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04/11/2020 - So We Got a 3D Printer

RVers Trying to Be Helpful During a Pandemic

We just bought a 3D printer, something we've been planning for while. The reason we got it is that we need to replace a hopelessly broken control panel in the motorhome; it's on the driver's side and it's used for mirrors, windows, locks, and lights.

Because a new control panel is no longer available from Newmar, we figured the best way to replace it was to make one ourselves, thus the 3D printer idea.

Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit like a ton of bricks. Know that we are locked down in the Chicago area, where the caseload is skyrocketing and there's a shortage of critical medical equipment. Wouldn't you know thata local high school coach came up with the bright idea of manufacturing face shields for the medical community.

Our adult kids, who have been in the 3D printing game for a long time, volunteered to help in that effort, and since we now had a 3D printer, they recruited us to their face shield production team.

The replacement control panel can definitely wait.

The face shield is actually a pretty simple device consisting of a plastic frame printed in 3D and a face shield adapted from a clear document cover made of 8-mil PVC; the latter is 3-hole punched so it snaps onto the plastic frame and the lower corners are rounded. The completed face shield assembly is held on a caregiver's head with a large rubber band, kind of like a stand-off Halloween mask.

While the PVC and rubber bands are easily purchased at any office supply store, the 3D printed frames are the critical component and not commonly available. Thus the genius of the coach's solution.

The high school provided our print team with the plastic frame design in the form of an electronic file, as well as raw material (PLA plastic), and we each then adapted that design to our specific 3D printers.

The 3D printer we bought an Ender 3x. It arrived in parts, so we had to assemble, adjust and test it. Then we useda free online CAD software systemand some YouTube how-to videos (as well as coaching from our kids) to get the face shield frames printing as efficiently as possible.

We've been running face shield frames non-stop on our re-purposed dining table for a couple days. It takes about 40 minutes to print each frame (we do 2 at a time), and we will have completed and assembled around 40 face shields as of this posting. The group of friends our kids put together - a couple of whom are avid RVer's - will have produced over 300 during that same period of time.

As far as we know, this will continue as long as our printers work and there is a demand to fill.

Oh yeah: remember that broken control panel that got us to this point? It was originally made from 1/8" plexiglass that was screen printed on the backside.

And even if we could get a new one, it was certainly not the best use of materials and would eventually crack, so someday we will definitely get around to designing and printing a new one using PLA plastic (or maybe ABS). And when we do, we promise to share that.

In the meantime, isn't it amazing what can grow out of an RV project?

Next Up

More RV Projects - Soon, We Hope

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