After years of successfully ignoring my itch to purchase a 3D printer, I finally caved to my geeky desires and purchased a Prusa Mini+ a few weeks ago. I’m a bit late to the 3D printing party, but after making a handful of prints and even dabbling in a smidge of CAD, I can’t help but be amazed at the potential of additive manufacturing technology, particularly at-home methods, going forward.

Many of the first items I printed are novel designs made for the hell of it to calibrate your printer and ensure everything is up and running smoothly. But after those, I started getting into more functional designs, such as planters, desk organizers, and even a working carabiner that can hold ~30lbs. One of my most recent prints was a four-inch drain cap for a French drain our home’s previous owners put in place and failed to cover appropriately. Sure, I had to wait four hours for the piece to be made, but for $1.55 worth of filament and a bit of time I was doing other work, I was able to make an on-demand piece that would’ve cost twice as much at the home supply store and taken up even more resources in the form of gasoline and emissions.

One thing I don’t necessarily appreciate about 3D printing is that it’s only further contributing to the issue of plastics and micro-plastics. But, one of the most common and easy-to-print filament types is PLA (Polylactic acid), which is made from renewable resources and biodegradable in commercial facilities. As it stands, I’m using mostly PolyTerra PLA filament from PolyMaker, which is both biodegradeable and comes rolled on a cardboard tube (most other filament comes rolled on 200g spools).

I still have plenty to learn, but the possibilities are exciting. Thingiverse, Cults, and other websites with slicer-ready files make it incredibly easy to get started, but I can’t help but feel the real magic in 3D printing lies in being able to make your own 3D models to print.