A 3D printed 6 switch panel for Jeep XJs

Alternate title: What I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

We mentioned on last week’s episode of the GunBlog VarietyCast that I have designed a new lower switch panel for 1997-2001 Jeep Cherokees, known in JeepSpeak as the newer XJ.

As of right now, I have seven different models for sale in my Shapeways store.

So here’s the story:
Jeep sold the XJ with one of three different lower switch panels, depending on trim level and options. They all have two 12v power ports–a driver side one that is only on when the key is in ACC/RUN, and a passenger side one that is always on.

They came in three flavors. One with two switches and a blank that is actually solid and completely unable to be converted to hold a third OEM switch:

One with three switches for models with factory fog lights:

And a super-rare 4 switch model that came ONLY in police package models domestically, and in some European export models that also had rear fogs (which is apparently a thing in Europe):

So here’s the thing, though: You CANNOT buy the 4 switch panel anymore. Jeep doesn’t make or carry them, and the parts distributors ran out years ago. They occasionally pop up on ebay for $225 or so, with no switches.

And here’s mine, with SIX switches:
IMG_5456 (Small)

It took about 6 months of designing, prototyping, breaking, and redesigning the panels on hobbyist-grade 3D printers (using makexyz.com as my prototype provider) before I got one that I was ready to try out on Shapeways.

The makexyz printers–depending on who gets your design–can range from $800 to about $2500. The prints are functional, but the quality is…variable. I sent the exact same design to three different printers and got three very different results, structurally speaking.

Shapeways uses Stratasys printers, which start at $200,000 each, and produce much more finished products. The two on top here were makexyz prints, the bottom is the Shapeways print. Click to embiggenate.

Left: Shapeways, Right: makexyz

Now I feel like I’ve got the design down I can make custom ones, too. I did 5 models in two hours one Sunday.

So now I have a product, available for sale, that is manufactured on-demand and shipped to your house with no interaction from me. I love living in the future!

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