3D print living hinges have been used in a wide variety of applications for decades. They are flexible hinges made from the same material as the parts they connect, and they are commonly used in plastic containers and lids, as well as in medical devices, automotive parts, and more. In recent years, the rise of 3D printing technology has made it possible to create living hinges in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
In this guideline, I will take a look at what living hinges are, their advantages and disadvantages, product performance, and how to produce living hinges with a 3-d printer. So. let’s get the ball rolling.
What Is a Living Hinge?
A 3D print living hinge is a flexible joint made from the same material as the parts it connects. The parts with living hinges are created by reducing the thickness of the material at the joint, creating a flexible section that allows the parts to move in relation to each other. Living hinges are commonly used in plastic containers and lids, such as those used for food storage or packaging.
Advantages & Disadvantages You May Get Using Living Hinge
- One of the biggest advantages of 3d-printed living hinges is that they can be created from the same material as the parts they connect, eliminating the need for additional components. This makes them a cost-effective solution for creating flexible joints.
- 3D print living hinges are also highly durable and resistant to wear and tear. They are designed to flex repeatedly without breaking or becoming brittle, making them ideal for use in applications where the parts with living hinges are expected to move frequently.
There are also some disadvantages to using living hinges.
- One of the biggest is that they can be difficult to design and manufacture. The hinge needs to be precisely engineered to ensure that it is flexible enough to move without breaking, but also strong enough to hold up over time.
Can You Use 3D Printing for Manufacturing Living Hinge?
Very precisely the answer is, yes. 3D printing can be used to build living hinges. In fact, 3D printing has made it easier and more efficient to create living hinges, particularly in small quantities or for custom applications.
Usage Of 3D Printing to Print Living Hinge as an Additive Manufacturing
There are several advantages to using 3D printing to create living hinges.
- One of the biggest is that 3D printing allows for greater design flexibility, as the hinges can be created in any shape or size. This makes it possible to create living hinges for a wide variety of applications and maximize hinge performance.
- 3D printing also allows for greater precision and accuracy in the manufacturing cycle. The hinges can be created with a high level of detail, ensuring that they are perfectly engineered for their intended use.
- It is a cost-effective solution for creating small quantities or custom designs. Traditional manufacturing methods, such as injection molding, can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly for smaller production runs.
There are also some disadvantages to using 3D printing to create living hinges.
- The material used in 3D printing can be less durable than traditional materials. This can make the hinges more prone to wear and tear over time.
- The 3D printing cycle can be time-consuming, particularly for larger production runs. This can make it difficult to create living hinges in large quantities.
How to Design Living Hinge Using 3D Printing Technology?
Designing a living hinge for 3D printing requires careful consideration of several factors, including material selection, hinge length and thickness, and the overall design of the part. Here are some key steps to follow when designing a living hinge for 3D printing:
The material used for the hinge is an important consideration, as it will determine the flexibility and durability of the hinge. Many types of thermoplastics are suitable for creating living hinges, including ABS, PLA, and PETG.
Thickness and Length Considerations:
The thickness and length of the hinge are also important factors to consider. The 3d print living hinge should be thin enough to be flexible, but not so thin that it will break easily. The length of the hinge will depend on the size and shape of the part it is connecting.
When designing the hinge, it is important to consider the orientation of the hinge in relation to the print bed. The hinge should be designed in such a way that it will print correctly and not warp or deform during the printing cycle.
Prototyping and testing:
Once the hinge has been designed, it is important to create a prototype and test it to ensure that it functions correctly. This may involve printing several versions of the hinge with different thicknesses or lengths to find the optimal design.
The hinge should be printed in a direction that allows it to flex easily. This may require adjusting the orientation of the part on the print bed to ensure that the hinge is printed in the correct direction.
How to Calculate Living Hinge Length?
The length of a living hinge can be calculated using a simple formula. For a right-angle hinge, the length of the hinge should be at least four times the thickness of the material. For other types of hinges, the length of the hinge should be at least six times the thickness of the material.
The Formula for Right Angle & Other Living Hinges
For a right-angle hinge, the formula for calculating the length of the hinge is:
L = 4t
Where L is the length of the hinge and t is the hinge thickness of the material.
For other types of hinges, the formula is:
L = 6t
Which Materials You Can Use for Printing Living Hinges?
There are several types of thermoplastics that are suitable for creating living hinges using 3D printing technology. Some of the most commonly used materials include:
ABS is a strong and durable thermoplastic that is commonly used in 3D printing. It is suitable for creating living hinges due to its flexibility and ability to withstand repeated flexing.
PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic that is also commonly used in 3D printing. While it is not as strong as ABS, it is still suitable for creating living hinges in certain applications.
PETG is a strong and durable thermoplastic that is similar to ABS in terms of its flexibility and ability to withstand repeated flexing. It is also more environmentally friendly than ABS.
What are the Post Processing Steps to Improve a Prototype?
Once the hinge has been 3d-printed, there are several post-processing steps that may be necessary to ensure that it functions correctly.
Sanding the hinge can help to smooth out any rough edges, and surfaces and ensure that it moves freely.
Lubricating the hinge can help to reduce the friction of the surface and prevent it from sticking or seizing up.
Heat-treating the hinge can help to improve its flexibility, functional issues, and durability.
Key Considerations & Best Practices When You are Printing Living Hinges
When printing living hinges using 3D printing technology, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:
Choosing the right material for the hinge is important to ensure that it is flexible and durable.
The design of the hinge should be carefully engineered to ensure that it is flexible enough to move without breaking, but also strong enough to hold up over time.
The hinge should be 3d-printed in a direction that allows it to flex easily.
Post-processing steps such as sanding, lubrication, and heat treatment may be necessary to ensure that the hinge functions correctly.
It is important to test the hinge after printing and post-processing to ensure that it functions correctly and can withstand repeated flexing.
3D printing technology offers an innovative way to create living hinges that are flexible, durable, and reliable. While there are several considerations to keep in mind when designing and printing living hinges, the benefits they offer make them a valuable addition to many products and designs.
By selecting the right materials, designing the hinge carefully, printing it in the correct orientation, and post-processing it as needed, it is possible to create living hinges that function reliably and withstand repeated use. With the growing availability of 3D printing technology, the potential applications for living hinges are virtually limitless, and we can expect to see them increasingly incorporated into a wide range of products in the future.