Have you ever taken a close look at one of your favorite lures and thought about how it was made?
You trust him, but maybe a few minor changes could make him even more productive. A little longer or a little shorter. Maybe bigger or thinner would be more to your liking.
You may have a lure idea or design in mind that no one else has thought of. Or you want to customize an existing lure style to suit your particular niche. With 3D printing you can design, modify and print your own lures. The technology is available and is more affordable than most people realize.
Originally, manufacturing processes used material removal to create a part. A piece or block of material is sawn, machined, drilled, or some other method of removing the material to achieve the desired shape or shape. Various ways have been used for centuries to make parts ranging from shoes to automobiles.
Chris Marker, 3D modeling instructor at Jacksonville State University, said, “3D printing is a method of making parts by depositing material to build a part rather than removing material.
Marker said 3D printing works on the same principle as an inkjet printer. But, instead of using ink, a 3D printer uses a form of material to build a part through a series of layers. The printer lays down thin layers of material with each pass of the printhead. The layers are super thin ranging from about 0.002 to 0.006 inch.
The workings of 3D printing have been around since the late 1980s. Originally, companies and research centers used 3D printing as a form of prototyping parts. It was cheaper and faster to “3D print” a part to see if the part was practical and functional.
Today, there are many types of 3D printers and ways to make a finished part, and 3D printing is actually additive machining. This is where base material is added in sequences guided by a computer program. Some forms of modeling or printing require a basic structure to begin the part support process.
“One of the original methods of 3D printing was stereolithography (SLA),” Marker said. “This printing process used a light-sensitive liquid to create a solid using ultraviolet (UV) lasers.”
Marker says 3D printers use computer-aided design (CAD) to control the printing process. CAD uses 3D computer files to direct the print head or feed to the proper position of each individual layer. The CAD program can be easily modified to make a part longer, shorter, thinner or any other dimension desired by the operator.
Other 3D type printers can use a powder in metallic or plastic form. A glue is mixed into the powder as it is deposited through the printhead. The glue allows the powder to bond more tightly and to each layer. Again, this process is done in layers or sections to achieve an even or smooth surface during the transition.
“In recent years, another method has been developed called extrusion deposition,” Marker said. “The process uses a thin plastic wire similar to weed line and fed through a heated printhead.”
The plastic thread passes through the head and settles where it is needed to form a coin or a fishing lure. The yarn is pushed through a needle-like nozzle. Marker says these types of 3D printers are the basis of common household printers and are now widely available.
Today, there are many different types of materials used for 3D printing or additive machining. Various metals ranging from steel, titanium, ceramics, carbon fiber and plastics. A majority of these materials are expensive and mainly used in industry. However, prices are falling.
“The most commonly available materials for consumers are commercially available thermoplastics,” comments Marker. “Common types include ABS, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polylactic acid (PLA), and polycarbonate.”
A good plastic for lures like crankbaits and surface water is ABS. this material has good machinability, flexibility and temperature resistance. All of these factors are essential for 3D printing lures. ABS lures can be given a smooth finish by soaking them in acetone.
Finer details can be printed using PLA plastics by cooling the part during the printing process. Marker suggests adding a small fan to blow on the lure as it prints. PLA material has a stronger smell than ABS. PLA is made from corn and ABS is derived from petroleum products.
Until recently, most plastic colors were a dull white or gray. A printed lure would need to be painted. ABS is available in a variety of colors. All plastics absorb water over time, so a good sealant is necessary to protect the lure for the long term.
Costs of 3D printing decoys
Now we come to the important question that everyone is asking: how much does it cost to 3D print lures?
The start up costs of 3D printing decoys are cheaper than most people think. Marker said an entry-level cube 3D printer with a heated bed and a single color would cost between $400 and $600. This type of printer would be for ABS or PLA type plastics.
He said, “3D printers are commercially available at big box stores like Wal-Mart or Staples. In addition, 3D printers can be ordered online.
The latest printer models now incorporate heads that use different colors of plastic at the same time. CAD programs can manipulate the color of the material at the precise location on the lure being printed. Of course, these multicolor printers are more expensive.
Plastic wire is also inexpensive for 3D printing. A standard spool of plastic filament costs around $50 and 30 lures, depending on size, can be printed.
Keep in mind that lure printing is only part of the cost. There are lips, rattles, hooks and split rings that will need to be factored into the overall cost of the lure.
This type of decoy printing has received a lot of attention around the world and there are many organizations and online companies that provide various support services for 3D decoy printing.
A Prey Tackle company, located in Syracuse, NY, offers CAD programs, printing, and support for those interested in 3D printing lures. There are other companies that provide CAD data files to download or purchase for anyone interested in printing their own lures.
“I occasionally do design work for anglers and provide CAD files for 3D printing,” said Kean Clifford, founder of Prey Tackle in New York.
According to Clifford, a standard lure can take around 20 minutes to an hour to finish printing. It depends on the size and shape of the lure. Currently, Prey Tackle offers a CAD file for a top water popper lure called the Pacer.
3D printing isn’t just for hard plastic lures. Molds for soft plastics like worms, lizards and other creature style baits can be printed from 3D models. These molds can be modified and manipulated in CAD files to change size and add features such as legs, tail or fins. Anglers can experiment with different molds to create their own unique lure.
Technology keeps improving, especially in the world of 3D printing. Nike Corporation uses 3D modeling to print shoes for prototyping and testing. This saves a tremendous amount of time and money. The process also ensures that a top-notch product reaches the consumer.
Anglers now have affordable access to the same technology used by many industries around the world. The future of 3D printing is here with us now. And in the next few years, 3D printers will be better and cheaper for everyone. The possibility for every angler to become a lure designer and manufacturer almost overnight.
A broken gear in a reel or a missing rod tip will one day be printed at home with your personal 3D printer. Other household items will be for some in the field of 3D printing. Instead of running to the store to buy an item, you fire up the printer and spit out the part you need.
Every angler wants an edge over the fish. An upcoming tournament finds you without a specific style and color you desire. One visit with your computer and 3D printer and in no time you have the winning lure ready to fish.
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