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Solving problems using 3D printing

October 20, 2018Georgi Yanev

Recently I had a very minor issue, however perfect candidate to be solved using 3D printing. I’m fairly new to 3D printing, only got my printer a couple of weeks ago and I do have some 3D modelling experience (mainly from working on hobby / school game projects, such as Maze Crawler or Rollin’ Shark from a few years ago). I use the awesome open source software Blender for my 3D modelling. So obviously, not a guru, but very eager to learn, I dove right in.

❓ The problem

So, my son has these IKEA boxes where he keeps his toys. They have gotten so much use over the past few years that are somewhat dangly and loose. A couple of times the bottom plate came out and the box folded in. And that has been more and more of an issue with all 4 boxes.

Picture of IKEA box

That bottom plate, that kind of also keeps the whole box together, if it is nicely fastened, is supported on the side edges, and then held in place with 2 of those brackets.

Bottom of IKEA box

Bracket from the side

Bracket from top down

The brackets were always a bit short to begin with, but got the job done so far, until the boxes got too loose. If only we could have just a bit longer bracket. Enter, 3D printing!

👨🏼‍🎨️ Prototyping

Being such an awesome candidate for a 3D printed solution, I broke this down quickly. Here’s what I imagined I needed to do:

1. Measure the current bracket with a caliper

Measuring with a caliper 1

Measuring with a caliper 2

2. Make a 3D model in Blender and then extend the longer part on the X axis by ~ 33%

3D model in Blender

3D model in Blender with a cylinder through

3D model in Blender with a circle shaped hole cutout

3. Export as .STL file and open in a slicer program (Cura)

Configuring the 3D print in Cura

4. Print

The final 3D printed bracket

The print was quick, about 10 mins, with very good quality.

5. Test the fitting

Testing the 3D print in the IKEA box

Honestly, I was actually a bit surprised I got it completely right on the first try, I thought it would take a couple of iterations. The bracket fit perfectly and was definitely holding the bottom panel of the box much better than the stock options.

🔩 Manufacturing

So, naturally, I went to Cura and multiplied the item, so I could print 7 more of it.

Multiply item in Cura

Printing  7 items at the same time

3D printer touch screen

Only 45 mins to finish the 7 prints.

Half way through the print

Half way through

Print done

Ready!

7 3D printed brackets

One last task remained - to replace the brackets on all boxes.

🏁 In conclusion

I am aware I didn’t resolve some major world issue, however, the amount of satisfaction you get from being able to solve a problem using 3D printing and software is substantial. Can only image a bright future for this technology and can only bet that soon it will be a part of every home.

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