Useful Parts On-Demand Via 3D-Printing: My Favorite Designs

February 24, 2020 Jeremy S. Cook

As noted in this previous previous post, 3D-printers can help you make a wide variety of useful items. It would seem the sweet spot for this type of manufacturing is when an item is useful to a few people, but not useful to a large enough group to make it commercially viable. Such designs can often be found on Thingiverse, GitHub, and other info repositories, but when you can’t find something that suits your needs to the tee, it’s time to break out your CAD skills and model itself!

This post will outline a few of my favorite “useful prints” that I’ve designed. Some of my my gadgets, as far as I know, are only used around my house. Others, however, seem to have gained some notoriety, hopefully meaning that others are enjoying my work in their homes or places of business.

CNC Router Dust Collector

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

After trying several times to make a good dust collector (dust shoe) for my CNC router, and even purchasing one that I wasn’t entirely happy with, I finally designed to design my own 3D-printed model. What I came up with features a channel that sucks debris coaxially with the spindle, and deflects air from the router exhaust that would otherwise interfere with this duty. The device hangs on the router using a magnetic fixture, allowing it to be adjusted or removed almost instantly.

Print files: GitHub

Videos: YouTube—Part 1, Part 2

Headphones Hanger

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

I needed a place to put my headphones that wasn’t the floor or taking up precious desk space. I already had a boom in place for my microphone, so it only made sense to hand the headphones from it. This device was, of course, 3D-printed, along with a 10-24 screw and one tapped end to secure it to the bottom. Simple, and extremely useful.

Print file: GitHub

Media Controller Housing

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

As explained in this post from March 2019, I use a custom rotary input device to control my PC music volume, and to start/stop and skip/rewind songs. Since then, I added the functionality to actually tell me which lock keys are on via the RGB lighting inside, and even force the PC to stay on when needed by turning on Scroll Lock intermittently. The housing is 3D-printed, along with the top, using translucent filament to allow light from the LEDs to shine through.

The latest revision features an improved design, and since I had the files saved, it was easy to make a few small tweaks. It also features a purchased knob, rather than the printed knob used on the previous iteration. This actually looks quite a bit better.

Print files: GitHub

Video (playlist): YouTube

Dyson Vacuum Holder

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

Dyson makes a brilliant vacuum cleaner, but it seems to me that the holder is a bit lacking. Sure, it holds it in place, and charges fine, but the extension is just left hanging in space, potentially vulnerable to putting a lot of torque on the base if disturbed. To remedy this, I made a support member that can be screwed into the wall, then added a holder for extra accessories. As a bonus, I made a holder for a GoPro camera... because who doesn’t want FPV evidence of your cleaning activities?

Print files: GitHub

Video: YouTube

Magnetic Screwdriver Holder

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

A really cool set of screwdrivers deserves a really excellent holder. This printed device attaches 7 Wiha screwdrivers to my milling machine—or anything fairly flat and ferromagnetic—via a pair of neodymium magnets. Simple and effective.

Print file: GitHub

Video: YouTube

Magnetic USB Holder

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Cook

3D printers tend to vibrate. After shaking the USB port out of itself, causing a connection problem, I decided to fix this once and for all. I created zip-tie and magnet fixture that creates a sort of “soft lock” against the printer’s housing. This hasn’t been a problem since, and it’s interesting to consider that the printer is making parts to improve itself.

Print file: GitHub

Storage, Magnets, Zip-Ties… A Theme?

A huge number my designs are storage devices of one type or another. Also, they tend to often involve magnets and/or zip-ties. To the first point, I think printed parts really lend themselves well to storage applications, where custom shapes are often needed, and good, not great, durability is required.

As for zip-ties and magnets, perhaps my experience wiring electrical panels makes me zip-tie friendly, and who can argue that neodymium magnets are some of the coolest things you can buy? It’s great being able to use things that I’ve actually designed and made, and these items have definitely made my life just a little bit easier!

Jeremy S. Cook is a freelance tech journalist and engineering consultant with over 10 years of factory automation experience. An avid maker and experimenter, you can follow him on Twitter [https://twitter.com/JeremySCook], or see his electromechanical exploits on the Jeremy S. Cook YouTube Channel! [https://www.youtube.com/c/jeremyscook]

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