3D printing gives consumers unique options for Valentine’s Day gifts
Valentine’s Day is here again, and for many of us, that means it’s time to hunt down a gift. In one camp, we have the type of gift giver and gift getter who are okay with giving and receiving the standard flowers, chocolates and card (as long as you really mean that and aren’t going to be secretly disappointed.) In another camp, we have gift givers and gift getters who like their gifts to be a little spicy. By spicy, we don’t mean the $15 “love-pack” with massage lotion, a feather, and whatever other discretionary items might be included. To us, spicy simply means unique, thoughtful, and interesting.
We wrestle with the countless implications of 3D Printing becoming more accessible to the masses, and we all will continue to see the technology incorporated into our everyday lives in new ways. As larger cities see a rise in local print shops and the large online printers gain more of a presence, the ability to incorporate this versatile technology in intimate ways grows. Y-Axis sat down with two Orange County print shops to find out how their customers are preparing for Valentine’s Day.
“When I give this to my wife, I know for a fact that this is going to sit on our counter for 10 years.” Lars Brubaker, MatterHackers
Lars Brubaker, a co-founder of the Orange County 3D print company, MatterHackers, knows that 3D printed gift items can be special. When asked how 3D printing has affected some of the important events of his year, Brubaker thoughtfully reflected, “We have done pretty much every special occasion. Like my kids’ birthdays. I’ve printed them stuff out for their dolls. I’ve made her a couple little tables, and a desk.” Brubaker shared one of his Dolly-ready designs with us. He brought out a tiny little desk meant for a dollhouse, which appeared to be made out of wood. At first, one might assume that the tiny desk was just printed with brown plastic filament, which would have likely been just fine by the standards of the dolly and her house. But in addition to the standard plastic filament, Brubaker’s shop also uses a material called LAYWOO-D3. A certain amount of wood is actually infused directly into the material. The LAYWOO-D3 material can even be heated at various layers (MatterHackers’ “Print Garden” of 3D printers uses the additive method via AirWolf v .5 printers, among others,) in order to change the color of the ‘wood’ to replicate wood grain. Dolly gets a real wooden table, custom designed and printed. Expect some jealous Barbies.
With 3D printing, your imagination really is the limit when it comes to designing custom gift pieces. As Alicia Frye, Marketing Coordinator of Orange County’s Growit3D said “What’s great about 3D printing is that it allows for anything to be made. When the door is open for custom anything, the possibilities are endless. It’s not just about trinkets or art pieces, though those are classic gifts that melt the heart and are special in their own way. Is your husband a car enthusiast? Why not print him a tailored-to-him gear shifter knob? Does your girlfriend spend a lot of time at the office? Why not 3D print her a custom pencil cup or phone dock? 3D printing brings a whole new world of options for any occasion, or even just because. On top of the custom factor, each build is made from one of the most revolutionary processes of our time. How could anyone not love that?”
How can you place a value on custom pieces from the heart?
When estimating how much a printed two-piece box with the initials of you and your significant other might cost at a big-box store, the MatterHackers team pointed out that an item of that uniqueness simply wouldn’t be found on the shelves of a retailer. Perhaps a blank, heart shaped box could be found at your local big-box retailer, but custom pieces aren’t so easy to come by. In the words of Kevin Pope, co-founder of MatterHackers, “Once something goes into mass market, if you sold this at Walmart, it is going to be $1. The more you sell of something, the cheaper it’s going to become. I think what’s cool and interesting about 3D printing is the ability to make something that is absolutely unique and make it your own.”
Brubaker echoed Pope’s sentiment. “There is a level specificity that you would not be able to get at Target. How many iterations of a product can they have out on that rack? It is original, it is a physical object, it is something you can have for years and years. It’s not just a card or flowers. When I give this to my wife, I know for a fact that this is going to sit on our counter for ten years.”
Consumers may find custom 3d printed gift pieces to be a surprisingly affordable way to create something unique for their Valentine. Most smaller custom 1-2 piece gifts can be had for as little as $12-18, which we’re pretty certain is less expensive than most chocolates these days. So how is the cost of your piece determined? The print shop you choose will look at a variety of things. Factors that impact cost at Growit3D include how much material will be used, how much support material will be used to prevent your design from collapsing while it’s built, how long it will take to print and what the best geometry orientation will be (i.e. 3D printing a pencil flat on its side versus balancing it on its lead tip.)
How quickly does it take from an order upload to fulfillment?
Once you’ve received your quote and have approved of your design, MatterHackers can create your one item print gift in just one day. Prints with 10 parts may take three days. The process also moves swiftly at Growit3D, where the shop can create your gift in as little as four days, depending on which technology and material is chosen.
There are some amazing 3d print gift designs out there, many of which provide a unique alternative to that old standby gift from a big-box store. Below are a few such designs we had the opportunity to see at MatterHackers. Share some of your own favorite Valentine’s Day designs with us at email@example.com
Photos courtesy of MatterHackers.