Anyway 3D printing or maybe more accurately additive manufacturing is an amazing technology. You can produce complex shapes for practically the same price as a solid block of material. That is the magic thing about it. If you make a more complicated part with less material the price comes down. I've automatically been in the mindset that the more geometrically complex a part the more work goes into producing it. That just isn't true anymore.
Of course the other thing that 3D printing is enabling is personalized design and low volume production runs that wouldn't be worth doing using traditional systems. For instance I purchased a camera clip (reviewed below) which wasn't in my opinion up to the job it was designed for. The reason? A single part made with too poor a tolerance.
Previously I would have either thrown this out or tried to solder together a replacement part myself. Instead I decided to finally learn how to use a CAD package with some degree of confidence. So I pulled down a copy of 123Design and got cracking. A couple of hours later I had this
Not that much to look at but it seems about right. Oh and I should say I measured the original part with this.
So based on those shaky measurements and some guessing that people probably make things in integer numbers of millimeters I pushed the model file off to and Shapeways & 3D Hubs. You can actually do this with a couple of clicks right out of 123Design which is very much appreciated. Two weeks and one week later respectively I had the following parts on my table. The original in the lovely blue on the left and three of the replacements on the right. Obviously the stand out part is the bronze infused stainless steel. It's incredibly tough. You could make just about anything out of this material. One word of warning. It's difficult to post process. The bronze fouls your cutting tools and the steel has a very high temper on it. Maybe this should be the new standard for bike locks?
Here it is securing my rather heavy camera. Far more trustworthy than the plastic part!
Now the part that I find the coolest. If you happen to want this incredibly obscure part you can just go here and have one run off the printers at Shapeways for you. In fact two people have already done that. Isn't that cool? Yes. yes it is.