This is the machine of the future

Not because of what it is but how it was made!

3D printed machine 9 web

Recently we custom designed and constructed two semi automatic machines destined for production lines in China,  yes that’s right we are exporting machines to China from NZ!

The machines we recently built have virtually no machined components (excluding those that are “off the shelf”  like motors and pneumatic valves for example).  Instead 3D printed plastic and metal parts combined with laser cut frame components have been utilized.

In a past career I was Engineering Manager in a large corporate with a team of tool makers and maintenance engineers to get things done.  We designed and made semi-automated assembly lines for high volume manufacturing,  so being in a position to know the difference in manufacturing methods I have to say I’m so impressed with way way these machine come together and I estimate the time and cost would be half of what it was with traditional manufacturing.

Why the difference?

The standard method to make custom components is to machine individual parts and assemble them together, this works fine, however machining in a cost effective way means making one part out of many parts (compound parts). Compared this to 3D printing where complex components can be made efficiently in a single piece.  Let’s take a few examples below:

3D printed detail Loader assembly

In the picture above, this little folk has a special profile on the end for the application, it would be OK to machine this but not and easy job,  this part was printed in Titanium giving us exactly what was needed at a lower cost than machining.

3D printed Loader assembly

In another example above can be seen a component that was made in one piece on one of our printers, it has multiple mount holes and a bracket on the back for mounting a micro-switch.  If this was CNC machined it would have been made by combining a number of flat components to save machining time and materials.

Think about this… for machined components the drawing is more complex as more components need to be made and there is extra design time that goes into the way it will be made.  Now when it comes to assembling the parts it is more time consuming.  Compare this to the 3D printed one piece component that takes less time to think about, less time to draw, make and assemble.

Honestly it was a pleasure to put this machine together, things just lined up fitted and worked.

Next time you design what about designing parts for 3D printing?
We can help with 3D printed componentry, design advise for parts intended for printing and even complete turnkey solutions.


Andrew Palmer
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd


What have we been printing lately?

We have enjoyed a great variety of work lately, with some very interesting projects.  Understandably we can’t share many of the things we are working on, however below are just a few examples:

Scale model of an oil processing unit.
Designed in New Zealand by ITL engineering (

This model was made using MJP (Multi-jet printing) and was later painted by the customer, the nice thing about multi-jet is the great detail achieved:


3D printed Pelton Wheel in Stainless steel.
We just provided this scale model of a Pelton wheel designed by hydroworks ( for Westpower of Greymouth New Zealand (
We think this is a nice example of metal 3D printing, the print is 120mm in diameter and shows fine detail, you can even see the thread on the tiny bolts:

New range of fins for Roy Stuart Surfing.

We have been working with Roy to produce a new range of 3D printed surf fins.  These are now available in his new store found here:
Below is a colourful selection showing some recent releases:


3d printed Jigs for industry

A few years back when I was in the mass manufacturing business designing parts and production lines.  Jigs and fixtures were always needed but often expensive and time consuming to make.  As a consequence they were not used as often as they should have been.  Current 3D printing in engineering materials would have certainly made this easier and faster, improving production efficiencies and safety.

In today’s post we are showing just one possible use for 3D printed jigs we have been involved with recently, that is conformal coating masks for the electronics’ industry:

Conformal coating is applied to circuit boards to protect them from moisture and other contaminants in the environment, some typical industries that use conformal coating would be appliance manufacturers (Washing machine or dish-washing control boards) or in military applications. Boards are sprayed or dipped in a material that insulates and protects the electronic assembly.

conformal coating spray

But not everything should be coated, for example the connectors need to have clean surfaces and be absolutely free from any insulating coating.  This is the problem, solutions can be time consuming and not always effective, for example manually applying tape or little caps as below:

conformal coating hats

Another option (If there is enough volume to justify the cost) is machining the conformal mask as below, however for small runs this is not economic and tends to curb design flexibility as once you have paid for these jigs you won’t want to change them:

conformal coating hood

If you or your company knows these issues only too well, Palmer Design & Manufacturing may be able to help you. We have just started manufacturing  conformal coating masks that are one piece jigs that fit over all connectors at the same time:

3D printed conformal coating jigs ESD safe

Produced in an ESD safe material (semi-conductive plastic that dissipates static electricity) and at a fraction of the cost of machined covers, these jigs can be made in a few days offering great design flexibility and professional options for low volume manufacturers.

Let us know if we can help.

Andrew Palmer
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Limited

PDM gets it’s sea legs

It seems lately we have been working on a number of projects relating to to the sea and I thought we would share a few in this update.

  1. Lures
  2. Bite sensor
  3. Surfboard fins (see last article)



Recently Aotealures approached us to see if we could help them with molding their top-notch lures by making a CAD model of a lure that could be used in a number of ways, including making a mold-tool.

Below is the part provided and re-construction in progress to bring this fish into the CAD world.

lure model CAD work

Here at PDM we have worked on many things but never fish lips, now we can finally cross that one off the list:

lure CAD model


 Bite sensor.

We have been producing a little enclosure that holds a bite sensor, battery and bluetooth module that communicates to your smart phone when a fish bites:


bite sensor 3d printed assembly picture

The case is 3D printed in transparent polycarbonate so the bite light will show through. Printed parts needed to be robust, splash proof (when clipped together) and very flexible so it can be clipped onto a wide range of fishing rods. We were able to meet all these requirements with our design and 3D printing service.

For more information see:



If we can help you please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

Andrew Palmer – Director of Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd





3D printed surfboard fins commercially available now

Link to NZ Herald article:  Designer on board with 3D

From 2D sketch to 3D printed product selling in two months, this is a story of success!roy sturat 3d printed fin

Photo / Alan Gibson

For many years Roy Stuart has been handcrafting surfboards and fins with the more complex  fin designs taking 38 labor hours, finished products are highly tuned, functional works of art:

roy stuart fin in progressRoy Stuart fin in progress 2

Roy contacted Palmer Design & Manufacturing to see if we could get the designs in his head into the CAD world for machining or 3D printing, hopefully freeing up time for more creativity while making  his designs more available with more options.

Below you can see the drawings we were supplied, CAD model construction using the sketch and final model:

fin progress

Roy contacted us in October 2013, two months later the first 3D printed fin sold on December 14th (Possibly the first commercially available 3D printed surfboard fins in the world)

Below the internal structure of the polycarbonate fin can be seen (why polycarbonate? click here). Solid areas look clear,  Internal part design is an area we focus on heavily at PDM, creating structures that provide high strength to weight ratios:

3D printed surfboard fin blue

This product is available for purchase here:  Roy Stuart site

Below, a fin being tested at PDM before dispatch.  (every fin is tested)

3D print fin being tested


Four fins ready for shipment:

4 fins

An idea is just an idea until it is doing something useful,  can we help make your ideas real?


Mass Manufacturing to Mass Customization: a boon for small- to mid-sized manufacturers

Posted 10/24/2013

How many hours have employees and owners of small companies spent looking for standard components they can adapt to their products? Small companies are often more focused, more passionate and more inclined to customize their product according to customer feed-back, but are often restricted by a lack of capital and other resources. They have only been able look on while large, well-resourced corporations tool-up and race away with their ideas.

I, like many engineering types, have spent hours trying to develop and adapt a host of products and ideas that ended up sitting on the backburner waiting to be tried and tested. Most were in the “too-hard basket”; too expensive and time consuming to test, or the design too radical for normal manufacturing methods.

The world has changed with 3D printing. From a design and manufacturing point of view there is a new world of opportunity. Now I’m the lion amongst the herd of running zebras; the pickings are so good and so many that I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities. I’m the one asking, “Which one should I attack first; everywhere I look there is opportunity!”

3D printing allows small businesses to become who they really want to be, able to react quickly in these ever-changing markets, while the more risk averse, large corporations struggle to respond and change quickly to the environment.

Smaller companies will pick up and run with 3D-printed components, taking to customization like a duck to water. They will respond quickly, picking up this new technology and changing direction to seize their prey.

Here at Palmer Design & Manufacturing we are already working with such companies. Do you have an idea to try or a product to develop or customize?  Hit the ground running with Palmer Design & Manufacturing – with zero capital outlay.

Talk to us today to see how we can help you join the new manufacturing revolution!

Andrew Palmer

Director – Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd

Is additive manufacturing a good name for 3D printing?

For my business, I don’t think so. When I tell people I have an additive manufacturing company they don’t know what I’m talking about. To the layman, additive manufacturing could be the creation or development of ingredients for petrol or jam! So, personally, it’s really not that great in this context.

So where did the additive manufacturing title come from?

Additive manufacturing is the process of creating a solid 3D object from a 2D digital image, and simply describes the sequential laying down of material on top of another until the object is complete. This, of course, is different from the subtractive manufacturing process where components are machined and lumps of material removed, rather than adding material as in 3D printing.

But these, for my customers to understand it, are still weak reasons to run with the title. Consider traditional injection molding where material is literally added to a mold; this also is additive manufacturing.  So injection molding is as much like additive manufacturing as 3D printing.

In my view “3D printing” is still the best way to describe the 3D printing business and its processes. There is no need for fancy names, but if we must have one, how does this sound: AMA (Automated Material Arrangement)?

3D printing brings new life to mechanical engineering

Ever sent the apprentice out to buy a corner drill or a long weight?

Well be careful, these days they may just say, “OK, I can print holes around corners and a long weight should print up in a few hours while I do something else.”
Mechanical design engineering went out of fashion a long time ago, especially in the dot-com years of the late 90’s. During my corporate years, the company I worked for completely changed their image to an electronics development company – even though most of its profit came from their mechanical manufacturing division. Bits were out and bites were in.
There was a general thought around that mechanical things had been taken about as far as they could go: “If it could be patented it would have been done by now,” was the catch cry as all the interesting developments began taking place in electronics & software.

3D printing has changed this situation drastically by freeing up the mechanical engineer to focus on design rather than how it could be made. Here at Palmer Design & Manufacturing we make components that would have been impossible a few years ago; the sort of things that if taken to the engineering department would have been laughed at for the impractically of manufacture.
A simple example would be tiny holes that are printed around corners, but impossible to mould.

3D printing makes it possible to replicate the natural world; internal bone structures or the stem of a plant from materials that are incredibly light, yet strong.

With a whole world of new possibilities opening for this generation of mechanical engineers, who can imagine the amazing new designs that will come about in the next ten years?


Palmer Design & Manufacturing: looking beyond the impossible through great design.


Andrew Palmer
Director of PDM