Most of us can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on a 3D printer, let alone find the time to learn to operate the machine. That said, I still want to be part of the club – it looks like fun!
This guide will teach you to find free templates for useful, interesting, and fun items to print, as well as recommending some websites to print them for a reasonable price.
STEP 1: Figure out what you want to print.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to print, sites like Pinterest or Instagram are also great sources for inspiration. The worldwide 3D printing community is a huge group of like-minded and generous people, which have uploaded literally millions of 3D models that anyone can download and use.
Websites like www.thingiverse.com, www.turbosquid.com, www.cgtrader.com, and www.cults3d.com offer hundreds of thousands of (mostly) free 3D models that you can download and use for 3D printing. There’s also www.yeggi.com, a “google-style” search engine that searches all the top 3d model websites.
STEP 2: Figure out who’s going to print your stuff!
ONLINE 3D PRINT SHOPS: There are many places that print 3D objects with no minimum quantity or maximum size. www.shapeways.com, www.makexyz.com, and www.you3dit.com allow you to upload 3D models (like those found on the sites in step 1), or you can browse their libraries of objects, print what you like, and get it shipped to your door. Prices vary from site to site, and the size, color and shape of your design affect costs as well, but most are affordable going for as little as $5-$50!
LOCAL 3D PRINT SHOPS: I could watch for hours, mesmerized, as a 3D printer magically liquefies the solid resin, and slowly reforms it into a solid object. If you want to see the printing process live, some Microsoft Stores, and many libraries and community centers now have 3D printers with (hopefully) staff trained to use it. Search your town’s website for locations with 3D printers, and classes or clubs that can help you get started.
MAKER DEPOT: If you happen to live near Totowa, NJ, Maker Depot is my favorite 3D printing spot. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and always happy to help – plus they offer “Makerspace” with several 3D printers – as well as wood/metal working stations and electronics/computer labs.
For about $75 a month, my Maker Depot membership allows me to freely use ANY of their machines, and I’ve already learned quite a bit from the staff, the classes, and the Makerspace community. The space offers a friendly and relaxed environment where I’ve made friends with some incredibly interesting people. Everyone has been so contagiously passionate about the technology, tools, and toys they work with, and happy to teach what they love, that I can’t help but go back as often as I can!
I hope you found this article useful, but if you have any questions, suggestions about the info above, or other clever ideas about easy 3D printing, please feel free to comment below!