The 3D Printing Plateau

While 3D printing seems to have past all the hype, what are they really good for?

In the Gartner hype cycle, there is a Plateau of Productivity that sits at the end of the adoption of new technologies. When I first got a 3D printer, I didn’t know exactly what I’d use it for. So, of course, I created a Minecraft Creeper, amongst other trinkets.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed that Ultimaker and others have been advertising not finished products that are being made, but how 3D printers are used in manufacturing for quick iterations of jigs to improve the workflow of jobs.

Recently, I was lamenting my kitchen. It has a good layout and the carcasses and faces are fine, however the handles and hinges are absolutely horrible. I picked up a few hinges and drawer runners from Ikea and Bunnings to see if they were a fit so that I could replace the existing hardware. I wasn’t hopeful and sure enough, none of the hardware mounting points lined up with perfectly located CNC holes in the carcasses.

While the new positions weren’t where the old ones were, they were always exactly at a different spot. So, I designed and 3D printed a set of jigs for the alignment of the new hardware. Here’s the jig with pegs set into the existing holes and with a hole tap punching the center of new hardware’s need:


It took a couple of prints before I got the alignment perfect, but once done, I could use these jigs to line up 8 drawers quickly and perfectly.

The drawer faces were similar, with a jig being created to mark the mounting of the drawer rails:


In total, I’ve created 10 different jigs for door hinges, drawer runners and vertical hinges. While these jigs are ultra-specific to me and so I haven’t moved the designs to Thingiverse, my 3D printer and these jigs have truly made possible a job that I would not have been able to get right before.

Adrian Akison Written by:

Adrian is a serial CTO, hobbyist game developer, 3D printing enthusiast and all around maker.