One survey of the 3-D printing landscape will quickly show you that it’s brimming with novelty items and useless junk. But don’t let that overwhelm you! We sorted through the clutter to create this list of 10 projects that are both awesome and practical.
Don’t have a 3-D printer yet? Chicago’s got you covered…
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Camera And Lens
You can 3-D print a fully-functional SLR camera in 15 hours and for only $30 in parts. Assembly, with instructions, takes just one hour. The camera is capable of taking quality pictures and is compatible with any photographic lens. If it’s too tantalizing to have a near-complete 3-D printed camera, you can actually print a lens, too. The picture quality isn’t great, but then again it can give you some really cool effects. Just think how hip you’d be.
With that new 3-D printed camera and lens, you’ll be able to take some stunning portraits. But 3-D printing lets you up the ante: you can print accurate busts and figurines of yourself, your family, and your friends. Imagine turning your friends into little army men!
If you’re into bike customization, 3-D printing is a goldmine. Here are some highlights: a mount to make a plastic bottle fender, a bike carrying handle (because carrying bikes is awkward), or personalized valve caps. And the imagination needn’t stop there. (I’m looking at you, Portland and Brooklyn.)
They aren’t exactly professional quality, but the fact that we can 3-D print instruments at all is astounding. So far, we’ve seen flutes, violins, and guitars. In addition, the MIT researchers who printed the flute have bigger dreams: designing and 3-D printing previously unfathomable instruments, like a multi-pipe trumpet.
Another plethoric realm of 3-D printing is gadget accessorization. There are countless examples, but here are a number of beauties: clever iPad stands, multi-purpose iPhone cases, an iPhone wall mount for charging, and gear wraps for your malicious, ever-tangling cords.
Do you like hosting birds around your house? Do you like them to be comfortable? Really comfortable? It’s a novelty, but you’ve gotta admit: This birdhouse is awesome–we’re talking MTV BirdCribs status. It’s meant for little birds, like chickadees, finches, etc., and they’ll forever sing songs of your generosity if you print one for them.
No one actually enjoys the sound quality of their phone’s built in speaker. Sure, it can come in handy for sharing videos with friends, but as an actual attempt to listen to music it tends to only come out in dire situations, like overnight camping or power outages. But you can change that with amplification, as these 3-D printed upgrades do. There’s a classy megaphone or this more directed amplifier, and the accompanying video demostrates the difference that it makes.
Paper airplanes are passé: Print out some gliders and go to the biggest field you can find, and give ’em a whirl. One reviewer praises them, saying he/she was “blown away. Incredible distance, dramatic loops, and all kinds of fun.” If you’re looking for something with a little more firepower, you can print out the body for a crazy remote-controlled sailplane. Or freakin’ quadcopters–whoa.
SITUATION: You’re scrambling to host a huge party and really need an efficient way to dispense shots. Okay, no. But I’m sure your friends would be impressed if you whipped one of these out and quickly filled 10 shot glasses, then exclaimed, “Here’s to 3-D printing!”
Vacuum Forming Machine
You can 3-D print necessary parts for a vacuum former. And a 14-year-old designed it. This product would allow you to create molds of practically anything, then fill them with chocolate (or urethane, but that’s less exciting). Just imagine the power.