3D Printing Solutions for Corrosive Environments

3D Printing Solutions for Corrosive Environments – Metal Saltshaker Lid

Corrosion in Toxic Environments

Corrosive environments are a challenge to think outside of the box and explore solutions that save time and money in the long run. If your company is facing a design challenge where corrosion can affect lifetime performance, it might be time to consider how 3D printing can offer more solutions than what you’re currently finding with traditional methods. Today I’d like to do a quick example of how easy it can be to design and prototype a replacement part that originally was made in metal and over time has lost its effectiveness.

This simple example is near and dear to my heart because of my grandfather and a gift he gave me during college. Most of my kitchen has been stocked by knickknacks from my depression-era grandparents, and they hold a lot of sentimental value to me. Even when it might be time to retire them, I still find it hard to let go. Let’s take this simple saltshaker as an example. This goes with a small 4oz mason jar and is always on my kitchen stove, a somewhat toxic environment (I’m getting better at cooking, I swear) filled with water, heat and corrosive substances. After a while, the rust has just made this unusable and it’s time to find a new solution.

3D Printing Has a Lot to Offer

If you haven’t looked into the world of 3D Printing in a while it might be time to look again. There is a whole slew of printers that can expand your concept of what 3D Printing can be used for and how quickly and reliably you could create production level components. Take for example our line of Markforged printers that are revolutionizing the industry with their top of the line strength and accuracy.

The ability to print plastic parts that can hold up against parts previously designed in aluminum is not only cost effective – the turnaround time could be game changing for your company. Parts can be redesigned and manufactured in less than 24hrs leading to more innovation and discovery. Especially for parts in corrosive environments where metals might rust, a quality 3D Printed component could be not only a stop gap solution but a final product. For this scenario I want to explore the nylon material that we can 3D Print using the Markforged Industrial series. This is strong plastic that can be used for a corrosive environment like the saltshaker.

Plastic Lid Modeled in SOLIDWORKS with Nylon Material

Reverse Engineering using SOLIDWORKS

We’ve shown before how to reverse engineer parts that need exact tolerances during our Motorcycle Foot Peg Series. This reverse engineering project however is a new challenge. Now we face a complete redesign. And we’re no longer trying to just reproduce the metal, but trying to capture the same functionality in a new simplified design (with a little bit of the DP logo in there to spice things up a bit! Pun intended!). That means that I have a general feel for the dimensions but have a little more play with the final results. We’re going to use batch 3D Printing to our advantage and be able to explore which results will work best for our current situation.

To start off, we’ll need a good baseline design of the lid. This is designed using SOLIDWORKS and some basic measurements from the physical parts supplemented with information that can be found searching online. Sometimes finding the perfect thread pitch for a 4oz mason jar might even stump Google, but that won’t stop us! We’ll set up a smart model using design intent and allow for different configurations to test a range of solutions.

Using Configurations with Design Intent to Discover a Solution

Prototyping in an Imperfect World with Really Good Tools

I might not be able to measure the exact diameter of the glass jar or the thread size and pitch to match… but, in a world where a design can be put together in less than an hour and then a full 8 different options can be 3D Printed overnight, I don’t have to. Especially when I am separated from the production facility and I don’t want to ask my engineer to continue to tweak and run a new sample part every time one of the variables isn’t quite what I want. With an entire build plate of space to work with and the ability to start a job and come back to it in the morning to find the results, why try just one option?

In this example, I picked two variables that I wasn’t quite sure about: the diameter and the thread pitch. I use SOLIDWORKS to create 8 different configurations that tested two different thread pitches and 4 different diameters. I even was able to add a nice little indicator onto the design of the lid surface so that I’ll know exactly which one of the 8 options fit the best. Once my partner in New Jersey gets the batch of prints in the morning he’ll ship the results to me, and I’ll just find which one of the options works best. The design table I created will help keep all my designs organized. And the fast turnaround time from 3D printing will allow me to effectively move forward with the best design with confidence.

3D Printing is a Game Changer

Whether working with a simple saltshaker or an industrial application in a corrosive environment, 3D printing offers valuable solutions that are worth considering. It has incredible strength and production timing coupled with efficient costs. If you have to constantly adapt to changing conditions and toxic environments, look into Markforged printers that offer a wide array of corrosion resistant and durable materials, including Nylon and Inconel 625.

Check in for our follow up post to see how the project finishes out. We’ll look at how we figured out the right design fit and utilized a prototype to discover weaknesses that need to be addressed.  I’ll be showing some tools in SOLIDWORKS that you might not have considered before.  A simple project but it shows how powerful the 3D Printing Tools of Markforged are when combined with the 3D CAD tools of SOLIDWORKS.

Here at DesignPoint we love to find new ways to serve our customers and would love to discuss any design challenges you face and how we can help. If you haven’t found the right solution yet, remember that More is Possible®.