When you think of a DIY project, your head might be filled with images of arts and crafts, scissors and glue, paint brushes and popsicle sticks. Or maybe you’re thinking of a home improvement project, something that requires a few trips to Home Depot and a hammer.
What if I told you (queue Morpheus from “The Matrix”) that you can actually do DIY projects without getting your hands dirty? Introducing 3D printing. 3D printing is the high-tech way to do creative projects. You’ve no doubt heard of it - it’s one of the most exciting developments in the tech world.
But what exactly is a 3D printer? How does it work? And, most importantly, what can you create with it? Here’s what a 3D printer can do, and 3 great creative projects that you can do with one.
What is a large 3D printer?
To answer this question, we’ve first got to assume that you know the answer to this
question: what is a 3D printer
? Printer size aside, a 3D printer is a machine that prints a 3-dimensional object from a computer-generated program. It’s an actual object you’re able to hold, throw, and twirl through your fingers.
It sounds contradictory. After all, when you print a document on your home printer, you’re printing what appears to be a 2-dimensional image on a 2-dimensional plane. Even so, the ink your printer lays on the page is a layer of pigment. So what kind of magic does a 3D printer conjure to create a solid object?
The magic is in layering
Have you ever baked lasagna? In the same way that lasagna is made from a series of layers laid one by one in a baking pan, a 3D printer creates an object with a series of layers laid one on top of the next according to the computer program you design it in.
Thermoplastics are the key ingredient. These are plastics that melt when they’re heated and turn solid again when they’ve cooled .
So the answer the first question - what is a large 3D printer - is just a matter of size. It’s a larger-sized model of 3D printer that can print taller or wider objects than standard 3D printers. Large 3D printers can also handle a greater variety of 3D printing materials.
What can you make with a 3D printer?
Entire buildings have been constructed with 3D printers - each part of the building was printed separately and then assembled on-site. Some objects have even been printed out of chocolate and sugar .
But let’s discuss some of the more practical and/or lovely creations that you can make yourself.
How do you use a 3D printer?
Before you get started, familiarize yourself with the basic process of 3D printing. There’s a learning curve to it, but it’s nothing you can’t master with a little bit of practice.
Here are the 3D printing steps, simplified:
1. Create a digital model
For some folks, this is the easiest part of the process. For others, it’s the hardest. You’ve got to create a digital version of the object you want to print. The digital model will give the 3D printer the measurements it needs to print the object.
When you do some research on how to create a digital model, you’ll find that there are plenty of user-friendly software programs available that’ll help you through the design process . It might also be helpful to get a computer that’s built for digital illustration
, but it’s not essential.
2. Gather materials
Next, you’ll have to gather the materials that’ll be used to print your object. Common 3D printing materials include Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polylactic Acid (PLA), metal filaments, wood filaments, carbon fiber filaments, and nylon .
You can even make things out of precious metals. Once you’ve loaded the 3D printing materials
, you’ll be ready to print.
Do I need to own a 3D printer to create things with one?
3D printing, however, is a very new technology, and prices still haven’t dropped enough to make them affordable for home use. This is true across the market, and not just with HP®.
For that reason, they’re mostly being purchased by engineering companies to produce parts for machinery, by printing companies who can pass the cost of the investment on to customers, and by co-ops who pool their resources to buy-in with memberships or cost-sharing.
So long as you’re able to create a digital model of the object that you want to 3D print, you can still have your creation printed. One option is to find a 3D printing company to print your project for you. These companies own 3D printing equipment and will print out your digital model at a modest cost.
Another way is to find 3D printing facilities near you by Googling “makerspace near me.” Often these are a co-op or club with minimal monthly or yearly fees that give you access to 3D printers along with other woodworking, engineering, and digital tools.
3D printing is slowly becoming more affordable for consumers, which makes it one of the most exciting technologies to try out. If you’re on the fence, having a 3D printing company produce a 3D print for you is a great way to try your hand at this tech.
3 DIY projects
1. Create a sculpture
Have you ever wanted to create a piece of fine art, but never got the chance to go to art school? Well, it’s time to make your art dream a reality. You’ll have to supply the digital model, but a 3D printer will do all the sculpting for you.
You can make a sculpture out of almost anything you want. A 3D-printed sculpture is a terrific and personalized piece of home decor.
Of course, you can even go a step further beyond an ordinary sculpture. Why not create a bust of yourself? You know, a sculpture of your head, neck, and shoulders. The folks at Makezine broke down the process into just a few easy steps .
All you’ve got to do is take pictures of every side of your head. You stitch the photos together in modeling software to create a 3D image, which a 3D printer can create.
2. Create new furniture
Tired of paying enormous prices for furniture? Ever feel like you can’t find the right piece of furniture that matches your home decor? Use 3D printing to create the perfect piece of furniture for your home.
Believe it or not, there are 3D printers large enough to create whole pieces of furniture. If you’re not able to get access to a furniture-sized model, you can still create a chair or sofa or table by creating individual pieces and then assembling them.
Sure, you’ll have to break out a few essentials from the tool box. But assembling 3D-printed furniture pieces is still much easier than trying to sculpt furniture shapes from wood or metal.
When you build furniture by hand, you’re often limited to simple shapes and designs unless you’re an expert craftsman. What’s nice about 3D-printing furniture is that you can craft much more intricate and fantastic designs (think Victorian-era furniture).
You’ve only got to be able to create the shapes in a digital modeling program. In no time you’ll have lovely new furniture that no one else has, and which cost you very little money.
3. A model of your dream home
It’s fun to dream about your dream home. With 3D printing, you can bring the living space of your dreams to life - well, sort of. You can definitely create a scale model of your dream home, and if you aspire to really build it someday, a scale model is a great start.
Create a model home that’s realistic in engineering do-ability, or create something completely fantastical.
Your scale model can have windows and chimneys and gothic towers. It can be solid, or you can craft it in pieces so that you can open it like a doll house and see the layout of rooms. And, of course, you can paint it whatever color you want. Impress your friends and aspire for the future.