Printing small objects in 3D can be difficult because it requires precision, accuracy and the choice of the most suitable printing technology, but it’s a very useful area in particular for the production of small components, single or in series, jewellery or details in the medical sector.

 

What material should you use to 3D print small objects?

There are a range of different types of 3D printing materials, such as ASA, ABS, PLA, Nylon, polycarbonate and composite materials. 3D printing small objects is possible with every material, but it must be considered that when the dimensions of an object or the detail of an object to be printed approach the diameter of the filament extruded, the deposited material provides the 3D printed object with sufficient heat to cause deformation. It’s therefore essential to use high quality filaments and preferably choose a filament which melts at high temperatures, so that the already deposited material is less subjected to deformation.

 

What are small 3D printing objects used for?

The printing of small objects in 3D lends itself to many functions, such as elements of furniture, vases, jars, cutlery, covers, lettering for signs, simple components of more complex structures, jewellery, parts of prosthesis, keys, screws, nuts, customised gears and spare parts.

 

 

 

A very useful application is the printing of spare parts of household appliances, from the washing machine to the oven, a flexible production system that lowers production costs. Plastic parts are the easiest to print and replace, but some companies are starting to test the production of metal parts as well.

 

Print small objects in series

The introduction of 3D printing in the production flow of companies is very useful: functional prototypes, moulds, small series of definitive products and unique pieces in metal or plastic. We are approaching a real revolution of the production system and in practice there are already very small series of plastic products, which can be created with a 3D printer instead of using injection moulding, which requires an expensive steel mould not necessary for such a small print run. You can also make a mould in a special polymer resistant to high temperatures, then insert it into a traditional moulding press instead of the metal one.

 

Companies that issue models like spare parts and toys 

The generic models to 3D print are quite common and accessible and it’s easy to find them on different sites, such as Thingiverse. However, having to draw 3D models such as screws, nuts of gears, the search is not so simple. TracePartsOnline.net is one of the largest component libraries in the world, it has hundreds of catalogues and over one hundred million 3D models and component datasheets for all components sectors.

 

Maersk (one of the world’s largest container handling companies) began to print spare parts in 3D. Providing spare parts to an open ocean vessel is not easy, so the company has decided to shorten the time and save money making spare parts available on board the ship. Even Mercedes-Benz Trucks uses 3D printing for the production of spare parts, even metal. In terms of toys, Lego is known for using 3d printing in its production, as well as Disney and Mattel. There is also a free software called LEGO Digital Designer, which is an advanced 3D graphics program based on virtual Lego bricks that allows you to build your own models (although currently printing a Lego brick costs more than buying it). In general, the release of models is not yet so widespread because among the companies the fear of piracy risk prevails.

 

 

Local economy and 3D Printing 

The current economic system is in crisis, along with the social organisation as a whole. It’s essential we adopt a new organisation model, inclusive and based on the dissemination and sharing of knowledge thanks to new technologies, which takes into account the gradual shift of the production process out of the factory, the thinning of the distance between the producer and the consumer and in which the company generate not only profit, but also social value.

 

With a 3D printer, you can create objects in plastic, silicone, clay and biocompatible material allowing you to start mini productions to achieve what you need and this means that potentially anyone can become a producer, drawing on the knowledge available on the internet and sharing their own, in a virtuous circle and in harmony with the environment.