Jan 16, 2016 | By Kira

In yet another project that undermines the stereotype that 3D printing is just for creating cheap plastic prototypes, decorations or meaningless tchotchkes, a mechanical engineering student has managed to design a functional 3D printed micrometer that has a travel distance of 2.5 inches and can measure down to five thousands of an inch or smaller. Dan Olson, mechanical engineering student at the University of Michigan, recently released his the 3D design files for his 3D printed micrometer on Thingiverse, and it has already received quite a bit of positive attention and requests for subsequent iterations.

Micrometers, or screw gauges, are tools that are used to measure extremely small distances or thicknesses using a carefully calibrated screw. They are particularly useful in mechanical engineering, machining and other mechanical trades, and the more accurate, the better. Though desktop 3D printers aren’t always praised for their accuracy, Olson has managed to do a pretty good job—especially considering this is just an initial version, and he admitted to not spending enough time on it to properly calibrate the screw.

As a result, the 3D printed 2.5 inch micrometer is a little bit off. Though it is marked on every 5 thousandth of an inch (with the possibility to infer down the thousandth), it consistently measures objects about 12 thousandths of an inch too short, with +/- 3 thousandths of an inch of play. In a real-world mechanical engineering scenario, that would never do, however as a first-attempt at 3D printing such a tool, it’s still pretty impressive.

“The base part is is 6.7 inches tall so make sure your printer has enough room. With 10% infill and .15mm layer height, I printed both parts at the same time and it took 18 hours and used about 200 grams of filament. It may take some breaking in once you make it but it should be sturdy enough that you can twist pretty hard on it. Once you twist through it a few times it should turn nicely.”

Since uploading the 3D model earlier this week, Olson has already made a few modifications and received plenty of feedback from interested makers. “I re-uploaded the rod piece because I thought the knurling was too deep and was painful to turn. It’s only a slight change though and you probably don’t need to re-download it,” he wrote.

As for feedback, several commenters both on his Thingiverse and Reddit posts have requested smaller versions that can be 3D printed on smaller machines, as well as metric versions.

“Fantastic model! I’d love to try printing this, but my printer only has a 4.5” tall build volume. Please count this as a vote for a 1” micrometer,” wrote one commenter. “Wow…if you made a small metric one that could measure filament width you’d be straight into the featured list with the download being a ‘must have’ for newbie 3D printer owners,” ventured another.

Luckily, Olson has already stated that as time allows, he’ll get to work on developing a 3D printed metric micrometer and a smaller, 1 inch version, too, meaning that we’ll know sooner than later if the ‘featured item’ prediction will come true.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Realist Printer wrote at 5/19/2016 9:58:32 PM:

Wow, a "micrometer" that can provide measurements almost 20% as fine as an ordinary one. And hot damn, it's only 20% off in calibration! It "only" measures 12 thou short, give or take 3 thou! Truly inspiring accuracy and repeatability. You, Sir, have single-handedly, totally disproved that 3d printers are just for creating cheap plastic prototypes, decorations or meaningless tchotchkes. Well done.

Michael wrote at 1/22/2016 11:46:10 PM:

So, how do you zero this monster?

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