I have been thinking of acquiring a 3d printer. A complete kit or just some parts. Build the others myself to save on cost.
I am having a hard time prototyping equipment for small scale food production. For example, building a customized cyclone separator (using street cone, pvc pipe and plywood) took me about three days and every modification for half to two days. It would have been faster with a 3d helper. I’ll do the cutting, putting things together but the other hard to make designs will be 3d printed.
My priority project is cocoa bean cracker. I have a working prototype that took me weeks to build and months to got it working as I wanted. The next revision I have in mind entails complete machine rework. 3d printer will sure help me do it a lot easier.
In this case, making custom gears and rollers are the hardest. I may buy brand new gears and surplus gears but they may not work as I desired.
I enjoy buying and experimenting with surplus motors. They are cheap and easy to find but finding similar brand at different times is another story. Replacing motor may mean change of speed, torque and motor mount. A problem, but not if 3d printer is available.
Its an easy design and part production and I can do other jobs while the 3d printer is doing its duty.
I have doubts however. FDM 3d printing uses plastic which may not stood well with the application in mind. Metal gears wore overtime and plastic counterparts may do 100 times faster. Broken parts reproduction and replacement is easy but sure not practical on frequent basis.
Another culprit is the bean temperature. I am immediately cracking and winnowing beans after roasting. It will surely melt the common filament PLA. Guess gears need efficient cooling or cool beans before cracking which adds a bit time to production length.
Well, other things I have in mind is chocolate tempering machine, semi-automatic nibs packer and regulated feeder for colloid mill.