3D printed spare parts. Source: Andrew Craigie on flickr.com
3D printed spare parts. Source: Andrew Craigie on flickr.com

Sometimes it is difficult to find obsolete or spare parts for cars, appliances, and kitchen gadgets. It’s often expensive when you do find them, particularly for older cars, machinery, or appliances. Trips to the junk yard are often necessary and may yield less-than-satisfactory finds. Manufacturers will lose money if they run small lots of parts and it can be costly for the customer to purchase an obsolete part.

This is where 3D printing comes in. 3D printing is a perfect technology for customized or obsolete parts. To create the 3D printed part, customers can use the blueprints or the broken part can be 3D scanned, reverse-engineered, and digitally repaired.

This process can save time and money. Instead of tracking down the manufacturer only to be told they don’t carry a particular replacement part, people can 3D scan the part or obtain the plans from the manufacturer and either send the files to a 3D printing service, such as WhiteClouds, or the part can be 3D printed at home.

This allows for the maintenance and repair of older machinery. This may be especially useful for farmers and mechanics who cannot afford to replace older machinery with costly and expensive upgrades. Keeping older machinery up and running for a little longer can help the average American struggling with costs of living and to increase profitability.

Jay Leno is already using 3D printing for this purpose. Leno 3D prints custom parts for his cars, including his 1907 White Steamer. The Steamer needed a feedwater heater. Using a 3D scanner and 3D printer, Leno recreated the part and sent the plastic piece to make a mold. Then a machinist used the mold to create the part. This process of 3D scanning and printing ensures that final part is accurate.

If you have a 3D printer at home, you can create other household items, such as hangers, plastic forks and spoons, and even lamps. This opens the door for customized goods and items. Home 3D printers are coming down in costs and PLA and ABS plastics are becoming more affordable. 3D printing items can pay for the initial investment fairly quickly, depending on how often you use the printer.

It is possible that 3D printers will be as common as home computers and printers are today. People who have 3D printers already are ahead of the curve and the rest of us may soon follow. Then we can 3D print parts, household items, and gifts as we need them.