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Designing and 3D Printing Hinges and other Moving Parts

3D printing has revolutionized the way we create physical objects, from prototypes to finished products. With Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology, we can create 3D prints with moving parts, such as in-place hinges, that were previously challenging or impossible to manufacture using traditional manufacturing methods.

3D Printing Hinges on a Flexi Rex
3D Printed Flexi Rex

One of the more popular examples of 3D prints with moving parts is the Flexi Rex dinosaur. The Flex Rex is a 3D printed, articulated dinosaur that demonstrates the power of 3D printing in creating complex, movable objects. The dinosaur is split into segments, with each segment connected via a hinge – this allows the dinosaur to flex to a degree in all directions while still being strong enough to support it’s own weight when standing.

Creating a 3D print with in-place hinges requires some additional design considerations compared to static models. Firstly, the parts must be designed with clearance between them, so that they can move freely without getting stuck. Secondly, the hinges must be positioned correctly, so that they can move along their intended axis.

Another consideration is how the printer will actually achieve the print – if you have large sections requiring bridging then you will need to ensure that your 3D printer is correctly calibrated, if the tolerances in the 3D model are too small in comparison to what your printer is capable of printing, the moving parts will fuse during or immediately after the print (during cooling). If your calibration is good and you’re still having problems, you can often change your slicer settings to make a little more room in certain parts of the print.

3D Printing Hinges Gone Wrong
Sometimes moving parts can fuse if your print is not perfect

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