It is always great when kids have outdoor activities available to them, especially when an engineering lesson can be incorporated at the same time. But as most know, when kids play on something for a long period of time, things tend to break. While repeatedly replacing broken parts can become costly, many people, engineers or not, are taking to additive manufacturing in order to replace broken parts and components. Check out how Airwolf 3D Co-Founder and busy mom Eva Wolf decided to stop reaching for her wallet every time something broke, and began reaching for her 3D printer.
My kids really enjoy riding their 50cc dirt bikes, but it’s a complete buzzkill every time their traditional metal brake levers break when their bikes go down. Similar to being caught downstream without a paddle, we are usually out in the desert and away from any replacement parts, thus ending the riding activities for the day. Another negative is that since these bikes are not manufactured anymore, these metal levers come with the hefty price tag of about $35 each. This leaves us at the mercy of the lever vendor, who will usually charge whatever price they want for the day!
With our young riders, the commonly used aluminum levers were breaking and snapping off too frequently — two riders broke two different levers off of their bikes in a mere five hours! After that expensive riding day ended, I decided it was time to create cheaper and better alternatives to the pricey traditional metal parts. We engineered a similar model of a lever in Solidworks and 3D printed it in black polycarbonate.
After six different iterations, we finally had the perfect form, density, and infill that would be durable enough to be a replacement brake lever for our wild kids! Unlike the previous aluminium parts that came with the bike, the 3D printed polycarbonate levers not only offer enough flex to prevent breaking, but they are also rigid enough to control the brakes. The kids still haven’t broken the new 3D printed levers, so we are anxious to see how much longer the polycarbonate levers will last in comparison to the traditional type.
Here is a small breakdown of the time and price of the 3D printed levers in comparison to the traditional:
The lever took about 40 minutes to 3D print in polycarbonate on the AXIOM 3D printer with Wolfbite Mega being utilized as the polycarbonate bed adhesive to ensure perfect first layer adhesion. The cost of filament is about $2.00 and Wolfbite was 50 cents, thus making a significant savings when compared to the price of the traditional aluminum levers at $35! You can download this replacement part on Watertight so you can try at home. Print out and keep several of these as spares in case something happens when you and your family are riding.