Mar. 26, 2015 | By Alec

If you’re a bit handy, you will have notices that 3D printers are great for replacing broken bits and components on just about anything around the house. But who would’ve thought to 3D print the tools used to install them as well? While you might think that plastics simply do not possess the necessary tensile strength the be used as tools, the innovative company Performance 3-d LLC has designed a plastic 3D printed drill that is a perfect addition to your toolkit. If anything, it shows us just what you can accomplish with a bit of innovative design ideas.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Performance 3-d LLC, this company specializes in developing 3D printed engineering solutions and their 3D printed drill fits exactly in that theme. As co-founder Jay Evanovich explains to, their drill was specifically designed to be made with a 3d printer. ‘In fact, we are an engineering and design firm that mainly uses 3D printers to create products. We also have designed and sold upgrade parts for various printers, including our aluminum arm stiffeners, for which you need to drill a few holes in a tight space to install into the popular Makerbot Replicator 2 printers,’ he explains.

To drill those holes, they decided to design a tiny handheld drill themselves using just a few google images and a clever eye for design. ‘To give you a little more background, these drills go way back. I got the inspiration by looking around online, and you can see some similar designs (mostly out of metal) by googling Archimedes twist drill,’ Jay tells us. The resultant drill will be shipped alongside every aluminium arm kit they sell, though they have provided the designs for these drills for free as well. ‘It is basically an installation tool, but a practical idea of how 3d printing can solve an otherwise difficult problem. Most customers would not have any equivalent means to drill these holes, and the alternative is to completely disassemble the machine to drill the holes and install the kit, and who really wants to do that?’ Jay asks.

These drills are suitable for hard and soft surfaces and work remarkably well. The secret is a clever drill mechanism that only takes one easy movement to operate. Fitted with a typical #37 (.104" / 2.64mm) drill bit, it’s a wonderful multi-purpose tool. ‘Once the drill is tight, simply place the bit where you want to drill and push downward with 1 finger on the back end, while you move the hand grip up and down with your other hand,’ Jay explains. ‘The finger rest is a very important part, our first version drill did not have this and when the helix spun it wanted to spin right out of your hand.  Now the finger rest stays stationary against your finger, and when you move the hand grip up and down it turns the helix, and the drill bit.’

This up and down movement creates a very efficient movement pattern that not only drills holes but also removes the chips of plastic or wood that accumulate in it. ‘When you slide the grip toward the back of the drill, the bit is spinning in reverse (clearing any chips that have accumulated). On the down-stroke the bit is spinning forward, and cuts more of the material out of the way.’

But though very clever, Jay immediately admits that this isn’t the best drill to have ever been designed, but its just a very useful and cheap addition to your toolkit. ‘The drills aren't THE most powerful thing obviously but they do work, and very well. For the installation, they are drilling through injection molded plastic material.  It also works just fine on wood, and I could even drill through aluminum sheet metal if I had to, but I wouldn't want to do anything too thick or steel. Not because you couldn't, just because it would take a while.’

Fortunately for the rest of us, the guys from Performance 3-d LLC have graciously shared their designs for this multi-purpose drill. Consisting of four separate STL files (the helix, the nut, the knurled hand grip and the finger rest), the entire drill can be 3D printed in just an hour or so. These are best 3D printed at a fine layer height (say .1 mm) and with a highly calibrated 3D printer. The resultant parts should easily assemble as well : ‘Attach the collet nut, slide the hand grip over the helix, and press fit the finger rest into the end of the helix.’ Jay just advises users to but a drop of grease on the tip of the finger rest before pressing it down into the helix to ensure smooth turning.

The downloadable stl files can be found here and we strongly advise everyone to check them out. Not only is this an easy and fun project to work on, the tool itself is a very useful addition to your tinkering arsenal. You could even 3D print a couple for your friends to illustrate the power of 3D printing technology.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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