10 Best Uses for 3D Printing

NEW YORK TheStreet--You've heard about these 3D printers. They can be used to build automobiles, a mini-me, or even a new home. A 3D printed organ miraculously saved the life of a dying baby. That's amazing, but realistically, what would you use a 3D printer for?

Make sure you'll be getting your money's worth, because a MakerBot printer retails for more than $2,100. The company's new 3D scanner is a little less at $1400, but it's still a lot to pay if you don't know what to do with it. But before you take the plunge and buy your own machine, you can buy pre-made 3D printed items on Etsy or Shapeways.com. From fashion to home furnishings, there are a lot of crafty items to choose from.

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is already a big business, aggregating $2.2 billion in 3D printed items last year. And the industry's expected to grow, which is why MakerBot was bought by Stratasys ( SSYS) for more than $600 million. Meanwhile, 2D printing is hurting.

Whether you own a machine and are looking for some inspiration or you're curious about what 3D items you can buy ready-made, there are plenty of creative options. Here are some of the best uses for 3D printing.


Arts & crafts just got a lot of more interesting. Whether you're a modern-day Michelangelo or your creativity is at a 3rd grade level, 3D printers enable you to bring your ideas to life. Design a butterfly (like the one above) or put a new spin on pottery. No one else will have the same vase.


There's only one thing cooler than Warby Parkers and that's glasses you designed yourself. If you're tired of finding glasses that are too big for your face, make them your ideal size. Your 3D printed glasses will look like they're made for you. You still have to buy the lenses, however.


Stop searching for the chair with the perfect dimensions. That's right, you can create your own. That Pottery Barn furniture is awfully cute, but your personalized seat will fit you better.


Check mate. You're already a winner if you've created your own chess pieces. Replicate a vintage board or come up with a creative new design. Forget horses, put figurines of your favorite athletes on your team.


Fashionistas, take note. It just got that much easier to bring your sketches to life. You don't need to be on Project Runway to make your dreams a reality. Print out trendy earrings and sell them on Etsy. Pretty soon, Cara Delevingne will be wearing your designs on the runway.


You're already a genius if you can solve a Rubik's Cube, but you'll get extra credit if you create your own. Not a genius? Make an easier version. Better yet, create an unsolvable cube and make a bet with your favorite show-off.


That Kate Spade case is awfully cute, but try designing your own iPhone accessories for a change. If you're like me, you find yourself buying a new case every couple of months. That can add up! This time, if you drop your phone and scratch the case, you can just print out a new one.


I'm not sure where large belt buckles are still en vogue, but you can start preparing for their eventual return. Everything makes a comeback, right? Host a belt-making party, just for the heck of it. Just don't forget to don cowboy boots when you make your belt-wearing debut.


That "World's Best Dad" mug is great and all, but next Father's Day, give him something with an original twist. Design a coffee mug yourself. It's the effort that counts, right? Okay, you can paint on "World's Best Dad," if you want.


If you don't know who Grumpy Cat is, then you are officially out of touch. The grumpiest of creatures has spawned countless memes and Twitter accounts. And now, he's a statue in his own right. There's nothing that will cheer you up quite like a life-sized Grumpy.

-- Written by Katie Roof in New York

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