3D Printed Tools and Replacement Parts That Really Work

3D printed tools are a great way to have the utensils you need, when and exactly how you need them for the task at hand.

Metal alloys are stronger than PLA and ABS, but for a good portion of jobs, there’s only so much an item need to withstand. It all comes down to the amount of pressure, and the structure of the design versus the demands of the job. Every material has a limit, but in 3D printing, those limits can be pushed with the right design. Infill, print speed, layer thickness, shape and widths all affect the lifespan and grade of wear resistance.

3D printed tools
Source: Pixabay

3D printed tools are cheap, easy to customize, easily replaceable, non-conductive. A simple search will bring up most common tools, all of which can be resized with nearly any 3D modeling program in order to fit your basic needs. Let’s have a closer look at some of the most interesting and useful 3D printed tools out there.

3D printed tools
Source: Shapeways

Print what you need, when you need it

NASA made headlines with their own 3D printed tools. Robert Hillan’s multipurpose precision maintenance tool contains a variety of wrenches, wire gauge, and stripper, as well as a way to utilize drill bits similar to the multitool designs mentioned earlier. Not as custom as the items mentioned so far, yet still in the “on demand” focus of the testing, NASA also 3D printed a working ratchet wrench.

3D printed tools
Source: NASA

While printing without gravity is great, NASA experiments show that tools don’t have to be shipped to a location in heavy clunky boxes. The much more portable, lighter spools of thermoplastics can become the required tools at a later time. Like plastic screwdrivers or pliers for working with electricity and magnetic fields that can’t be tampered with.

 

With minor editing, thickening a handle or switching a bottle opener into a wrench, 3D printed multitools can feature the needs specific to any lifestyle. Designs that incorporate other parts such as drill bits are much more favorable for heavy wear and tear. Though several multitool designs that use drill bits can hold an additional one or two, it may be convenient to have an assortment on your arm to get the most out of your daily multi-purpose go-to.

3D printed tools
Source: Shapeways

More than just regular tools

Tools don’t have to be hand instruments only. Fixtures like cable holders are often left behind in this manner while they can hold or separate cables and occasionally do both. A little desk organization in your workshop can increase productivity. Even solutions to simple daily tasks like groceries can be found in 3D printing. Just a little perspective can open new ways to getting the most out of your printer.

3D printed tools
Source: Thingiverse

Definition of tools expands with various medical and rehabilitation tools too. One of the more buzzworthy is a series called GLIFO – completely customizable writing tools for children with nervous system-based obstacles. There’s also a high demand for 3D printed orthoses for people with fractures of the extremities or partial paralysis. Thingiverse user Solstie designed a set of useful 3D printed tools for people suffering from arthritis. It includes a bag handle, button assist, zipper pull, and more.

When you need a part, not a tool

Let’s say that you’ve lost a part to an item, and can’t order a new one or it’s too expensive. Check if there’s a replacement design floating around the web! Many appliance knobs, for example, just need a leverage to twist, and usually, will fit any broken cooker.

3D printed tools
Source: MyMiniFactory

The automotive industry has been facing the issue of needing exact parts as for many vehicles which parts, including classics, are no longer in production. In this situation, often the best solution is making these parts yourself.

3D printed tools
Source: Instructables

Are 3D printed tools really worth it?

For those using their digital manufacturing machines as a business, or even considering a side hustle, there are opportunities regarding 3D printed tools to consider. When you’re not making them for yourself, you can offer your services through Etsy, 3D Hubs or many other 3D print databases but keep in mind 3D printed tools will only niche with hobbyists whose tasks require low torque.

It’s worth giving a try to 3D printed tools or replacement parts. You might just save yourself a trip to the store. Allow yourself to think outside the box when it comes to the 3D printed tools as it can help you overcome some of the everyday troubles.

Jacob A. Anderson

Robotic engineer student and freelance tech writer

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