I’ve never been tempted to get a 3D printer. It’s neat tech, and the applications are immense, but home use felt impractical. Living with two kids means there’s enough easily forgotten plastic stuff around the house already, thank you very much.
Earlier today, though, I found cause for my first real temptation: the Smithsonian institute has made 3D plans of some of its most popular artifacts available, and these can be plugged into 3D printers and remanufactured at home.
There’s a really nice range of items too. Some of it is sculptural antiquities, some prehistoric fossils, some historic artifacts. The scaling ranges from lifesize reproductions to models that are significantly scaled down (not that you wanted a full size replica of the Wright Brothers plane, of course).
Even if you don’t own a 3D printer, the models are a blast to manipulate. You can zoom in to see the intricacies of artifacts and rotate them in space, which doesn’t require any outside software. If you’re not into the modeling, they also have explorable 3D renderings of things like the Apollo 11 command module.
If you’re a teacher in history or technology, the resource is worth bookmarking even if you never print a thing.
This kind of library is only going to grow, of course, so if you’re into this tech keep an eye on it–especially if you’re in a school that has access to a 3D printer.