One of the great ambitions of the 3D printing community is to help cut down on the amount of waste produced by consumer goods around the world. Domestic appliances that are cheaper to replace than fix, for example, are just one of the bizarre and slightly perverse outcomes of globalised manufacturing over the last few years.
What if, the reasoning goes, you could print new parts rather than having to order them from China when they break? Or have to discard an otherwise functional machine because one bracket is no longer made. We could extend the lifespan of our stuff, save money and reduce consumption all at the same time – not to mention create jobs for those with 3D printers.
Hans Fouche, the 3D printed chocolate guru from Kempton Park in Gauteng, is going one step further than most. Over Christmas, we heard that Fouche and his colleague at Fouche 3D Printing – Kobus Van der Walt, to whom we have to give credit for this headline – had brought a broken lawn mower back to life by 3D printing an entirely new case and mounts for the motor and blades. Now the pair have done the same thing for a vacuum cleaner, “upcycling” a broken Hoover by 3D printing a new case.
And in a frankly brilliant twist on the domestic appliance, Fouche’s renewed vacuum cleaner has been designed to look like a large flower vase. You can even put dried or artificial stems in it. A great idea for those living in cramped homes without space to store their appliances away.
The current model is very much a rough and ready prototype, put together in a week and printed in about four hours on Fouche’s giant Cheetah 3D printer (which fills out most of his garage). Cheetah’s wide nozzle and fast print speeds make it ideal for large objects which are substantially tougher than they look. The vacuum cleaner here is airtight, for example, and the lawnmower is strong enough to withstand flying stones and other detritus kicked up from the blades.
“We’re missing a lot of the small details,” Fouche explains, “Like latches for the bag removal and the wheels. But these could easily be created with a smaller 3D printer and added on.”
The critical point is that the prototype works. Fouche says his main objective is to prove the viability of 3D printing for small-scale, local manufacturing beyond the enthusiast scene. Fouche believes that machines, like his handmade Cheetah, could make print-on-demand designs everyday objects more affordable than mass production in the near future.
“We want to say that this is possible, and we can do it right here, in South Africa.”
The inspiration behind the cleaner was apparently a competition currently being run by Thingiverse on behalf of the vacuum manufacturer Hoover, in which 3D printing enthusiasts have been challenged to create add-ons for existing machines. Fouche and Van der Walt – both members of Centurion’s House4Hack makerspace – wanted to see if they could print the whole thing instead. They plan to upload the model files to Thingiverse over the next couple of weeks.[Main image supplied by Fouche 3D Printing]