Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"So what do you use a 3D printer for?"

Through all my rants and bantering to people in my life about 3D printing, no matter what, they always ask me..."So what do you use a 3D printer for?".

When I was first getting into the hobby, the question was followed shortly by a long pause. Now with a year of 3D printing under my belt, I tend to leave them in amazement with my 3D printing adventures.

So as most of you don't know, I am a recent college graduate (University of Maryland). So during my graduation party, beer and food was aplenty, but what was missing was something to open the said beer with. So most normal people would go out and buy one or use a more drastic measure of opening beer bottles (smashing caps off, using their teeth comes to mind). Me? I had recently built and assembled a 3D printer (MakerBot CupCake #1727), so what I did was run down to my computer, load up a bottle opener from thingiverse. Loaded it up and my MakerBot started to print away, some minutes later, ripped it off the platform, inserted a penny and beer bottles were poppin'. Party SAVED! Thanks to 3D printing.
Party Savior! Still alive and poppin' bottles.
After accumulating a small army of 3D printers in my basement, it really has changed the way I see and consume things. My daily interactions with objects has me thinking, "I could def make that!". My usual instincts would have been "I wonder how much something like that would cost?" It offers a new perspective in which objects/things you would normally buy are only a download or design away. It is really amazing stuff.

So for me, my current uses of 3D printing varies. As you can see from the store section, I use it to print more 3D printers so more people can get 3D printing. I also use it to fix things around the house, make items I would normally have to travel to IKEA or a hardware store to buy like handles, hooks/hangers, bottle openers and the list goes on and on. This is bleeding edge stuff, and with everyday that passes, the potential for such technology really amazes me. Frostruder from MakerBot Industries gives hint to a day where we can print food (Star Trek Replimat anyone?), RepRap with their experimentation in multi-material extrusions shows us a not so distant future where we can print our own circuitboards and others attaching different tools to their own 3D printers (lasers, spindles, etc.).
My failed attempt at designing a replacement gear for a paper shredder.
RepRap sets prepping for shipment
 Imagine this stuff in middle schools or high schools for instance (most colleges/universities seem to already have access). What a great tool for showing kids applications of what they are learning and have them walk away with tangible results! Looking towards the future, the question sometime soon will be "What can't you use a 3D printer?"

So, on a parting note, let me ask you, "What do you use a 3D printer for?"

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