3D printing was supposed to revolutionized consumerism with the ability to make a lot of products you want, right in your home. Even though it hasn’t fully happened, it’s still incredibly useful. It can feel a bit like magic with the ability to create something from nothing. The way 3D printers actually work; a printing machine take a spoil of material (most likely plastic) and heats it up and spits it out quickly. The plastic is layered on top of itself, building something three-dimensional.
Here are some different ways to explore 3D printing and its benefits.
Home 3D printer
The first and most obvious option for getting into 3D printing is to buy a consumer-level printer. You can find 3D printers for a few hundred dollars, but for better quality the price will be closer to $1,500.
The Wirecutter recommends Monoprice’s Maker Select 3D Printer v2 on the low end, which comes in at $299. On the more expensive side, Tiertime UP mini 2 comes in around $600.
These printers can be a fun way to make toys for kids or create random parts at any time.
3D print yourself
For the person that has everything, there’s always the option to have a real person turned into an action figure. Over the years there have been quite a few studios pop-up which will shoot a 360-degree photo and turn it into 3D figure.
There are even options to take a regular photo and turn it into a 3D figure. Most of the options below will cost you a pretty penny, but it’s also likely to be one of the most unique gifts you give someone. Try Doob 3D and Holo Deck Heads, but be warned, they are cheap.
The 3Doodler is more of a toy than a practical 3D printing option. It works like a hot glue gun and melts plastic as you create a 2D or 3D object. While it comes with a few patterns to trace, actually creating something useful may be a bit of a trick. It is fun to feel like you’re drawing and have that drawing come to life as a multi-dimensional object.
Don’t do it yourself
If you like the idea of 3D printing, but are not ready to invest in the hardware yet, you can still benefit. Shapeways and Thingiverse provide designs that you can buy or download. If you’d like to try your hand at printing yourself, you can download a design from Thingiverse and take it to your local library. Or, if you just need a specialty part, you can buy it from Shapeways and get it printed for you. Either way, people are creating some unique and fascinating objects.