Tag Archives: Printing

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

3D printing is a great way to create something truly personal, make your awesome ideas reality, or just make perfect replacements for broken parts or components. If you’re stumped for ideas though, here are 10 great resources for you to get inspired, or just find something you’d like to have printed yourself.


You don’t have to own a 3D printer to get into 3D printing. There are tons of ways to get access to a printer for your own ideas or designs, and even more if you’re a true beginner and want to learn the ins and outs of the process. But what if you need a little inspiration for what you can do with 3D printing, whether you get your own printer or find someone to print for you? Read on.


10. Shapeways

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Part marketplace, part clearing house for awesome projects, Shapeways lets you do three big things: upload and print your own designs, hire someone to design something for you that you’d like to have 3D printed, or get inspired by the multitude of projects already available on the site, or find something awesome you’d like to print yourself, have printed and shipped to you, or tweak to suit your needs.

It doesn’t hurt that Shapeways was also your favorite 3D printing service the last time we asked you for your favorites. The community there is huge, the number of projects in their database is massive, and the gallery of inspiring things other people have made (and sell) is incredible to browse.


9. Thingiverse

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Thingiverse is less of a marketplace (although there’s plenty for sale if you make connections with other makers), and more of a showroom for all of the awesome projects, plans, and other creations of makers just like you—other people interested in 3D printing and who have made great things, want to make great things, or just need inspiration. Best of all, almost all of the designs on the site are available free and open source to the public, via Creative Commons or GNU GPL. There are even mobile apps for the community, available for iOS and Android.

Browse everything and you’ll see a combination of completed projects, early sketched out plans, and raw ideas looking for some honing around the edges. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find collections designed to inspire, (it’s worth mentioning that Thingiverse is owned by Makerbot Industries), or browse by project categories like video games, hobby items, gadgets, household, and more to see what you can make. If you’re not sure what exactly you can 3D print, you’ll find something there to get the gears turning, and if you find something you like, you can download it and get it printed yourself.

8. Instructables

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Instructables is home to all manner of projects, from woodworking or cooking to electronics or 3D printing. It can be tough to drill down just to the 3D printing projects, but 3D printed components pop up in some of the most unusual places when you’re looking around Instructables. Maybe someone 3D printed part of their IKEA hacked camera jig. Maybe there’s a whole 3D printing contest, encouraging makers to submit their own designs and inspiration.

In any case, if you’re looking for awesome things to 3D print, or maybe you’re looking for your own DIY projects and would love to fit 3D printing into them, Instructables is a great place to look. We love them, and even when you find bad or badly executed projects, you’ll find tons of inspiration.

7. 3DShook

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

3DShook is a marketplace of items that can be 3D printed at home, or anywhere you have access to a printer. Many of the patterns and schematics are for sale, and the site has a subscription service where you can get items in their catalog printed for you whenever you like. The team behind 3DShook praises their catalog on being curated and vetted, so while other sites have a wide open community and tons of open source schematics, 3DShook schematics are exclusive, closed, and only available from them—not to mention can be printed, has been printed, and will likely work out the way you want.

Of course, that’s a double-edged sword. You do have to pay to get something printed, and all of their schematics come at a cost unless it’s in their “trial gallery” of items you can print yourself. All that said, their catalog is rich and huge, so even if you don’t find something you want them to print—or something you want to download and print—you’ll find some inspiration for your own projects.

6. Pinshape

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Pinshape is another gallery of community-driven, user-submitted collection of 3D printing projects and schematics, many of which are freely available to download, and a few others are available for a couple of bucks. The site also hosts contests, forums, and has a huge community of makers both with their own printers and without, all of whom are eager to share their schematics, ideas, and help one another perfect their projects. If you have your own design you’d like to share, the service welcomes all-comers, and if you want to sell it, well, you can do that too.

Pinshape’s community is its biggest asset though, so even if you’re just trying to get into 3D printing or looking to see what people can do with their own printers, it’s a good site to join and browse, and a great community of fellow makers you can get to know.

5. Wevolver

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Focused a little less to “everything” and a little more to “electronics and other complex projects,” Wevolver is primarily a community of makers. The goal of the service is to give aspiring makers a place they can share files, get feedback, and meet the people who can inspire and help them make their ideas reality. Unlike some of the other sites that are more marketplaces or just galleries, Wevolver is a community first, and a sharing service second.

Most of the projects people at Wevolver talk about though are a bit more advanced than some of the more hobby-friendly 3D printing projects the other services here host. You’ll find robotics projects, drone building and piloting projects, complicated electronics projects and setups, and of course, 3D printing the whole way there, from people who have built their own printers or are using printers to make some truly amazing and complicated things. You’ll find communities around 3D printed robotic prostheses, autonomous robots, custom UAVs, and more.

4. Youmagine

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

With over 1200 open source 3D printing projects you can download, customize, and remix to make your own, Youmagine is all community and all designs, without the baggage that sometimes comes with being associated with a 3D printing service. Like many of the other services here, individuals and groups (like our friends, Adafruit!) submit their designs to the site complete with schematics and instructions so you can make it your own.

You can also make curated collections of your own favorite prints and projects, so you can build something of an inspiration board for yourself if you find projects you’re interested in, but can’t make right now. Of course, you can also browse other user collections for even more inspiration—and when you’re ready to print or make something of you own, you can download the plans and make it, or use those plans to build something of your own.

3. Cults

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

Cults is a little more artistic and eccentric than some of the other options here. Their catalog contains schematics and plans that range from the uniquely useful to the near- abstract, but they’re all interesting and fun. You’ll find plenty of figurines, toys and hobby items, household decorations, and other fun projects, many of which are just there to admire, and others for sale for a few dollars here or there. There are even jewelry items you can print, tools like camera mounts and doorstops, and even some more adult-themed items as well. If you’re interested in the more offbeat and interesting side of 3D printing, the service is well worth checking out.

2. A Nearby Hackerspace or Makerspace

If you’re an aspiring maker at all, you should definitely seek out a hackerspace or makerspace in your community, check out the perks and tools available to members, and sign up if you see what you like. Not only will you have access to the tools required to make your ideas reality, you’ll also join an instant community of like-minded, local creators who can (and often will anyway) show off their own projects, inspire you with their expertise, or help you with your ideas. There’s a lot to learn by looking at web site, but there’s even more to learn by joining a group of people like you.


1. Your Local Library

Top 10 Places to Find Awesome Things to 3D Print

If you don’t have a hackerspace nearby, odds are your local library has a 3D printer you can try out, and hopefully there are more than a few people on staff who can help you get started with one.

Check with your local library first to make sure a printer is available, and if there is one, if anyone can show you how to use it. Some local libraries even host group sessions or classes to help people get familiar with 3D printing, design their own items, and sign up for times to get their print job done. You can hang out and watch, or come pick it up, but in either case, it’s another great way to join a community of makers and build something great and unique.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári. Additional photos by Ruth Ellison and FryskLab.

How to Make 3D Printed Stuff Without Owning a 3D Printer

How to Make 3D Printed Stuff Without Owning a 3D Printer

3D printing is really friggin’ cool, but promises that we’d all have one in our homes by now have turned out to be less than true. Fortunately, you don’t need one of your own to bring your imaginary creations to life.

You may still be wondering why you should care about 3D printing to begin with. It’s a fair question! While 3D printer prices haven’t plummeted like some expected, the community around them has grown considerably. Sites like Thingiverse have huge libraries of ready-to-print models that you can download everything from cool stuff like a miniature Millennium Falcon (hey, neat gift idea!), to useful things like phone stands or cord protectors. There are tons of things that you can print that are absolutely worth what they cost to make. They just might not be worth $500-2000 for the printer, as well. If your holdup is the hardware, here are some places that will let you print out objects without buying a mini factory.

Things to Consider Before You Print

How to Make 3D Printed Stuff Without Owning a 3D Printer

Before you pick a place that’s going to make your 3D object, you need a 3D model to actually print. There are a few things you need to consider when you’re looking for something to make. Contrary to early adopter opinion, 3D printing isn’t the best solution for everything. When you’re getting started, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does what I want already exist somewhere else? When I was browsing 3D printed objects, I found a potentially useful bag carrier that would make bringing in groceries easier. Then I found this thing on Amazon for $6. 3D printing is cool, but it’s not always necessary. Before you order something, see if a regular mass-produced version exists.
  • Does the model have any flaws? In case you’ve never worked with 3D models before, let me give you a tip: they’re hard to get right. Before you spend money on an object, read reviews where available, or look for pictures of an item after it’s been printed, rather than just the renders of what an object “should” look like.
  • Do I need to alter or tweak this model? While you can technically change any 3D model using modeling software, some objects are easier to tweak than others. Thingiverse has an entire collection of customizable items with specific aspects you can tweak to fit your needs, like a Christmas tree stand with an adjustable diameter, so you can make it fit your tree. Before you download and print a model, make sure you check out all the possible ways to customize it that are available.
  • What materials will this be made of? Wait, aren’t all 3D printed objects just colored plastic? Nope. You can get 3D printed objects in wax, sandstone, porcelain, and even precious metals like gold and silver. That’s super awesome, but it’s also another thing that can affect your object. If you’re going to make something other than plastic, check out material sample kits so you can see how durable your object might be, or how intricately it can be printed.

Even if you do your due diligence, keep in mind that printing isn’t always perfect. You may get an object that you need to sand down to make it look just right, or you may have an intricate object that doesn’t quite line up. Be prepared for the possibility that something might not come out exactly the way you envisioned it.

Option One: Order Through Online Services

How to Make 3D Printed Stuff Without Owning a 3D Printer

Several 3D printing services have popped up in the last few years that allow you to upload your own models and get them printed in whatever material you want. One of our (and your) favorites is Shapeways. This site lets you upload your own designs and get an immediate quote on how much a particular object will cost in a variety of materials. You can explore the object in a 3D model viewer.

If you don’t have a ready-made 3D model to work with, services like You3Dit will pair you with designers who can help you create what you want, then print it for you. This can be a little more expensive than just uploading a model and ordering a print, but it also reduces the likelihood that you’re going to get a botched product. Not to mention, most 3D printing services will use industrial-grade equipment that can get a lot more detail than the typical consumer models that you’re used to seeing in stores.


Option Two: Get a Quick Print at Local Stores

I have a confession: I don’t own a printer. And not the 3D kind: I don’t own a regular, 2D paper printer either. I just have so few instances where I need to print something, and unused printers break so much, that it just makes more sense to go down to a FedEx Office nearby and print something when I need it. Unsurprisingly, some stores have decided that this concept works just as well for 3D printing and now offer in-store printing of your own models.

UPS is one of the leaders in this area, with a few dozen locations nationwide that are equipped with 3D printers. They may not be nearby for everyone, but if you do happen to live near one, it’s probably easier to drive to a store for a bit, instead of buying a hulking machine just to make a cool figurine.

Option Three: Check Your Local Library

How to Make 3D Printed Stuff Without Owning a 3D Printer

We’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: go to your local library. When you get there, among the many other cool things they have, you may find a 3D printer. That’s right, libraries are cool. You heard it here first. If your library has a 3D printer, you may be able to use it for free (though you may have to buy or bring your own materials).

If you want to really get your hands dirty learning how to 3D print objects, this is one of your two best bets. Most libraries won’t have a clerk behind a desk who takes a USB stick and gives you a printed object. They’ll let you get hands-on with the software and learn how it works. Not every library will have staff that are experts in 3D modeling, but you can experiment on your own and learn how to do it yourself. Learning in a library. Imagine that.

Option Four: Join a Makerspace Community

So far this year, I’ve visited three different Makerspace communities in Atlanta, and every single one has had at least one 3D printer. If you can find a Maker Faire in your town, or a local maker community, and you’re even slightly interested in 3D printing, take a day and visit. If you’re actually looking to learn how 3D printing works, this will be the most educational and likely the most rewarding.

Not only will most makerspaces have shared resources (like 3D printers!), they also have people who are experienced in using them on site. You probably won’t be able to walk in the front door, ask for a print job, and walk out. Instead, you can join classes, or work directly with someone who knows what they’re doing.

In my experience, this was the best way to get started with 3D printing, as you learn some of the intricacies of what you’re doing, not to mention the problems that can arise. Despite cool demo videos, prints can become improperly aligned, nozzles can get clogged, or material can come out unevenly. All of these can quickly ruin a project, especially if you don’t know how to fix your printer.

Owning a 3D Printer Probably Isn’t a Good Idea to Begin With

With all of these options on the table, you might reasonably start to wonder, “Is it ever going to be worth owning a 3D printer?” And the truth is…probably not? It’s easy to imagine a wonderful world where anything you can imagine, you can build. The reality is that 3D printers are still printers. They get clogged, jammed, and misaligned, and they can ruin your day when they don’t work right.

3D printing services, on the other hand, are much more consumer friendly. You can use models you find online (or make yourself) and get someone else who knows what they’re doing to make the product itself. If you really want to get one to learn how to make your own stuff, libraries and makerspaces are going to be way better for you than just buying a 3D printer for your house and fiddling with it until something good comes out. For enthusiasts and regular makers, owning a 3D printer might be a great idea, but for the rest of us, contracting that work is likely going to be the best bet for a long time to come.

Photos by Creative Tools and Karen Blakeman.

Test Your Printer with the Google Homepage

Test Your Printer with the Google Homepage

When you hook up a new printer, or just add new ink cartridges to one you already own, you probably want to print off a simple test page. Next time you need one, try the Google homepage.

This tip is so simple, but it’s actually pretty brilliant. The Google logo is colorful enough to make sure your color ink is working properly, and the black footer links will prove that your black ink is ready to go. As a bonus, the page is so spartan that it won’t use up much ink, even as it gives you a pretty good idea of your printer’s health.

Now it’s true that most printers have a test page programmed in, either on their on-screen menu, or in software on your computer. Either way though, if you don’t want to be troubled to find it, this is a quick and easy alternative.

LPT: Need to test a printer? Print the Google homepage – has all the colors, uses almost no ink | Reddit

Cloud Print for Android Prints Your Phone’s Documents from Anywhere

Android: Google’s underrated Cloud Print service officially made it to Android in the form of an app. Now you can send your Android’s documents to any Cloud-connected printer and track its status. You can download the app right now through the Google Play store.

Google Cloud Print | Google Play Store