A commonly repeated line at additive manufacturing trade shows is that 3D printing technology needs to become more accessible to the average consumer in order for the desktop industry to move forward. For many of us, FDM printing was our entry point into the maker community, so we are reluctant to be too harsh in our criticism of it. But without question, one of the main hurdles for this market is that that typical extrusion printed parts are not particularly useful in real world applications. Admitting this is uncomfortable – equivalent to announcing one’s ineptitude as a maker. Many see the ability to generate quality prints with good layer adhesion as a badge of honor. The problem is not that printed parts aren’t strong enough, it’s that the material properties are hard to predict. Print failures happen and they’re not always catastrophic or even visible. Especially in outdoor applications where components are exposed to moisture, temperature cycles, and UV bombardment, printed parts have yet to prove their adequacy. Take the example of a snowboard rack for a vehicle. While many of us trust printed parts to hold our gear up on a wall at home, holding thousands of dollars of snowboards to the roof of a car doing 80mph on the highway is another story. This is where hybrid build strategies can offer huge advantages. If we start with a solid piece of raw material (in sheet, block, or rod form) and machine the load bearing features out of this material, we know that those features of the part will have the full, predictable strength of the base material. We can then add other features that provide secondary functionality like stiffness, padding, or aesthetics.
Hybrid Operations: Snowboard Rack
Updated: May 11, 2021