3D Printing Uses

Objectives and Overview

There are numerous ways that 3D printing is being used in the real world. Every day there are stories popping up about new applications of 3D printing in different industries. These are some of the ways 3D printing is being used today.

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify examples of 3D printing in a variety of industries

3D Printing in Fashion


It’s amazing to think about 3D printing your own clothing! This is what fashion designer Danit Peleg set out to do as her graduate school final project. Danit used desktop printers, very similar to the one you will be using, to 3D print fabric that could be assembled to create a 5 piece clothing line. It took her 2,000 hours of printing!

Danit Peleg's 3d printed dresses


Another fashion item that you may not think of being 3D printed are shoes. Many designers are creating intricate shoes for fashion with 3D printers.

Closeup of dark gray 3D printed shoes
Closeup of two 3D printed shoes - one orange and one blue


Jewelry is one of easiest to understand applications of 3D printing. Shapeways (online 3D printing service + marketplace) has an entire section of custom designed jewelry where designers can upload to and customers can buy from.

Closeup of a 3D printed ring

Kinematics allows you to create custom jewelry that is then 3D printed for you. It allows you to create a one of a kind piece.

3D printed custom necklaces
Here is a link to the custom-designed jewelry section on Shapeways: Shapeways Jewelry

Wearable Tech

There is no doubt that tech and fashion are merging with the emergence of wearable technologies. With 3d printing and some ingenuity, you can create your own wearable technologies such as an LED Belt Buckle:

3D printed belt buckle with an LED inside

Or, how about a 3D printed activity band:

3D printed watch activity band containing a circuit and LED ring

3D Printing in Architecture

3D Printing for Future Architects

Here is a concept video from LeFabShop of what the future of architects and electric cars could offer.

Prototypes & Models

3D printing is great for producing models or prototypes of buildings. In the photo below, Charles Overy, founder of LGM, shows a model of a resort in Vail, Colo. “We used to take two months to build $100,000 models,” he said, adding that now they cost about $2,000.

Charles Overy, an architect using 3D printing for prototyping, shows one of their 3D printed models

Your Dream House

Explore your imagination and build your dream home and then 3D print it!

DHF youth pointing to a 3D design they made


Take blueprints and convert them into actual models to get a better idea of a home’s layout:

Blueprint of a model home called 'The Chateau'
3D prints of sections of 'The Chateau' pulled from the blueprint
3D prints of 'The Chateau' assembled to make form a house

Medical Uses of 3D Printing


This is an area of 3D printing that is really exciting. The “limited run” or “one off” capabilities of 3D printing lend themselves very well to medical services because people are very unique. What fits one person, may not fit another person and 3D printing allows the medical field to create custom solutions for unique people.

Person holding a 3D printed prosthetic leg

We are also seeing instances where open source 3D printed prosthetics are performing better than expensive prosthetics.

3D printed prosthetic hand

3D printing is offering new solutions for old problems. For example, a broken bone. If you have ever had a broken bone, you know how itchy and smelly a traditional cast can get. New 3D printed casts offer breathability and the ability to repel water that traditional casts could not do while still providing the rigidity needed for healing.
Additionally, the ability to fully customize the casts allows the use of new techniques such as ultrasonic technologies that help the break heal faster. The two wires in the photo can be positioned over the actual break and send ultrasonic waves into the break which has been proven to heal bones faster.

Read more: 3D-printed cast uses ultrasound to speed healing

3D printed cast connected to ultrasound sensors

Internal Organs

In this TEDEd video, Taneka Jones discusses bioprinting – using 3D printing to fabricate human tissue!

Taneka Jones, TEDEd video from YouTube


3D printing is also being used to create replacement parts for humans that have failed us in some way. Everything as “simple” as a knee replacement to complex structures such as jaws and even skulls!

Read more: Another First for 3D Printing – Woman Receives Jaw Implant

3D printed jaw implant with teeth

Recently, a woman received the first 3D printing skull implant. Due to a rare condition, her skull was thickening and putting pressure on her brain. They replaced her skull with a 3D printed one during a 23 hour operation.

Read more: Medical First: 3-D Printed Skull Successfully Implanted in Woman

Doctor holding a 3D printed skull implant


3D printing allows people who have unique needs to develop their own solutions for common problems they run into.

“As a wheelchair-user I often need to overcome a step in front of a building, a shop, cafe or bar. Therefore I had the idea of printing me my own small ramp. It has to be as small as possible to carry it in my bag, when I’m on my way through Berlin. This is my first prototype. Please feel free to print and to develop it… Any feedback is appreciated!”

Thingiverse User nanonan
Wheelchair user using 3D printed ramps to go onto a sidewalk

Other Uses for 3D Printing

3D Printed Tools

This 3d printed tool creates a Dremel powered from a vacuum and has the added bonus of vacuuming it’s own dust!

Closeup of a 3D printed vacuum powered turbine tool

In December 2014, the first 3D Printer in Space was delivered to the International Space Station! Shortly after, the first tool was 3D printed in space. The wrench was designed by someone on Earth and emailed to the astronauts at the ISS where they easily downloaded the file and printed the tool.

NASA astronaut showing a 3D printed wrench in the International Space Station