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Benefit from a 3D Printer at Home, no Experience Required

Benefit from a 3D Printer at Home, no Experience Required

Spectra3D expo booth

Steve, Rob, Carlie, and Chris hanging out at our booth at the Asheville Business Expo.

When we bring our 3D printers to an event, we always have a great time meeting new people and talking about the potential of 3D printing. While most people are really excited to see the printers in action, one of the observations we hear most often is, “it’s neat, but I don’t think that I have any use for it,” or “it doesn’t seem very practical.” While I can certainly understand why this is often a first reaction, here is why I truly believe that everybody can benefit from having a 3D printer at home

For beginners

When you skim through the hundreds of thousands of downloadable files available online, you will definitely see a bunch of knick-knacks and things that most homes just don’t need. But you will also find a whole lot of items that are extremely practical. Do you need new organizers for your drawers? How about a wrench for a project? Just download the files and hit print. Not only are these items fully customizable to your own unique space or project, but you also get to avoid a trip to the store.

double twisted 3d printed vase

Vase by FabLabMaastricht available on Thingiverse at

Some of those knick-knacks are actually really cool. There are some true artists at work on these sites who create beautiful vases that make fantastic centerpieces, one-of-a-kind pencil holders, Thor statues that your little ones are sure to love, and much more. When your kids are bored, you can print out a brand new board game, or open up one of the customizable files and let them have a great time tweaking their own ornament or action figure. If you are in need of a little exercise, you can even download and print a jump rope.

3D printers are an amazing educational tool. At websites like MakerBot’s Curriculum page on Thingiverse, you will find all sorts of downloadable prints that help to get kids super excited about 3D learning. For kids that are squeamish about dissecting animals, download the frog model so that they can see how all of the organs go together without harming any real creatures. You will also find a Saber-Toothed Tiger, a Mars Rover model, and a replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

3d printed dissected frog

No frog was injured in this dissection. Print from Curriculum on Thingiverse





Pick up some design skills

While learning to design in 3D software may seem intimidating, trust me, it’s not. If I can learn, anybody can. For a great place to start, check out one of the free online programs like Autodesk 123D Design. With drag and drop shapes and simple editing tools, you can be making models in no time. Bringing your first creation to life truly gives you a feeling of accomplishment. If you don’t want to start from scratch, the program also has plenty of free files that you can download and use as a starting point before customizing the design to suit your needs.

When you are ready to really dive in and learn the programs, check out the online offerings from CADLearning. They have some great deals for students and educators, allowing you to learn programs like Fusion 360, Inventor, and 3ds Max at your own pace.

With a little design knowledge, you can….

  • Fix things around the house. You know that expression, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? That is definitely how it has been since we received our first printer. Have a problem at home? We can 3D print the solution. To find out more about how we have used our 3D printer around the house, check out our article about replacing a dishwasher wheel or our video about refurbishing a crock pot.
  • Sell your designs. There are tons of resources online, like Shapeways and Turbosquid, to help connect you with the people that want to buy your prints.
  • Start your own business. If you are looking to start your own small business, a printer provides a way to get going with very little overhead. While some people are simply offering to print other people’s designs for a fee, there are plenty of entrepreneurs who are creating their own unique products on a printer. Whether you make jewelry or design custom glasses, a printer is a great way to make one-of-a-kind products.

Whether you are a true beginner or an old pro, 3D printing is a technology that I truly believe everybody can benefit from. Learn more about how you can harness the power of 3D printing in your home by contacting us at Spectra3D Technologies today, or stay up to date on the latest 3D printing innovations by joining our newsletter.


3D Printing and Copyright Law: The Case of the Penrose Triangle

3D Printing and Copyright Law: The Case of the Penrose Triangle

3D Printing and Copyright Law

With the development of 3D scanners and printers, anyone who has access to this technology can accurately reproduce objects found in the real world. This has many far-reaching implications, some of which could lead to greater innovation, others which could lead to a whole new host of problems. In this series, we will explore the copyright implications of 3D printing as designers, end users, and lawyers try to sort out the many legal implications of 3D printing and copyright law.

The Penrose Triangle

For the first installment, we will discuss the interesting case of Ulrich Schwanitz and The Penrose Triangle.
To get to the root of this tale, we have to go all the way back to 1934 when artist Oscar Reutersvard drew the first-known Penrose Triangle. Referred to as an “impossible figure,” the Penrose Triangle connects on each side at a right-angle. For decades, this optical illusion was confined to drawings on flat surface and was thought impossible to reproduce in 3D space.

The Penrose Triangle

The Penrose Triangle

That is, until Ulrich Schwanitz, a designer based out of the Netherlands, purportedly solved the problem. Rather than explaining how he solved the puzzle, Schwanitz simply included a YouTube video showing his design. The model was put up for sale on the Shapeways website for around $70.

Now, this is where it really gets interesting. Along came Artus Tchoukanov who had formerly been an intern at Shapeways. Tchoukanov was able to watch the above video and figure out how Schwanitz had created his design. Tchoukanov then went to Thingiverse, a 3D printing community that actively encourages the free and open interchange of design and ideas, and published his interpretation of Schwanitz’s solution.


Soon, a story about the mystery of the Penrose Triangle appeared, wrongly crediting Tchoukanov with being the first to arrive at a 3D solution. Schwanitz then responded by sending Thingiverse a DMCA (which stands for Digital Millennium Copyright ACT) Takedown notice, suggesting that the published Penrose Triangle solution was copyright infringement and that it should be removed from the site. Thingiverse promptly took the post down while explaining that it was the first such request that they had received.

Now that the first DMCA Takedown request has been handed out to a distributor of online 3D design content, it is possible that Schwanitz (who, by the way, allowed Thingiverse to put the post back up after he received a good amount of negative commentary over his request) has opened a whole can of legal worms. As 3D printers become more and more common and people are better able to produce their own parts and designs at home, these sorts of issues promise to be all the more prevalent.

Tell us what you think. If you were in Schwanitz’s position, how would you have handled the situation? How strictly do you think we should be policing copyright laws in regards to 3D print files?

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