Geek Projects Special: 3D Printing

From a T-Rex shower head to a full car, there are plenty of amazing things to 3D print. We show you how to get started...

Geeky 3D printing projects to try

As fun as solving 2D printing’s paper jams has been, it can’t compete with the geeky joy of rendering in the third dimension.

Below we show you how to take your first steps towards your new hobby – starting with a homemade 3D printer. 

Build it: Printrbot Simple Metal Kit (£475)

Geeky 3D printing projects to try

Congratulations! You’ve just bought a 3D printer. The only thing standing between you and geek glory is a four-hour build of ‘moderate’ difficulty. But that’s a good thing, right? All you’ll need is some pliers, a screwdriver, zip ties, wire cutters and a healthy supply of patience. Time to get building.

The early parts of the build include attaching the motor and power adaptor to the Printrbot’s base, and installing its ‘X’ axis rods. This part controls its ‘left to right’ movements, with the ‘Y’ covering ‘forward and backwards’ and the ‘Z’ looking after the ‘up and down’ of your 3D-printed dreams.

Now attach the Printrboard (the printer’s brains) to the base, and connect the extruder base to the Y Arm, along with the auto-levelling probe. This sensor means you shouldn’t need to faff around levelling the printing bed. Finally, connect the power cable and thermistor cables, plus the fan extension.

After you’ve attached the motor to the Y arm and tucked the wiring inside, it’s time to download the free Repetier software for sending objects to your Printrbot. Then calibrate your auto-levelling probe in the software, and get printing. We’ll have a bottle opener, please…

For full instructions on how to build your Printrbot and demo videos, go to

Get one now from

Project #1 (easy): scan a statue

Geeky 3D printing projects to try

Help build a 3D-printable library of the world’s monuments

1 Find a landmark ‘Scan The World’ is creating an archive of the world’s sculptures and monuments for 3D printers by crowdsourcing the scanning process. All you need is a camera and access to a favourite landmark. To find out which ones have already been scanned, go to and filter by continent. Hint: Stonehenge is still available…

2 Make your scanYour landmark needs to be well lit and have a strong contrast with its background. Stand a few metres away from the object and take a photo. Now move slowly around the figure, taking a photo every step or two. Aim to shoot about 40-50 photos in total, including some close-up shots of finer details like hands and fingers.

3 Receive your printSend all of your photos to using a web service such as Dropbox or WeTransfer. Their designers will then use them to create a 3D model, which will be test-printed then hosted on MyMiniFactory for 3D printer owners to print themselves. You’ll then be sent a 3D print of the monument for your mantelpiece.

Project #2 (medium): print your run

Geeky 3D printing projects to try

Processing logo

Run 3D model

Run 3D model

Create a unique marathon memento: a 3D-printed route map

Run to the hills Record your run with a GPS tracker like Strava. Your route needs to start and end in the same place and undulate lots, or you’ll just end up printing an unimpressive circle. At home, export your run as a .gpx file.

Make it 3D (part one) Now download Processing (£free /, with the GPS data library and the toxic libraries from Thingiverse here: Put your .gpx file in the same folder as the .pde file from Thingiverse.

Make it 3D (part two) Still with us? Now, open the .pde file in Processing and within the code rename the .gpx file to match yours. Run the sketch and it’ll create an .stl file, the kind that most 3D printers will happily gobble for breakfast.

Press ‘print’ to play Open the .stl file in your printer’s software, choose a ‘fine’ setting with 25% infill and print. After two hours, you should have your run immortalised in ABS or PLA plastic. Well, it’s better than getting ‘yet another’ gold medal.