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20 of the Coolest Things Ever Made with a 3D Printer

A foot for puppy, a self-driving car, and parts for spaceships: You won't believe all the things people are making with 3D printers.

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3D-dog prostheticCourtesy The University of North Georgia

Prosthetic Foot for a Dog

Jon Mehlferber, PhD, visual arts professor at the University of Northern Georgia loves dogs and 3D printing. When he met Hope, a young boxer mix who was missing a foot, along with her owner, Mehlferber had a lightbulb moment: How about 3D printing a prosthetic foot for Hope? In 2015, the 3D-printed prosthetic dog foot became a reality, and Hope's a happy, lucky doggie, running, playing, and following mom everywhere.

If you've ever wondered why your dog follows you into the bathroom, here's why.

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watchCourtesy Vortic Watch Company

Wristwatches

Colorado-based Vortic Watch Company creates vintage pocket watches for modern use (as wristwatches) by combining vintage pieces with 3D-printed parts, each of which is custom engineered. The watch-case shown here is printed in titanium, which makes the restored watch both light and strong.

Test yourself: Try to guess the uses for these vintage items.

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olliCourtesy LM Industries

Um, is that a bus?

Actually, it's a 3D-printed, self-driving, smart shuttle created by Local Motors. Called Olli, it can autonomously drive passengers to their destination. The company's goal is to put the shuttles to work moving people around towns, college campuses, companies, etc. Local Motors also created the world's first fully 3D-printed car three years ago. It's called the Strati.

If you're overwhelmed by the modern, check out these cool vintage cars you'll wish you could drive today.

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lockheadCourtesy Lockheed Martin

Spaceships

What's the most "out there" use of 3D printing? How about the 3D-printed brackets on NASA's Juno spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin? The spaceship has covered than 1.7 billion miles (and counting). The probe is currently orbiting Jupiter and returning stunning images of the planet while solving puzzling mysteries about the planet's atmosphere—like the fact that Jupiter's lightning storms congregate at the poles of the planet (Earth's lightning storms are more common around the equator). The 3D-printed parts help hold the antenna structure together. Plus: Check out these actually useful home features you can make with a 3D printer.

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self driving carCourtesy Optimus Ride

Self-Driving Car Parts

Here's another self-driving vehicle that uses 3D printing: Optimus Ride (a self-driving car company) partners with the 3D-software company Autodesk to quickly print various elements of their self-driving smart shuttles.

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phone caseCourtesy Performance 3-d

Phone Case

Company P3-D prints a lot of useful things, but none so useful as their 3D-printed phone case: "Its unique design made it a tough print," the company tells Reader's Digest. Nonetheless, the finished product is both flexible and durable—excellent protection for your valuable phone.

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bikeCourtesy BigRep

Bicycle, Complete with Tires

BigRep made the world's first full-size bicycle frame, produced in a single 3D print, as well as the first airless bike tire, also printed as a single 3D piece. By replacing the empty space in tires with a three-layer honeycomb design, they've created a wheel that will never go flat.

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clipsCourtesy Makers Empire at St. Paul's

Clothing Clips for a Toddler with Cerebral Palsy

Makers Empire helps educators teach 3D printing to young children, and those kids are solving real-world problems in their communities. For example, 5th-grade students at St. Stephens School in Perth, Australia, 3D printed these safety clips for their teacher's toddler, who has cerebral palsy. The clips keep her leg straps firmly in place.

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armCourtesy Beaver Country Day School

A Human Hand

At Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, student Christian de Weck printed a prosthetic human hand. He also figured out how to mass produce these while still allowing for customization—and at a substantially lower cost than most prosthetics on the market.

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heartCourtesy BIOLIFE4D

Human Heart Tissue

The emerging tech company, BIOLIFE4D recently announced it has successfully 3D printed human cardiac tissue. This tissue can be used in people who have acute heart failure to help restore lost heart function. This is a huge step toward 3D printing an actual human heart viable for transplant. Learn more about how 3D printers are making body parts that can take over when yours wear out.

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heartCourtesy Fisher Unitech

Art that Looks Like a Heart

Fisher Unitech, a 3D printing and software company, gives us a sense of what an actual human heart might look like when it's printed—or at least, an artistic rendering of one. The pillar on which the heart is displayed was also 3D printed.

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artCourtesy Shir David

Modern Art

Speaking of art, Brooklyn artist Shir David 3D printed a series of sculptures for display at Currents New Media in Santa Fe, NM. The series is called Lightscapes and it uses 3D-printed sculptures to explore the "relationship we have with light." The individual pieces are:

  • Kids
  • Raphael and a Fridge
  • Rebecca in Front of a Bar
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blood testCourtesy Makers Empire at St. Pauls

A Device to Keep Himself Out of Trouble

Using a 3D printer, 10-year old William Grame worked with Makers Empire to design a device for disposing of used blood-sugar testing strips. William, who has type 1 diabetes, tended to leave his strips around—an annoyance for his mother. Now, he's covered.

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buildingCourtesy Makers Empire at St. Paul's

Models of Historical Houses

Another Makers Empire project, these models of historical buildings were all 3D printed—by 4th graders, in Adelaide, Australia. The students then took their 3D-printed models with them as they toured in person the buildings that had served as their inspiration.

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ornamentCourtesy EDGnyc.com

Parts for Actual Houses (and Buildings)

Architecture and design firm EDG specializes in building and restoration projects. They have started using 3D-printing technology to generate molds to produce intricate building decorations and ornamentation. The company can generate parts to restore and maintain deteriorating ornamentation and to make practical, cost-effective repairs.

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lightCourtesy Gantri.com

Light Fixtures

San Francisco-based Gantri 3D prints sustainable table lights in original designs created by independent artists around the world. Upgrading the lighting is one of the things you can do to increase the value of your home in a weekend.

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necklaceCourtesy Fab Lab Hub

Jewelry

Sarah Boisvert, founder of Fab Lab Hub, 3D prints the jewelry pictured, but that's not all. She is on a mission to retrain blue-collar workers in 3D printing technology so that they can take advantage of new manufacturing job opportunities in automation, robotics, CAD and generative design, 3D Printing, Big Data and more. Learn more about it in her book, The New Collar Workforce.

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noodlesCourtesy Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Noodles You Can Really Eat

Yes, you can make food with a 3D printer: To create these tofu noodles, students in Amit Zoran's Design Hybrids Lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, filled a 3D printer extruder with tofu instant noodle paste. The food not only looks good but it's also designed to taste better too because, as Zoran explains, "flavor is closely linked to temperature, and precise control will ensure better consistency."

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bustCourtesy Matthew Mead, CTO of SPR

Bust of a Historical Figure

In honor of International Women's Day, digital transformation consulting firm SPR 3D printed this bust of Ada Lovelace: She is considered to be the world's first computer programmer.

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ornamentsCourtesy Makers Empire at St. Paul's

3D-Printed Christmas Decorations for Charity

More visual art that's more than what it looks like, 200 of these Christmas ornaments were 3D printed by students at Nova Scotia's BLT Senior Elementary School, with the help of Makers Empire, for a "Make Sale" at their school's Christmas concert. All proceeds ($347) were donated to the local children's hospital, the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. Here are more Christmas decoration ideas (no 3D printer required).

Originally Published on Reader's Digest