3D Printer Saves Button Maker: A Love Story

By Merika Ramundo, Communications Officer, McGill Library

Working in communications at the Library, I am often challenged by tasks that tap into the “other duties as required” part of my job. Most recently, I was faced with finding a replacement part for one of our button makers. Since our button makers travel from branch to branch for different events, it’s only normal that they have succumbed to some wear and tear. In this case, one of the machines was missing a tiny steel pin needed to align the machine’s sliding component. Without this tiny pin, the machine doesn’t work properly – it makes “wonky” looking buttons.

The "Socket Hd Cap Screw" (right) a colleague sourced for me didn't match up with the button maker pin.

The “Socket Hd Cap Screw” (right) a colleague sourced for me didn’t match up with the button maker pin.

Strike 1, 2, 3…

So I called the supplier and they told me that they do not supply additional parts and that I needed to buy a new machine if I wanted a new pin. I then called a button maker manufacturer out of Canada who proceeded to tell me that if I didn’t buy the machine from them, they could not supply me with the replacement part.  I combed hardware stores across the city for this tiny, little pin to no avail. One of my colleagues even tried to find something comparable at a specialty store in his neck of the woods but nothing worked.

Eureka moment

The first week back from the holidays, I noticed that some 3D printing workshops were coming up here at the Library. One workshop, scheduled for this Thursday, titled Introduction to CAD design for 3D printing caught my attention because it focuses on replacing household items. That’s when it hit me – maybe a 3D printer could be used to replicate the part. I asked my colleague responsible for our 3D printers, Michael Groenendyk, if printing a pin would be possible and without hesitation, he and Sterling, our 3D printing peer tutor, took on the job.

The 3D printed pin (right) is almost a perfect match.

Great success! Sterling was able to take measurements of the steel pin, design a model, and duplicate it without a problem, and in record time. The 3D pin fits perfectly and the machine is back in business.

So the next time you need a bottle opener or outlet protector, you may want to consider our 3D printing service. I did and it saved me some time, a little bit of money and lots of headaches.

Thanks again to Michael and Sterling for their help!

For a short video on how the pins work together, check out the video below.

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