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Practical 3D Printing: 10 Things to Make With a 3D Printer

Practical 3D Printing List

Practical 3D Printing: 10 Things to Make

Our friends at Internet of things blog Hack Things put together a list of 10 practical things to make with a 3D printer. Here’s the practical 3D printing list.

After digging through ThingiverseShapeways and Ponoko, there are plenty of practical, every-day creations to justify the purchase of a 3D printer.

Here are ten practical things to make.

iphone case1) iPhone cases
At the Apple store even a bumper is going to cost you $30. With a 3D printer, you could print a new case design every week. And there are a lot of beautiful designs out there.

handle replacement2) Replacement parts
If you like to fix things, a 3D printer is magic. When a small plastic part breaks, you no longer have to throw the whole product away. This guy’s dishwasher had a broken handle, so he printed a new one.

macro lens3) Smartphone accessories
3D printers have come up with innumerable little ways to get more out of your smartphone, various stands, cord wrappers, sound amplifiers and camera attachments like this cheap and effective macro lens.

camera mount

4) Camera gear
Photographers are willing to spend serious money for the right gear, and manufacturers set prices accordingly. From tripod mounts to lens cap holders, camera buffs can 3D print inexpensive accessories made to fit their kit.

mudguard5) Bicycle accessories
Cyclists are already used to tinkering to get their bike perfectly in tune. A 3D printer opens up whole new opportunities. Create clips to attach to the frame, a carrying handle, or even a whole pedal.

anemometer6) Science
From a tray for washing microscope slides to custom lens mounts, you can 3D print whatever tools you need to do science. Good for the grad student on a budget, or for family science projects. You can even print this anemometer.


7) Wallets and purses
It turns out you can make a great wallet or an interesting purse out of plastic. Like the iPhone case, this really changes the way you think about these kinds of accessories. If you are making them yourself you can experiment with designs you might not buy in the store.

clock8) Clocks
A cheap quartz clock movement and a little 3D printing, and you have a beautiful clock. Pick from many styles.

toothbrush holder

9) Containers
Look around your house and you’ll probably find a lot of small plastic containers. You can print those, and tailor them to their purpose, like this toothbrush holder.

legos10) Legos
If you are a Lego fan (and if you are reading this, you probably are), imagine printing any shape you want and just plugging it directly into the Lego universe. I guess you could even print a Lego-compatible Yoda head.

Hack Things concludes:

Obviously if you want to mass produce something there are more efficient tools than a desktop 3D printer. The same could be said about printing with ink. If you want to publish a bestselling paperback, you don’t do that at home. But no one doubts the value of an inkjet printer.

All the hype aside, for small plastic parts, when you factor in shipping and customization, a home 3D printer actually makes sense today.

Top 3D Printing Headlines Last Week: Dinosaurs, Action Figures, Organs, Olympics

3D Scanning Fossils

A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from July 2 to July 8.

Monday, July 2

Tuesday, July 3

Wednesday, July 4

Thursday, July 5

Friday, July 6

How Leading Scientists Across Fields are Embracing 3D Printing

Nature 3D Printing Science

Nature, the international weekly journal of science, published a feature on how 3D printing is opening up new worlds to research. In a detailed article, Nature covers uses of 3D printing by leading scientists ranging from investigating complex molecules, designing custom lab tools, printing and sharing rare artifacts, and manufacturing cardiac tissue that beats like a heart.

We recommend you read the full feature. Below are some of the highlights:


At palaeontology and anthropology conferences, more and more people are carrying printouts of their favourite fossils or bones. “Anyone who thinks of themselves as an anthropologist needs the right computer graphics and a 3D printer. Otherwise it’s like being a geneticist without a sequencer,” says Zollikofer.

Read more coverage on paleontology.

Molecular biology

These days, 3D printing is being used to mock up far more complex systems, says Arthur Olson, who founded the molecular graphics lab at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, 30 years ago. These include molecular environments made up of thousands of interacting proteins, which would be onerous-to-impossible to make any other way. With 3D printers, Olson says, “anybody can make a custom model”. But not everybody does: many researchers lack easy access to a printer, aren’t aware of the option or can’t afford the printouts (which can cost $100 or more).

Organ reproduction

For example, Organovo, a company based in San Diego, California, has developed a printer to build 3D tissue structures that could be used to test pharmaceuticals. The most advanced model it has created so far is for fibrosis: an excess of hard fibrous tissue and scarring that arises from interactions between an organ’s internal cells and its outer layer. The company’s next step will be to test drugs on this system. “It might be the case that 3D printing isn’t the only way to do this, but it’s a good way,” says Keith Murphy, a chemical engineer and chief executive of Organovo.

Read more coverage on organ printing.

 Custom lab tools

In the meantime, basic plastic 3D printers are starting to allow researchers to knock out customized tools. Leroy Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow, UK, grabbed headlines this year with his invention of ‘reactionware’ — printed plastic vessels for small-scale chemistry (M. D. Symes et al. Nature Chem. 4,349–354; 2012). Cronin replaced the ‘inks’ in a $2,000 commercially available printer with silicone-based shower sealant, a catalyst and reactants, so that entire reaction set-ups could be printed out. The point, he says, is to make customizable chemistry widely accessible. His paper showed how reactionware might be harnessed to produce new chemicals or to make tiny amounts of specific pharmaceuticals on demand. For now, other chemists see the idea as a clever gimmick, and are waiting to see what applications will follow.

Read more coverage on custom lab equipment.

Via Nature.

3D Scanning and Printing Dinosaurs, Open-Sourcing Scientific Data

3D Printing Dinosaurs

In the past, scaling and reproducing fossils was cost prohibitive and was in the domain of artists. Now 3D printers and 3D scanners are affordable, which means that paleontologists can now recreate dinosaurs.

3D Scan and Print Dinosaurs

In the video below, Professor Kenneth Lacovara says ”the best thing you could do in science is to falsify your hypothesis.” 3D digital technology allows scientists to “open-source” their empirical data, including original discoveries like fossils. Now, instead of asking colleagues to fly across the globe to help validate new findings, a scientist can just send a digital file and the finding can be 3D printed at the other end.

3D Scanning Fossils

Scanning fossils has further application with the use of the 3D printer, of course. Holding the 1/10 scale leg bone of a dinosaur in the palm of his hand, Lacovara explained that uses in the classroom present attractive prospects, where examination of real specimens is hardly practical. The scans can also fill in the blanks of broken or incomplete bones by replicating data from a similar part. Of course, printing all of the specimens is still fairly expensive, so for now, they’re only printing fossils from which they hope to learn some new piece of information. The process is simple: Dr. Lacovara, and his students set a bone on a table, or, if size is less of a factor, on a small rotating pedestal. The scanner used in his lab is a $3,000 NextEngine scanner, which uses simple proprietary software to scan around 1 million points on a three-dimensional object in a few minutes. It is plugged into a Windows computer. The scanning produces an STL file, commonly used in CAD. The STL file is sent to another computer, and this time, it’s the one that is attached to the Dimension Elite 3D Printer which is housed in the Engineering Department, where the actual “printing” of the bone takes place. The complete process can take just a few hours. The printer uses fused deposit modeling, a 3D imaging and printing process developed in the 1980s and commercialized in the 1990s. It takes the STL file and essentially slices it into layers, automatically generating a disposable, breakaway support structure if needed. The printing material, a polymer plastic, is laid down in those corresponding layers, eventually completing the finished object. The result is a highly faithful and exact scale model of the object as originally scanned at a given scale. While the process is still somewhat expensive, it leads to the possibility — previously unthinkable — of endless duplication, and endless faithful reproductions.

Read the full article at The Verge.

Top 3D Printing Headlines from Last Week: $1.4 Billion Merger, The Economist, GWiz Fab Lab, 3D Design Software

A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from April 16 to April 22.

Monday, April 16

Tuesday, April 17

Wednesday, April 18

Thursday, April 19

Friday, April 20