So, you want to kill some time at home, testing out your brand new 3D printer, but are not sure where to start? Today you are in luck. As we have mentioned countless times before, the 3D printing revolution is here, impacting everything from the medical world to the food industry. In fact, during the current COVID-19 crisis, people around the world have seen the practical power and usefulness of additive manufacturing.
Nevertheless, today we are going to explore what you can do from your desktop at home, as the range of things you can print from home is truly endless. However, perhaps you want to start printing today but are not sure what printer to start with, due to a large number of choices on the market. Let's tackle this problem first.
What 3D printer should I be printing with at home?
It depends on your goals. Are you a small business that wants to print prototypes or novelty items for clients? Or, are you simply an enthusiast? For those in the latter category, there are a lot of great options out there, at almost every price point. However, to understand what printer is best for you, we need to first consider the definition of 3D printing.
To the uninitiated, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process of printing three dimensional solid objects using a digital file. The file provides the instructions for printing the 3D object layer-by-layer. The number of layers is important, as "higher-resolution prints" can produce products that appear almost as if they were injection molded.
Printers marketed at higher price points usually, but not always, print objects at higher resolutions. However, the way the object is printed is also essential, which leads us to our next point, the type of 3D printing process used. Today, there are multiple types of printers available, some far more expensive than others. Today we are going to focus on the most popular, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and SLA printing.
You see FDM printing everywhere; it is the most widely used additive manufacturing technology available and belongs to the material extrusion family. In FDM, an object is built by selectively depositing melted material in a predetermined path, layer-by-layer. The materials used are thermoplastic polymers and usually come in a filament form. These printers can be as cheap as $200. However, if you want better quality prints, we recommend investing in a higher-end model such as the Prusa 3D or Ultimaker 3Dprinter.
SLA printers, in contrast, use lasers to print impressively fine layers at a higher resolution than most desktop FDM printers), resulting in a smoother finish. If you are going to go this route, we recommend checking out the MIT founded Formlabs 3D printers, as they are known for their intuitive, user-friendly operation.
Once you have picked a 3D printer, it's time to look at what you can print with it.
1. Mods for your Nerf Gun
If you are stuck at home at the moment, why not make the most of it and have a Nerf Gun war with a few of your family members. Nerf Guns are already cheap and can be found at almost any toy store. However, there are many great ways to create a more "competitive" atmosphere, using a 3D printer. If you are looking to modify your guns, you can; there are plenty of ready-to-go attachments that will improve your aim, help you carry more bullets, and even turn your weapon into the ultimate steampunk device. You can even print a grappling hook. However, if you want to go full DIY, you can print your own foam dart blaster gun that is capable of launching darts up to 15 meters. Check out the files for the project here.
Quadcopters are a community favorite for 3D-printing at home. Quadcopter projects are a lot of fun, as they are easy to do yet can also involve a lot of experimentation. Many people 3D print quadcopters to use for racing, AI projects, Nerf Gun battles, and photography.
The key to making a great quadcopter is to end with something that is both lightweight and crash-resistant. It is good to note that these projects can be a bit more expensive than the other projects on the list, because of the external gear and gadgets you will need to add to your printed copter.
3. Make vinyl records
Did you know that you can convert audio files into 3D-printable records and play them on any record player? It is a lot of fun, too. Printed records do not give the most balanced sound, but they make a great educational project. If you enjoy making your own music, why not experiment with printing your own records on vinyl?
4. Create your own robotic assistant
Have you ever wanted to have a robotic arm of your own, sitting on your desk, handing you papers? Now is your chance. This robotic arm project was actually put together by professional engineers. It moves smoothly and is easy to program. This more advanced project does take a while to finish, and will require stepper motors and an Arduino. However, once complete, you will feel as content as Dexter in his laboratory.
5. 3D print your own COVID-19 mask
During the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most important things that you can do to protect others is to wear a mask. However, using the right mask is crucial. The good news is that, rather than buy a mask, you can print your own mask for yourself and for the other people in your household, and your community. One of our favorite 3D-printed masks is the Copper 3D mask.
This protective gear can be used as many times as you want, is comfortable, and is well-designed, to keep you protected. For information about the project, be sure to stop here. If you're going to print your own visor, Solid Cad Works has a great file that is comfortable and easy to print.
6. Create crucial components for ventilators
As mentioned in previous articles, medical supplies are running low across the world. Life-saving devices like ventilators have components that need to be replaced frequently, and these are in short supply. 3D-printing pros and enthusiasts have come together to design and print components, or entire ventilators, using the power of additive manufacturing.
7. "I turned myself into a pickle Morty, I'm Pickle Riiiiick!"
One of the most iconic scenes in the beloved Rick and Morty show can now be 3D-printed at home. You will not be turning yourself into a pickle, but you will be able to create your own Pickle Rick. The project is easy to do, and is a fun gag to have around the house. If you want to take your pickle to the next level, try printing the complete Pickle Rick, complete with rat suit.
The DIY project is featured on RCLifeOn's channel and can be completed with just about any printer. This YouTube channel also has a lot of other great projects and experiments that you can do from home.
8. Create a custom case for your phone or tablet
Most of us have felt that moment when we drop out device and our heart skips a beat, thinking it is gone for good. Protect your device by 3D printing a custom case. There are many different 3D-printed cases out there, but this one is our favorites as it allows you to customize the overall design of the case. Check out the project here.
9. 3D printing can be used to create medical models
If you are looking to teach anatomy to children (or yourself) currently stuck at home, why not 3D print your own model. High-resolution prints will help you make these projects much more realistic and enjoyable. You can print anything from hearts to kidneys, to even parts of a brain. Those who are truly dedicated can even print an entire skeleton.
10. Mechanical Iron Man SD Card Holder
We miss Tony Stark, who gave his life (and sequels) to save our planet and universe. To honor his memory, why not create an Iron Man SD Card Holder? Misplacing an SD card can be devastating, especially if you are a photographer. With these Marvel-friendly storage devices, you can keep your world intact, just like Tony Stark did for ours. You can find the project here.
11. Create your own shoes
Though we are still far away from creating Nikes on our desktops, there are a lot of great 3D-printing projects out there to help you design and create your own shoes. Commercial 3D-printing technology is already being used to print shoe soles at companies like Adidas and New Balance.
There are some basic projects that allow you to create slippers and sneakers, made entirely of filament. However, if you want to get genuinely creative, print your own sneaker sole, then work with a local shoemaker to create the rest of the shoe from natural materials.
12. Tool for days
On the more practical side, there are a lot of useful things that you can create with a 3D printer. These tools can be reliable alternatives for small, everyday tasks, depending on the filament and the way you print the item. You can print self-locking clamps to seal and secure products. You can create measuring cubes, wrenches, mini-hammers, and even storage lockers for your tools. The list is almost endless.
13. More from the adventures of Rick and Morty
If you cannot get enough of Rick and Morty, there are a host of projects that you can easily print from home, many of which also make great gifts. Why not create Rick's iconic portal gun? This functional project lights up on activation.
Just be careful when traveling to different dimensions. Episode staples like the Butter Robot, VindiBeacon, and the Council of Ricks badge can all be created with your printer. Wubba Lubba dub-dub!
14. The perfect cable holder
Desktops can get real messy, real fast. Food crumbs, scattered miscellaneous objects, and knots of cables can spread everywhere. Though there are some great organizers out there for those eager to clean up their desks, we have something perfect for organizing your cables. This 3D-printed cable holder is perfect for keeping your work or entertainment area uncluttered and productive.
15. Become one with the force and print your own lightsaber
If you are a force-sensitive individual, this project is perfect for you. For a young Jedi or budding Sith Lord, properly constructing a lightsaber is a crucial part of your training. Though you might be skipping a few steps, you could just 3D-print your own custom lightsaber from the safety of your home.
There are files available for printing many of the legendary lightsabers, including Obi-Wan's saber from the original trilogy; a collapsing lightsaber; a lightsaber complete with kyber crystals; or the lightsaber belonging to Kylo Ren. The possibilities are endless. Print some for your siblings or friends and re-enact famous Star War scenes in your own living room.
16. Create your own RC cars
If you are millennial, remote control cars may have held a special place in your heart. For a bit of a nostalgia trip, why not create your own? These mini, open-source Formula 1-styled vehicles are durable, reliable, and safe around the house and are a perfect way to kill time. Even more so, there is a growing community surrounding this project, offering mods, insights, and tutorials for those who want to customize their vehicles.
17. Planter for your desk
Traditionally. household plants are excellent ways to not only elevate your mood, but they can also be a healthy addition to your home or office. If you want something different, try 3D printing your own mini-garden. Create a desktop-friendly version of a planter with this project. The modular garden can also be customized if you want to create your own mini-ecosystem and the geometric stacking planters are perfect for succulents.
18. A Life-Size Infinity Gauntlet
One of the most powerful tools in all of the universe can be 3D-printed at home. The legendary Infinity Gauntlet is said to be extremely dangerous when in the wrong hands, so tread lightly. While you are at it, you can snap everything back to normal, please - 2020 is getting weird. To print your life-sized Infinity Gauntlet, go here.
19. Photographic Sweep Stand
Maybe you picked up photography while stuck at home. If you want to make your photos look a little more professional, try out this easy-to-create photographic sweep stand. The printed stand allows you to add a custom paper background when photographing smaller objects. Whether for Instagram, Facebook, or your own enjoyment, the stands will help you create better backdrops. Check out the project here.
Do you have a favorite 3D-printed project?