A combination of digital technology, the World Wide Web, and Personal Computer has given rise to a new type of Maker Movement that is rapidly growing in popularity. Public organizations around the country have embraced the chance to create and make, with libraries, schools, and museums identifying rooms that they can transform into a Maker Space.
Until now I haven’t had the opportunity to engage in this type of space, but since gaining access to the 3D Printer I’ve been able to engage in the hype and I can say that I’m hooked. Having problem-solving my way through some of the technical challenges and learning curves that exist with 3D Printing, I’ve now been able to explore an idea I had last year – 3D Printing gifts for the children’s Christmas Stocking.
While making an object that can be printed requires some patience and technical knowledge, there are ways for parents to explore this idea without getting into the weeds. For a start there might be public access to some type of Maker Space in your area that offers 3D Printing workshops. If this isn’t an option you could explore some of the online 3D Printing services. Shapeways appears to be one of the more popular options, but it looks like Staples have jumped on the bandwagon and also now offer some type of service.
Now, there’s a couple of options for 3D Printing gifts for the Christmas stocking. The first is to visit one of the many online libraries where you can download 3D printable object (Thingiverse is my favorite and they’ve already got a number of Christmas tree ornament options available). The other option is to create the model yourself, which I think is more in line with the whole making and creating concept – so in case you’re interested in this idea, which is kind of the main gist of this article, I’ve offered some suggestions below. I think you’ll need some comfort with digital technology, but you’ll be happy to hear that you don’t necessarily need to make a drastic purchase as the software is free and you can outsource the printing to one of many online 3D Printing companies.
3D Printing for Parents
LEARN HOW TO 3D MODEL – To model you need a 3D modeling program. Blender is a FREE 3D Modeling and Animation software.
- In my opinion it’s one of the best open source applications on the planet (open source means that the software is available for anyone to use, modify, and share for FREE).
- Blender comes with a steep learning curve, but comes with a fantastic online community that has created a variety of forums, websites, and video tutorials to support beginners.
- If you don’t fancy Blender there’s a few other options such as Google SketchUp. Whatever you choose they’ll be some type of challenge to overcome, but it’s so worth it once you see your creation begin to print.
KEEP IT SIMPLE – As I’ve said there is a few learning curves to 3D Printing, so even if you’re super good at modeling in a 3D environment, my suggestion is to start by keeping the models simple and not too complex.
- My first 3D Printed gift for the boys was a collection of different size cube objects that can stack up or fit inside one another. Nothing crazy!
- The more complex the model the more likely it is to have problems in printing.
SEND OFF TO PRINT – Like Vista Printer, who I used to print our Holiday Cards, companies like Shapeways offer 3D printing service, so you don’t even need to purchase a printer.
- The only thing to consider is that many of these companies charge by ‘volume’ of your shape so you need to spend a little more time learning how to size your objects and make sure they’re not bigger than they actually need to be.
BUY A 3D PRINTER – Yes, 3D Printers are no longer super expensive, though they’re still not as cheep as your standard HP Printer.
- M3D is the model I’ve begun to explore and I absolutely love it (though it’s software is currently a little buggy with Macs).
- M3D was funded through a KickStarter campaign and only costs $350. What I like most about this printer is the SMALL build area, which for most people is a negative, but I like it because it means I can’t be tempted to build something really big and spend lots and lots of money on filament (the 3D Printer equivalent of Ink).
- In regard to this article it’s the perfect size to print small stocking fillers such as toy cars, planes, trains, etc. Also it doesn’t run on propriety software so you have the ability to model in the application you’re most comfortable using so long as it exports as an STL file (the most common 3D Print friendly file).
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