Using SolidWorks and 3D Printing to Solve an Everyday Inconvenience: Home Edition
“Hey!” my coworker said as he dropped a set of calipers and a wine bottle opener onto my desk. “I have a problem and you’re the engineer to solve it.”
“Are you going to give me any more information?” I called after him.
The problem was a missing cap of a wine opener. When the lever of the wine opener is lowered, it lowers and turns the auger into a cork. A cap threads onto the main body over the auger, holding it in place. Without the cap, it can be pushed right out and would be if the lever was lowered while the opener was positioned on top of a bottle of wine. I didn’t ask what happened to the original cap. He has kids and that’s explanation enough for me.
Engineering a Solution
What my coworker had hoped for when he left the bottle opener with me was that I would be able to design and print a replacement cap. The trickiest part of this operation was matching the pitch of the threads.
I took measurements of the thread diameter, length, and, roughly, the pitch. Additionally, I measured the outer diameter of the part of the main body that the cap would screw onto because I thought it would look cleaner if it was the same size.
Once I had a pitch I thought would work, the Thread feature, introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2016, made the cap quick to model in SOLIDWORKS.
For a touch of flare, I added a little debossed wine glass image. To sketch it in, I inserted a sketch picture.
I printed out the part on our office’s Objet 500 Connex 3 printer because I wanted to take advantage of Polyjet printers’ precision for the threads. To be safe, I printed a few different versions of the cap with a few different pitches and inside diameters.
Sure enough, the caps with smaller interior diameters and pitches wouldn’t go on. Frustratingly, the cap with the best fit was one with a larger diameter and a pitch a colleague suggested just by eyeballing the wine bottle opener. So much for measurements and calculations!
I’d planned to print it again once we’d found the right pitch, this time in black to keep things classy. However, my coworker was too eager to take it home and said that the plain, white color was “fine”.
I know what you’re thinking, reader. “Well, that was nice! You can solve a lot of everyday problems with a combination of SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing!” and “In a more industrial setting, that same combo can be used to quickly create fixtures, product prototypes, and even final production parts!” And you’re right! But stay tuned for Coworker Kitchen Rescue II. I find out that the cap I made for my coworker was less of a final production part application of SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing and more of a prototype.