My first experience with 3D printing

Posted on April 30, 2016
Tags: making

I’ve been curious about 3D printing for a while, but this week I finally gave it a try. It all started because my dad said he wanted a toothbrush holder which stored toothbrushes horizontally, rather than vertically. We looked online, but were able to find very few horizontal toothbrush holders, and those we did find all had some issue that ruled them out.

So I said, “Hey, we could probably just 3D print you a toothbrush holder.” I knew nothing about 3D printing in practice, so I had some learning to do.

Since I wanted to do something very quickly with minimal learning curve (and minimal software installation), I ended up choosing TinkerCAD to use in designing my toothbrush holder. TinkerCAD is entirely browser-based, so there’s nothing to install. And there was a series of tutorials which made it very easy to learn.

I designed my toothbrush holder out of three shapes: a rectangular solid, from which I subtracted a cylinder (to make a trough for the toothbrush) and another rectangular solid (to make a hole for the bristles to go down into, and also for the water to drain out of). A friend later pointed out a number of problems with this design. But this was as much about the process as it was about the actual toothbrush holder.

My toothbrush holder in TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD has a menu option to “Order a 3D Print,” which was convenient for me, since I knew nothing about how to go about getting something 3D printed. TinkerCAD offered a choice of five different providers, and I chose 3D Hubs. 3D Hubs is itself sort of a broker, connecting the user with “hubs” (small businesses or individuals) who will actually do the prining. I chose Alan’s Robot Lab, because it was relatively local, but less expensive than the other hubs which were even closer to me.

I got frequent updates on the status of my job, and a few days later, my finished print arrived in the mail. Overall, I was very happy with the process. One thing I hadn’t realized was that the surface of the print is fairly “textured.” That didn’t turn out to be a problem, though.

3D printed toothbrush holder

3D printed toothbrush holder with toothbrush

The design is available on Thingiverse.