Pop Culture

Forget Guns, 3D Printing Should Be All About the Mundane

Never worry about having remote control issues again.
Never worry about having remote control issues again. Photo by Jason Trim/Flickr
That people want to use 3D printing to make guns is maybe the least surprising thing in American history. It’s a debate I can’t wait to watch play out, as watching people do the mental gymnastics of trying to explain why being able to make your own gun is somehow a fundamental right while also fretting over the threat of bad guys getting “easy” access to weapons should prove to be hilarious.

Hilarious, but also kind of sad, in a way. I get that 3D printing is supposed to unlock all sorts of new innovations, presumably because in time the processes will get refined and people will be able to prototype their ideas in a reasonably affordable manner, but the truth is the only reason I’ve ever paid attention to the advances in the technology is not to change the world but to save some hassle when it comes to items that are profound in their mundaneness.

I see 3D printing like duct tape; yes, you can do some pretty amazing things with it if you’re willing to put in the time, but for most of us it exists for some boring applications. And I think we should embrace that aspect of it. Just think of a world where you’ll never have to buy or send off for replacements for the following goods.

5. Those Toy Parts Kids Misplace

The more parts a toy comes with, the higher the odds are that your kids will lose something. Maybe it’s one particular building block in some super expensive, fully licensed set. Maybe it’s a component in a board game. Maybe your kid just wants some cool ramps for his toy cars to jump off of. Whatever the case, fire up your 3D printer and stop the tantrum before it ruins an entire day.

4. Phone and Tablet Stands

We made devices small enough to fit in our hands, but go about looking for something to put them on so that we can use them without putting them in our hands. I get it; it’s easier to look like you’re busy at work while you’re really watching old episodes of The Office when your phone or tablet isn’t in your hand. Well, instead of wasting money on other people’s plastic stands, let’s push toward a world where we print our own stands, colored to match our phone cases in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

3. Furniture Stabilization Devices

It happens to the best of us: no matter how close we stick to the directions, after hours and maybe a little bit of blood, you can end up with a piece of furniture that’s just a little bit off. Maybe a shelf jiggles funny, or the legs just aren’t quite level. If you’ve ever had a table that tilts to one side the second you put weight on it, you know the struggle come dinner time. Sure, you can put a magazine down there somewhere, but what if you could just measure the problem and whip up a solution in minutes. You don’t really want to go back to IKEA, right?

2. Plastic Drinking Straws

We don't need companies to keep making plastic straws if we just make our own, and maybe we’d be less likely to let them end up in the ocean if we felt more ownership over them.

1. Remote Control Battery Covers

The original fidget device, I have no idea how many of these things I’ve ruined over the years due to sitting on the couch and messing with them while watching television. They’re both too easy to start messing with and too fragile to survive the long haul. Before long you’ve got to start taping up the back of the remote just to keep it working. But what if you could fidget with the covers and not have to worry about it, because when it goes to that big bin of electronics in the sky, you could just print another cover? That seems way more useful than a gun that’ll probably melt the first time you fire it.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia