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Things I would make if I had a 3D printer ...

This is a bucket list. Feel free to contribute. To participate, items should be:

* affordable by weight and size and time (PLA or nylon feedstock isn't free—you're looking at up to £100/kg in bulk—and can take an hour per inch of depth to extrude)

* require only a consumer-grade 3D printer such as an UP! Mini-printer (anything costing over £2000 is disqualified—I'm after plausible hobbyist uses here—I assume you already have a computer to run design software on: high end sintered-metal printers are right out)

* shouldn't be a duplicate of a readily-available commercial product

* shouldn't already have a download available on Thingiverse (such as my head)

1. An iPhone 6+ case in the form of an Apple Newton Messagepad 100 (which is about the same screen diagonal and came out almost exactly 20 years earlier). For added lulz, it should have a stylus holder expanded internally to hold a Pencil bluetooth stylus.

2. I have a Z-scale model railway train and some track. Prefabbed scenery sections are rare and expensive (a few specialists in Germany stock them), but it ought to be possible to take an HO or OO gauge layout, scale it down, and 3D print the terrain—thus permitting a model railroad track with mountain tunnels and level crossings that fits inside a desk drawer, thus rendering it semi cat-proof. (And indeed, the model railroad folks are already all over thingiverse.)

3. Keyboard caltrops for kittens. (See reason for #2 above.)

Any other suggestions?



Isn't 2 what Alan Cox does at ?

And as many have already said regarding 1 yes I would buy a newton case as soon as they were released and instantly move back to the iphone 6 plus from the very good but cheapstake oneplus I currently use..


Buy a 4D printer instead, and print yourself a TARDIS.


Nope, that's N gauge (1:148, roughly). Z gauge is 1:220 scale, i.e. even tinier. And I have a Marklin Z gauge Schienenzeppelin. (No, seriously, watch the video. If impatient, jump to 60 seconds in, just to watch what happens when they fire up the engine.)


My teeth and jaw. My dental work is not particularly extensive, thank god, but on the rare occasions where I do need work done, I would love for a dentist to be able to point out what's going on using a replica of my own mouth. The standardized models don't show what's wrong with my teeth, and the 2D X-rays and computer displays just aren't intuitive to me.


I'm a bit wary of the model railway suggestion. Is the printing method precise enough? I don't know. But I have seen a 1/35 scale model of the French H-35 tank.

Bit of history here: Games Workshop used hot-metal casting in rubber moulds for their expensive and detailed gaming figures. The process of making the mould would destroy the hand-crafted master-figure. So most of their models had a limited production run. At least, so it was said at the time. They got so big that I wonder if that was practical.

Using a virtual original, 3D-printed to make a master-figure, might be one way around that. Though I don't think the market for the figures, tin-based pewter rather than lead now, is big enough to justify the effort.

Arguably, it falls down on the rule about duplicating readily available products.

But if you could scan somebody's face and combine it with an existing base figure, you could maybe sell a personalised commander-figure to wargamers. Think Napoleon with your face. The usual wargame figures are a bit too small, but a miniature bust, a couple of inches high, might gave you the size/cost balance that works. And that size might also be usable as a personal player-token for games such as Monopoly, though I think it is right at the top end of usability.


I like the custom token/miniature idea. But for real, I have a few ideas. All the plastic parts on a sail boat that break. Especially battens. Models of realistic future space craft - radiator panels and all. Custom fencing weapon grips. Custom juggling props. This assumes I can get the weight right.


I'm a bit wary of the model railway suggestion. Is the printing method precise enough?

It's precise enough for the base -- the landscape you run the track over. (Nothing like good enough for the track or rolling stock itself.)


You're expecting too much durability/structural strength: think in terms of nylon, slightly brittle, possibly needing light sanding to get rid of the "grain" left by the print process. At least on consumer-grade printers at present.


Oh hell. In the last thread, I nearly asked if there is anything I could make you with the 3D printer that my brother sent last week for Hanukkah. Apparently his business had a good year. But I thought that would be too much of a brag. I haven't done anything with it yet; it's set up and waiting, but I'm still trying to learn the softwares, and they want my old desktop to have a new graphics card, though they--mostly--seem to run okay. My brother has one in his studio (along with CNC, and laser cutting machines), he said they mostly use it for making replacement parts and tools.


Landscape could be done, would have to be tiled though (build area of the consumer grade printers you suggest is in region of 150-200mm square). Layer height for those consumer grade machines can be in region of 0.1mm, which given a maximum gradient of 2% for Z gauge your looking at a maxm height change of 4mm over 200mm, or one layer every 5mm, which will give your landscape somewhat of a contoured appearance before painting.

I do really like that idea.

Personally I look after a RP/3DP facility for a university research group, and we have only one printer which meets your specification (the cheapest of the other three is about £40K), I suspect I've forgotten the best bits due to over exposure to the technology, but things I've found useful to print for myself, under the auspices of training include..

trolley coins (though these days I lasercut them from 3mm acrylic)

custom electronics control grips

custom phone holder/charger for the car in place of a seperate satnav

lens holders to attach prescription lenses to 'scope optics so I can use them without my glasses (the adjustment is generally a couple of dioptres less than I need for my uncorrected vision)

Chisel sharpening guide


I had a play with some 3D printed bits a friend ran off a while ago. They were much tougher than I expected but quite flexible.

I was thinking of using a printer to make a holder for some of the bits I hang off my camera and mount for night time shooting, but so far the convenience and awesome power of the rubber band has stopped it from being more than a vague sketch.


Well, crap. So much for that bright idea.


Here's printing teeth for you: E-Appliance: EnvisionTEC Announces Release of New 3D Printing Material for Orthodontics Wouldn't suggest doing your own, since most filaments aren't food-safe. Reprap has a new one that is supposed to be.


And while I'm at it; if you have questions about the amount of detail some printers can get, this is pretty impressive: Doctor Who’ Fan 3D Prints & Finishes Unbelievable Peter Capaldi Bust on Form 1+ 3D Printer The printer for that, though, is well out of the price range.


Not quite; anything you can print in nylon you can cast in metal using the print as a positive and the lost-wax method.

Chisel sharpening guide

Oh my stars and whiskers, why didn't I think of that! Thanks a million.


No idea whether current technology can actually do this ....

Finger prints -- the transferable latex gloves for those high-tecchy security gates, bio.

Facial reconstruction masks/implants for burn/accident patients ... or crooks, actors, etc.

'Slip-cover' of priceless china from grandparents that was smashed to smithereens years ago and is still in a shoebox ... somewhere. (I'll find it the next time I move.)

Mold of baby's/child's face that can then be used to create a real reverse mold for a bronze bust of same.


I would probably make various props and costume pieces for cosplay/Halloween.

And I might teach myself 3d modelling to design and print various space craft or fantasy figures just for fun.


Shoes that FIT. (I have what is technically known as Funny Feet, and no access or enough money for custom work.)


Simple- wax models for lost wax casting of replica medieval and Tudor stuff.

Otherwise, I keep thinking that 3D printing is a solution in search of a problem. Most things can be made cheaper and more easily by the million in a widget factory in Vietnam or the Phillipines.


The problem is size: max volume in most consumer printers is 20cm x 20cm x 20cm. And a cost of around £100/kg.


Shoes that FIT.

Won't work. Consumer-grade printers are nowhere near good enough; some designers work with 3D printers for prototyping at places like Adidas, but you're talking £100,000 machines for that job.


Most things can be made cheaper and more easily by the million in a widget factory

That's 90/10 thinking. Actually, few things can be made more cheaply because only huge production volume justifies tooling up a widget factory to make them.

The trouble is, the set of things that can be made in small quantities to acceptable quality on today's consumer-grade printers is still small, and critically dependent on the quality of those printers (and their materials) improving.

Put it another way: if you want a suit of perfectly made-to-measure titanium/bronze 16th century plate armour, it can be made for you using a 3D printer. Trouble is, the printers that work in aircraft-grade titanium cost from half a million on up, the material output cost is on the order of £10/gram (peanut gallery: multiply by 10-15kg for your suit of armour), the measurement and design is still going to take a skilled armourer's input, and so on.

And then there's stuff like this to give us some idea of the potential of the new technology.


Seems like you're getting a lot of comments where you'll have to reply by saying "nope, 3d printing can't do that right now". I wonder if you've seen this:

Turns out a hobbyist-grade CNC mill is not that much more expensive than a 3d printer (and orders of magnitude cheaper for equivalent quality). It can't make arbitrary geometry, but it produces higher quality parts. See section 1.2.


Small, ball like Thingies with lots of notches and a rough surface so you can easily use the thingies + a rubber band to attach twigs and sticks in any angle to each other, as a sort of construction toy for kids qho havn#ät learned their knots yet (though I'm sure the thingy can built cheaper a number of other ways).

maybe one could print a smal logical circuit, running on compressed air, all enclosed in a block of PE? Or several blocks that snap together lego like. At a CCC conference a few years back a guy gave a lecture about compressed air logical circuits, I think all or most components worked without moving parts. I'm not sure, however, if the inner surfaces would be smooth enough. Can be built with of the shelf components, the printed version might be smaller and more compact.

connectors, so I can fold cardboard strips and stick them together (with said connectors) and build a marble run.

Connectors between playmobil and Lego-Duplo

... most of it only interesting because I have kids.


Connectors between playmobil and Lego-Duplo

Good idea, but don't underestimate how fine the mold tolerances are in Lego.


I'm thinking about the battens in the sails - fiber glass 'ribs' used to give the sail the desired shape. I went through them by bunch when I sailed Lasers. And then there are all the plastic bits like bilge caps/covers.


This may run afoul slightly of the rules but if you can get access to a scanner to rescan your head do it whilst wearing 5 different hats: two crowns, a vicars hat, a riding helmet and a brick (or whatever you have available). You've then got all you need to print your own pieces for a Charles Stross chess set.


Actually not mine:

But they don't do playmobil (not that there's much to connect) which is a pity because my kids realy like their playmobil.

On direction worth thinking into (even outside toys) is this - what can I do when I use 90% ceap, off the shelves parts, and bridge the gaps where nothing is on the shelf with 3d printed stuff? I myself have no ideas right now.


1) Don't know what to do about the grain yet, but tiny mirrors for homemade LED lights would be cute. All the other bits are easy circuits available on the web, but if you want top-quality lights, the missing bit is the nicely shaped mirror (and how do we apply the shiny?). Example use of lights might be on bicycles or in wall sconces -- and the printed part might not be the externally visible so that quality doesn't matter so much, you just need something internal to shape the beam sensibly. How to apply the shiny bits, that is a problem...

2) Custom cases for homemade-electronics. Packaging is a PITA, would be lovely to just order a LxWxH box with access holes "here" and mounting bracket "there".


Taking into account the season?

3D 'Angel' christmas tree topper, utilising a scan of the individual in a grotesque pose of pain - ready to be 'impaled' on the tree.

Bah Humbug!


Are you angered by the irrationality equal temperament? Do you rail against the tyranny of A440? Ionian and Aeolian modes no longer enough for you? Are standard instrument sizes awkward in your hands?

Print your own musical instrument.

Instruments need to be printed in segments, and wind instruments need a good seal between segments. With ABS plastic this is easily achieved by bonding with acetone. A more traditional join with a thread seal may also be possible, but requires a more accurate print.


new playmobils parts : bellys -no big belly, what a shame !-, hairdressings : mohawks, quiffs, ... In fact I actually am doing some of them forr my kids and nephews : pink mohawks are sooo cool!

And next year I'm planning on doing masks that fit my glasses. I only had my 3D Printer some months ago and I have a very long todo list including replicas of old electrical switchs.


There are actually strange exceptions to the usual Euro copyright laws protecting Lego and other brick systems - I'm not sure how they would apply for rolling your own, but Simon Bradshaw can probably tell you.

See his paper on the legalities of 3D printing here for some ideas on what is and isn't illegal:


There are a great many tiny, stupid, difficult-to-replace plastic parts in all sorts of stuff I take apart. The first one that springs to mind is the little plastic fasteners inside car door panels and other interior parts. These nearly always break when I remove the panels, and they aren't a part stocked by most parts stores. Even if they were, why make a trip if I can print out the piece more cheaply (or if I need a lot, print out a mold-blank and build a mold)?

Anonemouse and guthrie mentioned lost-wax casting; I wonder, are there any low-cost 3D printers that can use wax as a feedstock?


The plastic parts for my broken car key that costs way too much to replace.


Things I might make for myself...

Bodies for model dragons (print the wings on acetate sheet or something, since there will be large flat areas that are stupidly expensive to make by 3D printing)

Structural elements for micro model aircraft (again, use thin sheet such as acetate for wings etc. to keep costs down)

Propellers with an anticlockwise pitch for model steampunk aircraft (model ships only sell them with a clockwise pitch, and flying battleships would have both to prevent rotation problems).

Stanley Weinbaum's Martians and other miniatures that aren't available commercially.


I forgot to mention: this thread reminded me to do some research for a friend of mine who is involved with Seattle's SODO Makerspace ( and wishes to operate their MakerBot with Free / Open-source software. In theory, one can build 3D models for parts in Blender (, save them as STL files, and then use slic3r ( or ReplicatorG ( to turn the STL into the CNC code that the MakerBot (or several other printer types) uses. Blender and slic3r are in the Debian archive, so I know that they satisfy DFSG (which makes them Free enough for me, ymmv); claims that ReplicatorG is GPLv2.


I assume readers are aware of online services such as Shapeways ( iMaterialise ( - both offering manufacture of parts to customers including a wide range of the technologies, both consumer grade and much higher end. If nothing else, they are a fairly cheap way to try stuff out before getting your own machine, offering both the option to upload your own CAD files and get parts, or to purchase designs already placed there by creators.

(By the way I work in the field, R&D for a UK based service bureau, running both plastic and metal powder bed fusion machines - but none of our machines are less than a few £100k so not for home use apart from through companies like the above).


Custom epee grips. Once I had the size and shape exactly where I wanted them, send the necessary files off to a service bureau to be fabricated in metal.

I know there are such service bureaus where I live (outside Denver, USA). Anyone know what the cost for a one-off on a high-end metal metal printer is relative to making a mold for a single casting?


Chernobyl Reindeer.

As a running joke, we've been planting amazingly ugly plastic reindeer on each others' lawns for some years. You don't want to be away at christmas, for fear the chernobyl will show up.

They got the name because their antlers were badly attached, and without them they look startlingly bald, as if they'd just had a massive radiation treatment.

One year they were asleep in the upstairs bedroom, snuggled under the blankets with their heads on the pillows and their antlers hung on the bedstead above them.

Alas, people steal them (possibly to throw into the trash bin?) and we're down to one. We need more!

Perhaps a whole herd of tiny ones...



Decorations. They're pretty much the only thing I've thought of that makes any sense. There are some minor things that you can do -- dishes, coasters, coathangers -- but that's a bit expensive.


There are ones that work in cake frosting, so there's almost certainly a wax one - but lost-wax is the name of the technique; wax isn't necessarily the material used. Here's someone casting aluminium into PLA plastic prints.


All those could happen with the current state of the art, but not with hobbyist machines


I have made lego connectors in an EnvisionTec machine, the tolerance of the machine is 20x smaller than lego molds (42um vs 2um) but they do work.

While the EnvisionTec is a professional machine the form1 offers similar tolerances within your budget.


No one put out the custom cat wands yet?

Actually, cat toys would be a nice area for innovation.

For example, figure out a way to make the equivalent of a bristle-bot mousie, with a well-protected vibrator motor that's easy to mount and easy to change the batteries on. Ideally, you want the material to be tough enough to be bite-proof, a bit fuzzy, perhaps, but not so hard as to be a tooth breaker.

Cat-proof Christmas tree ornaments are another no-brainer.

I'm also waiting for my d9. Just make a dreidel shape with an arbitrary number of sides. I'd suggest d3, d5, d7, d9, d11, and d13, just for lulz. Actually, playing with Hanukkah Dreidels that are d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 might be fun too, especially if you invoke the double damage rule on the d20.


Seconded. I used to have (well, have access to) a mini-CNC mill with a rotary stage (so it could double as a lathe when needed). I've also used 3D printing for prototypes. In my experience, the milling machine was a better way to go most of the time. The increase in material choices and precision almost always more than makes up for the loss in shape versatility.

You could get a fairly versatile hobbyist system on your budget.

If you want to go the lost-wax casting route, there are some fusible alloys that melt around 65 degrees C; I could see you handling something like that more easily than molten lead or pewter. Alternately, you could fill the mold with optical epoxy or something similar. Amazon sells both.


My mouth contains a dental bridge made by milling some sort of ceramic - took about 20 minutes. They used some sort of scanner to get an image of the gap where it was to fit, modeled it in 3D, total time about 45 minutes including prep and fitting it in. As opposed to 2-3 weeks when they sent moulds off to labs.


Take ultrasound photos, use that and some base modeling to come up wit the whole scan, print out statuettes of the baby for the new parents.

In terms of actual utility its about nil, but I figure it will be like doing ceramic handprints, foot stamps, and all the other "our baby is growing up" stuff parents get to fill the knick knack cabinet, show off, and remember. Could be a profitable niche business.


I've got a fat-skimmer (I make a lot of chicken stock) that's far and away the best design I've ever used. It's cracked, and the manufacturer no longer exists. I'd love to scan in the old part and generate a new one.

As an amateur jewelry maker, for me the main use would be to make originals for lost-wax casting. PLA would be a perfect replacement for wax.


An adapter to fit my iPhone camera to my Newtonian telescope.


My dentist has the sort of milling machine Marcus Rowland mentioned; he got it maybe 10-15 years ago, along with upgrading to digital x-rays, and it's made crowns much more practical. It does have limitations - the shapes it can make are a bit simpler than those you'd get from a cast, but in return it also means the dentist can shape the crown and the top edge of the remaining tooth to fit together, instead of needing to have a post fitted into the root, which was typically done on a separate visit to an endodontist who'd also do the root canal. He said he basically had to relearn everything he'd learned in school about attaching them together, but it was worthwhile.


I've got a tripod head that a friend designed to perfectly fit an oddly-shaped camera (an Asus Xtion)--it's the first 3D-printed object I've ever owned that qualifies as a genuinely useful tool. I think the reason we haven't seen more of this stuff yet is that you don't just need the obvious (1) access to a still-relatively-expensive printer and then (2) mechanical skills sufficient to operate it and (3) software skills sufficient to design the things...but also (4) good domain-specific knowledge of what parts can't be printed and how to get them cheaply (in this case, a couple small metal bits that needed to to be epoxied into the plastic chassis).


So you have a home 3-D scanner? That seems to be the missing piece in this scenario - something that will scan stuff in for downscaling. If you've got one, which one, and do you recommend it for this purpose?


You should be able to do a cheap 3d scanner using two cameras and a rotating stand. (Heck, you could do it with one camera.)

Surely someone has made such software for hobbyists, no?


I know very little indeed about 3D printers, but as someone who likes to go cycling a lot, I'd be surprised if cyclists weren't already all over the technology like a rash. Even given the limitations imposed in the post, there's probably all kinds of handy little widgets that could be fixed onto a bicycle.

Now that I think of it, I use a Roost stand for my Macbook, and I vaguely recall that might have started life at least at the prototype stage as the output of a 3D printer.


There are at least two ways of using an ipad for 3D scanning.

Autodesk has an app called 123D Catch. The app is free, but it involves uploading the pictures to the company for processing rather than on the ipad itself. I don't know if the processing is free.

Then there's the iSense camera and app that attaches to newer ipads, but it's about $500.


You can do home scanning with a Kinect sensor and free software ...

... so tens of pounds.


Custom grips. Epees have been mentioned, but this could also apply to knives, firearms, and many other things (probably some that aren't even "weapons"; ping-pong paddles, say). (Figuring out what makes for a good custom grip would no doubt involve a learning curve.) Possibly some hand-finishing would be required.

I tend to agree with the people who say finely-machined metal is probably more useful, and apparently in the same price range (the equipment, that is).


I have access to a shite 3D printer at work, and we use it to print prototypes of instrument cases before sending the plans off to be injection moulded. It kinda sorta works, and it's kinda cheaper but definitely faster than getting them printed off site (a 10x10x3cm case is ~12 hours printing). If manglement had listened to any of the younger staff they could have bought a much better printer for the same price, but they went with the local electronics supplier instead.

I've also had a CNC mill (only 3 axis) at home, and that was much better than the 3D printer. Albeit this was a 500kg/$10,000 unit I put together for a friend but using the same techniques (cheap 3 axis mill, eBay the CNC bits) you could put together a nice 3 to 5 axis desktop mill with a "build volume" of about 10cm cubed.

The gap between "squidging out molten plastic and hoping it sticks together" and "cut exactly where you want" is hard to describe without sounding somewhat ridiculous. 3D printers have pretty good head positioning accuracy, but they lose badly on the "squeeze out toothpaste" deal unless you buy an expensive head. Ditto what goes into them - buy decent feedstock or the irregularities and imperfections will show up in the finished product.


with a well-protected vibrator motor You WHAT? Oooh-errr missus!

Just don't put phrases like that in blog comments or the ghosts of all the "Carry Om" moves will come for you.


One real problem with replication of existing objects - say something damaged... Is cumulative error in dimensional analysis of the object, before you even start making a "model". Say you want to lay down successive layers 0.1mm ( = 100mu ) thick for an object 5 mm deep - 50 layers, but your initial measurement is only accurate to 10 mu. Work it out for yourself. This is one of the fundamental problems of metrology & precision engineering. ( And remember, too, that I have only looked at the problem in one dimension. ) It's like digital scanning of analogue signals - your scanning "wavlelength" has to be at least a factor of 100 smaller than the object you are trying to reproduce, & perferably 3 orders of magnitude better.

[ This is the origin of aliasing error in digital sampling f'rinstance ]


I think 3D printing is hyped over milling because it's new shiny vs. mature tech, the scariness and learning curve of machining vs. "a printer, except for stuff," as well as the two actual advantages; the genuine safety improvement for casual users of deposition over metal cutting, and the ability to do internal structure.


Custom insoles for shoes. Might also need a 3D scanner for the foot


I have all of the bits for a 3D printer (RepRap Prusa Mendel i2) in boxes waiting for a space here to put it all together so that I can make replacement PCB support brackets for an oldish Tek Oscilloscope. (no old parts available for this model, not even for ready money!)


It is perfectly feasible to use a 3D printer using only Free Software, people from both Fedora and Debian already did the research and the results are on and (I worked on the Debian page).

I have no idea if the same applies to non-free-hardware consumer grade 3dprinters, expecially at the last step (controlling the printer).

Special lego parts are probably feasible: I've printed a few small pieces on a reprap derivative and they fit together in a reasonable way, although I haven't tested them with real lego pieces yet. They are not going to be as strong as real legos, however, and tend to break between layers.

As for models, since I've had access to a 3D printer I've of course done a number of things downloaded from thingiverse, as well as a number of useless/decorative pieces just to get the hang of it, but I've also done a few more useful things.

  • Connectors for custom furniture made of aluminium tubes (and ikea parts): I've made an overbed table that can be disassembled for storage and I'm still planning a dining table.

  • Hard-to-find replacement parts to repair household appliances.

  • Custom board game pieces (some of which are probably better done using some other method, however): this was fun, but is probably only useful for board game designers. Of course this includes custom dice.

  • A led pen for a wiimode whiteboard (as well as a wiimote holder, but that came from thingiverse).

  • Cookie cutters in custom shapes (not really a good idea, in PLA, since it is hard to clean).

Some of it was a bit solution in search of a problem, I admit.


"Knuckle duster"


I presume that #7 means that we can't have this and a Bennie monorail (Feorag knows if you don't).


That's maybe more one for "proper historic wargames" than for GW who started out making RPG figures, and now make large enough runs to justify injection moulding techniques.


And keeping on the weapons theme I imagine we will soon start seeing nicely turned out hard nylon shanks that all the top gangstas will be using down the nightclubs because they can pass through the metal detectors.


You don't need to print wax to do lost wax casting, you can use PLA:

i;ve designed a replacement for a tripod top plate i lost, i just need to get round to printing it down my local makerspace.

as for things that would be difficult to produce in any other way, i've seen someone print out water filters using a very specific set of hot end temperatures and control software settings. Also replacement motorcycle parts, for intricate, not structural plastic bits.


Jewelry templates for mould making


Custom grip for my lawn mower handle, so it didn't blister at the base of my thumb every damn time. Plastic is just fine for that, unlike the epee grip (actually, plastic might be fine for that too).

Parts for Gundam 1/144 and 1/100-scale models -- I don't mind the sanding and filling to remove the 'grain.'

Replacement lid for the rice cooker we knocked off the counter.

Unfortunately, that still doesn't justify the cost of the unit... need a few more things.


Why? You can order plastic knives online for less than a tenner, avoiding having to spend thousands on a printer or explain to a hackerspace member protective of their liability insurance why you want to make a weapon on their kit.


Scale models of fell walking and rock climbing routes would be useful. Small mountains all over the house might be cute, too.


On that dress - I absolutely love the way the designers went "It's too big for our printer. On the other hand, if it were folded up, it would fit ... wait, we'll print it folded, and then just unfold it"

It does look rather fine - the drape does look right when the model moves. It's a bit odd though when you hear it.


They are illegal in the UK


Boardgames and boardgame pieces (meeples, tokens, figures, etc.)

Boardgaming is enjoying a renaissance. Whether its a friendly Eurogame like Sttles of Catan or massive and super complicated wargames like Advanced Squad Leader or Case Blue. Unlike PC or videao games that rely on cheating to cover up the fact that the AI is essentialy stupid(how do you code a Deep Blue equivalent for even a relatively simple game like Axis and Allies?)and you can enjoy human interaction.

Why ship physical boardgames in boxes when the code for printing out the board, rules, pieces and even the dice can be downloaded into your 3D printer?


Habitats and shelters on the Moon, Mars and Ceres ready for human habitiation when astronauts arrive.

*You never said how big a 3d printer or where it was located. ;-)


*You never said how big a 3d printer or where it was located. ;-)

You didn't read the bullet points, did you?


Or even cheaper: go to the supermarket and buy a pack of plastic cutlery and sand them down. Why anyone would want or need something like that is beyond me. If anyone does feel the need, that says more about them, and I don't want to know them.


Hmm, I was looking up a favorite old game a few weeks ago, Milton Bradley's Dogfight. Printing little SPADs and Fokkers shouldn't be too difficult, assuming I can find downloads.


Rather than sanding or filling to get rid of the grain, you can use acetone vapour to smooth off your print, only works on ABS though. Looks pretty but you wouldn't use it for fine tolerance parts.

At work this week I designed some clamps for joining some linear potentiometers to a gear shift linkage to calculate which gear the car was in using a microcontroller. The design only took a few minutes, but would have cost at least £100 to get machined in aluminium, and pennies in plastic. (I ended up doing it differently in the end).


3D Print Gaming Tile Subscription Service.

Where tabletop game tiles are made and sent to the end user by post, and the game is played in a Long Now/Chess-by-(e)mail style.

A generative environment for your characters to interact with, say, Warhammer-ish (or whatever rules engine the community wants), added in with the anticipation of receiving the physical piece by post.

Each of the edges of the tile has a TinyURL-type resource ID, that let you connect digitally to players who also subscribe. The generative stats of your tile(s) are modified by your character stats, to lend a certain amount of personalization.

Extra fun when game convention time comes around and everybody has a chance to bring their tiles together.


Because the mass produced version costs at least two orders of magnitude less, is available quicker (from the purchaser's standpoint), and has higher quality parts.

3D printers are only a reasonable solution for custom parts; if you can get by with five sizes, traditional manufacturing techniques are going to be much more economical. For spare parts, the cost of maintaining a reasonable inventory of plastic bits is usually pretty low.

This greatly limits the value of sites like Thingiverse, unfortunately.


I already have a CNC mill and I'm not limited to various types of plastic. However, some shapes are more easily produced by casting, and I've been casting an eye at a small 3D printer for making patterns from PLA. I'm only set up for casting aluminum at the moment, but I'll be casting steel next year.

They are illegal in the UK
Illegal-ish no? AFAIK the legislation defines them as:
"a stealth knife, that is a knife or spike, which has a blade, or sharp point, made from a material that is not readily detectable by apparatus used for detecting metal and which is not designed for domestic use or for use in the processing, preparation or consumption of food or as a toy;"

So, for example, plastic cooking knives like this and this are completely legal in the UK to import and buy — and sit under the same public carry laws as non-plastic knives. Having cut myself badly on one in the past I can testify to their potential lethality ;-)


Fishing flies and lures.



  • End caps for my Pencil bluetooth stylus so I can put it in my bag-o-cables-n-shit without worrying about it.
  • Something that would fit in the toothpick slot of my swiss army knife that I could embed the end of a paperclip into. Because I need to hit annoying hardware reset switches, DVD/CD ejects, SIM card ejects, etc. way more often than I need to pick my teeth.
  • Back in the 80s when at school I tried to make this 3D maze with a ball-bearing trapped in it as a toy. Failed miserably. If I ever found the plans it would 3D print lovely.
  • Tiny versions of the Mr Potato Head arms, eyes, hats, etc. so I can make many, many little Mr Blu-Tack Head characters. Because I'm easily amused.

(2) Myself, I just unbend a paperclip until I have a long enough straightish bit, and then keep it in in the PC toolkit.


True. Indeed I have a paperclip in my toolkit. Which I regularly lose ;-) So my typical workflow when I need to reset something goes something like:

  • Hunt around for paperclip on desk or nearest surface that might have one. Fail.

  • If at home think "Hmm… there's probably one in the kitchen draw". There never is.

  • Go try and find the round tub of office pins and stuff that my partner keeps in her desk.

  • Fail to find pot.

  • Ask partner where pot is.

  • Partner opens desk. She immediately puts hand on pot of pins, etc. which has apparently just dropped into existence from some other dimension.

  • Scrabble in pot. Fail to find paperclip.

  • Give up and go to garage for toolkit.

  • Discover you failed to replace the paperclip in the toolkit the last time you got it out.

  • 10-15. Cursing.

  • Try things like the inside of Bic pens that look like they'll be just small enough to fit in the hole. Discover that looks can be deceiving.

  • Go back to garage. Look for wire that has a think enough gauge to push button. Fail to find any. Sigh.

  • Wonder if t would be easier to take thing I want to reset apart to get direct access to button. Discover that it's glued together.

  • Realise you could have walked to the newsagent and bought some paperclips by now.

  • Walk to newsagent.

  • They have no paperclips. Buy drawing pins and hope they will work.

  • Discover gauge of drawing pin is just too large.

  • Cry.

  • Use awl to make hole bigger.

  • Reset with drawing pin.

  • (Usually followed by: 24. Immediately spot paperclip on desk, used for the odd purpose of attaching multiple sheets of paper together.)

    On the other hand my penknife is always in my pocket — and I've yet to lose a single one of the detachable bits ;-) So yeah. I want one.


    If scaling is not an issue, and your gizmo had infinite depth perception, then you could hypothetically photograph and then print/replicate manipulable models of cells, organelles, molecules, etc. for study/research or replacement/surgery.


    Partner opens desk. She immediately puts hand on pot of pins, etc. which has apparently just dropped into existence from some other dimension.

    Many years ago there was a TV episode -- Twilight Zone, maybe? -- where the main character got unstuck from reality and discovered that it's all a bunch of sound stages with little guys who build/rebuild your stage as needed. Eg, the room in your house with no one in it is dismantled and used for other things until someone is about to go in. The job of those guys was described as "making the minutes." At some point, one of the guys admits that they don't always get all the details right. "The thing that you're looking for that wasn't in the drawer the first time you looked, but was when you came back later? Got left out the first time."

    Everyone in my family has been known to say at one time or another, "I blame it on the little guys that make the minutes."


    For board game pieces, while I haven't seen much done with 3-D printers, laser cutters have become very popular the last few years. Pieces are either made of wood, acrylic plastic, or sometimes cardboard, and if you're not going to paint the wood you can also etch designs in it (typically text or castle-wall patterns.) So they're 2-D or maybe 2.5D, not 3D, but that's fine for meeples, tokens of various shapes, walls and trees.

    The economics are different - the hardware costs more like $10-20000, but the raw material's a lot cheaper, and usually you're cutting a few square feet of a given color at a time, so it encourages small-scale manufacturing rather than end-user cutting, and while some small shops can justify owning their own, they're also applicable to the print-shop model.


    Possibly a bike handlebar mount for my phone (replacing a not-printed one that broke). I'm considering a new phone for which a suitable mount might not be available off the shelf (especially if I want to hold it in a flip-case). Most things I'd considered (gaming pieces, mostly) would probably need a higher quality printer though.


    Shoes won't work, as the shoe needs to breathe, not just be the right shape. If you print shoes your feet will swim in sweat, even in cold weather.


    A recurring theme is connectors (lego - whatever, glasses - microskope, camera - tripod, telescope - phone). Genuinly useful but needed in so small a quantitiy that they will seldom be sold at a reasonable price. I'm thinking hard about a solution for this recurring problem that does not involve a CNC machine.

    Another recurring theme is that the useful ideas com from working with physical stuff, and the 3d printed part is not essential in itself, it merely enables other things to work properly.

    What would be things that need the possible internal structures? Maybe a simple mechanism can be built with movable parts once the first use shears of the supports? But I find it hard to actually imagine such a thing, let alone one that is useful.

    Also, is it too early to derail the thread with the question what would be printed in the laundryverse? Chunks of solids with interesting internal voids, say the 3d shadow of someone unpleasant?


    There's loads of O, OO/HO and N gauge model locomotive stuff that can be ordered from Shapeways at reasonable prices. If you only want a few things it'd be far cheaper and better quality than buying your own rig, at the moment. Using what is available now, I reckon you could easily print out airfix type models of pretty much anything. The model railway world is eyeing up this tech, I reckon within ten years home printers with good resolution and full (or at least, pretty comprehensive) colour should turn up. Trick is to buy one just before they start putting in the anti-piracy stuff from Rule 34.

    Another area is in vehicle restoration, in two ways-first, stuff to print off and use, but second, stuff to print and see if it fits. Once you get it right, you can machine it up knowing it'll be right first time. Or, you can use it for investment casting.

    I'm really fired up about 3d printing, I think it'll be a very useful tool for the hobby engineer or modeller. Especially once metal does become an option.


    As I think I mentioned, I'm Z gauge. Not O, HO, or N gauge. Much rarer.


    My son does graphic design for a company that makes some Z-gauge stuff. I'll have to remember to ask him whether they're looking at 3D printing for any of their (very expensive) custom work.


    Yes, completely forgot to get to the point-3D printing z gauge rolling stock to fit available chassis should be pretty easy. You just have to be good at painting. Of course, rarer still is T gauge, which I think allows you to model an entire county in a sock drawer.


    I've been thinking for a while that you'd want 3d printing either for the lost wax or indeed just print the mould itself, then CNC it down to the precise shape. That would enable quite fine work to be done, given the limitations of 3D printing and metal casting.


    Is that the set you bought in the combination camera shop and specialist model railway place in Dublin? I reckon they only do Z gauge because they didn't have room for anything bigger.


    print the mould itself

    You should really only try this with low-melting fusible alloys. Anyone who pours molten lead into an ABS printed mould is about to get a chemistry lesson.

    what would be printed in the laundryverse

    I'm thinking they would want a system capable of layering two materials in parallel. A conductive material would form the geometry of the glyph/circuit thingy, and an insulating material may be needed for the mechanical skeleton.

    Of course, 7D printing would be much better.

    • 3D skylines of "minor" cities and small towns to put on the hearth or living room table.
    • Scale replicas of skeletons of extinct species.
    • Floating hot tub drink holders in the designs of historical and fictional ships.
    • A car bud vase (very hard to find over the counter for anything other than a VW Bug).
    • Replica gold and silver coins to use an a exhibit in a trial presentation to show a jury what $120,000 of allegedly stolen coins would look like.
    • Tokens with the names of chores written on them to allocate household responsibilities via grabbing tokens out of a hat.
    • Unique porch light shades.
    • Gasoline receipt holder for my car with a window to expose the one on top (a label them with the odometer reading when I fill up and use that and math in lieu of fixing my broken fuel gauge).
    • Slide rule style deadline calculator/calendar to figure out things like the day that is 70 days from 14 days from 35 days from now (a common calculation in legal work), without having to use a calculator.
    • A non-metal belt buckle so you can go through metal detectors without setting them off or removing your belt.
    • Removable ice cleats to attach to dress shoes (including those of guests who didn't expect ice storms when they came to visit).
    • A Y shaped holder for ear buds with posts on the back to wrap excess cord around that avoids tangling and undue bending of cords that often lead to wire breaks inside insulated cords rendering the ear buds unusable.
    • Clear sealed boxes for digital media or original documents, that can't be opened without breaking them, to establish chain of custody.
    • A tool to break open said clear sealed boxes.
    • Cell phone protectors with a secret compartment.

    Minor quibble from a 3D laser guy: consumer '3D' additive printers are actually 2.5D: they build up material in 2D layers of incrementally variable heights. True 3D would have equal motional capabilities in 3 dimensions. That's a whole different ballgame and we're not there yet.


    I would make custom items not available eg:

    lids for various tumblers to keep drinks from spilling and for storage.

    specialized measuring cups for uncommon food ingredient measures.

    good connectors for phone cameras to be attached to telescopes ad microscopes.


    Actually, the gaming universe in the US is pretty restricted (Or the people in NW Ark are (Deleted by Censor) (Think the other R).

    The "Make it in China" mantra has taken over games, they Chinese only want to ship complete games; You can't get spare parts for Risk or Axis & Allies from Hasbro any more. SO NO spare bits/bobs.

    Other than wooden cubes, not sure where those are made.


    Maybe, but I'd be surprised if a 3D printed game piece cost much less than a complete, mass-produced game.


    So what about a Z-scale Wyrm of Limerick? Pr perhaps a Z-scale Beast that doesn't need no stinkin' tracks and has a nice large magnet where the boiler would be.


    Phone cases etc.... well, yes; it does rather seem that low-end printers at the moment are rather limited to what I generically refer to as 'plastic crap' (that is, the kind of stuff you might find in Poundland).

    That said, I'm expecting my $99 Peachy Printer next summer - so I'll be putting that to the test. My son and I want to make miniatures for a game we've made, and that seems a good use. One-of-a-kind jewellery is another likely use: there's a cyberpunky taste-of-things-to-come coolth to 3D printing that would I think make the reasonably low quality excusable.

    The guys behind the Peachy point out that economies can be achieved by printing hollow models (1mm thick or less) and filling them with something much cheaper than the feedstock (a cheap resin or plaster or suchlike). That promises to make manufacture much cheaper. Even with this, though, and even with a $99 printer, 3D printing is only going to be economical for things that are not available on the market at all (at the moment I mean).


    On the pricing, I just checked, and realised how out of date I am. Minifigs, a very long-established name in the cast metal model soldier business for wargamers, is now running at GBP1.15 per 25mm figure, unpainted.

    I can remember the days when an Airfix Spitfire was less than GBP0.15 and now the same model would be GBP6.00—Minifigs doesn't quite go that far back. That's injection-moulding.

    Another technology that I remember is cast-resin. It was used for some larger models. There was also vacu-forming. I could see a CNC milling rig making a master for either of these processes. Cast resin needs a flexible mould, so CNC milling couldn't directly make the mould for that.

    Anyway, those figures give an idea of what the material costs would need to be within reach of. But remember, we're still paying retail prices to feed a 3D printer. I suspect there's a bit of the same profit balance in that tech as there is in inkjet printers.

    At current prices, GBP6.00 would be about 60 grammes. That could be rather a lot of plastic, I think. It's roughly half of that Airfix Spitfire.


    I'd make a a set of interchangeable hand grips for the end of the tiller on my canal narrow boat. Instead of a single generic wooden piece, I'd have one made to perfectly match my lightly curled right hand. And then do others for other regular crew.


    I suppose it would be impractical to have your 3D printer, print another 3d printer, and so on, and so on... (Didn't Stephen Baxter destroy Mars that way?).

    I imagine printing the printer would be possible, but printing the raw materials factory might be tricky.


    Cat Armour. Simply brilliant.


    Someone does make one like this at the moment, has a stationary nozzle and builds parts by moving a spindle (on which the part is created) in 5 or 6 axis.


    That's the end goal for the RepRap project, several of which have plastic recycling machines feeding them. RepRaps are where quite a lot of the consumer 3D printing R&D takes place.


    Yes, but we acquired more and weirder stuff since then! (Trouble is, it's not merely cat toy sized: it's cat amuse bouch size. If we build a proper layout we'll need to fit a perspex/glass/plastic lid to it to keep Her Feline Majesty from stealing the rolling stock and playing with it.)


    Just noting:

    * Clear sealed boxes for digital media or original documents, that can't be opened without breaking them, to establish chain of custody. * A tool to break open said clear sealed boxes.

    That's actually a commercial product idea. No, seriously. 3D printing is too expensive; you need to tool up a factory and sell this stuff by the thousand to every police force you can find.

    * Cell phone protectors with a secret compartment.

    The problem with this idea is, what do you want to conceal in the vicinity of your cellphone that's more valuable than the cellphone itself? (Given that my cellphone has dual 1.4GHz processors, a 1080p screen, can double as a credit card -- when the service gets switched on in this country, early in 2015 -- and is also my most intimate personal computer, that's a high barrier. And given that smartphones like that are over 75% of the cellphone market and rising towards saturation, so that traditional dumb phones are now something you keep in your car's glove locker for emergencies or give to Alzheimer's patients who can't learn a new OS every few years ...)


    Your requirements are a bit specialised. PLA is not food-save (no measuring cups) and is hard/brittle -- no good for lids or connectors with some "give". Nylon might work, but I'd be worried about plasticizer leaching in food measures, and I'm not sure how readily available nylon printers are at consumer prices.


    Look at the nose of a Supermarine Spitfire A modelmaker is going to want those compound curves reproducing perfectly.


    Yup: I did a visit to the MIT Media Lab a couple of years back and in their 3D printer lab they had about six different paradigms for printing -- and by paradigm, I mean "things you can call 3D printers that are as closely-related within that field as hovercraft, bicycles, and main battle tanks are within the field of 'transport machines'". The 2.5D extrude-thin-layers-of-plastic-on-a-platform variety are simply the most familiar (and readily available).


    And Games Workshop (qv) are running more like £4 for single 25mm figures.

    CNC is used for making moulds for injection kits. In fact Airfix now use 3D laser scanning to construct electronic models that they use to make the injection moulds (so if they do the scan right they could in principal make 1/24, 1/32, 1/48, 1/72 and 1/144 models from the same master).


    Aha. I had a lucky escape that day, I've envied those since, but with a willingness to perhaps compromise on N gauge.

    We've got some pretty small items, but our cats much prefer hunting real stuff outside rather than playing indoors with ornaments and toys. Outside is not an option for Menhit.

    (Thread crossing time: in my time, I've had both rescue moggies and pedigrees, and it's the pedigrees almost every time that have been the hunters. One always dined on fresh rabbit which she inveigled the Rottweiler into flushing out of the hedgerows.)


    Aw crap - a downside. I've a college roommate who's spent his professional life as a miniatures sculptor and producer, including working for Ral Partha, Task Force Games, and Steve Jackson. 3D printing could SERIOUSLY cut into their sales of figures people use in multiples, although I imagine the reproductions won't have nearly the detail of the cast figures. I'll have to ask him.

    Re 3: Charlie, does it actually move under propeller power? Too cool!


    The gamer-supply industry has been gnashing their collective teeth over that for a year or two now.

    The real freak-out is going to happen when someone cobbles up a CNC air brush with R,G,B pigment mixing...


    Almost certainly; 20some years ago GW's first injection plastic figures didn't have a fraction of the detail that their metal did. Now, the only way you'd tell painted metal and plastic apart is to lift them.


    I suppose it would be impractical to have your 3D printer, print another 3d printer, and so on,

    The Rep-Rap people have been on that forever, it seems. Yes, they can print plastic connectors to stick a new machine together. Unfortunately, it won't print steel rods, stepper motors, or the other various inconsequential bits needed to make a functional duplicate... [google] yep, the site still says "RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself."


    clear sealed boxes

    Next time you're in the USA, take a look in any video or music store and you'll see exactly that sort of sealed container, the extractor tool at each check-out register.


    £4? Cheap at the price... (Having just dropped £15 on an Xmas present of a single resin figure for firstborn) Their resin stuff is very well detailed, but expensive; their injection-moulds are cheaper, and as detailed as their older metal stuff.

    Have you ever come across Linka? It's moulds for very fine plaster, with keyed edges. I got given a set in 1979, and had six months of fun making buildings in HO/OO scale. Not sure where it went, probably lost in one of our many childhood house moves.

    Already suggested in one sense, but what about precision travel cases for high-value built models? Lined with a bit of blown foam, or some sticky-backed foam pads.


    They're also ubiquitous in the UK — probably the same design, a sort of sliding nubbin along one edge that requires a special ?magnetic? rail to release and slide.

    You want a larger range of enclosures though. For evidence chains, you require cases big enough for, say, folded clothing. I suspect you probably want something a bit more flexible too, to avoid taking up Amazonian packing excesses of space in your evidence stores.

    (Items as large as cars probably want a different approach.)


    There may be some interest from specialized parties in printing miniature 3D labyrinths, sealed but with internal structure, suitable for containing Minotaur-class exonomes.


    Scale? GW don't just do 25mm, but also 54mm, and £mid-teens sounds about right for a 54mm resin.

    Linka I've heard of but never seen (I had 2 biscuit boxes of Lego and about a #5 or maybe #6 set equivalent of varying ages Meccano).


    Not sure that current tech is quite up to it, the plastic isn't quite smooth enough, but eventually replacement key-tops for computer keyboards. There seems to be a huge market in them for some reason, judging by the numbers sold on ebay, all of which have to come from cannibalizing defective keyboards, laptops, etc.


    And thinking about this some more, a steady supply of keytops for the more common letters would probably be a VERY useful thing for our more prolific authors. Better yet, have designs that can be made in metal as well as plastic, so that someone like Charlie can custom-order a full set of Macbook keytops that won't wear out!

    The Rep-Rap people have been on that forever

    Honestly, you'd think there'd be somebody sufficiently rich and interested out there to make a genuine Von Neumann machine...

    Mind you, the problems are considerable: the machine not only has to build itself but all the precursor machines, and resource harvesters with which to build itself. And Code of the LifeMaker, here we go!!


    Mash-up time

    Over a decade ago, I read about someone using Shrinky dink plastic to make real cheap lab on a chip devices. The idea was that etching a lab on a chip is expensive, but the polystyrene sheets of shrinky dinks are really cheap, and shrink when heated. That made it possible to craft a lab on a chip at a larger size, shrink it in the oven, then use it.

    I wonder if it's possible to do something similar, using a 3D printer that prints in polystyrene? How 3-D could you make a shrinky dink chip lab?


    What would I print? Mobius gears. And a little plastic jesus dashboard Charles Stross who will protect me wherever I drive from all things tentacular.


    There was a TED talk about the wax printing on paper for those diagnostic purposes ( These things are minimizing the amount of reagents and samples needed but generally do not present new detection methods. It is strongly reliant on antibody technology (as far as I know) so the magic still happens only inside the organisms. That is what makes me mad. I need mass spectrometer on my smart phone.


    I was thinking of an internal conduit you fill with a conducting fluid. Salt water, or blood,


    Having read the threads here, I'll make a couple of points...

  • Casting - people have done aluminum casting with PLA as the source shape. They make a mold of it, heat it, and burn out the PLA. More recently, people have been using resin printers (which have started to become available including an open source project or two) and resin specifically designed to be able to be burned away to the same end. I've handled fine jewelry made this way so nicely detailed designs are possible.

  • Materials for Filament printers: The materials available to standard FDM printers (like a Reprap) have expanded a lot in the last few years. Charlie mentions nylon, as well as PLA and ABS. Folks I know from my hackerspace, Ace Monster Toys, started MadeSolid, where they make PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET) filament, which has most of the properties of ABS but less of some of its defects. I print almost exclusively with it instead of ABS or PLA these days. In the last six months, metal impregnated filaments have started to become available. The results of prints with these can be buffed and shined.

  • 145:

    If you were knitting a sweater, you could print buttons with bas reliefs of your friends' faces on them.


    If it's cheap enough, getting 3D models of products before you decide whether buy them online would be handy in some cases, just to see what they really look like.


    I would love for a dentist to be able to point out what's going on using a replica of my own mouth. The standardized models don't show what's wrong with my teeth, and the 2D X-rays and computer displays just aren't intuitive to me.

    Hmmm. My dentist can take pictures of my mouth and a computer in his office turns it into a 3D replica of my mouth. He uses that to create a virtual crown by picking one close to what he wants from a library then adjusting it with a specialized 3D modeling application. He then puts a ceramic blank into a small milling machine and the computer tells it to make me a crown that fits exactly on top of the old tooth.

    I'm not sure a 3D printer would be able to make a crown as the materials are hard enough yet. His milling gizmo doesn't do back molars as they require stronger material than he can machine in house.


    If it's cheap enough, getting 3D models of products before you decide whether buy them online would be handy in some cases, just to see what they really look like.

    A friend does that on the $5K 3D printer his wife let him buy about a year ago. As he says, totally not a valid economic decision but it is cool.


    This wouldn't meet the "valid economic decision", and it really needs a somewhat larger working volume but: Custom drawer organizers? They don't need a lot of strength, or a lot of mass, and being able to cradle each item in a complementary shape would help to keep each item where it belongs. One could even have an app that took 3D scans of an assortment of random items, packed them into a given 3D space, and generated a 3D package with multiple layers of custom hinged compartments to accommodate all the items.


    You could use cardboard for the bulk of the drawer separation, and print connectors, hinges and specially shaped cradles.


    Good point, Many Thanks!


    The one thing I've wanted that would have been a totally obvious use for a 3D printer was replacement battery doors for a laptop. The laptop was a couple of years old, so the manufacturer was no longer doing spare parts, and this relegated it to only working when plugged in. (Unfortunately, it was some years before 3D printing, so it wasn't an option.) Later the screen cracked, so it got some use as a web browser appliance and occasional serial-port device, connected to a monitor before eventually retiring to the back closet.


    The only thing I could think of that would possibly meet the criteria are small figurines and environmental detail for diorama-style modeling. That is to say, I'm not very interested in model trains, but I have quite a collection of 1/144 scale Japanese robot models that are about to be housed in a plexiglass coffee table. Buying a printer and stock and running off small human models (and cars and buildings and various supporting battlefield hardware) would probably be easier than buying them or making them myself, but certainly not cheaper. Since much of that sort of thing is commercially available (I'm not sure what 1/144 scale is in train hobbyist lingo, but it's common enough) I guess that doesn't qualify at all.


    A big banner made of cheap plastic that reads

    "So-called 3D printers are NOT real-life Star Trek replicators. That's A-grade technotriumphalist bullshit. Layered additive manufacturing cannot make everything out of nothing; you still need plastic or metal, and those still have to be mined, synthesized and processed in our old, boring, logistically elaborate, expensive and destructive ways. They have definite, very narrow limits. Creating foodstuffs or even preparing whole meals is right off the table.

    '3D printers' will not bring the utopian cornucopia future. Any benefits they will bring to the industry will be imperceptible to the little man in the street as any profit from reduced production costs will directly flow into the onepercenters' pockets, as it always does."


    N scale (aka N gauge except on Wikipedia) stuff is normally about 1/148th scale (except for Shinkansens which are usually modelled in 1/160th).


    I'd print custom cases for Raspberry Pi computers. Where "case" can be any kind of handheld object that can benefit from having an embedded computer. Smart art, or smart toys.


    You can find some on Thingiverse (and I assume elsewhere), many of the cases are made to look like retro game consoles, but there are some other designs.

    Meanwhile my first attempts at printing yesterday were not too successful. Still much to learn. The software for converting files for the printer is missing some onscreen 'buttons'--must look to see if there are keyboard shortcuts, or go and get a new graphics card.


    Biologic 3D printing is here - now!

    Excerpt from ScienceDaily:

    The BioP3 prototype

    The BioP3, made mostly from parts available at Home Depot for less than $200, seems at first glance to be a small, clear plastic box with two chambers: one side for storing the living building parts and one side where a larger structure can be built with them. It's what rests just above the box that really matters: a nozzle connected to some tubes and a microscope-like stage that allows an operator using knobs to precisely move it up, down, left, right, out and in.

    The plumbing in those tubes allows a peristaltic pump to create fluid suction through the nozzle's finely perforated membrane. That suction allows the nozzle to pick up, carry and release the living microtissues without doing any damage to them, as shown in the paper.

    Once a living component has been picked, the operator can then move the head from the picking side to the placing side to deposit it precisely. In the paper, the team shows several different structures Blakely made including a stack of 16 donut rings and a stack of four honeycombs. Because these are living components, the stacked microtissues naturally fuse with each other to form a cohesive whole after a short time.

    Because each honeycomb slab had about 250,000 cells, the stack of four achieved a proof-of-concept, million-cell structure more than 2 millimeters thick. That's not nearly enough cells to make an organ such as a liver (an adult's has about 100 billion cells), Morgan said, but the stack did have a density of cells consistent with that of human organs. In 2011, Morgan's lab reported that it could make honeycomb slabs 2 centimeters wide, with 6 million cells each. Complex stacks with many more cells are certainly attainable, Morgan said.

    If properly nurtured, stacks of these larger structures could hypothetically continue to grow, Morgan said. That's why the BioP3 keeps a steady flow of nutrient fluid through the holes of the honeycomb slabs to perfuse nutrients and remove waste. So far, the researchers have shown that stacks survive for days.

    In the paper the team made structures with a variety of cell types including H35 liver cells, KGN ovarian cells, and even MCF-7 breast cancer cells (building large tumors could have applications for testing of chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation treatments). Different cell types can also be combined in the microtissue building parts. In 2010, for example, Morgan collaborated on the creation of an artificial human ovary unifying three cell types into a single tissue.


    The software for converting files for the printer is missing some onscreen 'buttons'- That makes me think of out of date printer drivers; have you checked they're the latest revision yet?


    British models are made at 1/148 but run on the same track gauge as other N gauge models which are scaled at 1/160. It's for the same reason as the scale difference between OO and HO: British railways have a smaller loading gauge, which means you couldn't get the motors available into the models, so they use the same track with an oversized body.

    This was the 1960s. There are alternatives now.

    There are a few lines in Britain which can handle normal continental rolling stock. The preservation line at Peterborough needed some modification. A few stretches of main line have been built to that size, something to do with a Channel Tunnel...


    The broken bike phone mount I mentioned earlier might usefully become a tripod mounted holder (even with the broken tab, it would be secure enough for that). If I had a 3D printer, that would be a sensible way to make an adaptor. But I'd probably want a metal thread, so would glue a nut in, and I could do that with a piece of wood the holder could be screwed to, so it's not in the "things made possible by 3D printers" category.

    I did recently buy a half working leaf sweeper from a recycling centre. I was half-expecting to find broken plastic gears that could have been an excuse to get a 3D printed copy made, but it turned out that just turning over a wrongly fitted metal pawl fixed it. (I found it was only half working before buying it, but didn't dismantle to find the problem, so was gambling on it being fixable. 3D printed gears might not have been an economically sensible fix, but could have been fun.)


    That seems right, although the sources I checked said 1/148 except for Shinkansens which are made 1/160 because they use a wider track gauge than other Japanese lines.

    I'd not let using 1/160th scale scenics with 1/144 Mecha bother me though; it just makes the Mecha look bigger.


    It may not be worth the effort, but some people have built models using some sort of forced perspective. It reduces the physical front-to-back distance, although the perspective may not be built into the actual model of an object. But an O-gauge model railway track might be at the front, and it could be Z-gauge at the back, giving the illusion of much more depth.

    3D printing, with the right code in the process to modify the model, could build a taper into larger building models. The example which springs to my mind is Sheffield Meadowhall railway station. The foreground main line runs to the north of the big shopping centre. The Sheffield tram system passes to the south, and goes though a big U-turn besides the Tinsley Viaduct on the M1. You don't really see the far side, multi-story car parks in the way, but it's about 800m. Call it 4m in the 1/220 of Z-gauge, compared to about 12m for OO-gauge. And there is a lot of multi-story carpark, full of visible cars that have to be smoothly shrinking, front to back.

    Even as far back as 1960, people were handling this sort of illusion with different model railway scales, but 3D printing makes the steps much smaller. The Meadowhall area is maybe too open to get away with it. The old stepped-scale models relied on something like rows of terraced houses. But the methods might let you add apparent depth at the back of an otherwise conventional layout, if you could make the right models.


    That's a good thought; now, can a fabber produce objects which are basically truncated right triangles?


    I downloaded the latest version of the software for the printer (FlashPrint, there is a newer version for Mac, but I'm using and oldish Windows machine that I don't use that much anymore, and don't particularly want to put much money into), and updated the printer firmware yesterday. Two other programs that I've downloaded, Meshmixer and 123D Create, give me messages about the graphics card; they seem to run okay, though slowly. I'm capable of replacing cards and such, but not much else. If I have too much trouble I have friends I can ask for advice.


    Friends that can get on site can help more than I can, but I'm always happy to at least do the first line telephone/e-mail support bit.


    It's a modification to the shape of an item, possibly a pre-processing of the 3D shape. It depends on scale, but if the basic flat panels of a building are separate components, flat inner side on baseplate, the shape of the visible exterior could be tapered.

    Assuming any model needs a flat base, the results are not unlike resin-cast models, but a solid block would be tricky. It would need a 3D printer that could print an overhang.

    This sort of forced perspective needs a limited viewing angle to maintain the illusion. You are not going to see the rear of a building block. If the baseline is the ground level, which the forced perspective turns into a slightly rising plane, front to back, then the rear vertical wall has to lean back. The angles will likely be small, but printing that back overhang becomes necessary.

    You might be able to print with the base flat and the walls vertical, and then trim the base of the model, either cutting off at a taper or embedding it in the terrain.

    It's not going to be without hand-work, that's for sure.


    Thanks. Well, turned out that there was an updated version of FlashPrint, but it didn't make any difference, so back to looking into graphics cards.

    Today I decided to print from an SD card instead of over wifi. Pictures or it didn't happen? Here's the iPod Touch case I was able to make this afternoon, it took just over an hour at medium quality. The version I tried yesterday had some lettering on the back(bottom) and I neglected to add supports--so that was one problem. I found a plain version, which came out pretty good. I can't tell you how many times that thing has slipped out of shirt pockets, hopefully PLA will hold up to a few drops. The disc in the picture is the base of an espresso tamper that I also tried yesterday; it was printing well for a while but quit after 20 minutes. It lost connection with the computer over wifi, so that may have been that problem. But until I get the software troubles worked out I may be stuck printing with only one filament. So, some success!


    Oooh, I thought of something someone has to make:

    The Analytical Engine!

    If it can be modeled, it can be printed.


    Yeah, I don't do printing over wireless. Not least because I've got one machine, an A3 Canon inkjet, that "goes to sleep" between uses and if you try and wake it up by sending data it takes about 5 minutes to do a print that takes about 10s if it's awake.


    As an Ada programmer, I just have to approve.


    "* Cell phone protectors with a secret compartment.

    The problem with this idea is, what do you want to conceal in the vicinity of your cellphone that's more valuable than the cellphone itself?"

    First, it's just cool.

    Second, keys, drugs (prescription or otherwise), credit cards, passwords to the cellphone or credit card for someone who can't remember them, or obviously, a MacGuffin.


    Lego Cthulhu

    And some 1/220 scale lunar landscape.


    If you can print electromagnets (and I regret I am far too lazy to have researched this) then obviously you should print some Z-scale monorail track as well. And a train to float on it, though I expect you'd need to add magnets to the carriages by hand afterwards.


    This isn't actually the Royal Mail doing it, they're fronting for another company with some exclusive items. One hopes they're covering costs. It gives us all another fix on the state of the art.

    Royal Mail does 3D Printing


    Came across this page yesterday, for an online app to learn circuit making and simulating them. What got my attention was the second item on the page, the Circuit Scribe pen*, and am now wondering if anyone is making or working on inkjet cartridges with conductive ink. I'm sure the resolution would never be good enough for processors, but certainly good enough for flexible circuit boards for whatever, after adding all the fiddly bits. But this is something I don't know nearly enough about to use myself.

    *and just remembered that Bob uses something like the pen for drawing out summoning grids.


    Speaking of - "Scotland on Sunday" are talking about a fabber being the new "must have" gadget. No online cite since article's not on open website yet.


    Games Workshop used to produce 6mm miniatures (1:300 or 1:285) for their Epic system until they scaled it back and finally dropped it a few years ago. Fans have kept the game alive and also support various miniature makers. The most visible ones are small operations that design miniatures with 3D software, 3D print them and use that to make master models. Example: There are also various shapeways stores, as well as shadier operations that downscale GW models.

    In short, 3D printing for 1:220 should be verrry possible.


    A Death Ray.

    Seriously. Plan a large parabolic mirror - say 3 metres. Once you know the curvature you want then you can design and print small plastic discs to form the parabola (obviously you'd need to write some code to calculate the parameters for each), and print small locking blocks to hold them together. High-quality spray-on primer and reflective surface - it'll probably not be more than 90% reflective but wtf. You'll need a bracing to back it, which you may need to build by hand.

    Of course, some small-minded fools would call this "a 3m parabolic mirror for a truly awesome reflecting telescope". Let them hold to that delusion...


    3D printers that I've used, which were not hobbyist models, have surface irregularity at about the half-mm level. The reflective properties are a lot like knitted fabric. A skeletal framework and a few rolls of aluminized Mylar film would make a better mirror.


    Most CNC milling machines can beat that accuracy by at least an order of magnitude. But that's a different technology entirely, subtractive rather than additive.


    And they also have the issue of no inside sharp angles. You always get a radius based on the tool size.



    Thanks, though you're pouring cold reality onto my happy dreams. Half-mm tolerance is pretty lousy for small work. Now that I have read more on details I'm unimpressed.

    If 3D printing isn't able to print to close tolerances then it seems much less interesting. I could print Thomas-the-tank-engine style plastic tracks for a 3-year-old's train set, or game pieces that don't have to fit neatly together (no Lego).

    But I just don't see much real use for this stuff, at this level of technology. I sew my own shirts (when I can be bothered), I make stuff with modelling clay, I can build a mould and 'mass' produce plaster board game pieces if I want. But as some who makes stuff this new technology for making stuff just doesn't seem all that useful. Yet.

    Add in a good 3-D scanner and it would get much more useful.


    I agree that the bang-for-your-buck makes it of very limited usefulness for most purposes right now. But you ought to bear in mind that the printer can replace multiple skillsets that you may have but that many will not (and the same goes for the machining skills that people upthread keep boasting about).

    This is especially true at the lower end of the market. A device like the super-cheap Peachy Printer will never need to replace a CNC milling machine, or even hand-made moulds and plaster casting - you're talking a hundred bucks for a printer, after all, so it's at the impulse=-purchase end of the scale.

    I'm guessing we'll see a market that forms several tiers: a lot of very cheap home printers, perhaps a cluster of moderate-quality but very reliable office machines, a tier of serious hobby machines, and then top-end pro stuff. Really decent printers capable of 'replacing' milling machines and the like aren't going to come down far enough in price to be consumer devices for quite a long time (10 years or more?), but the very low end stuff is going to enter what-the-hell impulse-purchase price ranges very soon.


    That's nuts. Casting with hot metal is done by making a wax or other model, then casting that in plaster, or sand, or whatever, then taking the top off, assuming the plaster's in two parts, pulling out the master, and pouring the hot metal into the plaster or sand.

    The other way is to make a master, then make a rubber or whatever mold of that, then make many copies, then, cast those in plaster, and use a burnout furnace to melt out and burn off any traces of wax, then pour the hot metal into that.

    NO ONE pours hot metal into rubber. Unless, of course, they were making a few masters, burning them out, and pouring the metl, with the sole intent of kicking up the prices.


    Yep. And not anything I'd ever want - I take it your eyes, corrected, are 20/10?

    I run steam engines (or will, once my trackage is up, only been in the new house 3.5 years, and figured out what I can do so that the curves aren't impossible a couple months ago), and I want it to look like STEAM ENGINES, not "what is that cute little thing with the moving parts?".

    Of course, Rod Stewart's well-known for having a huge model railroad layout, and takes a whole large kit to build scratch/etc items for it when he's on tour (instead of, say, snorting coke). I suppose you could make a suitcase or briefcase layout....

    mark "Pennsy, 1939"

    I might take a few months, and it would be in layers and layers and layers, and a lot of semi-flexible feedstock... there's a bad temptation to print a life-sized 3-D "action figure" of Mrs. Peel....


    NO ONE pours hot metal into rubber

    You're right, of course.

    (My moulds went missing two moves ago. Oh well, I didn't need those white metal figures anyway.)


    WHat do you mean by "hot metal"? Antonia was referring to casting "white metal" which is basically a lead-tin alloy and fully liquid at about 250C, in a vulcanised rubber mould.


    One of those "Urrm, of course I wouldn't do this, but other people might" ideas...

    A 3D printer, with associated 3D scanner, for printing intimate body parts of your partner. The output material would need to be some kind of plastic/rubber with the appropriate (or selectable) degree of firmness and resiliency.

    Ideal for couples trying to do the distant relationship thing or who have lots of separate travel. And not the kind of thing many people would like to send out to a shop.


    NO ONE pours hot metal into rubber.

    I've seen it done. Tin into silicone rubber. Indeed, I've a nice pair of cufflinks shaped like Cornish engine houses that were made that way (at the place I saw it done).


    Yep - it's pretty common, even if some people don't believe it. The moulds don't last for ever (but then what does?), but it was cheaper to buy molds and white metal and do the work yourself than to buy premade figures.

    Of course, the figures would all be the same, but for wargaming that's not too much of an issue, and it's surprising how much variation you can get out of them with painting.


    Even for a modern army, where for even a small group of soldiers they carry different weapons, they tend to move and stand in the same way, and be similarly dressed and equipped. It's not a good idea to look too different on a battlefield. Go back a couple of hundred years, and a unit looks more like Trooping the Colour in the variety of models needed.

    I know a guy who made a range of metal figures in the boom years—they seem to be over now—and the spin-casting machines were of similar capital cost to today's 3D printers.


    Et seq, particularly @Antonia, @Bellinghman and @Nick:-

    All this talk of white metal casting set me wondering, so I Googled "Prince August", and discovered that they're still going in Ireland

    People very definitely do pour molten metal into rubber moulds!


    Indeed, that was the site I ironically linked to in comment 188

    I think we've pretty conclusively refuted the assertion made in comment 185. (Not that those of us who have poured molten metal into rubber moulds needed third party proof, but it's nice to be able to point someone at obviously pre-existing sites that deal with the question, if only to stop the "What makes you an authority on this?" questions.)


    Dear Whitroth, please explain why you think nobody pours white metal into silicone rubber moulds, because all the above people, and indeed myself, know of it being done or do it ourselves. In fact the only reason I'm not doing it is because I'm trying to re-create medieval casting methods. I have a bunch of moulds made of soapstone, and am working on some limestone ones. The difficult is sourcing siltstone.


    And, at that, it's probably true to say that, if you pick more or less any subject at random, someone on here is either an expert or a hobbyist, or knows someone who is...


    Never mind a 3D fab, I would love someone with some serious money to build a real updated Schienenzeppelin, using state-of-the-art aircraft engineering, a nice Pratt & Whitney PW100, or similar, proper variable geometry propeller, etc. Not because it's a practical mode of transport, just because it would be so damn COOL!

    I also like your idea for a Newton shaped iPhone 6+ case. Once in a while I fondly get my Newton messagepad out of the drawer, stick a set of fresh batteries in it and try for an hour to unsuccessfully remember the PIN. One day I hope to donate it to the Science Museum. :)


    Interlocking insulation panels with micro vacuoles.


    Saw this earlier: Voxel8, 3D printer that also prints circuitry.


    Piling in way late here, but... - filament is not GBP100/kg; think more like USD20-30/kg for ABS and PLA when bought on Teh Internets - look at "Ninjaflex" filament, it prints out as a soft rubbery kind of thing with very interesting physical properties - you can buy PETE filament, the same stuff that softdrink bottles are made of, but it requires a higher-temp capable printer closer to $2500 than $1000 but probably still under GBP2000 - if you're into minifigs, tiny tokens and micro-scale, you may be interested in a UV-resin printer; they're basically a DLP projector with UV source and a resin bath. Some fit within your price bracket, they print small and with stupidly-fine resolution - you can buy (slightly expensive) UV resin that is explicitly designed for use with lost-wax casting; it burns out of a mould with zero ash and residue

    Anyway, I'm about halfway through building my own reprap/repstrap and have used a couple other FDM (toothpaste extrusion) printers. Stuff I'm made includes: - replacement plastic parts for things that broke - simple plastic shit I could buy but where the transport costs far exceed the manufacturing cost - an adapter that widens a film processing spiral, allowing me to develop 70mm IMAX/aerial-surveillance film in a tank designed for 120 medium format film

    Stuff I plan to build/publish as open-source: - a camera or two - chassis for robotics projects, e.g. toy segways, robotic arms, etc - custom earphone plugs - custom speaker boxes to fit into odd-shaped volumes - kids toys

    The justification - wife acceptance factor - for building my own is that I want our kids (now 2.5 and 0.5 respectively) to grow up understanding that things come from people's heads, not the shop.

    I suspect there is also a large market for custom adult toys and perhaps licensing scans of (parts of) certain people.

    PS where is the video of your scale schienenzeppelin!?


    o yea, and if you don't want to print in metal or do lost wax (loads of work), you just print in ABS, paint some graphite powder on with acetone and then electroplate the whole thing in Cu, Ag or whatever.

    A spot of surface-smoothing with acetone vapours, electroplating and then burnishing, and you have a metal-surfaced minifig that's actually hollow plastic underneath.



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