So, you’ve finally bought a 3D printer. Congratulations, you’re now officially a maker.
But what now? What can you actually use your new gadget for? There are lots of surprising applications – though most users won’t be interested in printing casts for broken bones, or prosthetic limbs.
Why not put the device to good use and make something educational – either for yourself or for your children? There are lots of awesome toys and gadgets to choose from, so in this article we’ve rounded up ten of the best:
1. Platform Jack
Jacks use mechanical advantage – typically a screw thread – to allow someone to lift a load that’s several times heavier than what they would be able to achieve manually.
This platform jack from Seattle-based intentional3D is printed in one single piece, despite having several moving parts. Although it’s not quite strong enough to use for changing a tire on your car, it’s great to see up close how the different elements combine to and allow it to function.
Once the excitement wears off, you can easily convert it into a unique mobile phone holder or trophy stand.
2. Toyota 4-Cylinder Engine
I’m not going to lie; I haven’t got a clue how a car engine works. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that most of you reading this don’t either.
Now you can learn, and best of all, you don’t need to spend hours lying on your back under a car while getting covered in oil. It’s all thanks to car-lover Eric Harrell, who created what is arguably one of the finest 3D printing projects we’ve seen so far.
His Toyota 4 Cylinder Engine 22RE is composed of 80 separate 3D printed parts and takes 72 hours to print. He customizes rubber bands and valve springs for the non-printable parts.
3. 5-Speed Transmission
What do you do when you’ve finished making a car engine? Make a transmission system to go with it, obviously.
This fully-functional unit takes 48 hours to print, and several more hours to put together. Harrell warns that the construction process is very difficult and you’ll need to follow his diagrams closely, though he is happy to provide assistance to those that need it.
Once you’re done, you can hook up the unit to the aforementioned engine and get one single piece of printed machinery.
Best of all, Harrell is confident it would work in a real car, so all you need now is a chassis and some seats. Google self-driving cars, eat your heart out.
4. T-Rex Skeleton
It doesn’t matter how old you are, everyone loves dinosaurs. These massive creatures roamed the earth for around 135 million years; an absolute eon compared to modern humans’ 200,000 years.
There is something seriously impressive about seeing a full-sized dinosaur skeleton in a museum, but unfortunately, they’re just too darn big to print out and keep in your living room. What you can do, however, is make a miniature replica.
This effort is 20 times smaller than the real thing, but it’s 100 percent accurate. It’ll take you around 24 hours to print out the 79 individual parts.
5. Raspberry Pi Case
We love the Raspberry Pi here at MakeUseOf. You can integrate them into literally thousands of projects, from using them as media servers to broadcasting your own radio station.
While the case isn’t educational in itself, the device certainly is – it can give you a great foundation in programming and electronics. By making an impressive holding unit, you’ll both be saving yourself money and giving yourself that extra motivation to open the box and get stuck in.
It comes complete with access ports for a Pi camera, HDMI cables, and 75mm VESA mounts.
We’ve also written specifically about 3D-printable Raspberry Pi projects.
6. Wind Energy Store
Along with tidal and solar, wind power is one of the holy trinity of renewable energies.
This device is perfect to teach yourself about how it works, but would also be well-suited to a classroom environment.
It uses a “gravity battery” to store the power it collects, making it ideal for lifting or lowering heavy objects. Of course, this small-scale replica doesn’t have those capabilities – but it’s great for explaining the principle and seeing the process in action.
7. Pulley System
Pulleys are widely considered to be one of the first machines known to man. Ancient mathematician Hero of Alexandria – who is credited with the first recorded steam engine – realized their potential as long ago as 50 AD.
This project allows you to set the number of wheels you want, allowing you to demonstrate both simple one-rope setups or more complicated multi-rope designs.
In addition to the 3D printout, you’ll also need some rope and a steel rod.
8. Physics Kit
Do you know anything about vector addition, Newton’s Laws, gear ratios, balancing torque, or a pendulum’s frequency? No, neither do we.
That’s exactly why you should print out this awesome set – you or your children will be able to learn about some of the most fundamental laws of physics from the comfort of your own home. If you buy some magnets (as the developer recommends) you’ll be able to stick the parts to a dry erase board or even something like a fridge.
9. Customized LEGO bricks
LEGO is a truly awesome invention. It can obviously provide children with hours of fun (and adults with hours of frustration), but it can also help you manage your time better or keep your tech organized.
Despite all its benefits, it does have some annoyances – especially if you’re into using it for its original purpose, namely, building stuff.
One of those annoyances is the types of bricks that are available. Did you ever make a wonderful sculpture as a kid, only to be foiled because the company didn’t make the exact type of brick you needed to finish your masterpiece?
Now your own children won’t have such problems – this printable lets you make your own custom LEGO bricks that’ll snap into the official pieces. Enjoy!
10. Pokémon Chess
Chess is a great game to learn; it’s been proven to help improve memory, aid cognitive development, develop critical thinking, and even boost reading abilities.
We think that playing with pieces like knights, kings, queens, and bishops is already pretty amazing, but if you want to drag it into the 21st century, try out this Pokémon-themed set.
Featured Pokémon include Mew, Pikachu, and Charmander, among others.
What Educational Toys or Gadgets Have You Found?
A cursory search on Google will reveal thousands of different toys and gadgets. No matter what your interests, you’re certain to find something to appeal; everything from fashion and art to physics and mechanics is well-covered.
If you’ve found a cool toy that you think your fellow readers should know about, we’d love to hear about it. What makes it so good? What did you learn from using it?
As always, you can leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments section below.
Image Credit: 3D printer by Chesky via Shutterstock