Home STEM/STEAM Bright Ideas for 3D Printing

Bright Ideas for 3D Printing

by Dr. Bruce Ellis
3D printing

With the cost of 3D printers coming down and the quality going up, it’s no wonder that more and more folks are joining the 3D printing craze. Even if you are a novice at designing in SketchUp, Tinkercad, or Fusion 360, you can find tons of files already created and ready to be downloaded and printed. If you haven’t joined the 3D printing fun yet, then jump over and read our post Easy Answers to FAQs about 3D Printing to get started.

3D Printing Starter Ideas

For some easy and fun 3D printing, I have pulled together a variety of light switches that you can download and print. Even if you don’t want to modify the files, you will find that you, and others, will get a smile each time you use your light switch. Above is the light switch that I modified for our type of plate at work. I set mine so that the switch is to one side in case I wanted to do something fancy on the other side. After you print one out, you will start having new ideas of how you can tweak it. If you plan to print out anything that LEGOs can snap to, be sure to print out a test file first and check to make sure that the pieces can snap on without crowding each other. Though you can create it from scratch, you might find it easier to start with a LEGO baseplate and then cut out the area for your switch(es).

Here is a super simple wall plate for a light switch to start with. Even though it has ON and OFF lightly carved in it, you can  easily fill it in to make a solid plate on which you can add text, objects, etc. Even though this one doesn’t involve LEGOs, you will want to print the first one in draft or quick mode so you can verify that the screws and switch hole line up with yours. No need to spend several hours designing first only to find out later that they apparently have one that doesn’t meet the specs of yours.

If you are into gears, then SRex has designed the Geared Light Switch Plate. This one is for the three-switch plate. Instead of flipping the switch, you crank the appropriate handle to turn the gear that moves the other gear plate to flip the switch. The nice thing about the two outer gears is that there is ample room if you wanted to add text or designs to the inner portion. This is a great switch for a child’s room or the STEM lab.

If you are a science teacher or English teacher, you might be interested in the Frankenstein Light Switch Plate by LoboCNC. Science teachers might like the electricity reference, while English teachers may enjoy just another reference to classic fiction literature. If you don’t have brown filament to use for it, then you might consider painting it before you assemble and install it. LoboCNC gives you several files so you can accommodate single, double, and triple switch plates, as well as one with a paddle-style rocker plate.

Harry Potter fans will enjoy the Harry Potter Light Switch Cover by momofthreeboys. No need for a dual extruder; just use black filament and then carefully paint the letters and lightening bolt with silver. This plate also has three hooks at the bottom (not shown) for you to hang your keys on…or your dragon leash or magic wand. Though I have not printed this plate, it appears that you might want to make the base slightly thicker so the supporting rafts are not apparent or just make sure the plate is solid and does not contain a hollow core.

And no collection would be complete without a Tardis Light Switch by zerocool5878 for all the Dr. Who fans in your classroom or office. Of course you know you have to print some extras for the others to have in their rooms. With just a little searching, you can find all sorts of matching Tardis projects to print.

So which one will you print out first? I bet that if you put it in your classroom, your students will want one and your cool factor will go up a few digits! If so, let us know how it goes…and be sure to share a photo of your final project by emailing it to me at bellis@tcea.org or tweeting it out using the #TCEA and #makers hashtags.


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