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10 Challenging DIY Open-Source Projects that Use 3D Printing

Apart from being one of the booming manufacturing methods in recent times and its increasing industrial usage, 3D printing also seeps into the workflow of the hobbyists and enthusiasts. This article overview 10 interesting and challenging DIY open-source project ideas, where you can use the huge power of 3D printing.

1. OpenRC Formula-1 Toy Car

This 3D printing project is a complete open-source remote operated toy Formula 1 car that can take you and your printer off to the races. This community fun project unites many people who provide various mods, tutorials and insights. This can be modified according to your specifications and print it as big as you want(largest one being just more than 150cms in length).  Open RC F1 can be a great project to learn about remote control systems and can take you and your printer off to the track. Here are the detailed instructions on how to build and assemble your 3D printed car.

More information: https://danielnoree.com/the-openrc-f1-build-guide/

Design files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1193309

Image source: Thingiverse

Material and process recommendation: It is better to use ABS for its durability and high-strength and processes like FDM and MJF as they are cheap and efficient.

2. Dragonfly Science

The 3D printed dragonfly is one of the best open-source projects to make good use of your free time. This small machine is inspired by the odd aerodynamics of dragonflies. The flaps are powered by twisted rubbers. This project is designed to allow enthusiasts to know more about the flying properties. Here is the link to project design files and the further information. 

More information: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:951687

Material and process recommendation: We would recommend PP or PLA for the light weight and flexibility and processes like FDM and MJF as they are cheap and highly durable.

3. Hovercraft

Started as a basic student project, this DIY project is the first step in establishing hovercraft as a cheap mobile research station for the Arctic. This is one of the significant 3D printing projects as most of it is 3D printed. However, the base is cut from Styrofoam.

More information: https://makezine.com/projects/3d-print-rc-hovercraft/

Design files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:901976  

Image source: Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: For a durable and robust build, it’s better to employ ABS and technology can be either FDM or MJF.

4. DIY Quadcopter

This exciting 3D printed FPV Quadcopter is lightweight and designed to be crash-resistant and offers good protection for onboard gear. While this is certainly not a cheap 3D printing project, as many as 24 options for this design can be found on Thingiverse to accommodate most budgets. Here is the link to the project description and files.

More information: https://www.instructables.com/Micro-105-FPV-Quadcopter-3D-Printed/ 

Design files:  https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1221911

Image source: Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: PLA can be used but ABS will give you more crash resistance. In the photo, the top is printed in PLA and the bottom in ABS. FDM or MJF is recommended.

5. Strandbeest- Beach Beast

Strandbeest is a cool 3D printed kinetic sculpture that combines engineering and art. They roam mysteriously in the beaches of Netherlands, propelled by the power of wind. You can build your very own DIY Strandbeest just for fun. It has eight individual components, assembled repeatedly in a sequence to get the Strandbeest.

More information: https://www.instructables.com/3D-Printed-Theo-Jansen-Strandbeest/

Material and process recommendations: Nylon is recommended for flexible and moving parts and cheap as well. Processes can be MJF, FDM or SLS based on the costs.

6. Robot Arm

Another interesting, but quite challenging open-source project is a 5-axes robot arm. It was designed by professional engineers and can be 3D printed out of several components. In addition to the printed parts, it requires stepper motors and Arduino. The arm uses Zortrax steppers exclusively developed for robots.

More information and design files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1693444

Image source: Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: PLA and PC are the ideal choices for high-strength and functional components. FDM would be the best and inexpensive technology for this project.

7. Self-Watering Planter in a jar

Worried about watering your plants when you are out on a vacation? Stop worrying and start printing. This simple 3D printing design makes it easier to care of water intensive-plants. All you need in extra is a normal glass jar, fill it with water. Place your 3D printed planter along with soil and plant (seeds or saplings) on the jar. Don’t forget the drainage if your plant needs that. The advantage is that you can see the water level since the glass jar is transparent.

More information and design files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4683066/files

Image source :  Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: PETG is the most effective plastic when it comes to printing water and moisture resistant components. It is also easy to print with FDM as its filaments are commonly available.

8. Drawing Machine 

A drawing machine is an ideal tool to use for greeting cards, formal invitations and a lot more. This partially 3D printed drawing machine makes your work fun and easy at the same time. Clamp any pen or pencil and create stunning works and cool paper arts from raster files.

More information and design files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1514145

Image source : Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: Tough ABS, PC and PLA fits the purpose and process options can be FDM or MJF

9. PiKon Telescope

Are you a fan of stargazing? If so, this cool project is for you. The PiKon is a 3D printed telescope, powered by Raspberry Pi so you can gaze at the stars on screen while the components are cheaper than earlier.

More information and design files: https://www.instructables.com/PiKon-Telescope/

Image Source: Instructables

Material and process recommendations: This project mainly uses PVC pipe as the telescope tube whereas the other components can be made out of PLA for durability and cost-effectiveness as well. FDM or MJF is recommended.

10. DIY Camera Slider

It’s very expensive to find good equipment for Photographers. This 3D printing project for a motorised camera slider is a fine example of how 3D printing can be effective in producing items that the consumers need and can afford. It employs PVC pipes as sliders and a DC motor.

More information and design files: https://www.instructables.com/3D-Printed-Camera-Slider-Motorized/

 Image source : Thingiverse

Material and process recommendations: Nylon or PLA are the cheapest for making these plastic components and FDM and MJF are the cheap options and can print various colors with its filaments.


There are several other creative and cool open-source projects online on platforms like Thingiverse and Instructables. All these clearly show that 3D printing has already become a part of our daily lives.

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Posted in 3D Printing