Lots of things in the modern world could have stepped out of science fiction from fifty years ago. The mobile phone, meetings over Zoom, electric cars that charge by solar panels on the house roof… All of these things are miraculous in their way, and would have blown my mind when I was a kid. But I think the thing I would have longed for most would have been the 3d printer, and I believe this because I wanted one desperately even though I was over forty.
I was very lucky to hear from someone who had one they’d reconditioned and wanted to sell off cheap (ish). But the question was, what was I actually going to use it for? Because this thing was potentially an endless source of action figures, and I knew that would just cause trouble.
There’s a website for this, of course: https://www.thingiverse.com/ I got myself an account there and started collecting a balance of things I wanted, but didn’t need, and things that would be useful around the house. The first thing I tried was the awesome – looking bird-feeder.
This was too big for the machine I have (Flash Forge Finder), so I had to split up the model. However, since it’s a repeating pattern, I only had to use two parts (I cut the piece into quarters, and one quarter cut in half horizontally made the two pieces I used.) I printed each piece four times and glued them together, and was more than a little surprised to find the whole thing fitted together.
So, one for the house. I used the printer to make the gun for my latest costume idea, and have made a couple of gauntlets too:
I tried making an entire helmet – many, many more pieces to get one big enough for a head.
This week I printed another useful thing – a nose clip for mask-wearers who have glasses. Mrs Dim is very pleased with that, so I treated myself to an entirely useless Porg.
So far I’ve spent $60 on the reels of PLA used to make these things. Whether that’s cheaper than buying them…I dunno. I do know it would be hard to buy exactly these things in these proportions. I also know I have a lot more than $60 worth of projects piled up in my Thingiverse account.
But 3d printing is fun, and occasionally useful too. It is science fiction come to life, a Star Trek Replicator of my own, with a few limitations.