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VariesPay: $14.56 for 6 vitamins More Ways to Save at CVS Recent Comments 3D Printering: Can You Ever Have Enough Vitamins? | Hackaday As a community we owe perhaps more than we realise to the RepRap project.

From it we get not only a set of open-source printer designs, but that 3D printing at our level has never become dominated by proprietary manufacturers in the way that for example paper printing is.

The idea of a printer that can reproduce itself has never quite been fully realised though, because of what the RepRap community refer to as “vitamins”.

These are the mass-produced parts such as nuts, bolts, screws, and other parts which a RepRap printer can’t (yet) create for itself.

It’s become a convenience among some of my friends to use this term in general for small pieces of hardware, which leads me to last week.

I had a freshly printed prototype of one of my projects, and my hackerspace lacked the tiny self-tapping screws necessary for me to assemble it.

Where oh where, was my plaintive cry, are the vitamins! So my hackerspace is long on woodscrews for some reason, and short on machine screws and self-tappers.

And threaded inserts for that matter, but for some reason it’s got a kit of springs.

I’m going to have to make an AliExpress order to fix this, so the maybe I need you lot to help me.

Just what vitamins does a a lone hardware hacker or a hackerspace need? Throwing Open The Vitamin Cupboard A good place to start this is at home.

I have a big tub of those rattly plastic boxes, each containing a kit of some kind of hardware.

Thinking through the stuff, it divides fairly neatly into three categories of threaded hardware, miscellaneous hardware, and consumables.

In fact as I had a look in the box it surprised me just how many different items I had accumulated through years of tinkering.

In the threaded category are screws, nuts and bolts, and inserts.

But screws and bolts start at the near-microscopic watchmakers’ level and progress to gigantic fixings that hold oil rigs and ships together, so it’s worth thinking about exactly what sizes to keep.

In my case my loose distinctions are automotive nuts and bolts, and ones for the bench.

I have only metric sizes, so perhaps above a 10 mm spanner or an M6 bolt starts to come into the automotive category, while below that is for the bench.

I have kits of nuts and bolts and washers for the larger ones, with self-tapping screws and threaded inserts in addition to those at the smaller sizes.

I don’t yet have a kit of stand-offs or of plastic nuts and bolts, but they’re both things I should have Miscellaneous hardware is a much broader category, because it depends so much on what you do.

I have a box of O rings, a tin of split pins, a kit of small springs, and a growing collection of battery contacts and curly springs for those corroded Duracell cases.

I keep meaning to order a kit of belts to replace the random ones I’ve salvaged from equipment over the years, and there have been so many ping-sodit episodes over the years involving small circlips I should really be ordering a set of those too.

As you might imagine in the consumables box I have a load of cable ties.

The German Lidl supermarket does kits in their aisle of wonders that have been issued in a range of bright colours over the years, so I’ve amassed enough to join anything together.

I have heat-shrink tubing in a load of sizes in all colours of the rainbow, several kits of different crimp connectors and terminations, a box of assorted fuses, and all the shells and metal parts for several different types of multiway connector.

Is There Anything I’ve Missed? With all this variety there should be nothing I can’t do, but the reality is that this represents only a baseline.

I know there will be more kits ordered through necessity rather than simply thinking I should have them.

Perhaps it’s the last item in my stock of vitamins then that’s the most important.

I have a tin that once contained Danish butter cookies, and into which for years I’ve thrown all the screws and other small hardware I remove when I dismantle something for its parts.

It’s a glorious mess of small hardware, but such is its variety that sifting through it has saved my bacon many times.

Writing this has enabled me for the first time to sit down and think about what I have in the way of these vitamin parts, rather than in terms of single ones when I need something.

It’s also made me think a little about what I should be buying to complete my collection, so I’ll probably be popping a few more of those rattly boxes on my next AliExpress order.

Are there any I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments! Post navigation Not sure this qualifies as a “vitamin” per se, but I find having various types of glues available can be invaluable.

Superglue, Elmers, and maybe even a UV-based curing agent (resin) can be wonderful to have to do simple attachment processes.

While I’m at it, STAPLES can be used in place of tiny screws if you’re careful; I find 1mm/2mm/3mm metric screws (often used for small PCBs) are hard to find.

Hot-melt adhesives.

Several kinds.

Extra-handy for filling holes, joining things in a semiremovable way (heat on the hot bed of the printer for a while to soften the glue if needed), and can be applied with a torch or even a lighter to the glue stick and then smearing the melt onto the part.

Or use soldering iron tip for extra precision.

Optionally, casting resins, including silicone rubbers.

Hybrid rigid-elastomer components can be made by printing a thin-walled enclosure on the surface, then filling it with the silicone, then breaking off the walls.


A 0.2mm gap in the printout mimics the breakable interface of slicer-generated support.) +1 for glue.

Specifically, I periodically pick up a multipack of thick gel super glue.

That way there is always a new one ready to go with no hassles, no clogged tips, nothing.

The thick gel kind is the best.

I don’t even really understand why the super thin glue exists, or what use it has that the gel stuff cannot accomplish.

Oh plus some zip-kicker spray on super glue catalyst stuff that will near instantly set the super glue.

Game changer.

Dunno about the printer thing.

Inkjets, you’re going to be using someone else’s cartridge because those tiny holes are really difficult, and cartridges are the whole problem with inkjets.

Laser printers need optics and a lot of fussy business, impact printers need a ribbon and a lot of precision machining for those tiny hammers.

If I absolutely had to make a printer, I’d make a plotter with a very fine pen and just accept it was going to take 30 minutes per page.

Printers suck but I think they’re a pretty good deal from a user standpoint.

We just need actual antitrust laws that aren’t a total joke.

There should be several score companies making printer bits and while we’re at it there should be dozens of federal reserves and dozens of FDAs.

Okay maybe that last part needs a bit more thought I actually like that idea.

It would be like getting UL certified vs being certified by some other lab.

This product is FDA approved, another is approved by Joe’s Non-Lethal Treats Labs.

Then if it comes out that products approved by one company aren’t always actually safe, we’d still have other labs we could look to to determine if we want to gamble on a new drug/flavoring/coloring/additive.

Inkjets tend to have multiple types of print heads, and there’s no one standard for various reasons, and all the manufacturers have used both the ‘all in one’ approach (print head and tank) and seperate tanks and heads; both have their pros and cons.

HP and Lexmark (until they left the consumer market to go back to corporate class products) have picked up a reputation that they’d rather sell you ink than printers, with HP going as far as to make it so you pay per page and their printers will brick themselves if you cancel the ink subscription, even IF there’s still ink in the unit when you cancel.

laser printers are less about a laser and optics anymore, and ‘laser class’- Brother uses a strip of LEDs instead of a laser and spinning prism, and Bog only knows what HP does now- my tech knowledge of their kit ended at the 4350 series some years back.

the only real fussy thing about lasers is paper path, timing, and how good the toner cartridge is- a bad OPC drum on a cart will give you crappy prints, and a leaking toner cart is just a nightmare to clean up period.

Impact printers are rare anymore, and were mainly dot-matrix using either a line of 9 pins, or a grid of up to 24 pins that hammered through a ribbon as the print head traversed the width of the paper.

the ‘hammers’ were generally solonoid fired, but did require some level of precision to make.

wide format inkjet printers have largely supplanted pen plotters for putting marks on paper; however, I can state with some confidence that there’s a pen module for things like the Cricut devices (which are plotter engines) and there’s been more than a few mods to 3d printers and CNC routers/engravers to put pens/markers in the tool holder space.

printers are one of those things that will always be a pain, because the ink in the inkjet printers dry up over time even if it’s capped tightly, the OPC drums in laser/LED printers do have a shelf life (but it’s measure in years!), impact printers are loud and the ribbons also dry up, and pen plotters are very much a niche device.

You mentioned that you only have metric screws, which as a USian, even covers the vast majority of what I need.

But if you ever do any PC repair, odds are at some point you’re going to want some #6-32.

Often used to hold cases together, for 3.5″ hard drives (but not optical drives, those are M3), as well as to mount power supplies.

#6-32 and M3 were the two sizes of machine screw that I sorted out from everything else, way back when I was a young hacker.

They were *the* screws for PC stuff.

The other year I sorted my “random fastener” bin and learned a bit about machine screws.

Now when I need something, it’s easier to tell if I’ve got it or not.

I also got myself a nut/bolt thread tester on aliexpress.

Super handy for those times where you can’t just eyeball it and tell.

For the computers I will add one more SAE hardware size… #4-40.

That’s the size used for the thumbscrews on VGA, parallel, serial, etc… cables.

Or with really old stuff sometimes instead of a thumb screw it was a real slotted screw, not meant to come apart without a driver.

If you have lot’s of old computer junk lying around then whatever #4-40 hardware you can scavenge from it can be useful for another reason.

Especially if you are in SAE land where tiny metric screws require waiting for the boat to bring it… Raspberry Pi! Those tiny holes in Raspberry Pi boards (and probably many others) don’t quite fit the common M3 screws.

They want an M2.5.

But a #4-40 will fit! Also..

back to those electrical outlet screws.

In SAE land if you design your project to use #6 tapered head screws you can get them at the hardware store pre-painted.

If you make your thing a common light switch or power fixture color you can get screws that won’t stick out like a dark black or shiny stainless steel thumb! Unless of course your thing IS dark black or shiny metalic silver.

White, eggshell and dark brown are most common but other colors can be found too.

Even if they aren’t the most exciting colors at least it expands the pallet beyond just the common two.

My father’s grandfather and my grandfather both had wooden boxes, jars of all sorts and cardboard boxes full of used, rusty nuts, screws, washers, bolts and whatsnot small parts.

Both were mechanics, growing up in a time when screws and nuts could be paired and stuff could not be ordered overnight.

My collection started as similar, as likewise my grandfather and father both had/have collections of assorted unsorted hardware.

But I eventually figured out that it wasn’t terribly useful all jumbled up like that.

So I worked out how much space I was willing to dedicate to sorted hardware, got some sorters, and went to it.

I mostly just kept things that I had in any real quantity.

Every so often I’d find something really odd that I either couldn’t identify the threading on, or just only had a pair of and was fairly certain I’d never need, and those were discarded in favor of saving space.

I also try to take a critical look every so often at what’s in the junk closet.

Do I still need this much serial stuff? It was a lot more valuable when I started collecting it, but I hardly use it at all now.

Same with telephone.

And as always, the PC power cords are simply out of control.

every time i need something, i buy extra.

if i need 10 screws, i buy 15.

if i need 1 lipo battery, i might buy 3! if i need short ones, i’ll buy a couple long ones too, just in case.

this works well so long as tomorrow’s project has some overap with yesterday’s project.

and 3d printing works into this really well because, for example, if my project calls for M3 screws but i look in the drawer and all i have is #4-40, that’s fine, i can customize it before i print it.

i’m not averse to going to the hardware store and buying a bunch of new fasteners but if i want to build something *tonight* and actually play with it, i almost always start by looking through my pile and seeing what fasteners are handy, and that then makes the mechanical choices for my doodad.

for example, i misestimated on a previous project and now i’m long on 1/2″ wooden dowels.

i have like 5x 3-foot lengths of them and i’ve probably used fewer than 5′ of it in my whole life to date.

but now, when i’m starting in openscad, i’m thinking “well wouldn’t this be great if the long part was wood and only the end-cap was 3d printed” and there that pile is staring at me.

they go quick once they become the prefered option.

i could use bamboo chopsticks or a pine 1×2 or an oblong sliver of plywood or unistrut or PVC pipe but today, i have dowel rods and that’s what i’m using.

I’m withe Lurker.

Buy by the box, if I needed them once, I will prolly need them again.

As far as vitamins go, there’s not much I’m missing.

Linear rails and trucks, ball screws ant trapezoidal rod, stepper and servos etc etc….

My main goto for mechatronic shit is Robotdigg out of Shanghai.

The biggest problem I have found is storage space… A compactus is fantastic but could really use a second one… I have assembled over the past couple years my own stock of various fasteners, stand offs, terminals, and other odds n ends; I have something like a dozen of the Plano 3750 organizer cases to hold things, and even then I’m finding that I’ll need to buy something, at which point I buy no less than a box of them.

I ended up building a wall mount ‘thing’ out of 1×3 lumber and 90 right angle construction brackets to hold them all.

Cable? Depending on what the cable is and how much, I’ll buy a box/spool of it- I can _always_ find room to store the leftover cable for the next project.

(about the only thing I don’t buy a full spool of is romex, but I’ll cheerfully buy a 25 foot coil even if I only need 6 feet of it…) i relate to this statement, and i’m jealous of your shelving! but also, i love how it illustrates a general principle … i usually say it about software engineering “someone who will fix what isn’t broke won’t stop”.

but it goes everywhere — if you let the problem get this bad, this great solution (compact shelving) won’t actually help because you’ll just keep letting it get worse and you’ll want a second…and after that second, you’ll want a third! lol Threaded rivets (and the tool to install them) are another great “vitamin” to have.

They are the kind of thing that won’t get used as much as a common screw but they increase the utility of the common machine screw because now you can use them with thin sheet metal objects by popping in a threaded rivet first.

Agree with the commenter that suggested always buying extras.

I got in the habit a couple of years ago that if I needed to buy screws, washers, nuts, bolts, etc.

for some project from the hardware store, I wouldn’t just get what I needed, I would buy a whole box.

Figured it would save me from having to get more for a while when I needed them in the future.

For us imperialists who have a big chunky bolt, typical size is 1/4-20 (1/4″, 20 tpi), so that’s always a good place to start.

This includes camera mounts.

We were cleaning up the garage last weekend and discovered that the frame for some shelves had split.

Part of the frame was a big 4×4 block about 8 inches long – it split the long way.

Some glue and a couple of 4 inch screws left over from some project years ago had things back together in no time.

That’s why you always buy more screws than you think you need.

Something I have done for more years than I care to mention, take stuff from the skip and dismantle it, you will have all the screws springs etc that you will need, and some interesting stuff that will come in handy one day.

and as a bonus you learn from industrial designers how to solve issues.

I did this but increasingly all the stuff I take apart is 90% plastic so the screws are more akin to woodscrews.

There are a few machine screws in there, but it’s harder to justify the time taking out 15 screws that screw into plastic for a half dozen actual machine screws.

Sharing because everyone I show them to thinks this is a great idea.

I have 3 old steel trash cans with lids that the bottom have rusted out.

Inside i have old galvanised pans a little smaller than trash cans.

these hold all of my misc hardware when a pan fills up i add another one setting on top of the ones below like a Jenga tower of junk.

I use plastic pans for lighter stuff like cords cut off broken stuff and random plastic bits.

I got these cans from the dump like 20 years ago pre rusted out and they really have not gotten worse but i unload them fully if i ever move them.

not taking up room in my shop.

nobody messes with them because there trash cans.

Even sitting on the ground corrosion has not been an issue with the steel nuts and bolts.

I have M1 through M6 screws, nuts, wingnuts and washers in a folded metal tool case, this has plastic tubs internally and foam underneath the lid to close and hold the tubs.

In addition they are all sorted into small ziplock bags.

For small imperial # screws, NC, NF, I have another metal parts case with drawers.

It has a handle on top, so both this and the Metric screws case are portable.

I obtained a few dozen single-use plastic laboratory Agar container tubs from a recycle shop.

These are labelled with a permanent marker on the side and lid.

Examples of sorted items: Small self-tapping machine screws, Machine screws (tubs #1, #2), Tiny washers, Small washers, Medium washers, Large washers, Fuses, Resistors, High wattage resistors, Transistors, Power Transistors, Diodes, Power diodes, 19″ rack screws/hw, Switches (#1, #2, #3 overflow containers), Feet, Grommets, Wingnuts, Unusual screws, Springs, Belts, Nylon screws, Star washers, O-rings, Relays/solenoids, Connectors/plugs/sockets (#1, #2) and the list goes on.

Drop off (donate) your plastic peanut butter full of miscellaneous fasteners at Re-Store.

During the next couple of weeks their volunteer staff will sort through them and put like items in small plastic zipper bags.

Then you can stop in and buy them back for a pittance.

Threaded rod.

Being in the US I keep a bunch of 1/4-20 around (also it’s useful if you deal with cameras anywhere in the world), but I should get some M3, M6 and M8 rod and nuts because I see it used in various designs.

I print a lot of female threads so I can just pin things together with threaded rod.

As others have said, M3 heat-serts and two varieties of screws that fit it: Flat-head (countersunk), and pan or cap-screw style.

I have various screw lengths in stainless, brass, and black oxide steel.

Be aware that stainless screws in brass inserts tend to gall, so don’t skip the assembly lube! Now I’m lucky.

My house is some blocks away from a specialty inox screw warehouse and a ball bearing store.

My problem is that I can’t get some cheapo stuff but I’ve built my fair share of nuts and bolts.

M2s(they are super hard to find I found out)M3/4/5/6 sets, all inox, alen cylindrical heads and sizes from 8mm up to 50mm with increnta of 10mm.

The real suckers were some Philips m3s 6mm in length….everything is inox, because…My only problem was finding connectors and their paraphernalia such as JST PH etc which apparently Greece has a major problem managing.

It’s as if the collective of stores said “screw it, it’s molex for everyone!”….thankfully I found a store that has them and I’m all stocked up now.

Also from my static models days milliputty is a wonderfull material because you can shape it, sand it and even mold it and it becomes this epoxy plastic mass that holds really well to mechanical and chemical stress! (Looking around shop…) Boxes of machine screws, nuts, washers, threaded inserts, self-tappers, M2-M6, and #2,#4,#6, 1/4-20 Spade and other crimp-on lugs, various sizes Ferrules, various sizes.

Pop rivets Anderson powerpole connectors Wire nuts Lots of ferrite beads and clamp-ons, various sizes (clean airwaves are important) Many different tapes: Double-face, Velcro, VHB, gaffer, masking, vinyl, teflon, polyethylene, mylar, kapton, masking, anti-slip, packing, foam, weatherstrip, thermal conductive… Sleeving & cable loom, various sizes & types Glues: Thermal epoxy, J-B Weld, 5-min epoxy, liquid & gel cyanoacrylates, hot glue, wood glue, high-temp silicate cement, nail polish, red & blue loctite, methanol-type silicone RTV seal Anti-glues (lubes): various silicone, synthetic and dead-dinosaur type oils and greases, vacuum grease, dielectric grease, mineral oil, cable-pulling compound, pipe thread sealant Several fluxes, rosin & halide Solvents: Methanol, ethanol, propanol, acetone, propylene glycol, naphtha Cabinet feet: Bumpons, stick-ons, screw-fastened, push-in-hole types Self-stick slippy pads, felt pads, cork pad, rubber sheet EPDM sheet (and the yellow glue that sticks to it) ‘Fish’ dielectric paper Plenty of zip ties and heat shrink tubing And several ways to make labels — 7 label printers here, but not a Brady in sight (yet).

And much more… Brother.

Maybe time to start thinking about döstädning.

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