3D Printing and Everyday Objects

 In 30 days of education

If you’ve spent much time 3D printing, you’ll quickly notice that it takes a while. Even small objects take a bit of time to print. That’s why utilizing common office and classroom supplies can be a very useful tool for any maker. Integrating these easily-found objects will help you overcome some of the limitations and time-constraints imposed by 3D printing.

Here are a few of our favorite everyday objects and how we use them in our designs:

Unsharpened #2 Pencils – These are a go-to object to design around. Relatively standardized, these are a convenient size to use with 3D printed parts and are readily available in classrooms. Use them for hinges, creating stands, adding height to objects, or as the main building material with 3D printed connectors. We work with Office Depot Brand pencils at the office, which is one of the physically wider brands of pencils available. (It’s always better to design things to be slightly too large than slightly too small, since it’s easier to correct after the fact. We’ll explore ways to remedy problems like this in a post later in this series.) Used in a lot of our kits, including the following: Pencil Catapult Kit, Water Filtration Kit, and New York Balance Kit.

Meter Sticks (no metal ends) – Another of our go-tos, meter sticks provide a pre-measured and subdivided object perfect for creating large models or those which need to integrate measuring. Keep in mind, meter sticks are all the same length but they vary widely in width and depth. The ones we work with in the office are available here. Again, we’ve tried to design our objects to accommodate the larger-size meter sticks rather than the small ones because it’s easier to correct any differences in fit post-printing. Used in our Wide Meter Stick Ramp Kit, Planetary Temperatures Kit, and Albedo Effect Kit, amongst others.

PVC pipe – Useful due to its consistency, PVC pipe is great as a base for creating objects. Used to supplement our Rockets Kit and Clinometer Kit.

Rubber Bands – Increasing the flexibility of solid 3D printed parts, integrate rubber bands to generate power, support objects or connect objects. Used in our Ballista/Force Generator Kit, Ball-Drop Kit, and our forthcoming Microscope Phone Adapter Kit.

Binder Clips – We’ve discussed some of the ways getting a precise fit is complicated with 3D printing. Binder clips make a great support item to hold something in place or together to reduce the need for a precise fit when 3D printing. Used in our Thin Meter Stick Ramp Kit, Angular Momentum Kit, and Chromatography Kit, amongst others.

608 Ball Bearings – These are perhaps the most intimidating of our supplemental materials. Where does one even find ball bearings? Don’t worry. 608 ball bearings are the standard ball bearings used for skateboards. This means you can find them at local skate shops, big box stores, or online retailers very easily. So, what are they useful for? Creating low-friction connections! Used in our Ball Bearing Catapult Kit, CD Spinner Kit, and Coriolis Effect Kit, amongst others.

Screws, Nuts & Bolts – Why bother trying to 3D print a nut and bolt when your printer has better things to do and isn’t optimized for high-precision mechanisms like threaded screws? Instead, use store-bought hardware and design your objects to integrate with them. Used in our Pantograph Kit, Gliders Kit, and Meter Stick Quadrat Kit.

Chenille Stems/Fuzzy Sticks – Available in a range of colors and diameters, these flexible stems are a great base for a number of uses including creating a malleable base for beads. Used in our Macromolecules: Proteins Kit, Sliding Muscle Filament Kit, and our Ocean Current Beads Kit, amongst others.

Paperclips, toothpicks, and cue tips – Great for weights and hinges as well as probing for depth of objects, these standardized objects have a number of uses. Additionally, most toothpicks and cue tips are approximately the same diameter and can be interchanged easily depending on the purpose. Used in our Ocean Topography Mapping Kit, Boats Kit, Geometry Sticks Kits, amongst others.

As you can see, everyday office supplies can be your best friend when it comes to expanding your 3D printing capabilities.

Use any other common classroom supplies to create your 3D printed creations? Share in the comments!

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