One of the most appealing aspects of 3d printing is the ability to solve problems in our everyday lives by making things. Last year when I returned to work after my son Ever was born, I started a ritual of FaceTiming with him several days a week during lunch. It was a great way to stay connected with him, but I quickly grew tired of trying to find ways to prop my phone on my desk without it sliding flat. I finally realized that making a 3d-printed stand would be a fun and worthwhile project.
There are a number of commercially-made iPhone stands available, but I wanted something unique. I am still fascinated with the ability to picture something in your mind, design it on a computer, and have it physically printed and delivered to your door. I wanted a stand that was stable, but also aesthetically appealing. I wanted something that would catch people’s attention even while it was sitting unused on my desk at school. I thought of the geometrical structures of some simpler molecules, and quickly sketched out a few designs based on a tetrahedral structure. It was quite satisfying to open the Shapeways box when it arrived, and find that the actual stand is as functional and visually appealing in person as it appeared on screen.
Having the stand on my desk has already started some conversations among students and staff. It still catches me off guard that most people have never heard of 3d printing, or if they have they’ve never seen something that was actually made with a 3d printer. I hope this motivates some students to do the kind of finishing work that is required to make a model worth printing. I look forward to seeing some student models printed this year, particularly a longboard (skateboard) pendant that I think people will like. We actually have the opportunity to use a 3d printer that another local high school acquired through a grant last year. I think we might develop a routine where we print our prototypes here in town, and then upload our final designs to Shapeways for wider availability. It will be interesting to compare the print quality of our local 3d printer to the work that Shapeways produces.