When you’ve just got your first 3D printer at home, you’ll be excited to get started – the possibilities really are endless and you can print absolutely anything! You could wait to make your first print until you’ve mastered whichever 3D modelling software you’re going to work with, and create a bespoke design; but with such possibilities, we don’t know many people who would want to wait that long to get started!
If you’ve never done any 3D modelling on your PC before, then no matter how excited you are, you’ll probably feel a bit daunted. Luckily, you don’t have to be, since there are some great projects that are already out there and available for you to download, both for free and to pay to download. Heading for any of the biggest 3D printing communities will lead you to some fantastic projects to have a go at.
There are so many great projects that deciding which one to do can be a time-consuming mission all by itself! That’s why we thought we’d narrow down some of the best projects out there. With so many projects available, we’re sure we have missed some other great ones – so even if you don’t find the print you want to make, we’re sure our finds in this post will inspire you.
Where can I find 3D printer files for beginners?
As we mentioned in our 3D printing basics post, there are some 3D printing communities that are incredibly active, and share files and instructions so you can start making without any prior knowledge. These communities are made up of members with varying levels of experience, and many include discussion boards that you can post to if you have questions. You’ll almost always receive great advice from people who want to help you be as enthusiastic about 3D printing as they are! Here are some of the best places to start looking for your projects:
Thingiverse is one of the biggest 3D printing communities and has over a million items to print – with designs free to download and use.
MyMiniFactory has both free and paid designs available that were created by community users, and encourages users to earn on their store.
PinShape has both free and paid for designs available to download. Projects on PinShape are usually high quality with technical information included so you can print quickly.
GrabCAD has some great model projects that are perfect for beginners at home, with many that are free to download.
YouMagine is full of free to download projects – perfect when you’re starting out and don’t want to pay for your print files!
Repables has projects that are free to use, but be aware – anyone can upload their project, so bear in mind you might not end up with quite the result you want without tweaking the design.
Best projects for kids
Printing in 3D at home is as exciting for kids as it is for adults, and so if you’ve got children around, there is a high chance that you’ll have them begging you to design and print cool stuff for them. We’ve rounded up some of the best 3D printing projects to help keep kids (young and old) happy – for a while at least…!
Nerf gun parts
Whether you’ve got boys or girls running around at home, there is a good chance that they go absolutely nuts for Nerf guns. Even if you don’t have them already, they are great toys to add to the toy box – they are relatively inexpensive (although some of the bigger ones can cost more than £80) and they are easily to find, and you can buy them pretty much anywhere you can buy toys.
We know a lot of children say the bigger, the better when it comes to Nerf guns – and the big kid in us is inclined to agree! There are no end to the cool ideas for your 3D printer that are available to modify and adapt them.
- If you need a way to help carry more Nerf bullets into battle? There is a project for that here, but there are loads of different options, depending on the type of Nerf gun you have.
- If you’re particularly competitive, you might want a scope on the top of your gun for even better aim – and you can print a pretty excellent scope from the files here.
- If you’re in need of a torch for aiming in the dark (and why wouldn’t you – we mean the kids – be playing Nerf wars in the dark?!) then you can find files here.
- If you’re super serious about your Nerf battles and you need to record them (and of course, have evidence of just how much better you are than your opponents!) you can find files to print attachments to mount a GoPro camera on your gun here.
We could go on about Nerf projects all day – mostly because Nerf guns are so much fun – but also because there are so many out there! If you, or your kids love Nerf gun fun then you’ll almost certainly want to check out this post – we got inspired just by looking through it.
When we said this section was for kids young and old, we meant it! Whether you’ve loved the Star Wars films since you saw the first one in the cinema in 1977 or you’ve become a fan as your child has grown into them, you’ve probably dreamt of having your own lightsaber. And although buying one online is the easiest way to get your hands on one, building your own is way cooler. Whether you want to act as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader or even Yoda, you’ll find plenty of lightsaber projects ready to go – and may the force be with you.
The possibilities are endless for Star Wars toys, since there are already a huge number of projects available for you to download and print without any modifications required. Search Star Wars on any of the community websites and you’ll find masks and models, through to other projects suitable for superfans such as:
The Infinity Gauntlet
The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the way we thought about all kinds of things when we saw Avengers: Endgame. Just in case there is anyone who still hasn’t seen it, we won’t give anything away, but what we do know is that Thanos really taught us the power of the Infinity Gauntlet – and there are plenty of kids who would love the chance to play and snap things into place! Luckily, there are enough Infinity Gauntlet projects that are already created and available for new 3D printer users to download – and this one is life sized, complete with all the stones.
While we’re on the topic of Marvel and superheroes, there are quite literally thousands of projects available – search for your favourite character, or try some of these:
Remote controlled cars
Continuing the theme of 3D printing projects that are great for kids young and old, we can’t not mention remote controlled cars. Of course, 3D printing doesn’t do the electronics bit, so this is a bit more of a project than just sending the job to the printer, but most of these types of projects have a lot of people that contribute to them.
This particular project allows you to print Formula 1 style cars (be sure to print using the right colours for your favourite team) and has a guide for the electronics
This project helps to create a monster truck body for an RC car
This one is to 3D print a dune buggy or go-kart
Once you’ve created a load of remote controlled cars, you’re probably going to need somewhere to store them – and since you put in the work to make them, you’re not likely to want to put them away in a box somewhere! How about printing yourself wall mounts so you can see the brilliance of your skills?
Toothpaste tube roller
Technically this isn’t just a print for kids, but we’ve seen enough kids squeeze toothpaste from all kinds of different angles (and we have cleaned the toothpaste up from the floor too!) so we think kids are the ones who will benefit the most from this toothpaste tube roller project. Simply put the end of the toothpaste tube in and start rolling! It’ll help you and your family get as much out of a toothpaste tube as possible too, which is a great bonus.
Storage cube for Nintendo Switch games
Kids love Nintendo Switch – but neither parents nor kids love it when those expensive little game cartridges go missing. This storage cube project has storage for 22 cartridges, and folds up into a cool little box that is easily carried anywhere, and will stop any of those meltdowns happening when cards have been lost – because they simply won’t get lost anymore!
Of course, with so many different games available for the Switch, the 3D community have gone to town designing cool accessories to suit all different types and for different abilities.
Although we’ve looked at the Nintendo Switch here, if the console of choice in your household is either Xbox or PlayStation based, simply search the communities for them.
Little ones who love their dolls are always looking for accessories so they can play out real life scenarios in their Barbie world. While you could spend countless thousands on official accessories, if you’ve got a 3D printer then creating personalised pieces can be a great way to keep your child happy. We think a folding laptop for Barbie when she goes out on business will inspire some fantastic imaginative play, while a flat screen TV and furniture for her house can make it feel like home. If your little one has managed to fall and break a bone and is in a plaster cast, or loves playing doctors and nurses, then creating a cast and crutches for Barbie to wear means they can play to their heart’s content. There are so many other fantastic projects that we could mention – so search the communities to find the perfect project for your Barbie fan.
Board game pieces
Ever had a board game that you’ve lost a piece for? We would be willing to bet that you probably have. You’ll be able to rescue your favourites by 3D printing your lost pieces. MyMiniFactory has files available for all kinds of board games, from classics like Scrabble tiles and chess pieces, to more unusual board game accessories like life counters for Magic The Gathering or boxes for specialist dice.
Best practical projects
As much as we love a fun, cool or geeky project, we love a useful print job more. If you’re looking for really practical print jobs, there are a lot of projects to print tools of all different shapes and sizes – meaning if you need a spanner or a screwdriver after the shops have shut on a Sunday, you can print your own to get your job done.
But in addition to printing your own tools, there are absolutely loads of different projects that you can download and print to make life just that little bit easier. With many of these prints, there are often other ways to work around the issue (such as with the next project we’re going to mention), but having something that is designed to specifically solve a problem in the way that you want to solve it? That’s a really satisfying print. Here are some of our favourites.
Drill bit storage
There are few of us that haven’t been told when borrowing someone’s power tools that “all the bits had better be there when you bring it back!” And now we’re a bit older, we appreciate the convenience of being able to find our drill bits the exact moment that we want them. Searching any of the communities for drill bit storage will bring you plenty of results that might suit your needs (or the needs of your power tool owner!) but we love this one, since it works perfectly with the Ikea Jansjö work lamp, and doesn’t need any additional desk space.
Screw measuring device
When you need a screw that is a certain measurement, you don’t want to be digging through an old biscuit tin full of screws, nuts and bolts and grappling with your steel ruler. Finding the right screw is much quicker when you can rest them in a neat little tray with the measurements marked out on the side. There are some great projects that print screw measuring devices like this one – very handy.
We’re all trying to squeeze in a bit more exercise these days. Riding your bike to and from work is a convenient way to fit in a bit more exercise, but what if you need to be able to carry your morning coffee on your bike too? Try printing this holder for your bike. If you’re fed up of getting splashed when you get caught in the rain, printing a mudguard is a great little project that doesn’t take much to fit, and if you need to be able to use your phone as a sat nav, print yourself a mobile phone holder to attach to your handlebars.
Spool desk tidies
Whether the desk in question is really a garage workbench, is in a sewing room or is just where the PC is, this is a great way to use up those empty spools that you don’t really know what to do with, but don’t want to just throw out. This desk holder is a great project to compartmentalise those fiddly little bits – whether they are pins, needles and buttons, nuts and bolts or USB dongles for wireless devices – and to upcycle those empty spools that you’re not quite sure what to do with.
Desk caddies, pencil pots and other types of office storage items are prolific on 3D printing communities – although some are more spectacular than others! Have a good look at the options before you opt for a standard cup style pot for your pens and pencils.
How annoying is it when a zip pull breaks? Well, it might be a relatively minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, since you can use a split ring as a workaround – but what if your zipper could be fixed permanently, in a way that doesn’t announce “I broke my zip” to the world? Someone has thought of this – and this universal zip toggle is a much better fix to keep your trusty backpack (or any other item with a zip!) going for much, much longer.
Bag clip with a screw cap
Keeping plastic food bags closed to keep the contents fresh has been an issue for years – especially when the contents are easily spilled when they are poured. Regular plastic clips and pegs are great, but this project for a bag clip with a screw cap on it is so simple, it is borderline genius and will ensure you’ll never encounter cereal, cat food or coffee beans on your kitchen worktop ever again. One printer said this was one of their top five favourite things they have printed – so we think this is a really handy print that you’re bound to want to produce over and over again.
Keys might typically be made from metal, but did you know that plastic ones work exactly the same, and that you can 3D print any key? This is a great way to ensure that you have a spare available (or can make a copy) whenever you need it. You’ll need to have a little bit of knowledge of 3D modelling to make this work, but it really is a great project to have a go at – and you’ll have a useful spare key when you’ve cracked it too!
Although the summer days might be fading away, before we know it they will come back around again. Buying a bladeless fan from a big name brand is outside of many people’s budgets, but there are many projects online to 3D print your own. These projects are a little more in-depth, and require some electrical work so might not be ideal for your first project, but they’re definitely worth the effort. You’ll be glad you made the effort when that first heat wave hits next year!
Great projects for at home
In this final section, we’re taking a look at some of the projects that are suitable for anyone, of almost any age. Some are really useful, while others are just plain fun.
Cases and accessories for phones and tablets
Phone cases aren’t just there to help protect our phones when we drop them for the 300,000th time since we got them – they’re also there to help us identify our phone when we’re out with friends. While there are countless different cases available to buy for very little money on Amazon or eBay, why would you spend money on one that you might spot on someone else’s phone, when you could print your own design?
You can find absolutely loads of phone and tablet case designs on different websites with the files ready to go. We particularly love this case, with the built-in working gears – it’s like having a fidget cube with you all the time! Other accessories that make for a great simple first project include this mobile phone wall dock, stands for tablets and holders for while devices are on charge.
Anyone who has worked in a technical industry has probably encountered the dreaded cable tie. They are functional and do the job they need to do – they tie cables and keep them neat – but they aren’t great for the environment, since you have to cut and bin them when you need to take a cable out. Enter cable clips – they are small and easy to print, and you can open and close them repeatedly, so they are a much better option. This project is a great one.
While we’re talking about cables though, there are absolutely loads of options to help with storage and keeping all types of cables secure – from Android cable stands to headphone storage and cable clamps. Whatever annoys you when it comes to keeping cables rolled up and out of the way, you’re likely to find the answer on a 3D printing community website.
Electric coffee maker
Coffee is a pretty important thing at Hobarts – we don’t really enjoy a morning without one! While most of the time our coffee goes from the tin into the mug with hot water, we’re pretty fascinated with this electric coffee maker. There are full instructions available, but if you’re not quite confident in your electricity skills, you still have options – here is a hobo coffee maker that uses a Red Bull can. Still not convinced that you’ll get the standard of coffee you prefer but want to improve your coffee? Try searching for accessories like mugs, coffee cup sleeves, spoon rests or sieves to personalise your chocolate powder being shaken over the top.
Bottle opener and cap gun
This is a want to have rather than a need, but it is absolutely fun to make and play with each time you open a beer! Opening a beer bottle isn’t a hard thing to do, nor is it difficult to find a bottle opener (most of the time, anyway!) but this bottle opener with inbuilt cap gun is absolutely designed to be a hit at parties. Just be sure to set up a target so that people are encouraged to aim away from eyes…! Check out the video below.
We might be almost at the end of summer as we write this post, but this digital sundial is just so cool that we couldn’t not include it in our list. Unlike traditional sundials that cast their shadow to point to a time, this one displays the time, in digits, inside its shadow. We can’t imagine how long it took the original designer to create and test, but we really want one for our garden…!
The time updates every 20 minutes, so it isn’t one you can be accurate to the minute with – don’t use it to time your morning boiled egg! However, the magical nature of this print makes it well worth the effort. We can imagine it getting admiring glances during those long, lazy days of summer when you only need to measure how long it has been since your last trip to the fridge for another cold one.
Secret storage shelf
There have been many times when we have needed somewhere to hide something – from our secret diaries as children to needing somewhere unsuspecting to put our passports or a bit of extra cash. This shelf unit looks like a regular floating shelf, but when you print it, it has a secret tray inside that you can hide your treasures in. With an ornament or decoration on top, you’ll be able to hide your valuables in plain sight. Genius.
Cookie cutters aren’t hard to come by. Search Amazon or eBay and you’re bound to find all kinds of shapes and sizes that you can use to create delicious themed treats! Sometimes though, you can’t find quite what you’re looking for, or you don’t want to wait for delivery – especially if there is a wait. Making treats for your pup, or perhaps for Halloween? Try this bone cookie cutter. Batman fans will adore you for creating Batman biscuits, while younger children will love their own Peppa Pig biscuits. There are so many great cookie cutter designs out there that we could talk all day about them – but now we fancy a cup of tea and a biscuit!
When you’ve bought a bag of sweets, it isn’t ideal to eat all of them in one go. If you’re trying to keep yourself (or others!) from grazing through the bag in the course of an afternoon, try 3D printing a candy dispenser. Choose from an old-fashioned gumball machine style one, to a zombie dispenser that is perfect for storing Halloween candy, or this Mojo Jojo monkey candy dispenser. You can even upcycle a Nutella glass in this project!
Whatever the occasion, there is always a perfect decoration that somebody wants but that just can’t be found. Whether it is the perfect snowflake or Santa for Christmas, cake decorations for birthdays or more risqué ornaments for stag or hen parties, you will find countless possibilities on 3D printing communities.
Our final thoughts
When you’ve got your hands on your at home 3D printer for the first time, we have absolutely no doubt that you’ll be raring to get going. You might even have something in mind that you want to design and make – and that’s fantastic. But if you’re not quite sure where to start, or perhaps this is your first foray into the world of 3D printing, then you’ll be looking for ideas of things to print, so that you don’t waste your materials, or your time and effort setting up the print.
While we’ve linked to some great print projects here, don’t forget that if you’re not quite certain about the project we’ve linked to – because you want something slightly different perhaps – then search the different communities. There are a vast number of 3D printer designs available, so if you want something a little different, don’t settle – you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for.
Finally – when it is time to order your next lot of supplies, be sure to check out our range of consumables, and if you find you’re printing a lot then consider our servicing options to keep you on track.