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I was wondering if anyone has tried 3d printing fishing lures or even molds with a 3d printer? I have been watching YouTube videos lately on people making them and would like to get into it. I already make lures from wood, fly tying, and even have successfully used polymer clay to make lures, but am really interested and excited in the possibilities with a 3d printer. If anyone has any advice on which printer and program to use I would like to know before purchasing one.
 

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If you look on thingiverse.com (if it's working today), you'll find some baits that others have already designed for you to download and print. I just upgraded from a Qidi Tech X-One that I've had for about 3 years to a Creality CR-10S, due to the build plate size. If you do want to get into printing, I'd recommend getting something with a larger build plate, if you can. When I started with the Qidi, I immediately realized that 150x150x150mm build volume was very small and I was frustrated that I couldn't print a lot of the things that I wanted to because of this restriction. The CR-10S has a build volume of 300x300x400mm, which is just shy of 12in x 12in x 16in.
 

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I hope to do this one day. For myself I decided I must learn to use a CAD program first so I’m not dependent upon others’ designs. I haven’t got past this step yet. The real value here is being able to design and print your own stuff. The 3D printing technology is definitely to the point you could do this for personal use. It would not be cost effective vs injection molding for production, but for personal use, the tech is there if you are good enough with CAD and willing to spend $500 or more on a 3D printer.

I like to run shallow divers behind dipsy divers and leadcore for my walleye fishing and I’d love to print up and paint a bunch of shallow minnow cranks for my walleye fishing like I have done for spoons. My favorite late spring/early summer crankbait is the Reef Runner ‘little ripper’ and there is nothing like it on the market in terms of an affordable blank to paint.

I like to have at least four copies of every color pattern I troll with so I can put that same color out on multiple rods when the fish are favoring certain colors.


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How do you adjust the buoyancy when printing lures? I'd be afraid they would all sink like a rock or is the material they use for 3-d printers naturally buoyant or do you have a choice of materials?
 

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How do you adjust the buoyancy when printing lures? I'd be afraid they would all sink like a rock or is the material they use for 3-d printers naturally buoyant or do you have a choice of materials?
You buy rolls of what looks like weed wacker line..it comes out like a hardened plastic, you would be able to make the lure hollow or solid or whatever you wanted to do...it would probably be perfect for making lures...in other words, you would adjust the buoyancy through the program...
 

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I envision a two piece design that’s hollow where you glue the two halves together. I actually went so far as to download one of the CAD packages that gives free license to hobbyists and was able to do some basic stuff like create two half spheres. I quickly realized it was not trivial when I attempted to make it two half spheres with 1/16 inch wall thickness. Now imagine trying to replicate a shape such as a minnow bait. I’m jealous of people who know how to design parts in SolidWorks. Mechanical Engineers have the edge here as it’s possibly part of what they do for a living. Almost every product in existence these days starts out as a CAD drawing, so there are people out there doing this, but it’s a lot to learn for a hobby.


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I envision a two piece design that’s hollow where you glue the two halves together. I actually went so far as to download one of the CAD packages that gives free license to hobbyists and was able to do some basic stuff like create two half spheres. I quickly realized it was not trivial when I attempted to make it two half spheres with 1/16 inch wall thickness. Now imagine trying to replicate a shape such as a minnow bait. I’m jealous of people who know how to design parts in SolidWorks. Mechanical Engineers have the edge here as it’s possibly part of what they do for a living. Almost every product in existence these days starts out as a CAD drawing, so there are people out there doing this, but it’s a lot to learn for a hobby.


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I imagine some community colleges have courses in CAD instead to trying to learn on your own.
 
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There are really good tutorials out there for free. To learn it, you have to be open to learning what they want to teach and slowly build your ‘toolbox’ and you need a pretty good ‘toolbox’ to design complex shapes. I spent maybe 15-20 hours watching tutorials and doing exercises and was still working with basic shapes while my end goal was to produce drawings with compound curves and complex geometry. It’s not a trivial matter to design a lure in a CAD program. I lost interest and just bought the crankbaits I wanted. One thing that interests me A LOT is to come up with a floating diver like the jet or trutrip that releases on very small fish much like chamberlain downrigger releases or slide diver lite bite divers.


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I’m working on ultra lite version of Whopper Popper. I know nothing about 3D printing, I’m the manager of this project. Have 3D nuts and son with printers. I surf and find the cad stuff and forward it to them. I guess up & down scale is no problem. The Corona has put us of track for this season. We have 3D printed the mold to make the tail prop section of lure. I’ve hand made main body out of balsa and it will be printed in halves, allowing for hollow body and passage for shaft of .051 wire. Making ultra lite lures is harder than making musky plugs. Tiny lures can look perfect and do nothing but follow the line.
Metal
 

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I bought a cheap 3D printer to fiddle with at MicroCenter. My interests lie in making hollow body clear crankbait bodies, so I went with a ‘SLA’ printer which prints by strategically hardening a resin layer by layer and there are clear resins available. I just bought some cheap resin for the initial experiments. I’m still not up to speed with fusion 360, so I found something close to what I want to do to try it out. This is a Shad profile diving crankbaits with somewhat hollow body intended for thru wire construction. It was crystal clear when it came out of the printer, but browned a little after cleaning and post cure. I did the post cure with the same uv light I use to cure alumina-uv clear coat. I want clear bodies so the lip is clear. The file I downloaded even had a template to use when you paint it. This template exactly matches the profile of the lure. Kinda cool and very good idea. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right resin, (one that doesn’t turn brown) and learning the CAD software and the possibilities will be endless. I’ll post some pictures as I go thru the process of finishing the lure. I’m not that great of a painter, so it may end up looking ugly.






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The lure painted up like any other plastic body you might buy. The printer was $200 and is the Creality LD-002r. The print volume is small at 4.7 x 2.5 x 6.5 inches. Larger print volumes are available at higher price point. You can orient the print to take advantage of the diagonal dimension. The resolution is .05 mm. That’s an extremely fine level of detail. Print speed is very slow. That crankbait body took 10 hours to print. The printer is silent. It dips a plate into a pool of resin, turns on the curing light for 7-8 seconds, raises it, then repeats doing .05 mm per layer. That’s why it takes so long. The crankbait is as tough as anything you’d buy in a store. The printer emits an epoxy like smell while printing. I’m going to build a sealed box that vents out a window before printing with it again. The density of the printed part is 1.07 - 1.13. This is notable as it’s in the same range as most casting resins. This means you can water test with a printed part then create molds to make the lures you actually intend to fish with without worry of changing weight/balance.

In summary, a budget 3D resin printer is a viable way to make lures. If 10 hours of print time works with your schedule, you can just print your designs in a clear resin, clean up the parts with isopropyl alcohol, cure it some more with a 365-405nm black light, bend some hook hangers/line tie, glue the two halves together, then finish. The only limitations will be the small print area and your own skill to design your lure in a CAD program. You can fish with printed parts or use the printed parts to make silicon molds.



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Printing out bodies is no problem. The offset single blade on tail section of Whopper Popper is the problem. Also ultra lite lures are harder to design because they are not as forgiving when it comes to proportions as bigger lures. I made a lot of plugs 25 years ago, from scratch. I never made a Musky plug that didn’t run. They might take a little tuning as far as balancing with lead but worked.
I made many ultra lite plugs that didn’t run. They just tracked the line.
 

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I forgot to mention the weird behavior of the unpainted lip under the UV light. I noticed this when I clear coated the lure with ulumi-uv. The lip which is made of ‘photosensitive resin’ glows under a uv lamp. I compared it to some genuine Michigan stinger UV spoons and found the UV tape they put on their UV spoons reflects UV light like a mirror. The UV tape doesn’t glow like this crankbait lip does under UV light. Instead it creates an effect where looking at the lure is similar at staring directly into a uv light. I think the UV lures we buy reflect UV light and this material I printed the lure with seems to absorb and glow under UV light. Who knows what the fish catching implication of that is?



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I’m working on ultra lite version of Whopper Popper. I know nothing about 3D printing, I’m the manager of this project. Have 3D nuts and son with printers. I surf and find the cad stuff and forward it to them. I guess up & down scale is no problem. The Corona has put us of track for this season. We have 3D printed the mold to make the tail prop section of lure. I’ve hand made main body out of balsa and it will be printed in halves, allowing for hollow body and passage for shaft of .051 wire. Making ultra lite lures is harder than making musky plugs. Tiny lures can look perfect and do nothing but follow the line. View attachment 356269
Any progress?
 

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I forgot to mention the weird behavior of the unpainted lip under the UV light. I noticed this when I clear coated the lure with ulumi-uv. The lip which is made of ‘photosensitive resin’ glows under a uv lamp. I compared it to some genuine Michigan stinger UV spoons and found the UV tape they put on their UV spoons reflects UV light like a mirror. The UV tape doesn’t glow like this crankbait lip does under UV light. Instead it creates an effect where looking at the lure is similar at staring directly into a uv light. I think the UV lures we buy reflect UV light and this material I printed the lure with seems to absorb and glow under UV light. Who knows what the fish catching implication of that is?



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I have some Bandits that glow in the dark. Whole lure not just the lip.
 

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Any progress?
Got as far as printing the mold to make rear prop. Because of CV19 probably won’t get done this winter either. I’m going to hand make a few. I had a whooper popper for a good while. Somebody brought me one from a sports show down south. It was still in package on my desk when they got hot. It was small size, black. My teenage nephew took it and was killing bass in local ponds and lakes. I want ultra lite for small small mouth in local creeks. The Heddon Tiny Torpedo, black is #1 top water in creeks down here.
 

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I picked up this circa 1996 CNC micro mill off Craigslist about a month ago for next to nothing. It came with no software, but there were instructions on the internet on how to connect its internal electronics to a software package called Mach3. Those instructions actually worked and I now have a fully functional micro milling machine. The mill is based on Sherline and has xyz travel of 8.9 x 5.1 x 6.25 and supports 3/8 and smaller tooling. The spindle can be geared up to 10k RPM. It can mill plastics, wood, and aluminum. I’m just generally interested in CAD/CAM, CNC and 3d printing as a hobby so I couldn’t resist buying this thing. I see several on eBay for 7-10x what I paid. It came from the STEM program of a local high school.

I believe it will be capable of carving two piece hollow body hardwood crankbait bodies with intricate gill and scale patterns as well as cutting the lips from lexan or aluminum once I’m up to speed with 3d design software. Once I start producing stuff with this, I’ll start a new thread. I think there’s serious potential with this new toy.

 

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I’m slowly coming up to speed with my digital lure making. I’m starting with something real basic and will add complexity as I learn. My first project is a flat sided 5 inch Muskie crankbait. I have the initial design in Fusion 360.



I’ve started with the lip. It’s coffin shaped 1/8 inch thick aluminum. What I’ve found is you can’t just buy a CNC mill, especially a hobby machine from 1997 that you hacked to run on modern software and expect to draw something and have it cut by the machine. I had to calibrate the three axis’, determine how much backlash each axis has, figure out how to hold the stock with a sacrificial surface beneath, learn about ‘feeds and speeds’, learn how to generate tool paths, etc.

After a few failed attempts and one ruined end mill, I have successfully cut the 1/8 inch lip. My first attempts had been with a 1/8 inch diameter end mill. I reasoned a low power machine should use a small cutter because it will require less power. What was happening is the little tiny bit doesn’t generate enough velocity at 2k rpm to produce a proper ‘chip’. It slowly overheats, then the chips start melting. The smaller the bit, the lower the velocity at the cutter. Once it starts overheating, it starts chattering and going off track. I installed some 10k RPM pulleys, increased the end mill size to 3/16 inch and it cut reasonably well. My interest in getting a milling machine originates from a non injury accident attempting to cut this profile with a chop saw. This CNC mill has got to be the safest way possible to cut this profile.



Here are some of the failed attempts:




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The next step is going to be using the mill to ‘carve’ the body. I’ve got a lot of hard maple so that’s what I’ll use to start. I’m using fusion 360 to design the 3d model that will be exported to a program called ‘vcarve’. VCarve has the ability to generate two sided tool paths. I’ll run one side that will hollow out the interior of the crankbait, flip it, then carve the outer profile. If all goes according to plan, there will be some light sanding, bend the hook hanger, glue two halves together and secure the lip with a tapped machine screw. It’s really the same process as doing manual except it should be more repeatable.

For the thru wire, I think I can mill out little exact size pockets to hold wire with crimps like this.



Or I like the idea of something like this cut from sheet metal with the mill. I found this in another tackle making forum. To do this in stainless would be a pretty expensive hook hanger though. If you used feeler gauge type material, I think something like this could give a similar effect as the storm Arashi self tuning crankbait.




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