3D printing used to be an expensive craft which would set you back several hundred dollars just to get started.
This, along with the high cost of printing materials and less beginner friendly printers meant that it was quite challenging to get in to. Today it’s a much brighter scenario, where the average individual can get started with just $200 and get to printing great things.
In this article I will go through a list of reasons why you should buy a 3D printer when you can. Even if you are already own a 3D printer read on because I’m sure you will learn some things that may surprise you!
1. It’s a great hobby to master
There are many people out there who have spare time on their hands but just don’t have a hobby to spend that time on.
That’s where 3D printing can definitely help. There is a real community of 3D printing hobbyists who use some of their time to create great things and begin projects for things that are very useful, or just for the fun of it.
Regardless of your reason, you will learn a lot about your own creative and technical abilities after getting involved with a 3D printer.
If you want your 3D printing experience to be worth the investment in the long run, I’d advise that you learn the design and programming aspect of it.
This may seem daunting at first, but the programs out there today are beginner friendly, and can be a very fun experience becoming well-versed in it.
You should be buying a 3D printer that has the correct balance between price, performance and durability. Many 3D printers that are $200-$300 work to a good enough standard to get you started.
On the other hand, if you want your 3D printer to be a premium one from the start and have excellent longevity, it could be worth forking out more for a higher priced 3D printer with great features, performance and warranty for your intended application.
After you gain a good level of experience, you’ll get to understand the key differences in what you can 3D print and at what quality. At this stage this is when I would recommend you spend more to get something more premium for your 3D printing desires.
2. Improve your creative abilities
If you are thinking about getting into 3D printing, there can be a good amount of creativity involved if you want there to be. I would definitely recommend learning how to use free Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs to create your own designs.
Being able to convert ideas, into designs then into a 3D printed object makes the world of a difference in how much you can achieve with 3D printing.
Without creating your own designs, 3D printing can be quite limiting in some respects, in so far as you can only print what other people design. In fairness, there are several designs all over the internet on websites like Thingiverse which will give you a lot more designs than you could ever ask for, but after some time it could get quite repetitive.
A cool thing about this is once you get to a good stage of CAD , you can share your designs with other people for them to print, and actually get feedback and praise from other users for your creativity.
There is somewhat of a learning curve to become comfortable in creating your designs through CAD programs but the long-term impacts will be very beneficial to your 3D printing journey. Not only this, but there are many other applications of CAD beyond the 3D printing scope so it’s a transferable skill of sorts.
3. DIY fixes for household problems
This ties into the last point with creativity and being practical with your personal situations. An example from one 3D printer hobbyist comes from when his dishwasher broke and couldn’t be repaired. He also couldn’t get a vital part from the manufacturer due to it being a discontinued model.
With his previous experience in design, he sought out to come up with the solution. This was a great opportunity he had to model the part in a free CAD program then print it out.
It isn’t as simple as it seems however, as he needed to refine and improve the design a few times but it resulted in a new part for his dishwasher which was actually better than the original. Not only did he prove his ability to get the job done with some persistence, but he got bragging rights from the wife too!
Another bright side is, if it that part does ever break again, he has the original design saved to be able to just print one again without the extra design work involved.
In this situation, rather than buying a new dishwasher, the cost of the 3D printer and the filament used would’ve been much more cost efficient. If he had started 3D printing when this problem arose, there would be an initial learning curve to get the experience required to do such a task. Since it was already a hobby of his, he could get right into the task.
4. Creates things for other hobbies
The application of 3D printing really goes far and wide, being able to tap into other hobbies and industries with ease. Engineers, woodworkers and other technical individuals have applied 3D printing to their field to make a whole host of useful items.
This video by Marius Hornberger shows some of the real-world applications that 3D printing has done for him and his space. Note, this guy is an expert so don’t expect to be able to do what he does at an early stage, but it’s definitely something to work towards!
Once you get to an advanced stage of 3D printing, this is the type of benefit you can apply to the rest of your activities in the future.
You can really see how far 3D printing can expand horizons into other fields and industries. My article here on 3D printing applications in the medical field shows just a glimpse into it’s potential.
5. 3D printing gifts for people/children
You’ve probably seen a few 3D printed objects and many of them are figurines, action figures and small toys that look pretty cool. A lot of these objects are great gifts for comic and cosplay enthusiasts, general anime fans and basically every child out there.
Being able to print favourite superheroes and marvel characters in a wide range of colours really is sweet to see. A glow in the dark Batman model, or a slick golden snitch from Harry Potter, the possibilities are endless.
If not for yourself, this can be a few Birthday/Christmas presents off your list, as well as the knowledge that you created this awesome object with your own hands..kinda.
Many gifts these days are quite general and predictable, but with a 3D printer and your imagination at your disposal, you can really get ahead of the gift-giving curve.
6. It’s really fun once you get the hang of it
I’ve seen people create customised chess pieces, miniatures for Dungeons and Dragons, create their own games and build up sweet collections with 3D printing. This is a hobby which can be very fun and rewarding once you get over the initial learning curve.
Many times you don’t even have to go through a learning curve. When you have a well-built printer and have your settings down accurately, your prints should come out just as you pictures, with a smooth, sturdy finish.
Your 3D prints don’t have to be just aesthetically pleasing, they can be functional objects that help you in your day to day activities.
I think one of the best things you can do with it is getting your family and friends involved in creating designs and seeing the final product. It’s a great way to bring people together in a fun and practical activity.
There’s a reason 3D printers are making their way into schools, universities and even libraries. There is just so much you can do with them.
People have printed survival whistles capable of going over 100 decibels, a happy birthday cake topper sign, tap sprinkler attachments, smart phone stands and much more!
7. Get a head start in a rapidly growing industry
3D printing is growing at a rapid pace and the technology behind it is only getting better and better. We’ve seen advances with printing prosthetics, prototypes, houses, and even 3D printers themselves (although not completely..yet).
It’s still somewhat in the early stages of development and once more people realise it’s potential, I can see a real snowball effect of 3D printing spreading around the world.
Lower income countries within Eastern Europe and Africa are seeing increases in 3D printing production as it gives people the ability to produce their own goods and equipment.
Being able to simply transport a 3D printer and the material to a location, then printing out objects saves massively on transport costs, especially to places with hard to access areas.
The numbers really speak for themselves. I’ve seen consistent annual growth figures for 3D printing sectors in the 15% range and even higher in the lower income areas. Just imagine in 10 years how far 3D printing will go, don’t be behind everyone else!
In just the last 3 years we’ve seen a massive influx of 3D printing manufacturers, to the point where printers are very affordable and beginner friendly. It used to be a niche where only technically gifted people would be able to make real use of it, but times have changed.
8. You can make money
There are many 3D printer enthusiasts out there who have made their craft a source of income. In today’s digital world, it’s increasingly easier to connect with people who demand specific objects and are willing to pay for that object.
Even though there are 3D printing services out there, this is a market people can still tap in to, or you could create your own!
If you have a niche which have a high demand for objects such as board games or children’s toys, you can target this to make money. You could build up a following on social media, forums and create your own website if you are really dedicated to this goal.
Some ideas that people have run with are Nerf guns and luxury vases, and they look to be pretty successful.
Even training people to 3D print can earn you some money. Many people are beginning to see the potential of 3D printing and want to learn how to become well-versed in the craft.
You could offer training to people or even create 3D printing courses to the growing number of people who are interested.
Being able to design and print objects to requested specifications is a well sought after skill, and people are willing to pay you for such a service. Get really good at it and it can be a side hustle for years to come.
9. Help educate your children to be technical & creative
Although 3D printing is in it’s infancy stages, it has great benefits in the educational sector, especially for the younger people out there. Many educational organisations such as schools, universities and hospitals have introduced 3D printing in many creative ways.
There are many new learning possibilities with 3D printing, such as seeing actual designs from the computer come to something real and physical.
Being able to interact with the finished product and show people what you’ve created is a special kind of opportunity for children out there.
Everyone knows that children get excited when they are able to engage with practical activities. 3D printing is exactly that, and it takes bored students away from the usual reading and gives them interest in education.
3D printing isn’t the easiest thing to learn, but once you do learn it you can bet you’ll come out better at critical thinking and problem solving.
It is an activity that really trains your logic and brain power as well as the creative mind. Being able to 3D print objects of complex shapes and sizes has the effect of creating innovation and the possibilities that students can create are never ending.
When people get the hands-on experience rather than just listening or reading, they are able to remember information at a better rate. Not only do students get the practical experience, but they retain the information at a relatively better rate than normal.
Universities in many places now have 3D printers for students to use at their own leisure. In the future, more and more universities and organisations will adopt this, so give your children the opportunity to start early and be the top of the class!
10. 3D printing can be environmentally friendly
According to Science Direct, with a global adoption of the additive manufacturing process (3D printing), we could reduce global energy use by 27% in the year 2050.
The nature of 3D printing means that there is little to no waste because the material is being added to the final product compared to traditional methods of manufacturing, which takes away from a bigger object to make the final product.
Traditional manufacturing lends itself more to larger objects and high volume, while additive manufacturing is more suited to specialist smaller, intricate parts. In many cases, additive manufacturing won’t be feasible for demands in production as supply won’t be able to keep up.
In cases where we can switch to additive manufacturing, it’s seen as a benefit to the environment.
Printing materials in this fashion reduces waste and mostly uses only what will be in the final product. The amount of electricity these printers use is relatively low compared to other traditional manufacturing methods. I’ve written about how much electricity is used in this article.
The usual process of manufacturing is quite a long process, from material extraction, to assembly, to the actual manufacturing and so on, it can leave a sizeable carbon footprint overall.
3D printing doesn’t have the several steps involved in making a final product, more so the minimal refining and assembly stage.
We also can greatly reduce factors such as transportation, storage facilities, logistics and much more.
This gives 3D printing and additive manufacturing the comparative advantage in environmental impact.
The negative I can point out with 3D printing is it’s widespread use of plastic, which does unfortunately generate it’s own carbon footprint in the material extraction. The good thing here is the ability of 3D printers to use a wide range of materials so you are not inclined to use these materials if you choose not to.
11. 3D printing gives a competitive edge
An example being how it’s introduction into the hearing aid industry created a massive takeover in how they are manufactured. Over a very short period of time, the whole industry changed it’s technique to incorporate 3D printing into it’s creation.
A real majority of companies which adopt the additive manufacturing process of 3D printing report their ability to gain a competitive advantage over other companies.
According to Forbes, it is 93% of companies using this technology in 2018 that gained this, and it’s due to reduced time to the market, adaptability in manufacturing and a shorter production process.
Not only do companies gain this advantage, but they also increase their product quality and service through the 3D printing technology. The speed of innovation allows lead times for model building to go from weeks or days to a matter of hours in many cases.
The cost of production is greatly lowered wherever 3D printing is adopted. There is a real freedom of choice in design and customization for complex, yet durable manufactured products.
The costs of 3D printing is greatly reduced for many reasons, one of the main ones being the reduction in labor costs due to the 3D printer doing most of the work.
Once the design is created, and the settings are input, 3D printers do most of the work after that, so labor costs can be reduced to almost zero in the manufacturing process.
It so happens that 70% of companies that use 3D printing in their field increased their investments in 2018, compared to 49% in 2017.
This just comes to show how much of a change 3D printing is making in the world of business and innovation, and I can only see it growing in the long-term.