Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Don't underestimate 3D printed tools

Previously, in the build...

I'm using a third-party fuel tank in the car. This means I can't use the firewall that shipped with the kit, so I have to make my own.

I've elected to make it by riveting together flat panels with aluminum angles. So this is an angle here - nice and square. But I don't want it square, I want to open it up a bit, to about 112 degrees, to match the sloping front face of the fuel tank.

The first step is to anneal the aluminum. This is 6063-T52, which is heat treated to make it strong. But I want it soft.

Neat trick I learned - regular old Sharpie makes a pretty good heat indicator for this - just heat your aluminum until the squiggle disappears, and then let it air cool.
Then I just squeezed it in the vise between these 3D printed shaping dies. These aren't anything special, just PLA plastic. I got the idea by watching the YouTube channel "Stuff Made Here" - one of the things he does is to use 3D printed (much nicer and stronger than these) dies to stamp sheet metal parts. I figured it would be worth a try.

I am simply amazed at how well it did work, though. I put some grease on the dies, and just clamped it in the vise, loosened it, moved it along an inch, and repeat for the length of the angle.
Came out spot on, over the whole length. Way plenty good enough for my purposes.

The dies do show some deformation and wear after the one angle, so I am currently printing a new set with a slightly modified design. I figured the first set would be completely destroyed, though, since I only used 30% infill. The new set will be 100% infill, which more than triples the print time.

It's amazing when a half-assed plan comes together like this.

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