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Making a Modal Hammer for Tight Spaces

When the tools for the job proved too cumbersome, this engineer re-engineered his tools and used production-grade 3D printing for the final part.

Proto Labs made Stream Lion’s re-engineered modal hammer out of durable nylon materials on an HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D production printer. Stream Lion reports the parts arrived out of the box with precise features that fit the other parts in the assembly properly. Stream Lion image courtesy of Proto Labs Inc.

Dear DE Reader:

Typing “build a better modal hammer and you'll find the funky turbine with fewer hassles” doesn't ring like “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Still, for today's Check it Out read, it's the blurb that hits home.

“Stream Lion Design Re-Engineers a Modal Hammer with Multi Jet Fusion” is a short blog post, but covers a lot of ground—precision instruments, data acquisition, ergonomics, miserly timelines, 3D prototyping and printing of final production parts. It's amusing and informative.

The report looks at this consulting engineer who recognized the inadequacies in the tools he had for the job. See, he crammed himself into a power utility engine to whack combustion turbine blades with a modal hammer to acquire vibration response data. That data was then used to determine the engines prone to vibration, enabling operators to better manage them.

Claustrophobia-inducing and poorly lit work area aside, he had to squirm in and out of the engine on a tight schedule. But the real issue was that the unwieldy modal hammer made it difficult to make clean hits and acquire good data. Generally, you run these tests in the commodious confines of a lab. The tool was not designed for confined environments.

So he decided to design a better modal hammer with improved ergonomics and smaller size as well as some other ideas for faster and easier data collection. The blog post describes how, as he 3D printed design iterations on his desktop, people started asking when they could get one of his modal hammer designs for themselves.

And that brought a passel of problems common to making unique end-use parts. What to make it out of? Who could make them with the right tolerances for the embedded components? How do you make high-quality, field-ready products affordable in low volumes?

Which is where Proto Labs comes into the story. After working on the design requirements with their application engineers, he opted for Multi Jet Fusion as his 3D production part fabrication process. The blog post explains the reasoning for this decision and how it has worked out, often using the consulting engineer's own words.

Good old-fashioned engineering gumption with a strong assist from technology experts is what “Stream Lion Design Re-Engineers a Modal Hammer with Multi Jet Fusion” is all about. Hit the link and check it out. Fun stuff.

Thanks, Pal. – Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood

Editor at Large, DE

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Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering’s Editor-at-Large. Contact him via [email protected].

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