What is a 3D printer model?
To clarify, a 3D printer model is a set of instructions made with computer assisted drawing software that builds a 3D structure for the purpose of printing. You might need additional software for your particular 3D printer to “translate” the 3D model into something your printer understands.
You could call these blueprints or plans for a 3D object. Some are easy to make, some are intricately designed and some make seriously unique and useful products using plastic. You’ll find a massive range of helpful everyday objects available, as well as art and figurines. 3D prints are well known for being an alternative to buying equipment to cosplay a favorite character from a movie or show.
What are some of the best 3D printer models?
Here is a list of some of the coolest and most useful 3D printer models out there. We didn’t include all that many popular culture figurines because there are so many available it’s hard to pick which ones to go for!
3D Printed Safe
Making a 3D printed plastic safe offers a cool experience on a couple of levels: You’ll learn how a traditional dial lock safe works, and if you are only trying to protect a handful off small objects from your kids, it actually makes a good storage box. That said, we don’t recommend storing important documents in the safe as it won’t be fireproof.
The creator of the printed model says the print process is a bit long with multiple parts, but this is a great way to learn how to put something a bit more mechanical together.
Traditional steel safes are expensive and heavy. Printed with PLA or another plastic, this is a very cheap and potentially effective alternative.
The files and explanations are available at Printable.
Just like the safe, printing and assembling a telescope also gives you an excellent way to learn how a typical telescope works. The maker of this file and project provides extensive detail to support how the telescope works, which is great because for many, the first build of one will need a little explanation.
You’ll also want to note that you are mostly printing the shell of a telescope. You’ll need springs, glue, an eyepiece, and mirrors to make it truly work. The end result is really cool as it will capture the same level of detail you’ll get out of a cheap store bought telescope.
Medium Format Camera
So as a former photographer, this one really stood out to me. Medium format cameras can be rather expensive, especially for a digital, and in most cases, film models are rather old and have their own problems.
Printing a plastic medium format camera sounds ideal by comparison! The author of this project provides extensive detail in setting it up. Note that the “Bayonet” portion of this project refers to where you plug a lens into the camera and snap it into place. Their bayonet plans are primarily for a Mayima press lens. Different lens brands will require different bayonets. The good news: using their advice and some own your own measurements, you could build your own bayonet fit for this lens!
To be fair, you can probably find lots of plastics light sabers during Halloween, though they tend to be poor quality. The 3D project itself prints in collapsed form, so you’ll have to wait for it to finish to excitedly flip the end and let the rest of the plastic sword come out. The account through MakerBot provides a few examples of lightsabers, and they all model the Star Wars movies well with somewhat realistic looking handles that look both futuristic and a bit boxy.
My suggestion: Wrap glow sticks or lights around the sabers and do battles at night! Great fun for Star Wars fan, and even for kids. Also, put a foam tip on the end so you don’t poke an eye.
We are going a bit more practical here. Cable clips help both keep cables neat and prevent damage. Got a device with long, annoying cables? Use cable clips to wrap them up and prevent them from getting damaged or lost.
The author made these very simple, as they are literally a pair of hinges meant to fold together. While they are easy, they certainly belong in your shop if you frequently use cabled items for testing and communicating.
You can see them at Printables.
One thing I love about 3D printing is the ability to print practically. An adjustable wrench is an example of being able to print a short or long term use tool without having to buy an individual wrench for one purpose, or a whole set.
While we wouldn’t suggest bringing a PLA printed wrench to work if you are a contractor, these are extremely handy for the do it yourselfer who uses tools occasionally and maybe finds themselves in situations where they don’t have exactly the right size or length for the job.
As the creator of this model suggests, the best thing about this particular one is the lack of need for assembly. You’ll need to chip away the internal support, but otherwise, you’ve got a fully functioning work screw that will open and close the gap.
Mechanical wall clock
Clocks don’t have to be boring! A unique mechanical wall clock can make you less apt to pull out your phone to check the time. This one in particular has a bird like design that includes the gears driving the minute and hour hands.
The creator states that you just need a handful of reels and gears printed to make this work, in addition to potentially sanding the gears to make sure they are smooth and don’t cause unintentional friction with each other.
The marble maze is a bit more of a calming game and can also teach the young ones some motor skills. The idea is quite basic with 3d printed walls as well as a mount that allows it to tilt which encourages the marble to move in a desired direction.
Get bored with one? Just add or remove walls for a new challenge. The marble maze offers some fun for your desk and is a bit of a fidget toy.
These were pretty relevant when the 2020 pandemic required mask wearing in some states, and demand certainly outstripped supply. A 3d printed face shield is quite simple. This one is large enough to cover all the way up to your forehead and rest on your shoulders.
You might also find a face shield quite useful while working with chemicals or working with small parts that are prone to fly back at your face.
Find the instructions and files here.
We find this especially useful as a way to stop a problem that could get costly. People drill holes through walls and happen to find water pipes or electrical lines often - believe us, we’ve heard stories. If you know the depth you really need to hang something or make a chance, you can put a drill stop at the end to prevent yourself from going further. After all, a power drill can leap right out ahead of you.
The easy to use file and instructions are here.
Gripping Phone Stand
We’ve used and lamented some of our phone stand purchases. Phone stands are intended to grip to a dashboard and have a firm hold on your phone while in the car, or when placed on a table. The cheaper stands loose grip over time and have the tendency to suddenly let your expensive and important phone drop to wherever.
While many creators have phone stands, this one stands out for being durable and easy to use. The back makes it tiltable and quick to adjust for a different phone or a different angle.
Baskets can serve more than one function, and take us less space. This outstandingly practical and cool design lets you print a basket that easily folds flat. You could even use it as a chair or seat cover once folded. This has a big advantage over buying reusable bags from your favorite grocery store or farmer’s market, all while letting you pick your color and style. You can also avoid using baskets while shopping and having the necessary urge to clean the handles.
Minion Chess Set
While there are many chess sets available, one that stood out in popularity and detail is a Minions chess set. A 3D Minions chess set would be a great gift for a fan of the movie series or the kids, who might think chess is a little more fun with familiar characters.
USB and Card Holder
It’s really easy to lose the sacred SD and USB cards that keep some of our computer storage safe. A holder for all of the above does the trick! By designing several USB end and SD card sized holes, one can put all of their storage devices in the same spot with at least less fear of them walking away. This is overal a fairly simple design and could be modified to add more storage too.
Do you like to bake and cook frequently? Finding the right measuring cup can be a pain sometimes, especially if they came with a ring to keep them together which eventually breaks. A measuring cube lets a 3D printer measure multiple amounts from two cubes - and the little one can be stored inside the big one.
Where should I look for 3D print models?
There are several websites with complete searchable directories for the purpose of finding 3D models to download and print. One of the biggest challenges is thinking of where you want to start. We suggest with identifying the type of problem you are trying to solve, or the object you want to print. Starting with the word “organizer” might help if you want something for organizing or storing, for example.
Among them at Instructables, Thingiverse, Yeggi, Cults3D and many more. We would also suggest looking up the kind of model you want to make and search engines like Google will find you good examples.
You’ll also quickly learn that some of the available models are free, and some are for sale. Creators also tend to give extensive instructions on how to build their models and updates based on downloader feedback. The wrench we suggested, for example, was modified to provide a slightly larger gap between the wrench pinchers based on requests by others.
Can I sell the 3d models that I print?
One thing to note, in case you were thinking about it: Printing is different from printing and selling. Some 3D models are open source, but don’t allow you to print and sell a product made from their model. This also goes for licensed characters, like from your favorite games or TV shows - you can print models, but you might get in trouble for trying to sell the likeness on places like Etsy, eBay, and other merchant sites.
If you make your own unique item that isn’t licensed, you should be allowed to sell it.