New use for my printer

For me 3D printing isn’t a hobby but ancillary equipment I use in my hobby of make accurate (by my eye’s anyway) scale models by machining parts out of metal. In the past I have made patterns to cast metal, a friend cast the parts in bronze for me, gears, boxes to hold tools and expensive indicators and various pieces for repairs around the house. Need a new coat hook, print don’t buy.

On my current project I needed to mill some parts at angles. Normally this would be done with sine bars and gauge blocks and take an hour or two to get right, if possible at all. Some machining set ups can be difficult. In an moment of rare genius I realized I could print out jigs to hold the parts at the right angles when clamped in the milling machine vise. This would be an easy set up, the parts are aligned to the jig so that the bit to be removed would be lined up with the table axis at the appropriate angle. Compound angles, which can a real B…H will be simple this way.

In you favourite CAD program create a rectangular box, import into an assembly, import the model of the part to be milled and using constraints, align to part in the box so it has the appropriate angle arrangement. Then preform a Boolean subtraction AKA “the cut” and you are left with a jig. Snap the part into the jig, set up on the mill and make the cut. It took about an hour to print each jig, .28 layer height and I was able to work on other parts in the shop at the same time. A great time saver for me.

Two jigs, one right and one left

Jig showing where the the part fits.

Part fitted into jig

This was a previous operation with a angle setup that would have been difficult to do, at least with my equipment, but was very easy with printed jigs.

Anyway I just wanted to show that there are always new ideas for using 3D printers to make life better and save money. Cost of printer and filament not withstanding.


those are great, Thanks for sharing, I love seeing the solutions we can come up with for maybe not-so-common tasks.

Excellent use of a 3D printer. I have 3D printed tack-up templates and jigs for low volume/prototype welded assemblies as well as attribute gauges for machined parts.

This is what “tooling up for mass production” used to mean - making a bunch of jugs for very specific operations was only efficient for large volume production. Now we can do it for one-offs. Isn’t living in the future amazing?

Love seeing this!

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It is important not to squeeze the jig excessively, in the vise, because it will bend or even break. These are not going to be able to hold really accurate positioning like a proper set up but for many operations it is more then sufficient.

I have watch videos on Youtube that have people printing out tool and die forms to press out one off or limited run small car parts in the car restoration industry. Much easier then bashing sheet metal. As for living the future I’m still waiting for my Jetson’s flying car.

It’s also relatively quick and cheap.