by Eric Doremus | Customer Support Engineer
It was a bright and sunny day in Orlando, Florida when I was driving with my sister in her convertible Mini Cooper. As I reached down to turn on the radio, I was having trouble getting the volume to turn up so we could hear it over the noise of the wind blowing over our heads. As I was fumbling with the knob, my sister said, "Oh the button is broken and it doesn't really work." Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled the broken knob out and inspected the fitting. Sure enough, the insert was stripped out and wouldn't grab the teeth on the radio. I pulled out my phone and did a quick search on www.thingiverse.com for 'mini cooper'. There were various STL files available to download such as new cupholders, custom keychains, cell phone holders and even a 1964 Austin Mini Cooper body. As I kept scrolling down, there it was. A Mini Cooper Radio Knob Insert was uploaded by Thingiverse user jstevenson34 on April 29th 2014. This insert was the exact same insert that was stripped out on my sisters car! After one click I had the file and I sent it to my office to have it 3D printed. We printed the part with ABS-M30 model material on our Stratasys Fortus 400mc. It only took seven minutes to build and only cost pennies to make! I looked online for comparison purposes and the cheapest replacement knob was over twenty dollars, not including the tax and shipping charges. I was able to get a replacement part for less than a quarter and in seven minutes. I didn't have to pay for shipping to get it since it was waiting for me next time I was in the office.
If I had a printer at home, I could have printed it and installed it in less than fifteen minutes from the time I realized the problem. That is what I love about this technology. If you have a broken part or a need for a custom tool/fixture and can either design the file yourself or find it online. Then, you can have a new one on hand by the end of the day. How awesome is that?