Using SolidWorks and 3D Printing to Solve an Everyday Inconvenience: Home Edition
A few months after I sent my coworker home with a rescued kitchen appliance — his wine bottle opener– he said offhandedly, “When you get a chance, can you print another one of those caps for me? The first one broke.” You can read all about Coworker Kitchen Rescue I here.
“How did it break?” I asked.
I brought over a few of the prototype caps I had printed to his desk and had him point out the problem. My first thought was that the threads had stripped off, but that was not the case. The issue was in the top of the cap where a force was applied. Whenever a wine bottle was opened it cause the cap to crack and fail. At this point, it didn’t even break through the debossed wine glass. Instead, the whole top popped off, likely along a layer of the print.
The cap I originally printed had broken very quickly. If I was going to reprint it, I wanted to do it right and alter its design to add strength. Luckily, that’s easy to do with SOLIDWORKS and 3D Printing.
(Re-)Engineering a Solution
When my coworker told me that the top had cracked, I assumed it had broken through the debossed wine glass on top of the cap. My plan, in this case, was to add some ribs and thickness to the top of the cap. However, once I saw the cap in person and found what actually failed were walls above the ribs, I took a slightly different tack.
In SOLIDWORKS, I added thickness to the top of the cap by changing the height of the main extrude body and then setting the top face to a different thickness in the shell property manager.
Inside the cap, I shortened the threads to make room for a fillet feature. The goal was to break that hard edge and hopefully add some strength to that apparent weak point.
(For fun, I also added a second deboss option in a new configuration – a “W” for my coworker’s last name)
In theory, both thickening the top surface and adding a fillet would improve the life of the cap. But, I wanted an idea of how much. To do that, I set up a few quick SOLIDWORKS Simulation studies in order to test to see the differences in how each iteration performed.
Note: there are more articles online about the force required to open a wine bottle than you might expect.
In order to check the stress values where I knew the cap had failed—just above the threads, below the interior corner— I used the Probe tool.
The calculated stress was more than halved in the modified part. With this data, I felt confident giving my coworker fresh prints of the modified cap and telling him that they’d be stronger.
Because SOLIDWORKS is a parametric, feature-based modeling software, it’s easy to edit features to change parts and, with 3D printing, those changes are fast and easy to implement in either prototypes or final production parts.