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Personal Tech for Women: 5 Things You Need to Know About 3D Printing At Home

Monday, March 16, 2015


The Printbot Simple Metal

While many still might be trying to wrap their brains around how 3D printing actually works, the process has made its way out of the lab and into the home. Here are 5 facts about the household application of 3D printing, and some types of printers that could turn your workspace into a creative workshop.

While many still might be trying to wrap their brains around how 3D printing actually works, the process has made its way out of the lab and into the home. Here are 5 facts about the household application of 3D printing, and some types of printers that could turn your workspace into a creative workshop.

1. The Just

3D printing makes three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. For decades, industries had been developing 3D printers for medical applications like creating prosthetic limbs and mockups of operable organs, or in manufacturing to make prototypes. But recently, 3D printing has gone domestic and is reaching the outer bounds of sci-fi fantasy to create the tangible desires of anybody from techie tinkerers to crafting enthusiasts. Just think about a device as big as a microwave that can create any object you want. It starts with a napkin ring and could reach the potentials of printing our own food. No more shopping around, senseless buying, or online ordering. All you need is a cartridge, a printer, and a smart design. 

2. How It Works

It works like this: you design a 3D object on your home computer using your preferred modeling software. Depending on what printer you purchase, you’ll have a better idea as to what software to use to design your objects – some come with their own software. You then connect your computer to your 3D printer and press, “print” – just like any other document. The printer reads your design and makes your object, from the bottom layer to the top layer, like stacking miniscule slices of bread to create one solid loaf. Of course, this load is made from a variety of materials like ABS and PLA plastics, nylon, epoxy resins, silver, titanium, steel, wax, and photopolymers.

3. Customizable Things

Think bike parts, game parts or spare parts that have broken or gone missing, to dishware, jewelry, toys and figurines. It can all be yours. 3D printing is manufacturing in the hands of dreamers, with decreased packaging and pollution. Goodbye China, hello living room. There’s a great website by MakerBot that can give you ideas about what to print – and what’s even possible. Chances are you’ll be surprised by very handy applications, like extra cabinet drawers, a counter-top holder for all your cooking utensils, and even an Oreo dispenser. It’s all about custom-creating things for your taste, style and size. 

4. The Brands

Prices for consumer 3D printers typically range between $500 and $2,500, from budget printers to those for businesses and aficionados. One of the best budget printers is the Printrbot Simple Metal – it’s about $539 for the build-it-yourself kit, or $599 for the pre-assembled. It only prints using PLA plastic, a nontoxic resin made from corn sugar, which is less durable than ABS. It’s not as pretty to look at either, with exposed parts and mechanisms, but this way you can actually see how the magic works. The Cube 3 is perfect for beginners and goes for $999 on Amazon. It’s got a smart, self-contained design, prints in two colors, and uses Wi-Fi to connect to computers. Then there’s the incredibly cute Makerbot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer, a mini version of the full-size Makerbot, which is one of the major players in 3D printing. For $1375, it comes with a camera to view the process on your computer, its own free software, and Wi-Fi connectivity. At Thingiverse, you can download more than 300,000 designs for the Replicator Mini. It does use only PLA plastic, however, and prints objects no bigger than 5 x 4 x 4 inches. That’s quite small, but great for household items and personalized gifts. 

5. Should You Buy One?

If you’re a die-hard enthusiast for technological gadgets, an industrial designer in our spare time, or you’re a serious crafter that’s less into shopping than making, go for it. But if you’re anybody less, you might want to wait until your friends start thinking you’re weird for not having one – like a smartphone. Remember that the more affordable consumer 3D printer is going to be slower, with less choice in materials and colors, and likely a little buggy, too. Popping into Target might be easier to buy products with an industrial sheen – in large quantities with bigger proportions. But that’s not to say it’s without purpose. As any review site or blog will claim, you might get more use out of a 3D printer than other trendy home or kitchen appliances you’ve purchased and used only once. Your printer could the gift that, literally, keeps giving.

Melanie Sevcenko is a journalist for radio, print and online. She reports internationally for BBC World Service and Monocle Radio (M24) in the UK, and for Deutsche Welle in Germany. Melanie also reports for the online news source GoLocalPDX, in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been broadcast by CBC in Canada and the Northwest News Network, and published by Al Jazeera English, Global Post, Pacific Standard, the Toronto Star and USA Today, amongst others.


Related Slideshow: The 7 Best Health and Fitness Apps

Here is a list of some of the most obsession worthy health apps.

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MapMyRun is the number one selling running app for a reason:  it is easy to use, offers community support if you want it, and tracks and stores your exact routes for you.  If you are training for a race or a serious runner, users say that the extra perks in the upgraded paid version are well worth it. 

Made for iPhone, Android and Blackberry 

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MyFitnessPal seems to be the clear favorite amongst everyone polled.  It is helpful not only for the fitness tracking aspect, but everyone polled mentioned how much they loved the food/diet aspect as well. From carb counting for diabetics to recipe ideas to complement your fitness goals, users love this app. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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JeFit is another fitness app that has rave reviews.  It not only tracks progress for you, but offers a huge database of workouts.  While many apps offer community support, JeFit allows you to sync workouts with friends who use the app, offering a (real) virtual buddy system.

Made for iPhone and Android

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Strava gets the highest mark of all the cycling apps.  While it is also great for runners, the cyclers seem particularly inclined towards the fierce competition that can be ignited by this app.  You can track all of your rides via GPS, then you can compare your efforts to those logged by others in the community on the same stretch of road.  You can also join ongoing challenges that can net you great prizes (in addition to bragging rights). 

Made for iPhone and Android

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YogaStudio gets the top vote for Yoga apps.  It has a lengthy collection of full class-length videos available at your fingertips.  Unlike many other apps, this one also allows you to customize your own video yoga class.  All of the poses are done by qualified yoga instructors, and you can find classes suitable for all levels of yogis.

Made for iPhone only

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SimplyBeing meditation app offers the best of both worlds.  You can choose to run this app as a background for your meditation with soothing music or natural sounds that run for a set amount of time.  Conversely, for those of you who have trouble focusing during meditation, you can choose a soothing voice-guided meditation. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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Fooducate is an app all about educating people so that they make healthier food choices.  Although not perfect, this app is easy to use (you can even take pictures of bar codes to instantly find foods in their database).  It gives food a letter grade, tells you the pluses and minuses, and gives you better ranked alternatives.  You can also use it as a weight loss tool by tracking your daily calories. 

Made for iPhone and Android


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