Tinkering with 3D Print Technology

by Paul Nishihira

Tinkering – The Definition Thereof:

I have been accused by family, friends and most recently, my wife, for forever “tinkering” with my street and off-road motorcycles during my leisure time.  Whether it be creating or redesigning parts in SOLIDWORKS or spending countless hours in the machine shop utilizing CAMWorks and machining that ideal part or assembly, tinkering plays a large role in my life.  So what is tinkering?  As I referenced back to my ever-so-trusty hardbound Random House College Dictionary (circa 1982!), the definition is as follows:

Tinkering, v.t. 9. to busy oneself futilely with a thing: Stop tinkering with that clock and take it to a repair shop.

While this is not the most flattering of human characteristics by said definition, it does spark my curiosity on how a “thing” operates, how it is assembled or disassembled and how the overall design could be improved.  Although inquisitive “how-to” knowledge is the net result of my tinkering, more importantly, it fuels the creative side of my brain as well.

Enter 3D Print Technology

As previously mentioned, I have dedicated countless hours creating tangible items from blocks of metal within the Machine Shop environment.  However, I now realize that 3D Print Technology is fast becoming the “go-to” manufacturing method, especially when time limitations are involved.  Ever-evolving, we have opportunities to create 3D Printed parts and assemblies for aerospace, commercial and medical industries.  You can imagine how these new possibilities excite my tinkering imagination.

The following GoEngineer videos discuss in-depth what 3D Print Technology is all about:

3D Printing 101: What is 3D Printing

3D Printing 201:  Which 3D Printing Technology is Right for You?

3D Printing 301: Advanced Applications

3D Print Technology + Tinkering + Motorcycles!

Let’s get back on track to tinkering.  My design challenge is quite simple.  Create a retaining clamp utilizing SOLIDWORKS so that the front brake line does not chafe (rub) against the Top Triple Clamp and the Fork Cap.


Collecting Information

Utilizing my trusty dial calipers, I documented dimensions from my motorcycle as baseline information which I will now incorporate into the SOLIDWORKS model.


Reference: SOLIDWORKS model.


With the design phase completed, I converted the SOLIDWORKS model to STL format, then imported the file into the intuitive, user-friendly CatalystEX software which interfaces with the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D printer.


uPrint SE Plus – The office workhorse for all things 3D printed!


As 3D Printed from the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D Printer!

After careful separation from the base tray and with minimal part cleanup, the 3D printed retaining clamp held tolerances within .005 of an inch (total) when compared to the SOLIDWORKS model.

Ready for Installation!  The 3D printed clamp with stainless steel hardware.


Fit, Form and Function!  

The 3D printed retaining clamp as installed on my motorcycle with stainless steel hardware (hidden on backside).  Looks great!


After 6000+ miles of on and off-road travel in hot, cold and rainy weather, I am quite impressed with the functionality and durability of the retaining clamp.  This part has also served as a catalyst for conversation with other motorcyclists about the features and benefits of 3D Printing Technology, SOLIDWORKS and services which GoEngineer provides.

Although machining has a special place in my heart, I now discovered that 3D printing is yet another technology which I can “tinker” with!

What's on your mind?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *