Jan 14, 2015 | By Simon

For many, one of the best things about owning a 3D printer is having the immediate ability to reverse engineer existing products and create their own housing designs to hold the internal components.  

While a lot of 3D printing projects we’ve seen employ the use of microcontrollers and other development boards, it can oftentimes be just as satisfying to disassemble existing and proven products and redesign them to your own liking.  Among other things, this can also result in repurposing domestic appliances that are otherwise broken and would end up in the landfill.

Just last week we saw a repurposed 3D printed lawnmower from South African engineer Hans Fouche (the same engineer who created the 3D printed chocolate factory last year).  Fouche came up with the idea after his gardner’s old lawn mower started to slowly deteriorate.   

“The lawnmower wheel of my Garden Guy broke, so I printed him a new wheel on my standard desktop Rapman 3D printer,” Hans told 3Ders. “That took seven hours and 100 Rand [just under $9] worth of filament.”

Case in point: rather than having to buy expensive parts that would have taken days (if not weeks) or even replace the entire lawn mower, Hans was able to repurpose the existing hardware by building a new body for it for just $9 on his Cheetah 3D printer.  The 3D printer, which Hans also built himself, is a remarkably fast (hence the name) large-scale 3D printer capable of printing objects as large as 1000 mm x 1000 mm x 1000 mm.  

More recently however, Hans and his colleagues including Kobus Van der Walt from South African makerspace House4Hack have done something similar by repurposing an old and broken Hoover vacuum cleaner.  Rather than designing and printing a traditional vacuum cleaner form however, the design duo opted to house the internal (and still working vacuum components) inside of a large vase design - making it an almost-ideal solution for those who may live in cramped apartments in metropolitan areas with little storage space.     

“We’re missing a lot of the small details,” Fouche added, “Like latches for the bag removal and the wheels. But these could easily be created with a smaller 3D printer and added on.”

Despite missing a few of the “small details”, the current prototype is a rather impressive and new way of thinking about the modern vacuum cleaner.  

Designed in less than a week and printed in under four hours using the same Cheetah 3D printer that was used for the aforementioned lawn mower, the airtight design is capable of not only housing the components necessary for cleaning a house, but it can also store houseplants if desired.

The duo, who were inspired to do the project after they caught wind of Hoover’s open-challenge to create add-ons and custom designs for their vacuum cleaners via MakerBot’s Thingiverse platform, wanted to see if they could print an entire vacuum rather than an add-on for an existing vacuum cleaner design.  

Images (above) credit: htxt.africa

Fouche said that the main objective of the design is to prove that localized manufacturing can work using 3D printing methods rather than resorting to mass manufactured products and replacement parts that are often costly and more often than not, are rarely as ‘on-demand’ as parts that can be printed directly off of a home-based 3D printer.  Additionally, the low-cost of filament allows for makers to create the products for little-to-nothing when compared to more expensive replacements.  

“We want to say that this is possible, and we can do it right here, in South Africa,” Fouche told 3Ders.  “The point we are trying to make is that the Cheetah printer is moving the goalposts of 3d printing. 3D printed lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners are a reality now with the Cheetah 3D printer...it may be in its Model T phase, what think of the future…[and] oh yes, we can print 8 lawnmowers or 8 vacuum cleaners at the same time!”

Fouche and Van der Walt has released the open hardware design on Thingiverse.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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