30 Fun 3D Printing Projects You Can Work On
3D printing is an incredibly versatile, possibly useful, and sometimes frustrating technology that has captured the imagination of many enthusiasts. However, there’s probably one word to describe 3D printing that stands out from all the rest – it’s fun. Simply put, it’s really satisfying to see that 3D model in your screen come to life right before your very eyes.
The point we’re trying to make is that your 3D printing projects don’t always have to be useful or practical. The following list is a summary of our favorite 3D printing projects for when just want to kick back and watch the process unfold. They are all simple, easy to print, and are really nice to look at when they’re finished.
1. Paddle wheel steamboat
The classic Benchy model is still the standard design when it comes to “torture-testing” a filament you’re not familiar with. However, you can only have so many Benchy prints lying around before you start to get sick of seeing them. This paddle-wheel steamboat is a take on the old-fashioned Benchy that features richer detail, making it a bigger challenge without being too frustrating. Coloring it in with a few basic colors will be a nice callback the days of yore when the Industrial Revolution hadn’t yet hit full swing. If you pull it off, this steamboat will make a nice display on your work desk or on any countertop.
The Flexi-Rex is another classic, but we still find it an incredibly fun model to play around with. Originally made for the Settlers of Catan board game, the Flexi-Rex design is made of several interlocking parts. The way these parts connect to each other allows the model to flex and bend, giving the illusion of a T-Rex rearing its head and arms. Some people have even made larger versions of this design, which just amps up the fun factor.
3. Swiss Army Key Chain
At first glance, this object looks just like any other Swiss Army knife. It has its characteristic shape and even comes with the likeness of the Swiss Army logo. However, it serves a function that is (arguably) even more valuable than a Swiss Army knife – it’s an incognito, very well-organized keychain. Much like the various tools of a Swiss Army knife, each key in this key chain can be rotated outwards for access. You will need a few socket screws to hold the whole keychain together, but you can make it as thin or as thick as you need. You might miss the sound that jangling keys in your pocket sound, but we really like how tidy this keychain looks.
4. Mini Strandbeest
Developed by Computer Science major Theo Jenssen, a Strandbeest is an assembly of plastic pipes, bottles, strings, and other materials that can move around merely by wind power. These are really cool marvels of engineer that have caught the attention of people worldwide. Nowadays, most of Theo Jenssen’s original creations are housed in museums.
With 3D printing technology, you can recreate a Strandbeest that is small enough to fit on your desk. Best of all, these models actually work – you can try blowing on them to make them move. From its looks alone, it’s quite obvious that this will be a complex print which will require several, interlocking parts. We think the effort’s worth it, though, as these models will certainly become conversation pieces at your place.
5. Keychain Smartphone Stand
Nowadays, smartphones are more than just communication devices. They provide entertainment, internet access, scheduling and planning, and can even be powerful enough to get some work done. A smartphone stand would be incredibly handy for you to get the most out of your phone, but it’s not something that people usually carry around.
This keychain smartphone stand is the perfect solution. You can simply clip the keychain to your keys or even to your phone itself, and you’ll have a smartphone stand anywhere you go. The designs are also incredibly cute, so they’re fun to bring along.
6. Webcam Cover
With so many instances where corporations have been found to be spying on people using their personal devices such as phones and laptops, people nowadays can’t help but feel just a bit paranoid. If you’re the type of person who still keeps a sticky note on their webcam, we’d like to propose a much better alternative. This webcam cover fits right above laptop webcams and has a sliding panel so you can open and close your webcam when needed. It’s also much less unsightly than having a piece of yellow paper stuck on your webcam permanently.
7. Popsicle in a Postcard
This is certainly one of the strangest 3D prints we’ve seen, which also makes it one of the most interesting. By 3D printing a completely waterproof mold and filling it with juice, this print makes it possible to mail an actual popsicle to your friend. When it’s received, the juice merely needs to be frozen. The expansion of the popsicle as it freezes should provide enough force to break open the 3D printed mold.
There is a bit of complexity to pulling this off as you’ll need to pause the printing at the middle of the design to insert the popsicle stick into the mold. You’ll also need to use a syringe to fill the mold with the juice and use an epoxy sealant to ensure that the whole mold is waterproof. Still, it a nice project which could be a pleasant surprise to your friends.
8. Duck Headphone Hanger
Headphone hangers are a dime a dozen in the 3D printing community, but this design offers something quite different. This headphone hanger literally has a face of a duck on it, with your headphones comfortably nestled on its bill. It’s made to be mounted on a wall and uses up much more filament than a standard headphone hanger, but there’s still the fact that it’s a headphone hanger with a duck’s face on it. How are you going to top that?
Even if you don’t know exactly what a spirograph is, there’s a good chance that you’ve played with once when you were a kid. This spirograph is composed of two interlocking parts, with one you can rotate inside of the other to draw interesting geometric shapes and repeating patterns. You can try out hundreds of combinations of the several drawing holes in this spirograph, so you’ll likely have hours of fun with it. Just a warning, though – the models are really flat, so just take it slow when it’s time to remove them from the build platform.
10. Universal Bottle Opener
What good is your 3D printer if you’re not going to make a bottle opener with it? We’ll do you one better – with this universal bottle opener, you can easily open screwcaps, bottlecaps, and even soda cans. The screwcap bottle opener can even adjust to different-sized bottles. Print one of these and make it a permanent fixture in your kitchen so that nobody in your household ever has to struggle with opening bottles again.
11. Collapsible Picnic Basket
Having a picnic is always a great idea, but not everyone has a picnic basket lying around. How about printing your own? Best of all, this picnic basket collapses flat when not in use so you can just keep it inside a kitchen cabinet. When the basket is engaged, it has five separate sections to keep your picnic essentials organized. This collapsible picnic basket is a really good concept, and it looks far more intimidating considering how easily and smoothly it prints.
12. Dragonfly Flying Toy
Here’s another entry in the list of unique and creative 3D designs: a dragonfly toy that can really fly. Printed in several parts that need to be assembled together, this dragonfly toy has actual aerodynamic wings that flutter about using a winded piece of an elastic band. There was a lot of thought put into the design of this model which used concepts from the research of an applied mechanics professor from Cornell University. Instead of lift, this dragonfly uses drag to fly. It’s kind of a complicated topic, but you or your kid should have plenty of hours of fun flying this toy around.
13. Chip and Drink Bowl
3D prints don’t always have to be marvels of engineering. Sometimes it’s enough that they serve a purpose, even the most basic ones. In this context, this chip bowl fits the bill. It’s not just a chip bowl, though. A standard beer bottle fits right into its central panel, allowing you to carry your drink and chips using just one hand. If you are having friends over soon to watch some football, then you can pass these around, so your guests don’t have to remain glued to their seats all throughout. These are also great for parties, as it allows people to socialize each other while enjoying their food and drinks.
14. Labyrinth Gift Box
Sometimes, how you package a gift is the gift itself. With this labyrinth gift box, you can make your friends work a little bit before they can open the gift you’ve given them. Made of two interlocking pieces, there is only a single solution to open this gift box. Solving the gift box can take several minutes to a few hours, so you have all the time in the world to watch in glee as your friends get frustrated with your little “gift.”
15. Fidget Spinner
The fidget spinner fad may be over, but it’s still good to know that you can 3D print your very own fidget spinner should you be in the mood to reminisce about a past era (which is only around six years ago). Not all parts of the fidget spinner can be printed, though, as you’ll still need a ceramic 608 bearing to add some weight and to provide a rotation point. You can also print a bearing cap to go with your assembled fidget spinner.
16. Survival Whistle
There are probably only a few free 3D designs available online that are more valuable than this – a 118-dB survival whistle that you can use in an emergency. The whistle can be attached to your keys, your phone, or your handbag. It’s also built small and thick, making it rugged and durable. The sound that this whistle makes isn’t just an ordinary whistle tone – it’s a combination of two slightly different tones which combine to create a shrill sound, which should prove to be more attention-catching. Print one or several of these, and don’t leave home without it!
17. Veggie Toys
We know we aren’t supposed to play with our food, but who can resist building a race car out of a carrot? Or a rocket out of zucchini? These makeshift wings, rotors, and landing gear can be stuck into pieces of vegetables to “hack” them into toys. This can be a great exercise for kids who can let their imaginations run wild and come up with various creative ways to make vehicles out of any vegetable.
18. Secret Butterfly Box
This butterfly box isn’t just pretty, but it also holds a secret – it’s a puzzle box that can only be opened if you can find the key and the keyhole. This is a great box for keeping your secrets, although we’ll limit those secrets to sweet notes and a few mementos. The components of the butterfly box are pretty simple and just putting it together once will clue you in on how it’s opened. How about making one for your kid or your little sister? They are sure to have several hours of frustrating fun with this puzzle box.
19. Digital Sundial
We’ll have to file this one under the list of the coolest things we’ve seen made with 3D printers. This sundial isn’t the typical sundial used in ancient times. Instead of telling the time based on the angle of its shadow, sunlight hits it at such an angle that it displays the current time. The big surprise is that the time is displayed in digital form! It’s a seriously amazing, intricately designed model that is sure to make a lot of people interested when they see it. It’s highly detailed though, so make sure to print slowly.
20. Spare Key
We’re just a surprised as you are, but it’s actually possible to print a spare key using just a typical FDM printer. You’ll have to be careful in handling a plastic key, though, since it’s far from the durability of a metal or brass one. It will also require you to do some 3D scanning and measurement of the original key. Still, this is a pleasant surprise that many people did not expect at all out of 3D printers.
21. Nozzle Coat Hanger
Show off your passion for 3D printing by decorating your apartment with coat hangers inspired by the nozzle of a 3D printer. Aside from being fully functional, these nozzle-shaped coat hangers are certain conversation pieces. The design even comes with a removable nut in case you want to secure your items better. They are simple models that are easy to print and install – nothing too exciting but interesting, nonetheless.
22. Mini Platform Jack
This looks like a miniature version of the platform jack that painters use to reach high areas, although this variant is much too small to support anything even close. It’s a nice platform for displaying your collectibles, though, such as other 3D prints, action figures, or toys. What’s great about it is that it’s fully functional: by turning the screw, you can easily adjust the platform height. This is a fairly simple but quite satisfying print and is perfect for you to get some practice on printing and assembly.
23. Portable Wheelchair Ramp
Although there has been a concerted effort by establishments and local governments to make more places wheelchair-accessible, getting around can still be very difficult for our different-abled friends. Even the mere act of getting up to the sidewalk from the street can be a complicated exercise. This pair of lightweight and small ramps was designed by a wheelchair-user to be carried around so that a ramp is ready to use anytime it’s needed. It’s basically just a wedge with a textured surface to provide traction. In fact, the design is so simple that it’s a wonder why it’s not just a permanent fixture on more of our streets.
24. Egg Separator
Bakers and cooks would love this: an easy-to-use foolproof scoop that separates egg yolks from the whites. While most old-fashioned cooks use the eggshell method, this handy egg separator does the job much faster and more reliably. Just make sure to use a food-safe filament when printing this, such as an additive-free PLA or PETG.
25. Articulated Human Figure
This is one of the more impressive “action figures” we have seen – a human figure with ten points of articulation. Where this design really shines is in how the joints were modeled. The head can swivel around, the knees and elbows bend, and the shoulders rotate on their sockets. If you’re into sketching, this 3D printable human figure is a cheap alternative to store-bought references. It’s also quite easy to print and put together – you can finish the whole project in less than six hours.
26. Bicycle Coffee Holder
With so much focus on improving gear transmission and braking technology in modern bikes nowadays, bike manufacturers seem to have overlooked an important addition: a holder for your morning cup of coffee. With this design, you can just print your own coffee cup holder and mount it on your bike’s handlebars. This is a great addition to your rig if you regularly commute to work on your bike and you’d like to do your coffee run on the way. The mount is pretty secure, but we wouldn’t exactly go off-roading with a hot cup of coffee on it.
27. Cat Door Stopper
If you think that this cat looks like a piece of fine art, then you’re right: it was modeled after the Gayer-Anderson Cat that is kept at the British Museum. Aside from the touch of class that it will give to any living space, it serves another important purpose – a door stopper. Where the tail of the cat should be, there’s a wedge that you can jam into your door to keep it open. The wedge can be removed
28. Portable Beach Ashtray
We all have to do our part to reduce waste. Sometimes, it’s not so easy especially when you like to smoke cigarettes. After all, not all places have ashtrays. Why not just make your own, then? This portable ashtray features a pointed bottom, making it perfect for use on the beach. Just stick the sharp end to the sand and put a small amount of sand inside the ashtray, and there you have it: you can smoke to your heart’s content without having to worry about polluting in the beach. Just make sure to throw you scrap in the proper bin afterward.
29. Nightingale Bow
Video game fans are no strangers to creating custom, video game-inspired designs using 3D printers. This Nightingale Bow is one of the more memorable weapons from the video game classic ‘The Elder Scrolls’ and is sure to please any fan. This bow is pretty much life-sized. You can even string it for some pretend archery play, but don’t expect it to perform nearly as well as a real bow. At any rate, this bow might just be what it takes to awaken the Dragonborn in you!
30. Cutlery Holder for People with Disabilities
Let’s close this out with a design that is undoubtedly useful – an aid to hold a spoon or fork for people who struggle with holding them. This model slips right into a person’s palm for maximum stability and has a slot to insert a spoon or a fork. Without the need to rely on their fingers, this cutlery holder makes dining a better experience for people with disabilities. This design highlights one of the more noble ways to use 3D printing: to make activities more inclusive and accessible for different-abled people.
There are so many possibilities in 3D printing that this list is nothing more than a drop in the ocean 3D printing projects that you can do. Whether you’re printing an action figure to display, a toy to play with, a kitchen or household tool, or an accessibility aid for people with disabilities, 3D printers can really stretch the limits of your imagination and creativity.