For what do you use your 3D printer?

One question that I got asked a lot when I was building my 3D printer 2 years ago was: “Why?”

I suppose I can summarise my answers to this complex question as follows:

  • Why not?
  • It opens up new avenues for tinkering
  • It is an excuse to practise 3D modelling and mechanical design
  • I believe in investing in the future, and any money that I put into a (relatively) new technology helps it. Even though this is only a stepping stone to better versions of 3D printing and fabbing, you need to put money into those steps, because it encourages smarter people than me to improve the technology.
  • I love a sexy new machine (if you don’t understand what I mean by sexy in this context, you aren’t an engineer)

My 3D printer has become an indispensable part of my life. I don’t use it every day, but it’s comforting to know that it’s there. It was out of commission for a few weeks due to a faulty extruder heater, and I felt like I’d lost an arm.

So what do I use the 3D printer for? For making things like…

  • Pointless things/decorations (jellyfish lamp shade)
  • Household items (spray hose bracket, rod mounting bracket, tablet holder)
  • Toys (young derek’s safe, cube bot)
  • Tinkering (robotics parts)

But mostly? I use it for killing goblins.

Now before you go drawing conclusions and thinking that I’m the nerd that I am, just listen. I don’t mean that I print little dungeons & dragons figurines to use for role playing games (I WISH I had time for a D&D campaign). No, nothing as nerdy as that. Allow me to explain…

I took some time off work over a year ago, and spent about a week being really productive around the house, and then two weeks catching up on anime and video games. During this time, I got most of the way through Zelda: Skyward Sword. I didn’t get all of the way through the game before I got summoned back to work; unfortunately I just couldn’t fit it in around all the sleeping in and TV watching.

So you’re thinking that I use the printer to somehow improve my abilities with the Nintendo Wii, to help me kill goblins in the game? No, you’re wrong. Now quit interrupting or I just won’t finish the story.

At Christmas, in amongst all the usual family stuff and general sitting around sweating and complaining that no civilised man should be forced to sweat against his will, I saw that video game case sitting next to the TV… I made a decision. RIGHT, it’s time I finished this game. despite the rolling eyes and condescension that such things elicit, I told my wife that I needed to spend some time with Link, kicking some monster butt. After several hours of frustration and swearing at the Wii controllers for CLEARLY being defective, I completed the game. The ending was a little anticlimactic, and all I had to show for it was a severe case of tennis elbow. Never-the-less, it felt fantastic. I had finally finished a year old game which had been haunting me subtly since I got it.

After I finished, I went and gave my wife a hug and thanked her for being so understanding, and explained to her that while it was a small achievement, it had lifted a small weight from my mind. I felt like I had killed a little goblin that had been sitting on my shoulder. Even though it was only a small goblin, it was one less of the horde of little goblins currently residing there. Sometimes I feel like I have so many little, unimportant ideas and jobs that are just sitting there, waiting to be dealt with. I’m pretty sure that I’d be a lot happier and a bit less stressed if I could just kill most of these goblins and get on with life.

So what does this have to do with my 3D printer? There are so many of these little goblins that are simply ideas that I’ve had at some point, but never gotten around to following through on because it would take more time than it’s worth to turn them into reality. My 3D printer made it so much easier to create some of the pointless designs that I have had sitting on my mental sketchboard for months, or even years. For example:

  • Pointless fun things (e.g. Party Popper Gun, cube-bot, etc)
  • Replacement parts and homewares (e.g. Biscuit Press Locking Ring, etc)
  • Robot parts (e.g. Brackets, Housings and Clips, etc)
  • Printer parts (Spool Holder and LCD Screen Mount, etc) “a chicken is just and eggs way of making another chicken”

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The 3D printer lets me kill these goblins much more easily and rapidly, getting rid of the goblins and freeing up space in my brain.

Whether I fill that space with anything useful or just cram more anime and video games into, I suppose, is another question. I think it actually just frees up brain power with which to dream up more goblins… Sigh.

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