Plan Hard, print easy

I know what the voice in your head says “I want to 3D Print you the medieval castle to live in that I never had!” but please pause for a second and take a deep breath before making such a commitment. First of all I admire the thought, I really do, however even a castle to house the Playmobil will take many more hours that little one will have patience for, keep those ideas and turn them into a wonderfully unique Christmas present!

3D Design

Depending on age, and unless you are a Solidworks Ninja and there is a major artistic interest in the child already, I suggest first delving into the depths of Thingiverse & Co for some easy first hits before encouraging them to attempt full 3D Designs on their own. Step by step.


There is no denying that one of the most rewarding aspects of 3D printing is that ability to print something that no one else will (ever?) have, not least when it has your name on it! This is a particular joy for younger primary school children who are just learning to read and love typing in their name and see it appear on screen. Oh and let’s not forget bragging rights at school!

Don’t miss the opportunity to make a good first (3D) impression

If you don’t want to hear the dreaded words “3D Printing is lame”, I encourage you to not only plan well but make a first print beforehand “without witnesses” to make sure the design you chose prints easily. Don’t do as I did:

“Why are there holes in the wings of my plane??”

Sadly a valid point, I should have done a test print first!

My colour, your colour

If you go the coloured route, print “your colour” first before the children come into play, it gives something to pass around and point at during the various stages, and it not being in “their” colour there is no “mistake” as to who it belongs to. Added bonus, with multiple children it gives something to play with while their personal edition is being printed.

Design repositories

What we are aiming at is as close to immediate satisfaction as possible: an easy quick print with almost instant playtime. Here a few suggestions:

  • Name Tag (maybe for a up coming trip or for the backpack in the new school year?)

  • Carabiners are always useful and these ones come with interchangeable arms and therefore colours. Fun.

  • Lego compatible Keychain Fob is super fast sub 10 minute print and you can make one for each member of the family to then hang them on a lego plate at the door.

  • “Paper airplane” or rubber band launched glider for near instant gratification right here

If you go to bed now, you’ll have it in the morning” Prints

These take a while to print, but maybe there is a lesson is also a lesson of delayed satisfations in there:

  • Maker Faire Robot Action Figure (prints as a single file!) by LeFabShop. This is not an easy fast prints but it is a super clever design, is cute, even 65% one is a good size. The design of the joints is really clever and well done and you can build a robot army!

Maybe weekend projects (longer prints + assembly):

there is “some assembly required”

  • Also both an Ikea Hack and by leFabShop a DIY luge

also “some assembly required”

A note about safety:

As DIY projects go, 3D Printing is not that dangerous, the super hot nozzle needs to be warned about, (I tell them it’s like a laser gun, super dangerous) but I find that always having a spatula or a thick rag in hand helps.

Sure ABS smells bad like burnt plastic (which it is) but ever wondered if it’s toxic? Ever thought why that filament you bought is so super cheap? Do you know all the stuff that is really in it? Unlike me who works at Voltivo (yep, self-promotion!) you probably can’t go to the factory to see where it’s made to see what goes into making the filament you are using, look at the invoices of big firms with a reputation to loose like BASF and Natureworks and make sure that the Certifications are not fake (it has been known to happen in some parts of the world!!). So don’t print in a broom closet and opening the windows is usually a good idea. And if you got your filament really cheap, print outside and keep some distance.

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