What are things to make with a 3d printer?
I keep coming up with things to make with a 3d printer and thought it was time to chart some of my trials and successes with my printer.
I have now had a 3d printer for a little over a year. What have I got? I have a prusa i3 clone from china. It is a FFF ( fused filament fabrication) printer, where it extrudes a thin plastic filament which is stuck together.
Is it any good?
Well it took a long time to get it built and setup to where I can trust it to print unattended. I still have to watch the first layer to see that it is adhering to the build platform. If not I curse silently and stop the print, clean off all of the filament then clean the build platform or go through a slight readjustment of the build platform. The cause of this movement is still a work in progress but I suspect a lack of lubrication in the bearings at the start and due to its construction a bit of movement in the frame. I have found that the rods to the front of the model I have are very susceptible to bending, this throws the build platform clearance out. I need to investigate automatic levelling of the build platform at print time, I am reluctant to reprogram my printer just in case it goes wrong and I am left without.
I have the odd breakdown but as i put the thing together i can easily trace where the part which has gone wrong is, normally, there are a few exceptions but I can get it going again reasonably quickly.
So what things have I made with a 3d printer?
Well the first things I printed were test pieces from thingiverse. Some went well the others are in the recycle bin. This bin is getting bigger by the day!!
We had a broken cover in the fridge, the hinge part of the top storage area had broken years ago and we put up with it, as most people do. I started to learn cad, sketchup, and decided that this was the most pressing part that needed replacement.
After drawing up a few ideas I selected one and drew it up in cad. Using the addon for sketchup to convert the file to stl I went ahead and printed it. It was then I found out what the tolerance for 3d printing was. It is normally 0.5mm, I made it too tight, so readjusting for this tolerance we now have a hinge that sort of works. It holds the door up on that part of the fridge so at present I am happy with it.
Does it do what I really want? No not at the moment so I will revisit it when other things have been developed. This is the beauty of 3d cad and 3d printing, you have control and can change things to suit what you want.
So from there I started to print off some plant pots for my other passion – hydroponics. I found a novel system on thingiverse which you can hang on the wall. I was not sure whether the pots would be waterproof so I had to print a couple out to be sure of it. Even though you can see a little light through the layers on parts of the pots at the top when they were filled with water none of it leaked out. I still need to fill them with coco coir and see when this is wet whether it leaks. I will find out later this year when I plant them up.
I found a business card holder, with an inner spring to assist the passing of the cards. This is when I found out the benefits of a brim. The box of the card holder was printed upright – so you had a very tall slim object being shaken about by the printer. It got so far and then detached itself form the build platform!! scrap box getting bigger. So I cleaned the build platform and tried again to have it happen again. This time I added a brim, once this was printed I taped it down to make sure it stayed in place. I used kapton tape to secure it to the build platform and carried this out while the printer was still going. Not pressing too hard to upset the Z axis calibration. This time it was successful.
So I now have a printed business card holder. Must get some business card printed !!!!
We have a salt grinder which disintegrated on the bottom. Salt is very corrosive, but I didn’t expect the plastic to be affected like that! Poor design work by the manufacturer.
The cad system I used for this was cubify invent – absolutely brilliant. Only cost about £20, ok there are free cad programs which can do this, but after watching a few of the training videos put out by cubify.fans and getting the concept of the software then I was off and running. The file format for this software was unique, that sounded alarm bells.
Cubify had another piece of software, a step up from invent called design. This allowed parts to be put together to see the fit. Along with toleranced design.
I was just about to buy when the pages on their site disappeared. I was three years too late!! I sent them messages saying I was very sad that this had disappeared and their sales staff agreed. I don’t know whether they still supply this with their printers, I hope they do, it is excellent software. Specifically designed for 3d printing. At present there is nothing else like it out there, Freecad appears to operate on a simliar method but is not a patch on invent. Damn!! should have started this years ago.
I was just about to start a design series based on Cubify invent and how to get the results you want!!
The next thing to be designed was a cooker knob, I haven’t done a
tutorial on this yet as I did it in invent but I will change it into freecad and produce a tutorial to show the design technique i use.
Other things include
80mm high lettering for a little boys room door, along with a 3d train.
The parents were finding it difficult to find what they wanted on the internet and in the shops, so I offered my services. After finding the font they liked a set of letters were printed off in the colours of their choice.
They also wanted a train picture to go with these and passed across a picture of what they were after. Using cad I transformed this 2d picture into a 3d train ready to stick onto his door.
The other day in the car of my partner, a clip holding the sun visor broke. Leaving the end swinging loose. This is another project for the 3d printer.
A bit of cad work and then a couple of iterations of modifications should see it sorted.
Looking through the various rooms of the house I can get a feeling of what could be printed
Here are some things to make with a 3d printer:
Games: have you any games with lost pieces? Why not customise them with your favorite animal or even yourself. Get a scan of your head and place it on the chess piece you like.
Kitchen : as stated above cooker knobs. Measuring tools, cups, with these you will need to watch the type of plastic you print with. There is an FDA approved plastic available, it appears to be the same as other plastic except it is produced in a cleaner environment.
Bathroom : hangers for the backs of the doors. Soap dishes, custom hangers for the shower.
Airing cupboard : hanging clips for the shelves. Cable tidies.
Bedroom: child’s name on door, logos in 3d, toys, puzzles, light fitting covers.
Car: fittings which break, covers with custom logos, bonnet logos
Garden: pots for flowers, tools, clamps, robo mower, hydroponic units. You need to watch the material used outside as standard pla will break down with excessive moisture. It is made of corn starch after all, it is better to use ABS or ASA. what about custom plant labels.
Clock faces, jewellery, stand for your smartphone, clips for bags, business card holder, custom caes for your phone. Mobility aids.
The list is almost endless.
You need to do a little research on the best material to suit the job, and there will be some places where it is not able to replace the part. The main one being when the part gets hot, but even will be overcome in the future.
So what are you going to your 3d printer? Or do you need more justification and proof that it will be useful not just printing doodads? You need to look onto sites like thingiverse and see
marvels like lithophanes, pictures made with plastic when you shine light through.
The popularity of these sites is showing that the impact of 3d printing on our lives is growing. We need to be mindful of the environmental impact of the scrap from these devices and realise that this can be recycled into more filament.
There are thousands of things to make with a 3d printer, I know I keep coming up with new things to print. What are you going to make with yours? If you have any ideas of things to make with a 3d printer, leave a comment of what you have created in the box below.
Thanks for reading