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Practical (and Impractical) uses for a home 3D printer.

Even as the prices for 3D printers goes down, they are still largely considered less than practical to purchase one for home use. However, being the less than practical person that I am, I purchased a 3D printer months ago. Ever since then I have vacillated between a severe case of buyer’s remorse and feeling like the greatest inventor in a 4 block radius. The onset of the COVID quarantine has given me an opportunity to dive full force into the world of 3D printing and explore the more (and less) useful applications I have found for my home 3D printer.

For the most part, these ideas do not even require a 3D printer, it just makes these projects easier and faster to complete.

These prints were made with the use of an Ender 5 printer from Creality:

Re purposing old phones/tablets

Some of the best uses I have found for my 3D printer come in conjunction with other technology. A simple mount for a smartphone can transform the device into a streaming webcam, a time lapse camera or even a portable gaming device.

Modular Mounting System
by yyh1002

This printable kit is a mounting system for lightweight objects such as phones and small cameras. The joints require additional nuts & bolts for final assembly.

Cell Phone & Tablet Cradle
by mjengland

This simple cradle is great for smartphones and tablets.

Mounting your phone is useful for more than just Zoom conferences. With apps like Alfred and Lapseit, you can turn your phone into a baby monitor, or a time lapse camera:

Thank you to Christopher D. of The Library Pros Podcast for turning me onto this great idea!

Turn your phone into a portable console by linking it up with a spare bluetooth controller. Many games on the Google Play and Apple stores are already controller compatible. For serious gamers can subscribe to services like GEForce Now or the upcoming Google Stadia app for even more gaming options.

Low Tech Solutions Made With High Tech Gear

A-FRAME Bird feeder
by APC514

A staple of high school shop class is now available as a no assembly needed printable model.

pigeon scarers - owl
by CEL

Is your summer garden plagued with squirrels and other critters? This stout little guardian might be what you need to stave off those pests! This figure can be printed in about a day.

Cases etc.

Headphones, pills, pencils - the list goes on. There are no shortage of customizable cases you can produce from a 3D printer. The possibilities range from the practical:

To the "Artistic":

Is it worth it?

Owning a 3D printer certainly makes you rethink some purchases. Why spend $1.99 on a pill container when you can print one at home? Unfortunately, 3D printing objects is not quite a simple as pushing a button. At least not yet. The price of the equipment might be going down, but there is still is a significant investment as far as learning how to use the equipment and software. The cost of printing material usually starts at around $20 per kilogram. The future of 3D printing definitely looks bright, but it might be some time before we see a 3D printer as an everyday appliance.