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Where do you start with a 3D printer?

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FrankFalcon
FrankFalcon Posts: 153 Forumite
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This might sound like an obvious/silly question but I’m genuinely baffled. So, I want to invent/make a specific shelf for the back door of our camper van. There’s nothing on the market because there’s probably no demand and each shelf would be unique to each vehicle conversion. So I want to make shelf, but surely for it to be 3-D printed I would need to have one in my hand to copy off… but then if I did have one in my hand to copy off then why would I need to print/make/invent it? For example, let’s say I want to 3D print a small coat hanger for the van. There isn’t one in the world that fits my unique shape, custom van cupboard so how can I copy off something that doesn’t exist? 
I hope this makes sense? 
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  • Neil_Jones
    Neil_Jones Posts: 9,034 Forumite
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    edited 21 June at 7:05PM
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    3D printing is in a nutshell an extension of CAD work.  You basically design what you want on some CAD software (or downlload something) and then convert it to a format that your 3D printer knows what to do with and then it goes off and does lt by building layers through heated filaments which cool to hardened plastic.

    This might be of interest:

    Also have a look on YouTube.

  • FrankFalcon
    FrankFalcon Posts: 153 Forumite
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    Thank you. 
  • HumberFlyer
    HumberFlyer Posts: 168 Forumite
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    So .... You know the shape/ sizes that you are after I guess. I suppose you could design it in such as Tinkercad and print. You have a printer, yes. How big will the shelf be
  • forgotmyname
    forgotmyname Posts: 32,619 Forumite
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    I know some people think FreeCad is a toy but it's amazing what you can do with simple blocks. A mix of Lego and Meccano.  :)

    If it's a one off making one from a plastic sheet or wood will be a better option.

    Censorship Reigns Supreme in Troll City...

  • wongataa
    wongataa Posts: 2,645 Forumite
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     There isn’t one in the world that fits my unique shape, custom van cupboard so how can I copy off something that doesn’t exist?

    You don't copy, you design the new thing.
  • forgotmyname
    forgotmyname Posts: 32,619 Forumite
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    After designing it in 3D CAD software you need to find the right material for the job, the material for a shelf if likely
    to be different to the material for a coat hanger.

    I love my printers but often you can make the items from wood or metal in a fraction of the time it takes to design
    them in CAD.

    Censorship Reigns Supreme in Troll City...

  • matelodave
    matelodave Posts: 8,650 Forumite
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    Depending on what I want I can usually draw something up in an hour or so unless its very complicated. It also has the advantage that you can prototype something to check its fit and function and then its easy enough to tweak it and print another one

    Plenty of free CAD software out there to play with although some have a harder learning curve than others. Another alternative is to see if someone has already made one or something similar that's suitable. 

    Have a look on https://www.thingiverse.com/ or https://www.printables.com/ as there are literally thousands of designs for stuff - some toys and some very useful

    I've just made a steampunk handbag for my wife plus lots of odds & sods for around the house and caravan. They are great fun, I've got  a couple of printers and been doing it for near enough ten years
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • FrankFalcon
    FrankFalcon Posts: 153 Forumite
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    Thanks all. A lot to think about. Cheers 
  • no_real_names_please
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    Does anyone know if there are handheld 3D printers working on a similar principle to cake piping tools but with plastic filaments instead of icing.
  • matelodave
    matelodave Posts: 8,650 Forumite
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    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
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