I've not been shy in the past talking about my job. I love working in manufacturing technology because of all the great things I get to see and learn everyday. My day to day job is like watching an episode of "How It's Made". It's even cooler when I get to see my hobbies cross over in to my work life.
A while back, while wandering the web, I bumped in to a post on the Classic Fly Rod Forum that discussed the idea of 3D printing a fly fishing reel. Along a number of posts, the original designer and producer of, what is thought to be, the first 3D printed fly reel chimed in. His name is Mike Hackney and he has a website and offers the plans for his reels via his site, The Eclectic Angler. Mike has been able to design and print a working fly reel of the click pawl kind and it looks awesome.
The reel is built/printed out of PLA, but ABS or Nylon would work as well. The material starts as a thin plastic string (imagine weed wacker cord), and is heated up to a temp just above it's melting point as it's extruded out a tip (imagine a hot glue gun). This tip will trace and outline the part, extruding and building the reel up layer by layer, typically in the range of 38-75 microns. As the part is built and the hundreds of layers are laid down, they will continue to cure and strengthen their bond as this all takes place in a heated build chamber.
It's been a busy few weeks for Mike as more than a few media outlets, including Field and Stream, have reached out and gotten the low down on his reel(s). Joe Cermele from Field and Stream even went as far as taking the reel out to the stream and testing the clicker mechanism and it performed very well.
If you're looking to get your hands on one, you can buy a 3D printed reel directly from Mike by visiting his website. And if you're looking to learn a bit more about 3D printing, don't hesitate to drop me a line, or Google it. You'll be amazed at what people are doing. I've got customers that have 3D printed a full suspension titanium bike frame. It's pretty sick what you can do these days with technology. From designing custom products online, to manufacturing things that weren't possible before, 3D printing will really be a game changing technology for manufacturing.