Dec 29, 2015 | By Alec

When you ask people how they got into the 3D printing hobby, the stories are always remarkably similar. Either you learn about it through your job, or you see those cool Yoda busts, Bulbasaur pot planters and other cool desk-filling props and eventually treat yourself. Now there’s nothing wrong with those single part 3D printing projects that come straight from Thingiverse, but they can get repetitive and boring quite quickly. Besides, your wife will only let you display so many around the house. The result is that many people struggle to take the hobby to the next level, towards experimental, functional or enterprising 3D prints. If you recognize yourself in that issue, then you’ll be interested in an essay by teacher Scott Hanselman, who shares a few convincing insights on taking the 3D printing hobby to the next level.

If the name Scott Hanselman sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen some of his work in the tech community. By day, he is a programmer, teacher and speaker who works for the Web Platform Team at Microsoft, but by night he is an avid blogger focusing on a variety of tech related subjects. Like so many of us, he got into the 3D printing hobby with a rather cheap Printrbot Simple Metal. While extensively playing with it together with his family, he saw fellow hobbyists lose interest and 3D printers collecting dust, rather than filament.

In an attempt to remedy that, he recently wrote the interesting essay called “3D Printing is for so much more than just making brightly colored plastic pieces of crap”, in which he highlights a few elements that could help you to make the hobby interesting in the long term. Now this isn’t some insider snob criticizing amateur hobbyists, but is simply intended to offer some words of encouragement and a few handles that could help you along the way. So if you want to add some value to your expensive toy, be sure to check out the full essay here. Incidentally, the rest of his blog is also quite interesting.

A few of his points might seem very self-evident, but are nonetheless worth thinking about. The first of his lessons is that you can get more out of your 3D printer by upgrading it with a few (affordable) parts, which will suddenly open up a wide range of other projects for you. “One of the great jokes in 3D Printing is that people with 3D printers never print anything useful, they just print upgrades to their 3D printers. When you are getting started, this is actually kind of true,” he says. But you can 3D print even little add-ons for your 3D printer, like a large filament spool stand, that will give you more making options without draining your funds. “These were small but significant victories. This was a reminder to my sons and I that we could change these devices and make them work how we wanted, not necessarily how they were designed,” the teacher explains. Upgrading your nozzle also does wonders, he adds.

The second lesson is something we’ve often encouraged ourselves: the use of ‘exotic’ plastic filaments that add a wide range of new production options to your arsenal. This is crucial, he says, in taking your 3D prints from the basic, boring toys, to the special creations that are worth exhibiting. “I've made dishes, vases, pieces of art for shelves, and geometric shapes for gifts this Christmas. Each one is VERY different just by changing the filament. It's been more than changing color. These exotics change the texture and weight, and by making small changes in the software you can make them thicker or, in my case, thinner and more translucent,” he says.

Finally, he advises users to look into projects that involve more than only 3D printed parts. “This one may be obvious, but you don't have to do everything with plastic. My 8 year old and I are slowly making a "T4 Quadcopter" designed by Brendan from New Zealand and this project will require not only lots of 3D printed pieces but assembled pieces,” he says. “You can super glue, screw, bolt, zip-tie and snap 3D printed parts together. I've been surprised at how strong these parts can be when they are combined.” Like the previous two tips, this seems fairly straightforward. But when you’re so focused on something challenging, it is often the easy steps that are ignored. Hanselman is therefore absolutely correct to draw attention to these insights. Even if you have a very basic 3D printer, almost every project on Thingiverse can be realized as long as you know your limits and how to overcome them.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Perry Engel (aka cerberus333 on thingiverse) wrote at 12/31/2015 8:26:43 PM:

I think the article misses the point. Making "brightly colored pieces of crap" is one facet of the use of a 3d printer that encourages artists to experiment with a new medium. A artist can design and print and improve upon the design. Those who like to share their models and let others build upon the design are able to do so with sites like thingiverse etc. I do not dismiss using 3d printers to make prototypes or useful objects, that part of the use of the technology clearly is important. Dismissing 3d art as "brightly colored pieces of crap" only shows contempt for the artistic user base. Should we say use of ceramics for non engineering puropses is making useless clay pieces of crap? Glass for lenses is ok but stained glass windows is brightly colored crap? I think there is plenty of room for the artistic uses as well as the practical. I don't think calling artistic models (most shared freely) crap is benificial.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive