3D-printing projects abound
Whether you're still dreaming of buying a 3D printer or you've already purchased one, chances are, you're looking for ideas of what to print in 3D. A new iPhone case? A robot?
You can find plenty of 3D designs online, especially at Thingiverse, MakerBot's free online hub for sharing files that work with any 3D printer (not just MakerBot's). You can download and print the default designs, or customize the designs in 3D modeling software. Here are 10 project categories that will inspire you to put that 3D printer to good use:
Custom 3D-printed accessories
You might want to get started by printing some new accessories for your favorite gadgets. Thingiverse features dozens of designs to help you "geekify" your smartphone, tablet or digital camera.
You could keep things simple with a customizable case for your iPhone, or have a bit more fun and print an entire docking station for your smartphone, including ones with acoustic designs that amplify sound.
Once your gadgets are thoroughly accessorized, you can venture into more complex territory. These 3D-printed inline skates — featured on the popular do-it-yourself site Instructables can be customized to your exact specifications.
The simplified skates have been tested by their creator and appear to work just as well as their store-bought counterparts.
3D printing orthotics
If you decide to 3D print your own skates, then you may want to keep this next project idea on hand. Combining the design for a plaster cast with that of a wrist splint, a mathematician at Make magazine was able to create the first-ever 3D printable "splast" (a splint and a cast rolled into one).
Michael Yates, who had injured his wrist in a cycling accident, used a Microsoft Kinect scanner and Geomagic 3D design software to scan his injured appendage and customize his 3D model. He then printed his own removable wrist "splast," which is designed to be flexible and breathable.
Want to combine your love of old-fashioned photography with your newfound 3D-printing obsession? Now you can. The Open Reflex is a 3D-printed camera that can be used with any camera lens.
This analog film camera design is open-source, so if you're a real photography buff, you can add your own improvements to this project. For example, some commentators have noted that they'd like to make the Open Reflex compatible with larger films by increasing the size of the camera.
Thingiverse also has a multitude of printable projects for digital photographers, including mounts for GoPro wearable action cams and tripod mounts for your iPhone.
Are you a music buff and a 3D-printing enthusiast? Why not combine your two passions by printing your own headphones? The 13:30 headphones from Teague Labs have been getting a lot of attention on Thingiverse as an easy-to-build alternative to more expensive headphone models.
The required electric components for this project will set you back only about $15. And the project's creator has included a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to assemble the headphones with their electric parts once all the casings have been printed.
Is it time to replace that citrus juicer? Maybe you need new shower-curtain hooks. Now that you have a 3D printer, you can save yourself a few extra dollars by printing some of those household items yourself.
Thingiverse offers many projects that will add a little (plastic) charm to your abode, such as a 3D-printed wine-glass rack or a customizable sheath for your kitchen knives. You can also print your own pasta strainer, ice-cube trays, toothbrush holder and doorknobs.
These projects are especially great for beginners, as they require very little tweaking of the original .STL files found on Thingiverse in order to function properly.
Looking to protect your home on a budget? Thingiverse features a number of projects for the security-conscious consumer. One such project is a robot designed to conduct household surveillance.
The futuristic security robot, dubbed "A Little Bird Told Me" by its creator, can be controlled remotely and is designed to live-stream footage straight from your home to your mobile device.
If you have an old webcam lying around, then you might also consider printing a camera case, which turns your outdated equipment into a discreet surveillance system.
This small, stealthy casing for Veo webcams can be used with free software from TeboCam to monitor activity outside your home or business, notifying you via email whenever someone approaches your door.
Go retro with a 3D-printed arcade stick for Commodore and Atari gaming systems, and relive the glory days of "Pong," "Asteroids" and "Missile Command" from the comfort of your modern office chair.
Or, for more modern gamers, Thingiverse also features an enclosure for the OUYA game console, an Android-based gaming system. While the OUYA comes with its own enclosure, the company, through its open-source policy, also lets gamers print out their own customized version of the console.
Houses (for the birds)
Spread the 3D-printing love to your feathered friends. Thingiverse recently hosted a "Birdhouse Challenge," and some of the entries are worth duplicating.
The American Craftsmen bungalow birdhouse, which won first prize in the competition, is a birdie mansion with two entrances, a chimney for ventilation and sloped drains so the birds in residence won't be washed out of their new home.
For the modern bird, there's also the "Birdhaus" a futuristic avian abode, which received an honorable mention. And for history-nerd birdies, there's the second-prize winner, the Birdhouse Rook, a bird castle designed by medieval enthusiasts.
If you've always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument, now is the time. You can print everything you need to furnish your own one-man band. You might want to start with a wind instrument, like a 3D-printed flute or trumpet.
Then, you can move on to the strings by printing a violin, which happens to have been designed by a high school freshman. Or, you can get really funky and print your very own banjolele (that's right: a banjo and a ukulele rolled into one).
If you're not all that musical, you can keep things really simple with a 3D-printed harmonica.
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