Customized Trailer Hitch Cover

Custom Hitch Cover
Custom Hitch Cover

I created a 3D printed customized hitch cover that lights up by incorporating a store-bought brake light hitch cover.

My project started out as 3D printing a trailer hitch cover like the ones on Thingiverse.com. https://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=trailer+hitch+cover&dwh=175cdf1d3a762cb

Brake Light Hitch Cover

But then I spotted a brake light cover in a parking lot in place of the trailer hitch.  I really liked that idea better and considered it as an additional safety feature.  The brake light version of the cover wasn’t difficult to find and was about $12.

The brake light was easy to install and connect to the electrical wires, but I still wanted to add my personal spin (customization). 

So I 3D printed a cover for the light.  You may have noticed my personal logo (mashup of G and J) in place of my picture on my social media accounts.

So of course that is the logo I used for the cover. The logo is the negative (empty) part so the light shines through.

Even though I measured multiple times, I still produced multiple iterations of the printed item. I consider it prototyping, until the item fits and I run out of ideas on how to improve it.  I went through 3 iterations for this 3D printed project.  I tried rounding the corners of the cover, but that was even more difficult to size to fit over the red light.

Measurement of Hitch Brake Light

The light measured 3″ but the cover ended up being 3.32″ in order to fit over the light.

Since the brake light cover itself runs through the hitch with the lock, I just used zip ties to attach my cover over the brake light.  The zip ties will have to but cut and replaced of course, when I actually use the hitch.

Have you tried the measure app? (iPhone) It’s cool how it saves the measurement number in the picture.

For pre-existing 3D printable items (.stl files) that I don’t download from thingiverse.com, I design myself using tinkercad.com. A free web-based, easy to use CAD type software with starter shaped objects to drag and drop. Like the square I used to create the hitch cover. The printed iterations were done on my PowerSpec Pro3D printer. No rafts or supports were needed. I prefer to 3D print items that don’t require rafts and supports since they leave rough edges after they are removed. The print time was 1 hours and 52 minutes for the final version with the 2 inch sides. (deeper cover)

Dimension Details:

Final 3D Printed Project Dimensions

Third iteration and hopefully final of the 3D printed hitch cover.
  • 3.32″ square, outer dimension
  • .03″ wall thickness
  • .21″ side hole opening for larger zip ties (so tie can reach around)
  • .14″ smaller holes at bottom for drainage
  • 2″ side walls
2″ Trailer Hitch with Cover Over Tail Light

Do you have your own 3D printing project or want to learn more about 3D printing? Stop by Workshop88 on a Thursday night between 7pm and 9pm to share it with us. Select the date you can stop by and RSVP on Meetup.com

Stuff for making stuff: PETG filament


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Have you tried 3D printing with PETG filament instead of PLA or ABS? A few of Workshop 88’s experts in 3D printing swear by PETG for most of their prints – here’s why:

  1. PETG is durable and heat-tolerant like ABS is. PLA has the reputation of being a bit more brittle than ABS. PLA also tends to warp under moderate heat – no leaving PLA components inside a car on a hot summer day, for example.
  2. PETG is easy to print like PLA. PLA does not have the thermal expansion issues that ABS has, which tends to cause ABS to curl up off of the print bed.
  3. PETG is affordable. Check out the (affiliate) links above and below which support Workshop 88.

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Prusa i3 MK2S 3D printer kit assembly time lapse videos

Prusa i3 MK2S 3D printer kit assembly time lapse videos

If you’ve ever wanted to see someone assemble a 3D printer from the ground up, I’ve captured every detail, sped it up, and set it to music just for you:

Link to 300x time lapse video (longer, more detail, different background music):
20170323 GoPro Prusa i3 MK2 assembly and print (300x time lapse)

The videos were captured using a GoPro Hero 3 Black in time lapse mode taking a wide angle high definition image every 5 seconds to a 64GB micro SD card.  The camera was mounted to a tripod using parts printed on the Replicator 2 and powered using a USB hub.  The resulting 30fps HD videos were created at 400% and 200% speed respectively.

History…

In 2012 I bought a MakerBot Replicator 2 for my father, which he graciously offered to keep at my house (he’s absolutely the BEST sharer).  He has since moved to a larger house and in December 2016 we happily moved the 3D printer to it’s new and rightful home in his shop where it has been getting good use making parts for an interesting capacitive network antenna power coupling project, and lots of little toys for the grand kids.  It was a great turn-key printer, able to easily slice and print models with its simple intuitive software.  Unfortunately without a heated bed and with limited head temperature it could only print using PLA. This left me without convenient access to a 3D printer, but gave me the opportunity to expand my 3D printing horizons.  I’d been considering buying one for a while, but finally I needed to make a decision.

The search…

For me, selecting a new 3D printer was as difficult as buying a new car.  There are a lot of decisions to make: Cartesian or delta? Retail, kit, or clone? Open or closed source? Which hotend? Cooling fans? Heated bed? Which materials (PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon…)? What software can be used? and the biggie… How much do I want to spend?

I started my search with the usual “top 10” lists and “3D printer” roundup articles.

# 1 in All3DP top 10 in 2017
(All3DP is totally worth subscribing to by the way)
#1 in Make Magazine 2017 3D printer comparison
Make Magazine review:
Toms 3D review:
If you are interested in 3D printing and are not familiar with Tom, you should be, check out TOM’s 3D  website for some of the best, balanced, scientific reviews and comparisons of 3D printing components, printers, and filaments:
Tom‘s YouTube Channel:
Tom is also a moderator on Google+‘s fantastic 3D Printing group:

I didn’t have to look for very long before one machine started to tick all my boxes:

  • Open Source
  • Kit (and assembled versions available)
  • Cartesian
  • Auto mesh bed leveling
  • Part cooling fan (for PLA)
  • Heated bed (for ABS and other materials)
  • Multi-material
  • Multi-slicer,
  • Affordable
  • … and as an added bonus it has a 4 color upgrade coming later this year.

The Prusa i3 MK2

The machine…

The Prusa i3 MK2 is the latest printer designed by RepRap legend Josef Prusa, and the one at the top of the 2017 best 3D printers lists all over.  If you are not familiar with RepRap (http://reprap.org/) , it is a community of hardware and software makers who have been advancing open source 3D printing for the last couple of decades.  The basic concept behind RepRap is to create a machine capable of creating copies, or improved copies, of itself.  We all have that community to thank for democratizing and popularizing 3D printing to the point where fused filament 3D printing became commercially viable for the public (that, and a couple patents expiring).

Josef has been at the heart of two of the most popular recent open source 3D printer designs: the Mendel, and the Prusa (his namesake), each model undergoing several successful iterations and improvements.  In 2009 Josef Prusa opened shop and began selling printers and kits.  Today, true to his RepRap roots the latest machine, the Prusa i3 MK2 is used to print parts for customers printers in Prusa Research’s “build farm”.

Josef Prusa in Prusa Research’s build farm where Prusa printers are printing Prusa printers.

If you’d like to know more about the printer check out the Prusa website.

The wait…

I was going to order it over Christmas break 2016 but was waffling. I wasn’t sure if the printer was getting too much hype, or if I should get a dedicated dual head printer, or if I should just grab a turn-key printer like a Taz from a local store.  That delay would cost me a lot of time.  I eventually committed to ordering the Prusa i3 Mk2 kit in late January for a whopping $773 (USD) including shipping, an extraordinarily modest price.  Due to high demand and limited supply capacity for parts like the custom heated bed, I would have to wait 3 months.  This was not a surprise, Prusa was very clear about the lead time for their printers.  I received the printer late March.

The assembly…

By now I hope you have watched the assembly video(s).  I could have ordered the printer fully assembled and calibrated for an extra $200 (and extra lead time) but part of the reason I wanted an open source printer is to easily modify and improve it, and for that reason I wanted to know each nut and bolt personally.  It took roughly 8 hours, 5 good beers, 3 cats, and a dog (all featured in the videos) to assemble, test, and calibrate the machine.  The tree frog took 3 1/2 hours to print.  I had already read all the assembly instructions while waiting for the printer, and learned a LOT from watching Tom’s 6 part series about building the cheapest possible clone of the Prusa i3 MK2. (16 1/2 hours of interactive YouTube live streams!!! The clone was eventually named “Dolly” by someone in chat for the first cloned sheep of the same name)

  1. Prusa i3 MK2 live assembly: p1, Y-axis
  2. Prusa i3 MK2 3D printer clone live assembly: p2, X & Z Motion
  3. Prusa i3 MK2 3D printer clone live assembly: p3, X & Y Motion
  4. Prusa i3 MK2 3D printer clone live assembly: p4, Wiring and Printbed (mechanics finished!)
  5. Prusa i3 MK2 3D printer clone live assembly: p5, Electronics and Firmware!
  6. Prusa i3 MK2 3D printer clone live assembly: p6, final setup and first print!

If you decide to get the Prusa i3 MK2 kit or assemble a clone, here are some tips…

  • When there is a captured nut, POUND that nut into place before assembling the parts!!! Both Tom and I had the upper nut from the part cooling fan come loose and bounce around inside assembled parts for tens of minutes before carefully getting it seated.
  • Read ahead.  There are a few steps that provide instruction regarding previous steps like “but don’t over tighten”, or other things that may be should have been said in advance.
  • Look at all the pictures and stay organized.  The instructions are done VERY well in the “Ikea” style.  There are many details that you can only get from the pictures.
  • Be careful to use the correct length/size fasteners, rods, etc.
  • Review each step when done to make sure you didn’t skip or overlook anything.

The quality…

The print quality is amazing.

I haven’t had a lot of time to print many models yet but the resolution and quality of the first PLA print of the tree frog are far and away better than anything I’ve seen before.  It’s only 50mm wide but the surface is so smooth from the .5mm layer height, and the underside is flawless due to the part cooling fan.  The details in the eyes, nostrils, and hips are impressive too.  I’ve also printed a Raspberry Pi case, camera mount, (for OctoPi) and computer stand mounts in ABS.  I’ll be printing some drone parts soon in PETG and ABS, and bought some Nylon to play with.  I’ve tried Slic3r and Cura model slicing software used to convert models to g-code files for 3D printing.  I  preferring Slic3r which was provided by Prusa pre-optimized for this printer, but they are both very good tools.  Stay tuned to blog.workshop88.com for more of 3D printed projects in the future.

Finally, on the topic of Dolly, and a home made clone…

Even though I just bought, assembled, and am still coming up to speed on my fantastic new printer, the idea of building a clone for 1/4-1/3 the price (somewhere in the $250 range) has me and several friends on the verge of starting a group clone build.

Thanks!

Thanks to Kevin Meinert of subatomicglue for letting me use his awesome music in the videos.  If you would like to hear more, visit www.subatomicglue.com.

If you’re interested in building a Prusa or another 3D printer, or a clone, or discussing 3D printing, check out Workshop 88 on Google groups, Slack, or come by our weekly open house any Thursday night after 6:30pm.  Details can be found here.

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively creative

3D printing demos with our Cupcake

We’ve been getting more and more requests for 3D printer demos lately.  Inspired by not wanting to disappoint kids who didn’t even have their first iPad back in the days when it W88LogoRWB1348was magic to be able to 3D print anything – like when our Makerbot Cupcake was hot stuff – Jim has been trying to get the old printer working again.  This W88 logo is one of the latest results.  Not bad for an old 1-color printer!  (Thanks to Bill for the color change tips.)

Its output is no match for current “appliance” 3D printers, but it’s still fine to show the basics in a nice noisy demo.  Details of Jim’s adventures with the printer are captured here.