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13 cool things you can 3D print right now

Courtney Wallis poses in a hat made with a 3D printer pen for the third day of the Royal Ascot horse racing festival at Ascot, southern England June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Reuters//Suzanne Plunkett
This hat may not be cool, but it was 3D-printed.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Three-dimensional printing is more precise, widely available, and easier to use than ever. And new printing materials—and more people making 3D-print designs—means a wider variety of applications. MakerBot, which manufactures 3D printers, features more than 100,000 models on its community, called the Thingiverse.

Here are some of the coolest and most interesting things you can 3D-print right now.

A “pentagonal hexacontahedron bracelet”

MakerBot Thingiverse/mathgrrl
Print your own bangles.

Whether you want to buy 3D-printed jewelry or print it yourself, there’s a lot out there to choose from. The design for this bracelet on MakerBot’s Thingiverse has been downloaded over 1,100 times.

A moon ring

Cunicode/Bernat Cuni
That’s no moon… it’s a ring.

There’s also this 3D-printed metal ring from Cunicode, designed to look like the middle slice of the moon and based on actual topographical data of its surface.

You, but smaller

Reuters/Thomas Peter
This is not a recreation of “The Indian in the Cupboard”—that is a 3D-printed figurine.

Berlin-based Twinkind sells eerily lifelike 3D-printed miniatures based on 360-degree scans of you. You can print out as many copies as you want—you can create a small army of figurines to play with, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Your own guitar

Instruments are expensive, but there’s a whole community of 3D printers who are experimenting with printing their own instruments to potentially bring the cost down. There’s a group of students that printed a guitar that was then used by the British indie rock group Klaxons onstage. Although guitar bodies are traditionally made from wood, it seems like 3D-printed guitars actually sound pretty good.

Your children’s imagination

Cunicode/Bernat Cuni
Nightmare fuel.

Realize the dreams and fantasies of your children’s imagination in three dimensions with Crayon Creatures, also from Cunicode designer Bernat Cuni. Crayon Creatures, as the name suggests, takes your children’s drawings and turns them into wonderfully terrifying 3D figurines.

New legs for your pet

If your pet was injured or born with a disability, why not help it out? 3DSystems recently printed a set of custom blades for a dog born with deformed front legs so that it could run for the first time in its life. Look how happy he is, scampering around on his 3D prosthetics.

New arms for you

This is a “robo-hand” printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2

There’s no reason to stop at your pets—there have also been some amazing advances in medical 3D printing. Doctors are making 3D-printed tools to aid in spinal surgeries, working knee joints and human organs. Last year, MakerBot donated to a project that built a prosthetic hand with fingers that can be controlled by wrist movements.

A toy bike made from an IKEA stool

MakerBot Thingiverse/Andreas Bhend and Samuel N. Bernier by LeFabShop
This bike was once an IKEA stool.

There’s a group of hackers making IKEA products a little more useful, or in some cases, just more fun. They have turned IKEA’s $15 Frosta stool into a toy bike which you can make with just a bit of 3D printing. And the stool, of course.

Snowsports for Generation Z

MakerBot Thingiverse/Gyrobot
Build your own Razor sled.

You can build a seasonally appropriate sled out of a Razor scooter with this mod on the Thingiverse. How long before hacked scooters like these—or custom-build stations—start popping up at ski resorts around the world?

iPhone 6 cases

Cunicode/Bernat Cuni
Easier than waiting in line at Best Buy.

If you don’t like any of the existing cases for an iPhone 6, you can print one yourself. (Nokia actually incorporated the ability to 3D print new removable cases for the backs of the Lumia 820 early last year.)

Chopstick help

This should help.

If you struggle to eat food with chopsticks, but are sick of giving in and asking for a fork, you can now get some 3D-printed help. Slip this device around a pair of chopsticks and never drop your noodles again.

Crazy crockery

Cunicode/Bernat Cuni
Some of these do not look user-friendly.

Cunicode’s Bernat Cuni spent 30 days designing and 3D printing a different mug every day, for 30 days. Some of the designs are clearly more about form than function. Some are still on sale.

A model of your heart

Kyle Formella/Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center
A 3D printed model of a human heart.

The National Institutes of Health recently set up a 3D print exchange, where doctors and researchers can upload, search and download 3D models of viruses, molecules, lab equipment, and anatomic models to print. This is more for doctors rather than regular hobbyists, but it’s pretty amazing that MRI scans can now be used to print accurate models of human hearts. Doctors are using these to help plan their strategies for complicated open-heart surgeries before they make the first incisions.

Where to find 3D printers

If you’re trying to figure out where to get your own 3D printer, the options are constantly expanding. Staples has partnered with 3D Systems and Home Depot with MakerBot to sell 3D printers in their stores. Amazon and Best Buy now both have extensive 3D printer sections on their websites. MakerBot has also opened brick-and-mortar stores in the three locations in the US where you can pick up a printer.

MakerBot printers are now available at Home Depot, as these employees discovered.

If you don’t want to buy your own 3D printer, there are many stores around the world that now offer 3D printing services. 7-Eleven convenience stores in South Korea, the supermarket chain ASDA (owned by Walmart) in the UK and shipping company UPS in the US have varying 3D printing services available for anyone to use. It’s like the new version of one-hour photo service.

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