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Case Study - Extending the useful life of commercial products with additive manufacturing

A business owner based in Calgary, Alberta that manages a number of residential and commercial properties was experiencing a recurring problem with a fastening clip on their paper towel dispensers. This failure made the paper towel dispensers unable to be used as intended.


After finding that replacement parts for the dispensers were unavailable, the business owner reached out to Tempus 3D to seek an alternative solution. The team at Tempus 3D collaborated with their manufacturing network to reverse engineer the faulty part to improve the design, then manufacture the upgraded design with industrial 3D printing technology. The ability to upgrade the existing equipment rather than replace it saved the business owner the thousands of dollars and  weeks of time it would take to replace the equipment, and minimize unnecessary waste.

Key Benefits 
  • Save the time and expense of replacing entire equipment assemblies when components fail.

  • Ability to reproduce hard-to-find replacement parts.

  • Opportunity to improve design to eliminate future failures and improve performance.

  • Reduced environmental impact due to less waste as equipment life is extended rather than being discarded.


Replacement parts, Industrial goods


Fusion 360

Post Processing

Natural finish


When pieces of equipment fail it can be hard to find replacement parts. When they can be found they are often prohibitively expensive, particularly when the equipment is old or manufactured outside of Canada or the US.  This was the issue faced by the owner of the commercial and residential properties when the clips were failing in the paper towel dispensers. Replacement clips were not available for purchase, so the owner had to think outside the box in order to avoid replacing hundreds of dispensers. The simplicity of the design and small size of the part made manufacturing a replacement part a logical course of action. 


A paper towel dispenser has a clip connected to the mechanism that opens the dispenser. This clip allows the paper towel roll to be changed when needed, but also functions as the fastener that holds the outside casing in place and prevents it from falling open on its own. The failure of these clips meant that the dispenser covers couldn’t be locked and would fall open on their own, making the dispensers unusable. Unfortunately, as these dispensers are an older design, the company that supplied them no longer manufactures replacement parts.


The property manager approached Tempus 3D to improve the design of the clips so prevent future failures of the part, and manufacture the final product. 

The team at Tempus 3D collaborated with the Selkirk Technology Access Center (STAC) to reverse-engineer the original part to improve the design. The original was first scanned with a laser scanner to convert the original to a digital file. The file was uploaded to a Computer Automated Design (CAD) program, where it could be edited and improved. The part was modified to create a version that would be reinforced and less prone to failing. The new design would prevent excessive flex with the teeth of the clip, thus decreasing the stress on the part and extending it’s useful life.


Changes like these are extremely inexpensive to make using modern CAD software and add virtually no manufacturing costs when 3D printed. However, the cost of making a simple change like this to an injection molded part is prohibitively expensive as it requires a new mold to be created or, at the very minimum, a costly and time-consuming modification of the existing mold.

Paper Towel Dispenser clip re-designed with Tempus 3D and additive

The very first iteration of the prototype fit and functioned as designed, allowing the team to move directly to producing the final parts. The redesigned clip was manufactured with HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to provide the dimensional accuracy and material density required to produce a part that would fit properly and withstand long-term use. This technology is also designed to mass-produce affordable end-use parts up to 10x faster than comparable 3D printing technology, allowing the replacement parts to be shipped with minimal delay.  The material selected for the part was HP Nylon PA12, which is a robust, all-purpose material commonly used for industrial applications ranging from automotive to aerospace to consumer goods.


The parts were ready to use straight out of the printer with no additional post-processing, which saved labor time and kept production costs to a minimum. Additional coloring or surface treatment could be applied if the parts were being used in a more visible location.


The combination of an upgraded part design and industrial-grade plastic resulted in a part much stronger than the original plastic-and metal-design. Paul was able to save time and money while improving the part design and minimizing unnecessary waste. 

About Tempus 3D

The team at Tempus 3D was happy to support a student to accomplish his design and development goals by providing access to advanced manufacturing technology. Tempus 3D is proud to collaborate with Selkirk College and the DFAM Program to provide their students with access to industry-leading additive manufacturing technology, to help build a better future for Canada's youth.


With industry-leading technology and a network of production partners, Tempus 3D is uniquely capable of serving innovators and manufacturers across Canada. With online ordering, the ability to turn around rush orders in as little as 36 hours and cost-effective overnight shipping we can ensure you have the parts you need on-time and on-spec. We at Tempus feel this is just the beginning of what manufacturing will look like in the future; it will be more responsive, more custom, and more local allowing innovators across sectors to bring products to market quicker and in a more environmentally friendly way.

Explore the possibilities of 3D scanning and reverse engineering

Learn more about manufacturing solutions with Tempus 3D

Explore industrial plastics available through Tempus 3D

Learn more about the advantages of industrial 3D printing with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology

Learn more about designing for 3D printing 

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