Dare to Repair Contest: Getting Started

Imagine a World with On-Demand Repair Parts

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This wiki walks you through the complete process of creating a 3D model for an original part, and printing solutions for producing a substitute part. These guides are intended to be used by anyone—inexperienced to advanced in 3D modeling and printing. We want to make it easy for people to use this process to create, share, and print replacement parts across as many repairs as possible.

Before we get started, we want to send a big thank you to Thijs Beerkens, who allowed us to adapt his guides for this contest.

For more information—including rules, submission guidelines, and prizes— check out our Dare to Repair contest announcement on our blog. Don't forget, your submissions are due on Monday, May 14.

We made quite a few resources to help you get started—for easy reference, we've included a complete list of guides we'll cover in this series below:

The process of creating a 3D-printed repair part consists of three main phases: Decomposition, Remodeling, and Reproduction. (We have created separate guides for each phase for you to follow.) However, you’re welcome to tackle this project however you see fit.

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Here’s a brief run-down of what you’ll be doing in each phase:

  1. Decomposition: Examine and understand the original part and its critical features, determine your modeling strategy and set the requirements for your new spare part. Selecting the right modeling strategy at the beginning of the process is incredibly important. It increases the chances that you’ll actually have a usable replacement part at the end of the process. In the decomposition phase, you will also determine the part’s function, context, material, and geometry to determine which aspects are important to reproduce accurately—and what can be simplified to speed up the process. You will also identify how the part was built up, which will help you to recreate it in a 3D model.
  2. Remodeling: In the Decomposition phase, you will have either selected CAD modeling or 3D scanning as a preferred strategy. In this phase, you’ll get to the modeling. Some parts are more easily modeled, while others are better 3D scanned due to their complexity and shape. We have guides for both Remodeling Tracks: the CAD modeling guide will help you take measurements and references and apply them in 3D modeling, the 3D scanning guide entails a full process for photogrammetry-based 3D scanning using a digital camera and software to create detailed 3D scans.
  3. Reproduction: After you’ve created the 3D model, the reproduction phase helps you to prepare the model for printing. We’ve included several useful platforms for finding a 3D printer or service nearby. (There are more 3D printers already available to you than you might think!) Since you created the model yourself already, the only fees associated with printing on a third-party printer are for the material, the electricity, and possibly starting the printer.
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Since 3D printing is mainly plastic-based, we’ve focused on reproducing rigid, plastic parts. You’re welcome to reproduce parts in 3D-printed plastics that were originally made from other materials—such as wood or metal. It’s important to be aware of the requirements set for such a part (as you will discover in the Decomposition phase, a spare part made in a different material will perform differently than a part in the original material). Furthermore, most of the common 3D printing plastics are rigid or only marginally flexible, so highly flexible parts are also difficult to recreate.

Lastly, look at the size of the part in question. If it takes up a significant part of the whole product, it will likely be a difficult job. The part has to fit within the build-envelope of a 3D printer, or it cannot be printed in true scale. A common build-envelope for desktop 3D printers today is around 200 x 200 x 200 mm, although bigger printers exist. It’s probably best to stick to this size (or under) for now, so you can print on widely-available printers. And other people can print your part, too!

At the very least, you will need an original part that you want to create a replacement for. Ideally, this part is mostly complete—though, it’s not not a deal-breaker if the part is a little broken. (It might be missing entirely, as well.)

Having the original part provides you with a reference to work from—since you will be taking measurements and photographs of it. If you don’t have the part—not to worry. It’ll be a bit more challenging, but the rest of the product can tell you a lot about the part you’re missing. Connecting elements, contours, shapes and enclosures can also provide dimensions and reference for your new part.

You will need access to a decent computer. You’ll be working with CAD and 3D scanning software, so your computer needs to be capable of running these beefy programs. Nearly all CAD programs run on one processor core, and the processing of a 3D scan will be done ‘in the cloud’, on a special server for that—so don’t be intimidated by steep computer requirements. Make sure that you have a x64 Windows version though, and Autodesk recommends at least 4GB of RAM and a dedicated graphics card with at least 512MB GDDR memory.

Of course, you will also need access to a 3D printer. The guides and tools provided are based on FDM 3D printers, as they are the most common. We’ve included a couple of useful platforms for finding a printer near you. If you happen to know someone, or a shop/library/school/business/workspace/makerspace that owns a 3D printer, it is definitely worth asking them if you can get a model printed. Oftentimes, we’ve found these folks are very interested and willing to help.

The following tools are also required for your project:

  • A proper working area and adequate safety clothing
  • An Autodesk account and licensed copies of Autodesk Fusion 360 and Autodesk ReMake. Both are free for Hobbyists, Students and Start-up companies!
  • A digital camera or smartphone, preferably one that you can set manually (for instance, a DSLR). Any camera works, as long as it has a decent image resolution (10MP+)
  • A caliper, preferably a digital one, as you will be measuring sub-millimeter dimensions.
  • Other measuring tools—such as a protractor, ruler, etc.

When tinkering with electronics and appliances, it is possible you can void manufacturer warranties and encounter potentially hazardous materials. It is incredibly important that you exercise the utmost care and common sense! We strongly recommend you take appropriate safety precautions for this project, including (but not limited to): wearing protective clothing, working in a designated area, and not jamming your screwdriver into places that can get you zapped. Be sure to unplug net connected appliances 30 minutes prior to working with them. Certain appliances store large amounts of electricity that have the potential to unload on contact. If you have any questions, or doubt, contact an expert.

Self-made, 3D-printed repair parts do not comply with OEM quality standards and testing. They are not guaranteed to function appropriately, which means you should be extra careful with parts that are load-bearing, spring loaded, or come into contact with heat, water, and food.

Your participation in this contest is your choice. The contest sponsors are not responsible for anything you do in relation to the contest. That said, we hope you have a lot of (very responsible) fun while you participate.

Proceed on to Phase 1: Decomposition

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