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Two thousand and twelve will probably be remembered as the year 3D printing broke into the mainstream.

While 3D printers don’t yet compete with toasters or DVD players in the home, the dam on the consumer market has been breached as the number of lower priced, easy-to-use models–and those who use them–grows. Part of this trend surely comes from the ever-expanding catalog of 3D printed objects, from the useful to the fanciful. Printing chess pieces and busts of Stephen Colbert is nice, but the range of what people create with their printers grows by the day and in turn inspires others to model and print ever more striking/utilitarian/beautiful/ridiculous/amazing objects.

What follows is a round-up of some of the more compelling items that came across our desks in 2012. As I look at the list it strikes me that it represents a moment in time. I can only imagine how such a list will look a whole 12 months from now. To the future!

3d-printed-guitar

3D Printed Guitar

While my friend who makes classical guitars from Brazilian rosewood might disagree, I think this is a beauty. While many 3D printed objects are more starting points or proofs of concept, this guitar reportedly sounds quite nice. And if you decide to smash it in a fit of Pete Townsend-like rage, you can just press print and make another.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 10.54.02 AM

Crania Anatomica Filigre

For me, Joshua Harker’s Crania Anatomica Filigre exemplifies the complexity and beauty that can be coaxed out of an .STL file. It’s become an iconic piece of digital art that defines the promise and potential of 3D printing.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.15.41 AM

Anatomica di Revolutis

But then Joshua’s follow-up to the Crania Anatomica Filigre might be even cooler. As a side note, the project’s Kickstarter campaign kicked up a little controversy by wading into the 3D Systems lawsuit issue.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.21.10 AM

McCormick D326 Tractor

At the unveiling of MakerBot’s Replicator 2 in October, the McCormick D326 tractor was one of the objects Bre Pettis used to demonstrate what the printer could do. It was a very effective demonstration.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 10.27.43 AM

3D Printed Record

What do you get when you use a $50,000 3D printer to create a 3D printed LP? A really expensive, poor recording of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But like so many 3D printed objects, the point is not the end result, but a hint of what’s to come. Have a listen.

 

3D Printed Mountain Bike and Other Big Stuff

While I wouldn’t want to bomb down a rocky trail on a frame made of ABS plastic, the mighty Objet 1000 is a beast of a printer than can print full scale models. Of course with a 1000mm x 800mm x 500mm build volume it’s not exactly a desktop model or remotely affordable, but it still makes cool stuff. Trek uses a smaller Objet Connex500 to prototype their designs.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.46.17 AM

Gyroscopic Snowflake

It’s not visible in this picture, but the cool thing about this simple object is there are little pins built into the model, and when you wiggle it, the snowflake breaks free and can spin around as does the little snowflake in the center. If you’ve got a 3D printer this is a simple holiday decoration or gift.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.56.27 AM

Dodecahedron Speaker

MAKE technical editor Sean Ragan posted this on MAKE Projects. He writes:

At normal listening distances, an array of twelve speakers arranged on the faces of a dodecahedron is a very good approximation of a point sound source, and the sound waves it produces are very close to perfectly spherical. A dodecahedron speaker can be a useful tool in acoustics research, and is definitely a fun toy to pull out at parties. They are available commercially, but very expensive. Some people build their own, but the odd compound angles and the high degree of accuracy and precision required in the parts make for challenging work with manual tools. But it’s easy for a 3D printer.

To that I would add it’s cool to say, “hey, wanna jam some tunes on my 3D printed dodecahedron speaker?”

Transforming Robot

I found this one over at Amnesia Blog. It’s a 3D printed robot from Brave Robotics that transforms from a remote-controlled car into a walking robot with a wifi camera, and headlights. Oh, and it shoot darts from its arms. Take that, Megatron.

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iPhone Phone

Chris Krueger posted this on Thingiverse as his entry for the “absurd iPhone accessory contest.” I say he wins. It’s practical, but a tad bulky.

2013 MAKE Ultimate Guide To 3D Printing

  • 3D Printers Buyer's Guide — 15 Reviewed
  • Getting Started in 3D
  • Learn the Software Toolchain
  • 3D Design for Beginners
  • 3D Printing without a Printer

Buy now!

Just Released! 2014 MAKE Ultimate Guide To 3D Printing

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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