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Why 3D Printers Will Increase Product Longevity
As many of you know my Dad runs a pool service company and something he has continually dealt with over the years is how the cam locks in the poles break. A good quality utility pole used to clean swimming pools are made of aluminum, have telescoping sections, and can cost between $70-90. One key feature is that you can rotate the individual sections and it will automatically "lock" in place. This works because of a little plastic cam on the inside of the pole, which unfortunately wears out over time and requires the purchase of a new pole.
The little plastic cam cannot be replaced simply because it is not offered as a part, the result is needing to throw away the rest of the pole which unfortunately is otherwise perfectly fine.
So over the weekend my Dad asked me if I could "re-create" this problematic part on my 3D printer. We figure that once we get the size and fit right, we can print as many as want, and easily fix the pole. When/if it wears out in a few months...no problem...we can print an unlimited number of them.
The original is in white, my print is in black. It took a just over 22 minutes to design and a few minutes to print up. I imagine this will be a very common practice in the near future, something breaks, find the 3D model, (or make it) print it up problem solved.
Here is what my design looked like, the cam was a little tricky in that the thickness of the arms was not consistent:
The tall rectangles help me gauge how wide the arms should be, the triangles create "holes" that are subtracted. Note the measurements on the model base. This illustrates why digital calipers are so important in 3D printing. Once you have the exact dimensions and thicknesses its a lot easier to create a digital copy before printing.
Prototypes dont always work out on the first try, but if they don't, it's easy to make adjustments an try again.