Practical & Not So Practical ideas for a 3D Printer

Antoine Bechara
Antoine Bechara
June 9, 2020

Also called desktop fabrication, 3D printing is a fabrication process where material is laid down by layers to ultimately form an object that’s three-dimensional. Although 3D printers can use a variety of materials and employ various techniques, they all have the same function of turning three-dimensional digital file data into physical objects.

So, what sort of objects can you make using a 3D printer?

Like many fans of 3D printing often say, “If You Can Draw It, You Can Make It”. Many designers use 3D printers to create prototypes of products, but they’re also being used increasingly to manufacture final products. Check out the good, the bad, and the downright ugly objects you can 3D print below.

The Good…

Door Opener

This is a handy tool that will help you avoid touching things during the Coronavirus like doorknobs, elevator buttons, pull handles, light switches, and other commonly used objects during this crisis. As a bonus, the hook on these rigid door openers also be used for carrying shopping bags to and from the car.

Salt & Pepper Shakers

Another favourite for many are matching pairs of salt and pepper shakers. Not only are they really useful, but again, you can make them uniquely for your kitchen, and you can have a few different ones depending on various things. Like one set for BBQs, ones for lunches, ones for dinners, ones for special occasions, or even have colour coded sets to suit your meals. Just remember that if you’re using ABS plastic, make sure it’s not BPA-free.

Phone Case

One of the most popular, easy, and useful ideas to make using a 3D printer are mobile phone cases. The designs are really easy to personalise, so they’re perfect if you love changing cases all the time, or you’re looking for a unique gift for tech-loving family or friends.

Sliding Bag Clip

Some people use pegs, some use rubber bands, others use butterfly clips, but when you don’t want to eat all your chips, cereal, or biscuits, or frozen vegetables, you need something to keep them fresh. Enter the 3D printed sliding bag clip. This simple clip slides so easily onto a wide range of bags, that it might end up being one of your most used tools in the kitchen.

Wall Outlet Shelf

There’s nothing worse than a smashed phone screen. So instead of leaving your phone plugged in on a table or lounge chair where it can be easily knocked off, try printing out one of these Wall Outlet Shelves. They look great and are really functional, ensuring your mobile phone can be charged while staying safely out of the way.

Water Bottle – Source

There’s a wide variety of designs out there for 3D printed drink bottles that are really easy to personalise and make an excellent gift for any fitness-fanatic friends. You can have one 3D printed water bottle for work, one for home, and one for the car. Just make sure that you are using materials that are suggested for contact with food.

Desktop Organizer

If you have lots of office supplies sitting on your desk, or laying around your office or study, these 3D printed desktop organizers can be used to ensure everything is where it should be. With multiple sections for pens, clips, and more, this is easy to make and would be an excellent addition to anyone’s working environment.

Survival Whistle

These whistles are one thing that you can manufacture with a 3D printer that could save your life. Survival whistles are handy, durable, and are capable of producing a very loud noise that could help if you’re lost or you ever need to attract attention in other times of emergency. 

Spare House Key

It’s always both frustrating and irritating whenever you lock your keys inside your house or apartment. The good news is that you can print a 3D plastic copy of many different keys, which you can keep with you as a spare, so you never get locked out again. Just remember to keep them inside something you always have with you, like your purse, your wallet, or inside your car. In fact, you can even 3D print a plastic key hider too!

Cable Organiser

Cables, cables, cables. Over the last few decades, our lives have become more and more surrounded by cables, especially USB cables for every new computer accessory or electronic gadget we get. Thankfully, this handy cable organiser comes in four different designs, all of which provide a fast and easy solution to your messy cable problems.

Electric Guitar

Most musical instruments like guitars are produced using wood or metal, but it’s also possible to manufacture your very own electric guitar with 3D printing. In fact, you can even create acoustic guitars too. You can have your own style of guitar with crazy and unique designs or even build your own copy of a guitar played by your favourite guitarists. 3D printing is not only cheaper, but it’s also easy to modify it so it’s suited perfectly for you and your style.

The Bad & The Ugly

While 3D printing is certainly a ground-breaking technology that has amazing potential to change the world around us, some have used the technology to create impractical, unnecessary, or just plain silly. Below are some examples:

The Boob/Poop Machine

The internet is filled with completely pointless and silly things, so it should come as no surprise to see some of this pointlessness has found its way into the 3D printing community. The only thing this 3D printed boob/poop machine can do is display the word “boob” or “poop” when the crank is turned.

Dog Poop Holder

While we’re on the subject of poop, this 3D printed dog waste holder has a threaded cap that opens a hole that can carry a bag filled with doggie doo-doo, and a chain that connects the capsules two together. While this invention actually has a purpose and has apparently been tested with a large German Shepherd, because it looks like some weird poop-filled nunchucks, you just know that’s exactly what some kids will use them for.

Firearms Parts

There are quite a few passionate gun fanatics all over the internet. So, it should be no surprise to learn that there are some in the 3D printing community who are attempting to use this advanced technology to manufacture completely functional components for a variety of different firearms. While most are only printing small pieces, some of them are still actually viewed as a firearm under some country’s laws. So this is certainly another one of the sillier ideas out there.

Foetus Paperweight

Everyone knows that every parent thinks that their baby is the most adorable in the world. Some Japanese companies have taken this idea and utilised 3D printing technology to create a growing business. They’ve decided to use 3D images taken from the MRI or CT scans of pregnant women in order to print a scale replica of their unborn babies. These 3D plastic foetuses are then encased inside plastic transparent cubes or cylinders which can then be used as a bookend or paperweight or have miniature versions hung from phone dongles or keychains. While some view these plastic cherubs no different than photos or video taken of ultrasound procedures, there are definitely much better ways to use this technology.

Brass Knuckles

While obviously not made from brass, this hard-plastic version of the classic weapon used in gang fights can still cause some damage when worn on a fist that comes in fast contact with someone’s face. Some kids in California found this out the hard way after 3D printing a set of them a few years ago, which results as expected. People manufacturing unnecessary weapons like these should definitely be filed under not so practical ideas for a 3D printer.  

In The End…

Whether you’re looking to buy a 3D printer, or you already own one, there are so many cool ideas out there already that you can make. In fact, you can use 3D printing technology to turn almost anything you can think of into reality. Just remember that sometimes you just have to take a moment and wonder if you should.

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