19 Useful Things to Make With a 3D Printer

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new generation of 3D printing machine printing a piece of plastic
Photo credit: Alexander Kirch/shutterstock

Until recently, 3D printers were used mostly in specialty applications by businesses and manufacturers or as toys by the wealthy. Today, however, they've become affordable enough to tempt many consumers. Still think they seem frivolous? Here's a look at 19 inexpensive and functional things you can make with a 3D printer instead of having to buy them. (The cost of production varies depending on the printer, software, and materials.)

Cable management Hive
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Get control of electronic clutter by printing a honeycomb-shaped organizer to neatly contain chargers, connectors, and cables. It's one of the simplest prints you can make. The organizer can be laid horizontally or stand upright.

Shopping Bag Handle
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Printing a few shopping bag handles makes it more comfortable to carry multiple plastic bags full of groceries. Make sure to use a raft to keep the handle from falling during printing.

Bottle Opener
Photo credit: Courtesy of cults3d.com

Designed for a material like PLA, a plastic commonly used in 3D printing, this bottle opener design won first prize at a 3D print exhibition in Rome. The boomerang version features a one-piece design, while the single-arm version consists of two parts.

Human Portal Bookends
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Keep your in-home library from tumbling with bookends, which are printed as individual pieces and then snapped and glued together. The end result makes it look like an animated man is teleporting through your books. The design was created with Google Sketchbook, and you can use painting portals to create custom colors. Scale up the 12-centimeter design for bigger, heavier hardcovers.

Jar Handle
Photo credit: Courtesy of youmagine.com

This design allows 3D printer users to turn Mason jars -- or any jars -- into mugs by adding a handle. The idea comes from Pittsburgh's Project RE, which looks for ways to upcycle objects that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Bag Clip
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Keep food fresh with 3D-printed bag clips. Since they require flexibility, most bag clips are made with ABS, another common 3D-printing plastic. This version can also be made with PLA, which is more brittle. It's designed with a hinge instead of a spring.

Chopstick Cheater Hinge
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Struggling with chopsticks? Practice or just cheat with a hinge unifier that turns two chopsticks into one utensil. Users have achieved good results with PLA.

Zip Toggle
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Do you have a perfectly good bag that's been rendered inoperable by a zipper pull that broke off? Instead of buying a new bag, print a replacement zipper pull. It's composed of two pieces: a clip that's threaded through the zipper and a pull tab that locks in place.

The HobbKnob
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Replace drawer knobs with printed handles that accommodate labels to see at a glance what's inside. This print can be a bit difficult, the designer warns. The trick is to print slowly.

Children's Handwashing Spout Extender
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Extend the reach of your faucet with an attachable waterslide, which projects water farther toward the front of the sink. Children will appreciate this print (and perhaps be more likely to wash their hands).

Massage Roller
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

A relaxing massage is one easy print away with this project. It comprises two rollers with different raised massaging elements, two handles, and a flat roller. The design also calls for screws and nuts to attach the rollers to the handles.

Toothpaste Tube Squeezer
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Squeeze every last drop out of that tube of toothpaste with a printable, rollable squeezer. It prints in three parts, and the latest version incorporates a lock to keep the tube from unrolling again.

Cable Tie
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Secure loose cords -- and anything else that needs securing -- with printed zip ties. Although you can get away with PLA, you'll likely do better with a more malleable material like ABS.

Scifi Small Part Storage Crates
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Perfect for tiny screws and other miniature hardware, 3D-printed mini-crates are about 90 millimeters tall with some extra room for the drawer handles. These were made with a Printrbot Simple (about $535 on Amazon).

Refrigerator Soda Can Holder
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Organize your fridge with a soda can holder that accommodates 10 drinks. It's made up of 14 pieces, which are printed individually and assembled afterward. Stiff PLA has proved to work well, but more flexible ABS also may be a suitable material.

3D Measuring Cups
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Printing measuring cups saves money you would have spent buying them at the store, and these are not your average measuring cups. They feature "floating" 3D stencils that rise from the bottom of the cup, letting you see the measurement even after the cup is filled. There are designs for five different sizes: 1 cup, three-quarters cup, half cup, third cup, and quarter cup.

Soap Holder
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

With a printed soap holder, you won't have to buy one at the store, and you may do less cleaning. The washable, detachable design prevents soap from gumming up the ledge of the tub or the edge of the sink and creating a mess.

Citrus Juicer
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Put the squeeze on citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits with a printed juicer. There are two designs: a solid version and a hollow one with internal ribs. Keep in mind that the default settings are probably too large for all but the biggest grapefruits, so be sure to adjust as needed.

Curved Balancing Wine Holder
Photo credit: Courtesy of thingiverse.com

Defy gravity with a curved, balancing wine holder that uses the bottle's weight to stay upright. This is a simple design with no assembly required. Unfortunately, current technology does not allow us to print the wine.

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