DIY Thermal Insert Press

In this project we’re building a rig for heat set inserts. When working with 3D printed parts, a press can help you install inserts. This holds a soldering iron vertically and allows you to press down, perfectly straight. The tip of the iron heats up the brass and softens the plastic. Pressing down pushes the insert into the part and once it cools down, it’s locked in place. This could be handy for folks doing a small production run or if you're looking for a tool to make this easier.

Heat Set Inserts

The knurling on the outside of these brass inserts are design for heat setting plastic. Threaded inserts are great for making bolted connections when securing parts together. Adding metal threads to your parts will significantly increase the durability. You can also loosen the connection and take it apart without wearing out the threads.

Insert Installation Tips

A tip specifically designed for installing inserts works better than regular soldering tips. These are compatible with irons that use internal ceramic heaters like Hakko’s and Weller’s. The longer shank reaches deeper into parts and tight corners without touching plastic.

The tip may be a little bit loose when installed in the 60W soldering iron. This is normal. One option to fix this is to use the sleeve from a 50W iron, which has a very tight fit. Another option is to remove the sleeve and shorten it a bit by setting it up vertically and flattening the flange on both ends very slightly with a hammer.

Hardware used in Assemblies

M3 Heat Set Inserts

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Designer Notes:

I'd like to give Bill Binko (@atmakers) of ATMakers.org a huge thanks for his contributions to this project. Bill designed his own version with similar components. Check out his demo on the Adafruit Show & Tell (Youtube Video: 10min 3sec).

References & Links

While working on this project I did some research and found some interest articles on how to properly install heat set inserts. There's also some great video content on testing threaded inserts.

This guide was first published on May 07, 2019. It was last updated on May 07, 2019.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Jun 16, 2021.

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