Not a week passes by without one of our team facing the issue of a broken lock part that is no longer available as a spare from our suppliers. Usually our choices are limited to hand making a part out of brass, or if the value of the item is worth the repair cost, we employ the services of one of our plastic moulding, or metal fabrication companies. In most cases, the time and labour involved render the safe, lock, door or handle completely useless.
We have watched the progression and development of 3D printers over the last 3 years with great interest. The accuracy and range of materials available has increased dramatically in 2014, so we invested in the technology at the beginning of 2015.
The results have been outstanding! The list of printed items has been very extensive: Handles, Lock Lever Spacers, Washers, Custom Electronics Boxes and maybe the odd handy tool for the office too!
Now obviously, we don’t print replacement plastic lock parts that have any purposes of strength, but in our experience, it’s very rarely the metal components that break. It’s actually the plastic parts that wear away, often reducing the tolerance of the locks operation.
How does a 3D printer work? Well ours consumes two varieties of material: Polylactic Acid (PLA), and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). Both materials are heated to around 210 degrees, or 250 degrees respectively and forced through a 0.1mm nozzle. This is accurately positioned across the flat bed area by the printing head, and quickly cools whilst bonding to the materials around it. The bed Z-Axis moves down (again, in 0.1mm increments), allowing the print head to gradually build up layers of printed plastic.
We took a quick time-lapse video of one of our recent prints. This was for a circuit board housing operating a VPN link at one of our remote access control sites.
The technology has changed the way we operate, and in some cases allowed us to carry out same-day repairs that would otherwise have left a vault door disabled, or protected property with reduced security.
We will post some further photos of components we make in the future.