3D printing has gone from a niche DIY hobby to a huge industry while we’ve been watching over the past decade. However, one complaint has managed to wiggle along side the growth and remain, at least a little bit, valid.
“So much of stuff that is 3D printed is just useless junk”
I know that statement will ruffle some feathers. However if you look at ads for 3D printers and take a peek at youtube, you’ll find endless examples of this. There’s nothing wrong with printing trinkets, I certainly am not saying that. I know I’ve printed my fair share of monster busts and fidget toys. However, as an industry, there’s a bit of an image problem that leads many to think that 3D printing is a frivolous hobby.
This is why I think the flash contests being put on by printables are a breath of fresh air.
These are small contests run somewhat frequently on the 3d printing file repository printables.com. The prizes for these contests are usually “prusameters” which can be collected and traded for goods from the prusaprinters online store such as filament or even 3D printers.
What strikes me though, aside from how massively engaged that community is, are the topics.
Here is a short list of some recent ones:
- Ikea lack hacks
- vase mode vases
- wedding decorations
- pegboard accessories
- keychain tools
- marble mazes
- knife holders
- sealable boxes
- airtag accessories
- sharpie mods
- battery boxes
- bag clips
- fidget toys
There are so many more, but you may notice a trend here. Many of these things are useful around the house.
Often when discussing 3D printing with someone unfamiliar and they bring up the “oh it’s all just useless trinkets”, I’ll toss out an example of some household item that I’ve 3D printed. The response is that buying a printer surely was not an effective way to get that item. That response would be correct but it isn’t about a single item. It’s about being able to create all kinds of single items and these contests are creating a massive library that has a cumulative effect of allowing for printing of many, many useful items. When someone says it’s all just useless trinkets, you can point here and say no, it’s thousands of useful items and thanks to these contests, there is a variety of each one!
The person organizing these flash contests is Matt Stultz, who used to be the digital fabrication editor here at Make:. Based off his previous statements on how he thought printing could really be useful, I suspected he had a strategy.
I take a lot of suggestions for upcoming contests from the community themselves. It’s funny how often people think about the things they need right then at that moment and then suggest that thing as a theme. While I try to find a balance for the contests to keep all of our users happy and engaged, I think it’s pretty obvious that I am steering more toward the useful than just the simply fun. I think the useful side of 3D printing is going to push further growth in the industry; if I can help make that more visible, I will.
I say kudos to Matt and the Printables team. I know this library has become something I immediately turn to when I need something.
So, next time someone says 3D printing is just useless junk, tell them the following.
- let people print what they want you jerk, if they want useless junk it’s not your problem
- there’s a massive and growing library of actual useful things that you can use to fix and improve things around you daily.