Cool things to print with a new 3D printer
January 28, 2016 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Santa brought me a 3D printer! Now I need some suggestions for cool things to print with it!

I've taken a look through the thingiverse. I've already printed this hiker's whistle, and a bunch of cookie cutters. Where else should I be looking? What cool things have you printed?

I'm interested in models of cool mechanisms, like car transmissions or clock escapements, to improve my mechanical intuition. I'm also interested in useful household and workshop widgets.
posted by monotreme to Technology (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't already know sketchup or freecad (or Inventor Fusion, or.. whatever you want, really) this is a great time to learn! Start designing and printing simple things. I see rapid prototyping as being all about solving problems, so the question I'd ask is "what problem do I need to solve?"

I make a lot of little jigs for work that would be difficult or time-consuming to build using subtractive processes. But then I work in a place where I need to make a lot of little jigs or one-off parts. Your use-case may be entirely different!
posted by Alterscape at 8:15 PM on January 28, 2016

Half a Menger Sponge
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:18 PM on January 28, 2016

Some of our favorite display items are:
A gear set where the last wheel is so geared that you would have to turn the handle for like 180 years to move it.
A ball-bearing ... thing.. Two rings with balls trapped in the track between them. Best about this is you print the whole thing as one piece.

Otherwise, not mechanical, but stretchy bracelets, cookie cutters and chain mail are all favorites at our place.
posted by Iteki at 9:10 PM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooh! Digital Sundial! It's the first thing I'm planning on printing when I get a 3D printer. You can see it in action.
posted by joedan at 9:29 PM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Household objects I've printed, to give you a few ideas:
- new handle for the screen door
- a custom switchplate for a wall switch
- a sink plug for the bathroom sink
- a strainer for the bathroom sink
- a little angular widget that holds my closet bifold door open at a particular angle and doesn't allow it to be moved
- a thing that rides on top of a door and prevents it from being fully shut
- a small hook thing that tucks up inside a gap in my cabinetry and lets me hang an oven mitt
- a set of poky-not-piercing spikes to keep a visiting pet off my worktable
- a rattle for a baby
- a custom shim that holds two wardrobes exactly parallel but which also hides in the back where you can't see it
- a special nailing template
- a jig that held two pieces of wood at a particular angle so that I could drill through them both and maintain the correct angle for the threaded rod that was going to run between the two pieces.

If you're printing with ABS, note that acetone dissolves ABS. This works in your favor in several ways, but one key thing is that if you brush a print job with a thin layer of acetone it'll smooth out the printed surface and seal it. You might need to apply acetone a couple times, but in the end you'll have a printed surface that's reasonably impermeable to things that might want to grow inside the tiny cracks between printed layers. In two years nothing has grown on my sink strainer, whereas there was always something trying to grow on the rubber gasket of the old strainer.

Once you start thinking about it, you'll probably find an array of random household uses for the printer. I'm serious -- they can be surprisingly useful for mundane household tasks!
posted by aramaic at 6:37 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Various mason jar lids.
posted by plinth at 4:37 PM on January 29, 2016

Thanks everyone, that's some really cool stuff. Now I just need to decide what to print first:-)
posted by monotreme at 7:28 PM on January 29, 2016

This is more along the lines of fun than useful or mechanical, but wow is it ever fun: penny trap. And of course, you may find the other 364 projects to be helpful in inspiring your own.
posted by librarylis at 6:59 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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