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  • Charlie Kocur

Why 3D Printing Rules!

3D Printing, It's Kind of Awesome...

I really enjoy 3D printing. What started as a whim to learn a new skill and pick up a cool gadget has turned into something I work on or at least read about on nearly a daily basis. It's incredible how far 3D printers have come and how affordable they are to the point where they're starting to become somewhat common in the home. If you're researching 3D printers, you'll probably come across plenty of articles telling you how incredible they are and how they'll change the world. You'll also find plenty of articles telling you why 3D printing isn't the amazing wonder-tool people just can't stop talking about. The truth, I think, lies somewhere in the middle.

Despite what negative articles say, 3D printing can actually be really useful and improve your life. While 3D printers are a long way off from being a household device like a toaster, and they're not the super amazing device that will solve all the worlds problems, 3D printing can truly be helpful in every day life. It's an excellent creative outlet for both artists and engineers, it could actually help you around the house, and home 3D printing even help you change people's lives.

For these reasons, I think 3D printing and the world surrounding it absolutely rules!


 

Creativity



At the end of a long workday It's not unusual to come home feeling a little bit either physically or mentally drained. It's time to relax but for whatever reason watching a TV show or movie just doesn't quite cut it. Even though you are engaged in watching the video your mind is still racing from the day. In order to give myself a wind-down, sometimes I like to use the creative side of my brain, and I do that with working on 3D printing projects.

If I don't have any projects in mind, I'll just sit down and start randomly doodling or I will even hop into fusion 360 to start creating some sort of abstract sculpture just using 3D objects. I don't have a plan and I just go by what I think looks good. One of my favorite designs ever came out of a random after work fusion 360 session. I was messing with some tools in the program and before I knew it I was working towards creating a sea anemone. This ended up being the basis for a really unique looking desktop sculpture and Dice Tower.

But what if you don't have a creative bone in your body? What if you're more of a puzzle solver for in an engineer mindset? 3D printing still has you covered there.

There are plenty of engineering challenges out there to try and solve. 3D Printing and design offers up an easy way mess with these concepts at home. For example, I needed a part to fix my dishwasher. It's a small bracket that attaches a wheel to the washer drawer so the basket can roll in and out easily. The original clip was fairly thin and broke. Since it's an older dishwasher I wasn't sure if I could find a replacement part and honestly I didn't even look online. I decided to take it upon myself to design a replacement and even improve it from the original if I could.


This is where my amateur engineer brain had to kick into gear and solve the problem at hand. I knew what the general design look like but I had to figure out the failure point and see if I could improve upon it. I decided that the clip looked too thin, and had a failure point because of this. I redesigned this bracket and after four or five prototypes and test fittings I was finally able to call my design final. The best part? It actually works!


Overall, it was a fun puzzle to solve and I had to use some creative thinking to figure out how to bring my design to life inside of the Fusion360 modeling software and improve upon the original design I was replacing.

At the end of the process my wife asked me why I spent the whole afternoon working on this when I probably could have found some kind of part online or at the hardware store that would have gotten the job done. It made me realize that it was less about the issue at hand and more about having that opportunity to solve a puzzle and use some basic engineering skills I've learned for 3D printing to create my own solution.




 

3D Printing is Helpful Around the House

One of the common phrases you'll hear from those who think home 3D printing is a waste of time is that all you can print is dumb little desktop toys there is nothing useful you can do with a 3D printer at home. Personally I don't think that's true and I've solved several household problems using 3D printing.

I would like to preface this section by saying that yes, in some of these instances it would have been just as easy or easier to stop by a local Target store and get some of the stuff instead of printing in however there are many instances where 3D printing was the best option available. It all depends on your current situation and need for an object.

In the section above, I already covered custom made wheel bracket I made for my dishwasher. This was a unique piece custom build for my specific dishwasher and part of the reason I did it is because of the dishwasher age I was expecting to not be able to find parts. This required a custom solution which I was easily able to do with 3D printing.

Another example of a useful 3D print that couldn't have been store bought is this customized desktop organizer. Sure, there are a ton of desktop organizers out there, but this one is perfect for my exact need of keeping a few notebooks, some small tools and pens, and my smartwatch all organized on my desk.



 


Home 3D Printing Can Help Change Lives

This will be a quick section about 3D printed prosthetics, pleas take a moment to visit Enabling the Future. They are an incredible organization and even if you don't yet have your own 3D printer, you can still help! Also to note, I'm not officially affiliated with them in any way, I've just started working on my own hands to submit for their approval so hopefully I can help out on a more regular basis soon.

3D printed prosthetics are incredible to me. Being able to create a new hand for somebody is just astounding. While there are much more high-tech prosthetic items out there, 3D printed and homemade ones solves a serious need that those fancy prosthetics just can't. These 3D printable designs maintained by the Enabling the Future organization are a low-cost alternative.



It can be hard for some families to afford a prosthetic limb that costs thousands of dollars for a child. It's especially a difficult expense to incur if that prosthetic will only fit for six months or so until the child grows out of it. These 3D printed prosthetic hands however are entirely free to the end user thanks to a generous donation of time and resources from volunteers.

I've created one of these hands and they cost roughly $20 in parts and some time on your 3D printer. They're simple, but very functional. Not to mention, they can be printed in cool colors to make something that a child might find embarrassing or unusual, become a positive point that makes them feel excited about having their very own 3D printed hand!

This organization was part of the reason I got into 3D printing in the first place and I hope that if you consider getting a 3D printer that you can donate some time to helping the cause.


 

3D Printing Keeps Getting Better

At the end of the day, like with any tool, 3D printers are as useful as the user makes them. Sure, there are some things that 3D printers just aren't built to do. However when putting your mind to it and with a little practice/creativity, there are a ton of reasons why having a 3D printer at home rules!

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