Mar 12, 2016 | By Alec
There’s no need to remind readers that 3D printing is a fantastic option to create fun, useful and sometimes even functional parts and objects. From pot planters to research prototypes, the user is in complete control. The only downside to multi-component 3D printing projects is that creating durable attachments can be a bit challenging. Though several gluing techniques are circulating in the community, nothing quite beats the metal screws, nuts and bolts from our pre-3D printing making days. Fortunately, there’s a remarkably simple alternative: One Florida-based maker has just shared a clever trick for embedding metal threads into prints using just a soldering iron.
This is one of the easiest techniques for connecting 3D printed mechanical components we’ve seen so far. After all, tapping functional holes in plastic is nearly impossible (though could work on nylon), while pausing prints to insert nuts requires perfect timing and very careful planning. That’s exactly why we were so interested in this metal thread embedding technique by Instructables user adamgw, from Tampa, Florida. “I want to share an easy method I've found to add metal threads to a 3D print that you can do with just a soldering iron,” he says, and all you need are heat-set metal threaded inserts and a soldering item.
So how does it work? Well, the first step is getting the right size holes on your model to fit the inserts. Most hardware websites list two hole diameters, with the largest representing the outer ring of the inserts. That will needed to added to your CAD model. 3D print it the way you normally would – no pausing required, fortunately.
The real trick starts when the model is cleaned, cooled and ready for action. A heated soldering iron is used to gently push inserts down into the 3D prints. The heat will slightly affect the plastic, making it possible to slowly sink the insert into the plastic. This will require some wiggling and back and forth pushing to get it positioned straightly. Once you find a flush position, you’re done. Just be sure to fix up the other side, where some extra plastic will have accumulated. That’s really all there is to it; just make sure to wait a few minutes for the plastic to fully solidify again before attaching the now functional components.
It’s an extremely useful technique for 3D printing projects that, if you manage to keep your fingers away from the hot plastic, is a perfect option for adding a whole new dimension to your hobby. Though the technique could work on PLA, ABS is probably preferable as it is slightly harder and more able to withstand the torque of tightening a screw into the inserts. What’s more, a drill press might be useful to get a very accurate positioning in the part, though it is not a necessity. Obviously, the same principle can also be applied to other types of nuts and bolts. Surely this is the easiest technique for creating durable attachments on your 3D prints.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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kb wrote at 3/17/2016 11:09:36 PM:
I directly heat up regular metric screws screws with a soldering iron and screw them into the plastic. It's pretty strong. For applications who require more strengths I'm using PT screws. They're made for this and don't require heating.
Travis j wrote at 3/14/2016 5:35:43 AM:
Need to me, thanks for posting
peter wrote at 3/13/2016 7:43:01 PM:
Was new to me thogh
H. Scholten wrote at 3/13/2016 9:49:27 AM:
How can this be the subject of a news article? This is a standard technique. I do this for a few years now.
old repraper wrote at 3/12/2016 11:06:57 PM:
must be a very slow news day... "we" have been doing this trick for years!