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We’re on the hunt for stories about 3D-printed parts that have come to the rescue: replacement parts, custom tools, adaptations of existing objects, and more.

So please share with us your stories (and links to images) in the comments below. When have you 3D-printed an object to solve a problem or improve your life in some way?

We’ll be picking our favorite stories to feature in our next 3D printing guide. For inspiration, here are some of our favorite “just what I needed” stories from our 2012 Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing.


SIP4_112_JustWhatINeed1

thingiverse.com/thing:10043

“ When some plastic part breaks in your car, the chances of finding a replacement and then being able to buy it without getting a second mortgage are slim to none. My Thing-O-Matic allowed me to replace a broken plastic fitting in my car’s luggage cover, which saved me from having to buy a whole new one at roughly half the price of my 3D printer kit. I have now helped many others make vacuum cover clips, showerhead holders, and many other hard-to-find replacement parts. ”

—Miguel Angelo de Oliveira, Hartsdale, N.Y.


SIP4_112_JustWhatINeed2

thingiverse.com/thing:8947

“ I wanted to attach a rear light to my bike, but I have a rack installed, so it couldn’t go on the seat post. The rack already had holes for a license plate, so I made this simple adapter that goes on the rack using the existing holes, and then has a spring clip that fits the bike light directly, so that I can attach and remove it quickly. ”

—Gian Pablo, San Francisco, Calif.


SIP4_112_JustWhatINeed3

thingiverse.com/thing:26835

“ I ordered a KitchenAid stand mixer and its ice cream maker attachment. The ice cream maker attachment arrived on a Monday, but the mixer itself wasn’t going to arrive until the following Thursday. I wanted ice cream on Tuesday. This is my solution: an adapter to drive the ice cream maker with a standard ⅜” drill socket adapter (and a strong drill). ”

—Lee Holmes, Seattle, Wash.


SIP4_110_JustWhatINeed2

thingiverse.com/thing:9419

“ I bought a tackle box to help organize all my electrical components. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until I got home that it was missing a clip, and since it was the last one on the shelf (who sells out of tackle boxes?) I wouldn’t be able to exchange it. I fixed my problem by modeling a replacement from photos of the existing clip and caliper measurements. The replacement actually snaps tighter than the original, so I replaced them both! ”

—Chris Krueger, Arlington Heights, Ill.


SIP4_110_JustWhatINeed

thingiverse.com/thing:12648

“ My old Bosch 1611 is a killer router, but it’s 20 years old and almost impossible to find parts for. I couldn’t find a stock pattern collar adapter, so I just designed and printed my own. ”

—Bozo Cardozo, Ketchum, Idaho

Laura Cochrane

I’m an editor at MAKE and CRAFT. I like hiking, biking, and etymology.


Related

Comments

  1. I have been making 3d printed parts for both of my humanoid robots. Boomer and Robby.

    Boomer’s parts: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5192

    Robby’s parts: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:9793

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Robot-Cloning-by-DIY-3d-printers/

  2. tonyv says:

    My oscillating belt sander has a groove in the table for an angle guide, but no attachment, so I whipped out a design for a 90/45 degree guide and printed it up. I use it all the time now.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Nice, Tony! I’d love to see a photo of the attachment. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Greg says:

    My office has a paper towel dispenser, but the key was long gone. I designed and printed a new key. Since I couldn’t find a replacement key, it saved me from having to replace the entire dispenser. http://www.myfavoritestripper.blogspot.com/2013/05/3d-printed-key.html http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:86586

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      As the saying goes, if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. : ) Way to take back ownership of the paper towel dispenser!

  4. I made a 3D printed camera rig with Follow Focus for my DSLR (among many other things I have made) :) http://www.backyardworkshop.com/blog-posts/cnc/188-homemade-dslr-rail-system-rig.html

  5. Roland H says:

    The very first thing I designed and printed was for a local medical clinic my girlfriend works at. She’s an M.R.I. technician and a bracket that’s used to hold a coil in place to take certain images had broken. The repair company didn’t want to fix it because the part cost between 3-5 thousand dollars and they had to foot the bill. Since then the clinic has received a new bracket, but they still insist on using the one I made.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      That’s fantastic! Do you have the design or photos of the finished part up somewhere?

  6. Charles Haase says:

    We had a mouse in our garage, and a live trap borrowed from a friend just would not catch it! After several days of trying different traps and DIY solutions, I printed this out, and caught the little guy in less than an hour!
    http://www.thingiverse.com/make:17123
    … and here’s the release video:

    I wanted to take some time lapses, but did not have a good tripod mount for my iPhone. So:
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:25098 (although this one is better: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:46378)
    … and some results:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYREqySpvIs

    I fly RC planes, and still crash more often than I should. Thanks to my printer, it isn’t as much of a problem to fix some of the broken bits:
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:119068

    Battery doors, bike bag rack reinforcements, car parts… this list goes on and on!

  7. Franck says:

    Here are 3 things I modeled and printed:
    (1) Shower door pivot: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:100797
    (2) Bicycle trailer attachment part: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:104114
    (3) IKEA blinds pulley: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:103315
    I did not find any oter way of getting those without buying the whole item. Cheers!

  8. Martin says:

    I replaced a broken e-ukulele bridge. The low quality wooden bridge could not stand the tension of the cords. Instead of hunting for a new part of the same low quality I designed my own part.

    The design iterations are in this pic:
    http://lh4.ggpht.com/-J-pkq_PvRp4/UctV23Wl8QI/AAAAAAAACmg/9ZsxyYlUfik/s1600-h/Figaflors_i_Braves_DSC_0233%25255B3%25255D.jpg

    The whole story is here:
    http://figaflors.blogspot.com.es/2013/06/my-3d-printer-rocks.html

  9. As a novice home-owner, I’ve had to learn to prioritize my never ending to-do list of chores & fixes. At about the bottom of that list was a task nagging me since moving into our new house. When changing our furnace air filter, a grate has to be removed. The grate is designed to be held on by two very uniquely shaped plastic plugs, but since moving in only one has been present. This left the interior of the furnace partially exposed. I had tried fashioning a quick fix using a screw, but you can’t put a round peg in a square hole, and upon taking the grate off one time the screw fell deep into the furnace and the remaining plastic plug snapped. This left an entirely open furnace.

    One weekend in May a series of fortunate events occurred:

    -I had access to a 3D printer.
    -My calendar dinged that it was time to change the air filter (reminding me of the issue with the plugs).
    -Tinkercad went back online.

    I had not used Tinkercad prior to it going offline, but after completing a few tutorials I new it would be perfect for fashioning a quick prototype. I measured the holes, whipped up a design in about 15 minutes, and had 1 plug printed in 7 minutes. Testing showed it worked perfectly for easy fastening & removal. While printing the second plug, I was so exhilarated by the design thinking process that I had to show it off on Reddit:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/3Dprinting/comments/1eoabn/3d_printing_noob_this_is_my_first_big_win/

    This resulted in some awesome feedback & my first Thingiverse commit!

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:91905

  10. I’ve used my 3D printer to replace the depth guide on my drill presss, replace the bump knob on my weedwacker, and help a friend make near-impossible to find plastic parts for his car:

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:19788
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:27848
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:21099

  11. Jason Taylor says:

    I have printed 1000′s of parts for almost every project I work on but I think one of my favorites was fixing a friends printer. The tab that holds the ink cartridge in place broke and after a couple prototypes I was able to get it dialed in.

    http://www.taylorreilly.com/3d-printer/IMG_0702.JPG

  12. Not exactly replacement parts (yet), but I wrote a little Python program that lets you print your genome from 23andme: http://www.gullicksonlaboratories.com/go-print-yourself-with-3dna/

  13. Scanner Luce says:

    As newer models of iPhone’s came out I had to design and print adapters to go with my old, but still working perfectly fine, car adapters:

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:32789

    and

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:32544

    also when the espresso spoon for my espresso machine broke.. well, that was easy to replace:

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:44018

  14. Tanju says:

    I originally made the custom phone holder for my blackberry. It’s not pretty but I made it exactly to my own desired specifications. And when I replaced the BB with an iPhone, all I had to do was make a couple of strategic cuts to remove cross beams that were in front of the touch screen and it works great.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      I need one of those for my car… there’s no good spot for my smartphone to perch. I’m guessing newer cars might start making a place for them. Soon there will be flip-out smartphone holders, just like cup holders. : ) Thanks for sharing, Tanju!

  15. As a design engineer, I pick and choose my tools very carefully and watch expenses. I had been watching 3D printers for the last
    several years but figured they were too expensive and not quite perfected yet. I was trying to decide between a CNC milling machine
    and a laser cutter for my next workshop purchase. My equipment purchase decisions are based on what has the best time-leveraged utility for the buck.
    When MakerBot announced the MakerBot2, the decision was made! I waited patiently for 8 weeks like a kid waiting for Christmas day.
    When it arrived, I had it working within minutes and don’t think there has been too many days where it hasn’t been printing something.

    I realized the learning curve was going to be steep, so I thought… However, between downloading items from Thingiverse and figuring out the best
    way to print them, and a few phone calls to your customer service department, I got this!

    The MakerBot2 has proven to be an invaluable tool, allowing me to design faster and take on projects that normally I would have past up due to time constraints.

    The funny thing about owning the MakerBot is that my wife still thinks it is just a fun toy I purchased trying to convince her of it’s engineering potential.
    Last week I finally said I would help her around the house this weekend, but that I get to use my 3D printer to do it. She agreed, basically figuring she was on her own like always.

    My first project was to fix the broken dryer knob. Below is the link to the finished part. I guessing it took about 2 hours from start to finish.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/Dryer_Knob.jpg

    My next project for her was the hanging plants on the front porch. The hooks didn’t fit and we had already made several trips the the hardware store that day and didn’t feel like any more.
    My solution was some “S” hooks to mate between the chain and the hanging plants. Total time from start to finish: 55 minutes. See link below for images.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/S-Hook_up_close.jpg
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/S-hooks_holding.jpg

    Later that day the water pump in the backyard water feature stopped working after 7 years so another trip to the hardware store to get a pump. Of coarse the same type of pump
    wasn’t available so I purchased a bigger one.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/fountain_before_fix.jpg

    Of coarse the bigger pump had larger fittings which wouldn’t fit the existing feature tube.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/new_pump_no_fit.jpg

    So rather than another trip to the hardware store and tons of trial and error sizing fittings,
    I decided to design and print a new adapter coupling myself. I designed what I figured would work as a preliminary prototype.
    which was basically a straight thru tube matching the different diameters. I printed it out and much to my surprise, it fit. The only problem was that
    the new pump was so powerful, that it created a water feature way too big for our small setup.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/pump_too_strong.jpg

    So… Back to the CAD software to create a coupler with a sliding vent, such that I could control the water pressure going up the pipe. Without the MakerBot, I wouldn’t have even
    bothered after this point.
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/design_coupler_part.jpg

    I printed the parts:
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/Print_the_Part.jpg
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/finished_part.jpg

    The new coupler fits perfectly:
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/part_fits.jpg
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/final_assembly.jpg

    And the fountain works great and thanks to 3D printing, the pump pressure is variable:
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/works_perfectly.jpg

    Not bad for a day’s work!

    Here are some some other things I made which you might find interesting:

    To keep the dust off the MakerBot parts, I made this dust cover which helps a ton:
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/Makerbot_dustcover.jpg

    Later I needed an adjustable webcam support so I printed one!
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/helping_arm.jpg

    I love this thing! I have tons more projects I’ve made but I’ll save them for another day.

    Sincerely,
    Bob Fields
    Design Engineer

    1. Sherry Huss says:

      Hi Bob – great feedback. Was wondering where you are based?

      1. Thank you for the opportunity to brag a little about the fun I have with my printer.
        I am from Carmel, Indiana.

    2. Laura Cochrane says:

      Wow, an epic tale of how useful a 3D printer can be for everyday household fixes. And that dust cover is really nice. Thanks for sharing, Bob!

      1. Thank you! The 3D printer changes my entire design process, allowing for multiple prototype iterations in a fraction of the time it used to take!

  16. Some Nokia phones require a “SIM key” to remove the SIM card. They’re just a thin strip of metal that come to a point. They go on your key ring but can often jab you. I combined a short 1mm rod with a custom, protective body printed by Shapeways and problem solved. http://texrat.net/images/SIMkey.png

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Great idea!

  17. The door of my refrigerator has some rails on the inside shelf-area that are supposed to keep the mustard from flying when you open the fridge. These are made of aluminum with plastic end caps that have little hooks on them; you hook these into slots on the door where the shelves are. One of mine broke, and naturally, the little hook bit fell into the door itself, never to be recovered. My refrigerator is pretty old and I didn’t expect to be able to source parts for it.

    So I took the mirror-image one from the other end of the rail, modeled up the part I needed (tricky little geometry) in Solidworks, and printed it in ABS. Problem solved! You’d be hard-pressed to even notice that the part isn’t original. Photos and a writeup are here: http://eikimartinson.com/archives/92-Printing-a-Refrigerator-Rail-Clip-Replacement.html

    And on my flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eikimart/8397556970/in/set-72157632496346633

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      This is awesome. I’ve seen so many fridges where that bar has broken off and there’s no elegant way to fix it. Enter the age of 3D printing, and now we can. Nice job.

  18. cknich5 says:

    Reblogged this on NoCo Maker Faire and commented:
    3D printing is changing the world! Anywhere from everyday life to saving lives…check it out in Make’s article.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Thanks for the reblog! : )

  19. I’m with SYN Shop, the Las Vegas hackerspace, and we just started doing a podcast. I bought an inexpensive Canon video camera (as an extra) and wanted to use a Sony wide angle lens that I have on it. Needless to say, the lens adapter that came with it didn’t fit. So, I printed one. Designed in Blender and printed on our Replicator 2 at the shop.

    The cool thing is that it’s held onto the camera with friction only since the Canon doesn’t have a threaded lens ring. I got to learn a little about Blender and this was also my very first 3D print! I don’t have it up on my blog yet, but that’s coming soon. Thanks for looking!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/97301853@N04/sets/72157634682003869/

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Hi Bill! I still need to do a write up about my visit to SYN Shop back in February. : ) Nice job on the lens adapter, and thanks for sharing!

  20. Al Williams says:

    photo/1

    My wife had a craft project that used a letter W made of wood. However, it had broken in transit. I took a digital camera, took a picture, doctored it in GIMP (including fixing the break). Then I used inkscape to trace it to an SVG. Imported that into OpenSCAD and then saved it out as an STL.

    The image shows a small test print and a full size part, both printed on a Printrbot + with ABS. I put detailed procedures in part 4 of Understanding 3D Printing (see my website).

    For 25 years, my wife never appreciated all my ham radio, computer, robot, and other projects. She is fascinated with the 3D printer. That in of itself is amazing!

    1. wd5gnr1 says:

      Sorry, senior moment. I did the original W’s with FreeCAD, but later did the same thing with OpenSCAD. Same idea.

  21. Chris Oxford says:

    My Milwaukee random orbit sander was designed with an inferior pad brake system. I adapted the system from a Porter Cable 333 sander to retrofit the Milwaukee. Been using the repaired sander in a production wood shop for 6 months now, works perfectly.

    Finished retrofit (sorry for blurry photo):

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DYjxHTVE11g/UTnu3YMk_8I/AAAAAAAAHzc/lHDklmVHT-4/s800/IMG_20130307_122133.jpg

    Part models available for free download, with instructions in the comments, here:

    http://www.shapeways.com/shops/oxfab

  22. alexfranke says:

    I didn’t have to just throw away and replace that canvas travel chair: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:21805

    The candle didn’t quite fit, so we make a simple adapter: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:38004

    A personalized medical ID bracelet for a very specific allergy: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:24210

    We fixed the handlebars for the kids’ scooters with this simple plug: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:43597

    Wire spools can look so untidy! http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:46302

    More on my thingiverse page: http://www.thingiverse.com/CodeCreations/

  23. George Hahn says:

    The rotary switch on my lamp broke, and when I replaced it, the old knob didn’t fit. So I designed and printed a new one: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:16196

  24. My lab bench was getting way out of hand with loose tools so I printed out a few tool holders to clean things up. Much better!
    http://www.precisionhealthandwellness.com/my_files/shared_media/3D_Tool_Holder.jpg

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      That’s nifty looking! I also like the color.

  25. ken guerrero says:

    I had a client recently come to me with a wooden desktop display model that had most of its propellers either damaged or missing. Since this was a off scale model replacement parts would be impossible to find. I took the measurements sent the design off to Shapeways.com and in 10 days I had the replacement parts. I painted them up installed them and you would never know they were plastic copies!

  26. Mike Downey says:

    The list is pretty long, but one good example of making a replacement part is the clip on one of my suitcases. I noticed that it was broken and the company that made the suitcase didn’t offer a direct replacement. With a set of calipers and some simple CAD work, a replacement was sitting on my printer bed an hour later… along with a fun video documenting the process.

  27. Brian Chan says:

    Following a life-long hobby of studying insects and other arthropods, I created a series of articulated arthropod models. I wanted to create ‘specimens’ with some of the feel of the real creatures. 3D printing allows me to fabricate the complex shapes of, say, a crab shell, and to share my art with other collectors, without impacting live animals in their natural habitat.

    http://www.shapeways.com/shops/brianchan

    The specimens are printed from sintered nylon, so they are durable enough to be handled, yet have intricacy and details close to the real thing.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Brian, I love this! And it makes me think of how teachers for the blind are using 3D printers to print teaching materials — tactile graphics and more.

  28. Bobby Rutgers says:

    Today I made a replacement dash vent for my 23 year old sports car, I decided to make it a little more modern looking than the OEM vents. It is a bit thicker and much stronger too. I plan on making more, this was more of a prototype part so I painted it because underneath it’s red ABS. For the next ones I will print them in black and try vapor smoothing them to avoid having to paint them.
    The broken OEM vent is on the left, and my replacement is on the right, obviously I have to print another one in reverse to match the passenger side of the dash.

    http://i.imgur.com/TH4QcgO.jpg

  29. Dan M says:

    I live on a reservoir where gas engines are not allowed, so when I bought my boat, I also bought some trolling motors and used my printer to fabricate tie rods and connectors that allow me to steer with the stock steering wheel. I also designed a throttle system (lever, gears, mount, etc) for controlling the boat’s speed, as well as some switch plates and other minor things.

    https://plus.google.com/photos/106132178235515230266/albums/5766960407721259169

    I’ve also printed many household items such as this leaf blower attachment:
    https://plus.google.com/u/2/photos/106132178235515230266/albums/5759473883673182369/5762792738234037170?pid=5762792738234037170&oid=106132178235515230266

  30. theschlem says:

    When I bought my Prius, dorky plastic wheel covers covered the alloy wheels, but there was a hole in the middle of each wheel that required a plug. I was just learning how to design things for 3D printing, so I created a center cap and had it printed by Shapeways. I am delighted with the results, and the cost is competitive to the factory parts.

    http://www.shapeways.com/shops/bitforge?section=Prius+Wheel+Center+Caps&s=0

    You can see more pictures here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/theschlem/sets/72157632696775253/

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Ha! I love those. You should upload a photo of it on the actual wheel!

      1. theschlem says:

        Here’s the latest version (not sure how to put the photo in the text):
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/theschlem/9309541394/

  31. Matt says:

    A friend of mine’s Magic Bullet blender broke, and without proof of purchase he was going to have to buy a replacement at full price. But I was able to model the broken piece in CAD and order a 3D printed part from Shapeways. Here are some pictures of the part: http://imgur.com/a/7iUje. For only $3 plus shipping, the blender is fixed and works just as well as before. The plastic used in the new part even seems to be a little stronger than the piece it’s replacing.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      This is awesome. I love that 3D printers have made it possible to replace those hyper-specific plastic parts, where no other shape will do.

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