As I sit here watching my 3D printer do its magic, I can’t help but consider all the useful things it can do for me. While it can be annoying troubleshooting it when things go awry, there are many useful ways a 3D printer can help you in your everyday life.
Ever wondered what 3D printing can do for you? Here are 5 ways 3D printing can improve your life.
You can print replacement parts
Ever had a backpack zipper break a day before a hiking trip? Did your laptop lose a key while at the coffee shop? Or maybe your Xbox control joystick is getting a little worn out.
No worries, you can just print another one! Just hop into your favorite CAD program and quickly model a new part. If you’re efficient in these programs it will only take you a couple minutes to quickly create a model.
If you have no modeling experience whatsoever, go onto one of the many model sharing websites like Thingiverse and find whatever you’d like. There are millions of different models to choose from, in every category you can imagine. People upload thousands of new models to these sites every day.
The best part about this is that you can customize these parts anyway you would like! Do you want some extra durability? Use a nylon filament for that extra strength. Do you want a glow in the dark zipper? Just pop in your glow in the dark filament and hit print!
Most of the time, these objects can come out way cooler than what you started with. A friend of mine lost the logo on his truck, so he printed a Punisher logo to put on it instead.
Depending on your layer height, this could take only a matter of minutes to print something small. After it’s finished your life can resume as normal.
The possibilities of the replacement parts you can print are literally endless. You can even print functional parts with threads or moving parts to do whatever you need to do.
The things you can create are only limited by what your imagination comes up with. With 3D printing, there’s no more waiting for a month for that $2.00 part to arrive from China!
You can print gifts
Creating gifts for friends and family can be an absolute lifesaver. I can’t even begin to state the countless times I have realized it’s my brother’s birthday next week and I’ve not been sure what to get him.
Sure, I could go out and buy a POP Figure from his favorite game, but I can do better than that. Instead I can print him a life-sized Portal turret for his shelf. Some things are way more appreciated if you create them for someone.
Forgot it’s your anniversary? No problem. Just print some jewelry with some good ole’ plastic filament! (Just kidding, that would be the trashiest anniversary gift ever.)
Do you know what’s another extremely good gift to give someone? Lithophanes! In case you’ve never heard of a lithophane, it is an image than can only be seen when light shines through an object. You can create these using a variety of free online tools, and print them in a matter of a couple hours. These are great gifts, and they are especially useful for stocking stuffers during the holidays.
You can’t put a price on a custom-made gift, and that is why a 3D printed gift can be so special. Just make sure 3D printed items aren’t the only thing you give as gifts, or people will begin to think you’re too cheap to buy them things.
You can print useful (and useless) tools
Printing helpful tools is another practically endless practice to get into. All you have to do is browse forums or watch YouTube videos for limitless ideas on amazing new tools to create.
Some people print headphone stands and phone cases. Others print highly intricate things such as prosthetic hands and airsoft guns. You could even venture into the totally useless but highly amusing prints such as air raid sirens.
There’s so much fun that can be had by printing these items. Vases are among some of the coolest way makers can show off their printer’s capabilities to the average person. The fact that they can double as a storage device makes it even better.
A couple friends and I printed an FPV drone body using 100% infill PLA and it turned out remarkably sturdy. We have yet to get it to fly with our completely lacking wiring skills but that’s beside the point.
Using flexible filaments, you can print vibration dampeners for your printer. RC car enthusiasts can print wheels with these filaments. Using a stronger filament, they could print an entire RC car from scratch (minus the electronics of course).
And speaking of printer upgrades, there are a ton of those to make too! I’ve made filament holders and leveling gears which have made printing items much easier. Upgrading your printer by printing more objects for it is oddly very satisfying.
A friend of mine is constantly coming to me for new tools. The Raspberry Pi cases we made for him have turned out to be extremely useful, as well as the drill battery holder for his RC car build.
Once you realize the full potential of 3D printing tools, you’ll find yourself turning to Thingiverse before ever even thinking about heading out to Home Depot.
It gives you something to talk about
Soon after showing off your many awesome prints to people, you’ll come to be known as the “3D printing guy.” People will ask you all the time to explain how it works or to give them demonstrations of your printer.
Even though desktop 3D printers aren’t extremely new, people are absolutely fascinated by them. They are amazed in the complex detail you can achieve with lower layer heights, and they are fascinated even just by the printer laying down plastic layer by layer. I’ve had people staring at the extruder printing for half an hour watching it squirt plastic onto a heated bed.
You’ll feel a sense of pride when people admire the many awesome things you’ve made. Inevitably, they’ll ask you to make something for them (which ties into my point about making extra money).
My former high school principle found out about all the cool things I was doing with 3D printing, and he asked my friend and I to come in and teach a class on 3D printing. We got to talk about the basics and even demonstrate how to work a printer. We ended the session by giving out dozens of our old calibration cubes to the students, and they seemed to really enjoy it.
Not many people understand 3D printing, which is a good reason to get into it. Such a simple concept never ceases to amaze anyone that learns about it, and it is always a good conversational topic.
Not only will you be able to talk to friends about that, but you’ll be a part of the 3D printing community. This community produces mind-blowing stuff daily and will give you endless ideas on things to print.
It makes you extra money
I realized the potential for extra money when a friend told me they would pay $70 for a small lithophane. Seventy dollars! For an item that would cost me $3 to make!
After that I began going around showing people what I had printed, and slowly began to rack in orders. These sales include a life-sized Boba Fett gun for $75, a bunch of $15 prints here and there, a $150 batman bust to name just a few.
Once the buyers began showing off their new prints, everyone wanted to buy. The money from my little side hobby has more than paid for the cost of the printer, and it continues to allow me to buy new types of filaments to experiment with.
People are even amazed that I don’t charge more than I do for some of these prints. I was planning on telling someone it would be $70 for a certain print, when he told me he would easily pay $120 for it. I made almost double what I wanted to make, and I wasn’t even trying.
Most of the costs come from the printing time and wear on your machine. The actual plastic cost is usually only a few dollars.
You can turn this into a fully-fledged business if you want to. 3D printing is the future of manufacturing, so you might as well get a head start.
There you have it, 5 awesome ways you can use 3D printing to improve your life. Obviously, it’s not all fun and games (I won’t even get into the countless hours I’ve spent late at night trying to figure out one simple issue), but it is an extremely rewarding hobby to get into.
If you’re thinking about taking the leap and buying your first printer, I say “JUST DO IT!” Once you see its true potential, you’ll never regret getting into this amazing community.