3D Printing: Designs, Project Ideas, and Thoughts

3D Printing: Design and Project Ideas

Guest Experts:

Hrvoje Čop - actively works on researching and designing 3D printer parts and upgrades, and also blogs information about 3D printing that is not often talked about in mainstream media. http://chopmeister.blogspot.com/

Joe Larson – an award winning designer for 3D printing, Author, Blogger and Youtuber. http://joes3dworkbench.blogspot.com/

3D printing, or also referred to as additive manufacturing, commonly involves a computer process where successive layers of material are applied according to an electronic template.

RS IdeaWerk FDM 3D Printer

RS IdeaWerk FDM 3D Printer, RS Stock No.828-6356

The technology has made great strides recently, with accomplishments so complex as successfully printing entire organs. However, with 3D printers being so readily available to the public, what are some useful or interesting items for the home or office that could be printed by the everyday user?

RepRapPro Ormerod 2 FDM 3D Printer Kit

RepRapPro Ormerod 2 FDM 3D Printer Kit, RS Stock No.811-1855

Hrvoje Čop - “All the recent advancements in 3d printing, especially the advent of low-cost machines have really given the DIY enthusiast (and even the casual home user) a way to easily produce various designs and objects, which would otherwise be very difficult, or at least impractical to make. As the number of users increased, so did the amount of designs available to just download and print. Online file repositories like YouMagine and Thingiverse started with a few 3d printer related objects and gimmicks, and quickly grew into vast collections of all kinds of designs. Yes, sometimes it's easier (and faster) to just go out and buy the stuff you need, but where's the fun in that? Also, sometimes you need something very specific (like a replacement part for a home appliance, for example) and that is where 3d printing can really help you out. The categories I usually find most interesting are everyday household items (the kind of stuff you always need and never seem to have), and upgrades for the printers themselves.

With household items it really gets diverse. Bottle openers, cookie cutters, hangers, coasters, phone cradles... When you realize you can download or design, and then produce something when you need it, is when 3d printing gets interesting. The coin operated bottle opener in its many iterations is probably one of the first prints everyone does, because it's easy and fast to print. The one-piece tape dispenser is also a great example of an easy to print, but very useful object. There are literally thousands of designs like that out there, so you won't be lacking useful items to print anytime soon.

RS DesignSpark Mechanical Bundle Add-on

RS DesignSpark Mechanical Bundle Add-on, RS Stock No.852-3019

The upgrades you could print depend heavily on the 3d printer you are using, but there are so many available you only need to search for your 3d printer model and you'll find dozens. I love to browse designs like that because they really showcase people's creativity and enthusiasm, especially since a lot of people (much like myself) who are into making such upgrades haven't had much relation with engineering and mechanical design beforehand. Be wary though, not all of those upgrades are good or even actually useful. The best way to find out if something works is to read the comments and browse forums to find out other people's experiences with it. Or if you are not afraid to experiment, just print it out and see for yourself - It's a lot of fun, and it might also teach you a bit more about the inner workings of your printer.

While there's a whole universe of useful objects or upgrades you could print, sometimes you might want to test the limits of your 3d printer, make something that looks really nice, or just make something to show to your friends. One thing I like to print a lot (and they make great gifts too!) are vases. They are very easy to print, and really showcase the beauty of 3d printed objects. There is also a plethora of jewelry available like the very popular low resolution bracelets or the stretchy bracelet which uses the physical properties of 3d printing filament for a cool stretching effect. After you've mastered working with your 3d printer you can try your hand at more complex prints like Aria the Dragon or the very interesting Automatic Transmission model.

Strandbeest printed by Jared Tarbell

As you can see, there's a whole lot to explore, but all of that is just the beginning. The real power of 3d printing comes from being able to make your own designs. While not without its learning curve, nowadays there are a lot of 3d modeling applications specially tailored for beginners, and I wholeheartedly recommend trying your hand at one of those, and unleashing your creativity. In the end, a 3d printer is just a tool - the creativity comes from you.”

Joe Larson – “3D printing. Somewhere between the hype and the detractors is the reality. Can 3D printing do everything? No, it's got its limitation. Have we reached the end of those limits? Not nearly.

I've never seen anything in my lifetime that attracted so many types of people, all dedicated to advancing it. There are those who are only interested in advancing the technology, building their own 3D printer from scratch with one little thing that no one has ever done before, and those using the technology to do something new and cool. And I am square in the later. But I need the former and, at this point in the technology, I still have to get my fingers in the gears once in a while. One day there will probably be a 3D printer reliable enough and cheap enough for everyone to have in their home, but that day is not today.

Still, 3D printing is unquestionably awesome. As a tool it has made invention, distribution of items, and perhaps even manufacturing cheaper and in some cases faster than ever before. And it's done this not just for the million dollar corporation but for the individual working in his garage in his spare time. That's me, too.”

More information about our experts:

Hrvoje Čop

Together with my friend and colleague Dean Niskota, I work in one of the most successful architectural visualization studios in Croatia. I'm a huge tech-nerd, and dabble in all sorts of machinery and electronics. Basically, if it has lights and buttons, and/or moves, I'm probably interested. So it was a logical step to also get into 3D printers some 4-5 years ago when the DIY 3D printing scene was still pretty young. Since then I've been actively working on researching and designing 3D printer parts and upgrades, and also started a blog where I try to offer some information about 3D printing that is not often talked about in mainstream media.

Joe Larson

My name is Joe Larson. I'm an award winning designer for 3D printing, author, blogger, Youtuber, and have a growing library of 3D printable objects available to download online. If you have any questions about 3D printing or projects you'd like to see made real, please reach out to me. I love to help others discover the joy of 3D printing.