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3D printed tape measure
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The 3D Printed Calliper
Made as one piece from nine working parts
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The measure unfurls to over four foot
Not ten minutes before spotting this video I had proclaimed in the office that I was fed up of seeing owls 3D printed and wanted to see something useful. As luck would have it this is exactly that.
Engineer Angry Monk, who tends to specialise in aeromechanical engineering, took some dial callipers, traditionally made in nine separate parts, and printed the working tool as one piece, getting some pretty accurate results from the comparison to its "real-life" counterpart.
Nine pieces down to one simply wasn’t enough part consolidation for Angry Monk, so for his next project he picked something that had over a hundred components and wondered how he could redesign it to print as one, working piece.
Like callipers another tool all good engineers have to hand is a tape measure, this design of a tape measure would traditionally be 114 parts and quite the assembly job but the 3D print should do it as one, working piece.
The measure consists of 52 tape links labelled every 1 inch, a lock for the tape, a belt clip, and a fold-out crank with free-spinning handle to reel the tape back in. All printed assembled, no gluing, no snapping, printed as is.
Printed on an Objet Eden the working tape measure contains cut outs on the outer shell so as he could remove the support material from inside the casing, Angry Monk was keen to stress that was not an artistic design decision but a necessary evil.
The tape measure does work and can be used for rough estimates of sizes up to four feet and is accurate to one sixteenth of an inch, however because it is made with interlinking bits of plastics slop will occur over time.
Accuracy, however was not the quest for this design, it was to see what was possible - how you could take a fairly complexed assembly of parts and remove the assembly time. On a larger scale this is happening at NASA, as they take a rocket injector part, traditionally made from 115 components and reduce that to two parts. Thus reducing cost, assembly time and increasing tensile strength.
Angry Monk says in his video: “I think it’s cool that you can design a full assembly of parts on a computer, send it to a printer, which will make it in one piece, completely assembled. This is more than just one interestingly shaped piece.”
As he gets ever more ambitious we’re looking forward to what Angry Monk takes apart and prints next.