There is so much more you can create with a 3D printer than just weird geometric trinkets and parts for artificial limbs.
If you've ever longed for your own CNC machine, a 3D printer can deliver similar functionality in some ways. But there's a catch: you can only work in plastic. You start with a digital model, such as a CAD drawing, that you can download from one of many online libraries or design yourself. You can also commission someone to create the design to your specifications, or even use a 3D scanner to create a model of an existing object.
After you upload this to your printer, it creates the shape by extruding molten plastic filamentthrough a nozzle. This is arranged in super-thin layers that are stacked together from the bottom up. Read our detailed guide to learn more about the process.
So what’s a 3D printer actually good for?
● Spare parts for damaged items, or new components in custom colours.
● Specialised elements such as gears, propellor blades, casings and linkages.
● Complex, interlocking shapes and moving parts inside enclosed objects.