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3D Printing - An Introduction

This guide will provide a general introduction to 3D printing.


3D printing is not just being used in industry and research. Individuals and small groups are finding lots of different ways to use the technology to help with hobbies, around the house, and in their daily lives.

How Can I Use it?

Photo of a life-sized 3D printed Rescue suit costumes from Marvel ComicsArtists, designers, and cosplayers are finding all sorts of uses for 3D printing.


Many costume and prop designers are finding that 3D printing allows them to create all manner of objects. Hobbyists and cosplayers have also taken up the technology, often replacing creation in foam or other materials with printed plastic.

Since 3D printed parts can be sanded, painted, glued, and more there are many different ways to create complete wearable costumes or suits, along with other accessory props. 3D printing is also being used to create costumes like this for movies, but as the technology becomes more accessible, it gives more people the chance to make the creative outfits of their dreams.

In addition 3D printing is also making its way into the fashion world. Designers are experimenting with 3D printed 'fabrics', and in using printing to add detail to fabrics. Customized 3D printed shoes have been created, along with many different types of fashion accessories.


3D printing is giving artists and designers new ways to express their creativity. Many are using it to design jewelry that can either be printed directly in their desired material, or used as a mold to cast with. The variety of materials available mean they're not stuck using metal, and prints can be shaped and dyed afterward to achieve the desired effect. Art and fashion is another area being explored using 3D printing. Sculpture and art installations are becoming more common, with artists designing in a modeling program before bringing their creations to life.

Image of a complex 3D printied dress in white filament on a dressmakers form. And a picture of a woman wearing a blue 3D printed earring in a disk shape.


Have you ever broken a part of something in your house and been unable to find a replacement? Is there some gadget that would help in your day to day life that isn't on the market? Having a 3D printer allows you to create items that can fill these gaps, whether through printing already created files or designing your own. Here are a few examples of items that have been designed to be used around the home.

Quilting assistant - Created to help a family member keep track of their place while quilting.

Faucet extender - Designed to extend the reach of the faucet, so children can better make use of the sink.

Further Reading


Picture of a math teacher holding 3D printed models representing mathematic formulas3D printing in the classroom has slowly been growing. Educators can use printers to create touchable objects for their classrooms. For example, the image shows a high school math teacher who printed out models that are physical representations of complex math equations. This allowed her students to visually engage with the equations and math they had been learning. Teachers can also print out anatomical models, artwork, artifacts, biological models, fossils, machinery, and more, which allow students to engage with these items and concepts in new ways. It also opens doors for students to learn how to create their own models and learn computer design.

3D science projects are gaining traction. Giving students a project to design an object and then print it out to see how it works, or to illustrate a scientific concept. This process teaches critical thinking, and also how to take an idea from a concept in your mind to a real physical object. Students learn design principles and software, and the value of the iterative process. If their first design doesn't work, 3D printing allows them to try again with relative ease.

Further Reading

Solving Localizied Problems

One strength of 3D printing comes from the combination of creativity and functionality. If you or someone you know has a problem in you life, whether it be something like a part on an appliance breaking or something more serious like a mobility issue, 3D printing can help. It allows the end user to create objects that will help solve their particular problem, without having to rely on manufacturing or trying to find a mass produced solution that doesn't exist. It puts the creation and fulfillment closer to the need and allows people to solve localized problems around themselves.

  • Creative & Functional problem solvingundefined
  • Change the world for one person
  • Low cost and (relatively) short turnover
  • Iteration allows for refinement

Case Study

In this case a motorized wheelchair user was seeking lightweight and portable ramps that could be deployed when they came into a situation where no ramp was available. He designed a set of portable ramps that are easily printed. (Picture 1, to the left.) The design included a patterned surface to increase grip and handles on the side for help in placement and retrieval. These were used successfully and also shared online so the file could be remixed and modified.

The original ramps are easy to deploy, but the angle is rather steep, which could be a safety concern. The original creator asked the community for help with improving the design. They took the ramp and iterated on it, coming up with a second generation. This new design sports a connector to a secondary piece (shown in orange), which makes the angle of the ramp gentler and the run up to the top smoother. The smaller half can also be used independently for shorter curbs. These updates make the ramps safer to use and less likely to slip. In addition a holed pattern was created in the ramp file both to increase grip and to lessen printing time.

Further Reading