3D Printing is More Than Just for Making Pretty Things

When it comes to using 3D printers, I think the general consensus by most people is that they are used to make jewelry or 3D miniatures for tabletop games like D&D.

Kanji pendants made with 3D printer and finished with paint and sealant: Faith, Love, and Hope

While using a 3D printer for that sort of application works wonderfully, I also find them very useful for making functional items. In the last post, I showed how I utilized my 3D printer to print out a PCB.

Now I needed it for another application. I’ve had an issue with a retaining clip in my Honda for quite some time. It holds the trim by the front windshield and comes loose after a while due to the vibrations from driving. The plastic clip itself had broken so I figured I’d replace it as I was tired of dealing with it.

Broken retaining clip

I did not want to spend $10.00 on 30 of these guys…I just needed 1. I did also look at AutoZone, but even they were pretty expensive at ~$4.00 for just 1.


At this point, I figured I could use my 3D printer to just make the part I needed. After looking around a bit, I found a 3D model of a retaining clip for a Renault Clio, luckily nearly all the dimensions fit to what was needed. I imagine there are a lot of small parts like this shared across all sorts of vehicles. The only issue I saw offhand was the bottom part was a bit too thick and there were some steep angles that were on this model. 3D printers aren’t that great at printing steep angles.


After cleaning up the model a bit in Blender and importing it into Simplify3D, some of the settings needed to be tweaked from when I had printed out the PCB. Since this was a much smaller part, the thickness of each printed layer needed to be reduced. This allows for printing much finer detail but increases the printing time. When I printed the PCB, the layer height was set to 0.3 mm. With this part, I set it to 0.1 mm. It always amazes me how these devices can print out a layer of plastic that is only 0.1 mm thick…calibrating the print head though is a bit of a pain.


The final print turned out well enough. The underside of the ledge there was pretty ugly (is that an oxymoron?), but I expected as such due to the angle it was trying to print. The only thing I needed to do was grind down the bottom tab thickness a bit so it would fit

3D printed retaining clip compared to broken retaining clip

The newly printed clip fit right into the new spot without any issues. On the left image you can see a factory original clip there in the distance that was holding the bottom part on…I imagine it will break at some point soon too. The new clip snapped into place easily. The red circle there on the right image is about where that clip is located.

Installing new retaining clip

Now to see how long it will last. Only costing $0.01 in material, I don’t mind printing another one if I need to.