on an FDM printer, but the typical nozzle diameter is 0.4 mm. You'd want the wall thickness to be either 0.8 mm or 1.2 mm for optimum results. This is for prototype purposes, as one can have almost any value if the final product is going to be SLS nylon. The resolution of that method is typically 0.05 mm.

    SLS does not have problems with requiring support material and the attendant surface irregularities of removal, but it should be considered when building the prototype. An example of this sort is better left for later, when you have a model design.

    Projects of this sort is why I purchased a 3D printer. I don't frequently print "artistic" parts on my printer, and prefer to build things that I can use elsewhere. Your project falls perfectly into this category.
    Quality is the main fact

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