Last week my wife was complaining that she needed a funnel to put her spices in the spice jars. I could have shown her how to make a funnel out of paper or gone down to the store to buy her a funnel but those  solutions never occurred to me, instead I used my 3D printer to print one. Well, I had to print two actually. The first one tended to clog because the end was too small. The second one had a much larger opening and the spice went through with no problems.

Funnels

Two hours worth of printing for one happy wife

I could have driven to the local store and bought one for a buck and then taken another trip after she realized that the first one wouldn’t work. Two dollars for funnels, maybe two gallons of gas for about four more dollars, six dollars in all. Compare that to the 50 cents in materials for the printed version. Looking at those numbers, my 3D printer will pay for itself in about 5 years.

Then again, maybe justification is not important. I’ve had a 3D printer in the home almost eight months now. In that time I’ve used ten pounds of filament or about four spools. I’ve printed containers, phone stands, cookie cutters and creatures. I printed the Christmas presents for my Mother-in-law, two gargoyles and an iPhone stand. I printed a valentine’s gift to my wife. I don’t use it every day or even every week but I’m using it more and more.

Failed iPhone holder. The model wasn't compatible.

Failed iPhone holder. I blame model incompatibility.

I’m also creating far less scrap than I used to. I still have scrap and long flat surfaces will always be a challenge but I have a better understanding of what I can print and what I can’t print. It’s no longer a technology toy for me to brag about, it’s becoming an appliance that I use.

I’m starting to see useful models show up on Thingiverse. Replacement parts for cars, replacement parts for kitchen appliances, and all sorts of containers. Lost a piece from your Monopoly game? Print yourself a new one. Want to create your own game, that’s easily done too.

Gremlin. I added LEDs for the eyes and a motion detector to turn them on. Wife has banned it.

Gremlin. I added LEDs for the eyes and a motion detector to turn them on. Wife has banned it.

I’m starting to see printers capable of printing in two colors simultaneously. How about printing in flexible materials, glow in the dark plastics or maybe plastic reinforced with carbon fibers? All of those are available today.

In a way, what I’m seeing looks a lot like the early personal computer industry. Back then there were only a few people willing to upwards of $2000, so they could hand code 200 bytes of program, toggle it in manually and have a sense of accomplishment when the LEDs blinked. Today there’s very few homes that don’t have at least one computer, tablet or smart phone.

Micro SD card holder. I had to print a few extra before I got it right.

Micro SD card holder. I had to print a few extra before I got it right.

Valentine's Day Penguin

Valentine’s Day Penguin

Chameleon  to keep me company in the late hours of the night

Chameleon to keep me company in the late hours of the night

There’s a number of free programs that allow you to create your own models. None of them are a simple as coding in Basic used to be but they are far easier than the effort to hand code that 200 bytes. I don’t believe the Apple II of 3D printers has been designed yet but it’s out there and when it gets here knowing how to develop your own models will allow you to contribute to the future.

Seed starters for wife

Seed starters for wife

Eight months later, how do I feel about my $600 investment? Very happy. I know there’s another 3D printer in my future but having one now has allowed me to learn what the problems are, what the capabilities are and given me a chance to try out a few models.

I’m not recommending that you rush out and buy a 3D but if you’re a hobbyist or a tinkerer, you need to start considering one. The future is coming and 3D printing will revolutionize it.

PS: After reading the preview version of the post, my wife wanted me to know she agrees, the printer is useful and she no longer worries about me burning down the house with it. I’m happy to hear her say that but then again most men don’t have a wife as understanding as mine.

© Copyright 2015 Byron Seastrunk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Opinion by pen