One of the most innovative gadgets in tech to hit the market, a 3D printer is making it easier for you to manufacture your ideas. Everything from a new invention to a case for your phone, 3D printers are now more available, more affordable and much more user friendly, with some for sale for less than $1,000. For some others, a 3D printer serves as a source of income, particularly if you are an engineer of any sort. Printing at home can save you tons of money in having to outsource the materials and labor for any parts or products.
3D printing can still be complex even after you have done weeks of research and product testing. Even on its greatest day, the most expensive and highest rated 3D printer can and will make some failed stuff but it should not make you feel discouraged. There are a handful of factors and not-so-great variables with printing at home that not only will you have to serve and act as both the manufacturer and mechanic for any of your printing needs. You have to ensure your printer is always calibrated and up to date with any updates, and you also need to ensure all other maintenance issues (like cleaning, replacements, etc.) are handled and easy to keep up with. Depending on how rigorously you use your printer, you shouldn’t have too much to do to keep your printer running smoothly and issue-free.
What Can You Do with a 3D Printer?
3D printers aren’t cloning machines and (for now, at least) you can create small-scale items made from filament. With a lot of printers, a single color of plastic can be used at a time versus multiple colors which isn’t exactly a deal-breaker but merely shows the capacity of what an at home machine can do. So why would you need a 3D printer? Besides the drop in prices, it is inexpensive to print since good filament, the material used by the printer, costs about half of what a traditional ink printer cartridge costs. Sure, the thought of buying one may seem a bit intimidating at first, but below are several reasons why investing in one will save you longterm money, time and peace of mind.
1. Save Money on Materials
3D printing and design has boomed in recent years since more people are switching over to “do-it-yourself” methods when manufacturing products for profit. You can save up to $2,000 a year if you opt to print materials versus buying them, and the same also applies if you decide to use a printer for everyday household items or parts for replacement in other items as well. Not only does it save you money but time as well: you also end up cutting out any shipping or delivery costs associated with buying.
Making replacement parts for your household items can add to the longevity of it. For example, if you have a broken drawer knob or missing tupperware lid, rather than price out and wait for a replacement, you can make and replace in the matter of a few hours. Because it does not ask of any additional tools or maintenance, it requires almost no effort. As easy as you can print text on a sheet of paper is about as easy as it is to print a part. Using your 3D printer at will doesn’t need any extra tools or requirements, which anyone can appreciate. Making your products can also shave off time and money from any associated expenditures.
2. Save Money on Labor
The beauty of your new 3D printer is that it can make almost any object you can think of. Printing your own materials for your products reduces your fuel, shipping, and delivery costs down, and you are able to design from start to finish. Any customized parts you may need will require you to employ a modeling software for templates and specifications. Especially if you have never used a 3D printer, learning any design software will come in handy as it takes some practice to get to the point of designing from scratch. You can also put your printer to work for you by printing products for online shoppers. The more time you spend on perfecting your skills and designs, the easier it may be to pick this up as means for making supplemental income.
Please be mindful, however, that though 3D printers are currently affordable, the better quality items you want, the higher the performance you’ll want to get out of your printer. This often means that you’ll have to shell out more money to upgrade as “cheaper” printers don’t always produce the results you want. Also, take into consideration the effort and time that goes into designing, printing and post-processing (if that is a required process), which are factors that can help you determine if this is an appropriate route for you.
3. Parts Replacement and Maintenance
It’s never fun when something breaks down, and it’s even less fun when you have to go on the hunt for a replacement part. Finding replacement parts can be a headache and often results in unwanted expenses, only to temporarily fix the problem. A lot of times companies force you to spend lots of money and time searching for a specific (and intentionally hard to find) replacement part, often causing you to throw away your item before ever finding the part. If you know the basics of 3D printing and designing you can find a template for any parts you need on a online community or through your own network of printers. Lots of celebrities use 3D printers to replace parts for exclusive, and often expensive, items (including cars), which is becoming a more popular option than hiring an expert/specialist.
Tons of at-home printers and model makers are always on the search for more streamlined solutions to common situations, and there are plenty of uses for each and every item you print. Whether you use your printer to fix your jewelry or blender, for example, or you even working on a new invention prototype that is still in the drafting phase, 3D printing allows you to remain on the curve of technology, innovation and sustainability. Having a sense of creativity will shoot you to new heights and it is super important to take the opportunity to experiment and produce at your discretion.
4. Print Personalized Stuff
Printing your own stuff at home also comes with the perks of personalizing each one to fit your personality uniquely. You can print a cellphone case that has your face or logo on it, or even a pair of shoes that are made to only fit your feet. Personalization is even going so far as the medical field where doctors are now using 3D printers to make custom fit prosthetic limbs for patients. The great part about it all is that these services are all accessible and affordable, and all for the sake of making life around you more convenient.
One of the more thrilling aspects about 3D printing is that you can literally think outside the box and deviate from the limitations of a pre-existing design. You can take a box design, for example, and manipulate it to look and function as whatever else you want. Utilizing your 3D printer expands your mind’s horizons as far as defining what personalization means for your design because, realistically, you can imagine and make whatever you want. Depending on the specifications of your printer and the capabilities it possess, you have the tool to make and model as much as you want.
5. 3D Printing Can Promote Engineering in Your Home
With the invention of the 3D printer comes more opportunities to use it as a teaching tool for your kids, if you’re a teacher, counselor or parent. A 3D printer allows your children to explore the unknown and articulate their ideas into visual design. Even if you’re not a parent or teacher, if you know someone with tech-curious kids or just someone with science-curious kids, a printer is great to help them get their models made without having to be an expert craftsman or designer. A 3D printer can add layers of knowledge and dimension to learning, which can make technology and science appealing.
You can also illustrate hard-to-explain concepts or print enrichment tools for them to play with during downtime. Fostering a sense of exploration in your child can help him or her develop a sense of discipline and confidence. A good challenge for kids pre-teen and older is when they are left to dream and design their own projects. It allows them to really swim the depths of their imaginations, as well as instill a sense of pride seeing their idea come to life.
6. 3D Printing Can Also Promote Bonding Time
3D printing can also make way for bonding time with your family. Make masks for their upcoming play, model any accessories for dress up time, or make other additions for family photos or scrapbooks. The important part is there will always be a project for every member of your family. The time spent creating from start to finish is when and where family time truly kicks in and personalities can dictate the types of roles your kids play in the process. During a time where we tend to spend more time talking to a screen than another face, introducing a new and innovative piece of technology can be a wonderful new activity for you all to include in family nights for years to come.
Printing can turn into a hobby, as opposed to being another source of income. If you guys are beginners to printing learning how to use the printer with the help of your family can strengthen your collective team building skills. Learning to use the software and troubleshooting together can also teach you guys how to work together while staying in your own respective roles. You will be more equipped to handle any issues, like a clogged or jammed nozzle, without argument or fear that you do not have your team for support.
7. Save On Home Goods, Decorations and Gifts
Whether you need new picture frames for your den or a new birdcage for your porch, the myriad of possibilities for making home goods for your precious abode are endless. You can personalize each of the designs to capture your personality perfectly, and inexpensively. Redecorating your home doesn’t have to be tedious or expensive as you can quickly model and print at the touch of a button. You can also make any birthday, holiday or other celebratory decorations at with the ease of printing a document, saving you any time spent shopping or ordering online.
Creating a personalized gift for someone is also another great satisfaction of having a printer. Not only is it super easy, it was made by your own two hands (and some other cool doo-dads too!). Making a cute toy for a child or a monogrammed luggage tag for your friend or loved one will make them feel special knowing that their gift was made for them with them in mind.
Learning Your 3D Printer
3D printing has created a major avenue for at-home and first-time inventors. The money and energy it costs to get a prototype made can cost you more money than you may have to spend. Take the time to research how to do the bare bones of 3D modeling and experimenting with different techniques, materials and design templates. The more time spent tinkering, the more uses you may unlock for your printer. Please remember, however, that experimenting may be fun but it is also a complicated piece of machinery. Some simple dos and don’ts:
Don’t forget to do your homework since researching your printer and all its how-tos will keep you informed and ready to troubleshoot any problems that may pop up. With all the printers out there, how can you be sure you know everything there is to know about that particular one?
Do make friends in the community of 3D printing since it is a hobby that connects people from all walks of life and one way to connect is through an online community. Forums for 3D printing and modeling are brimming with wealth of information, and making friends with like-minded makers can prove to be motivational and helpful.
Don’t go for the big projects just yet. Sure, you want your design to be big and life-changing, but please stay within the realms of your capacities. Starting out small and simple helps you learn your machine even better and how it behaves, so you can ultimately print that huge cat statute you’ve been dying to make.
Do read the manufacturer’s handbook. That cannot be stressed enough! 3D printers are usually little to no assembly required, but there may be some temperaments of the printer you’ll need to learn. So please read everything and check the online for more resources if you are hitting a wall.
Lastly, do not forego safety precautions as a lot of 3D printers contain parts and materials that are required to be handled with care. Similarly, some materials can be toxic if you are not using in an approved manner or area so please always take the time to practice and ensure that you are able to safely operate one.
Purchasing a 3D printer and learning how to make it work for you and keep you ahead of the technology curve will inspire and maybe even empower you a part of this historic innovation. While many professional designers use expensive printers to make prototypes, an at home printer can make an adequate enough model to serve the same purpose (if even temporarily). 3D printing calls on you to have a certain desire for learning, but do not feel intimidated if you don’t understand it all right away. as you’re learning, you’ll learn how to develop outside-the-box ideas that can serve as an aid or a solution to a problem. Using your printed and original designs can enhance your appreciation for learning what is proving to be a strong force in the tech world.
Nonetheless, top notch 3D printers are going to be pricey and aren’t just play things. Companies that need to perform prototyping with quick turnarounds and a 3D printer can print it as soon as you think it. In the event that you cannot see any bad reason to not have a 3D printer, buy one. A 3D printer in your home lets you explore the layers of an idea from inception to completion, complete with high-end materials and performance. Use a printer to print toys, trinkets, storage accessories or repair parts, just to name some things. As if those reasons weren’t enough, a 3D printer uses large plastic fibers which is like buying a regular ink cartridge for your paper document printer, so you may have plenty of opportunities to recycle materials.
In case a 3D printer is not for you, there are some stores and online sites you can visit to get a feel. Shapeways is a site that lets you select an up-to-date model and the company uses its own 3D printer to print your design, then mailing to you for shipping price. If by chance all you need is a print job that is less demanding, you can go to a specialized printing store that is equipped with one and pay to use it. As more and more people get turned on to 3D printing and home printers, the more resources you may see for getting educated on its uses.
Of course, with every “top” reason you have to consider the not so “top” ones as well. A lot of printers are proving to be a little too complicated for users, causing frustration. So few 3D printers are set up as a plug and play, or ready for use straight out the box. The setup process is constantly developing, thus sometimes proving to be a bit of a headache to learn and want use continuously. In the event that you are very in tune with printing, you can begin to shop around for different printers for your specific needs. However, the point is not to scare you out of considering a printer.
A huge debate against the true benefits of owning your own 3D printer is that most people, who do not have the time or energy or money to spend on one, would be better off utilizing a 3D printing service for any complicated or big jobs. The money spent on getting it right by having it done by a professional outweighs the money you save in owning your own printer. Because there is a huge market for 3D printing and designing, there are more printing services and shops popping up to fulfill those who don’t own one. But, as you may already know, as the technology progresses and the capacities of desktop 3D printers improve (and the cost goes down), this equation could change. For now, though, most people would probably be better off taking advantage of a 3D printing provider.
Is Owning a 3D Printer Really Worth the Time, Effort and Money?
To be quite frank, in a perfect world everyone would own a 3D printer and we would be able to use them to design and make our own sustainable products. Owning your own 3D printer at home is becoming a vital tool in making the everyday things even easier and more convenient. 3D printers, as mentioned before, are not very cheap to buy, and they may take some unexpected time to print. Even though they may take some time to acclimate, purchasing a 3D printer is still considered a wise investment. The one constant element about any new science or technological trend is that an online community will almost always come out of it. Check some websites online for meet ups or forums of people who may make a certain product, have a favorite printer model or company, or those who may be new to 3D printing altogether to exchange ideas.
3D printing is an amazing and forward-thinking notch on the technological belt, so it is no surprise to see how it has impacted those who consider to have their fingers on the pulse. 3D printing, in reality, is not what some may think it to be –like a magical, fantasy thing. Even though many brands boast their models as being “one-touch” printers, if you have ever learned and used a 3D printer for the first time then you are aware of the rookie mistakes you will make. 3D printing isn’t going to be as ubiquitous as a traditional paper ink printer but it will provide an essential tool for navigating the prospective influence it will have on the masses. Simply put, owning a 3D printer is a considerable amount of work, but the rewards you reap for play are definitely worth it. Not only have you made a personal investment, but you have invested in a product of the future.