FREE 3D Printing & Design Projects You Can Do With the Whole Family
MatterHackers' handpicked home education ideas and enjoyable projects for the whole family on the days you're working from home.
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On the days when you're stuck at home, it's not always easy to chase away cabin fever. Keeping everyone in the family entertained can be even harder. This is especially true for parents who now suddenly need to become homeschool teachers. Fortunately, those of us with a 3D printer have an endless supply of options to keep busy, but the number of possible things to print can make it surprisingly hard to choose. We've solved that dilemma and handpicked ten home education ideas and enjoyable projects for your whole family during those days you've hunkered down at home base.
Before you get started, if you or your family are just beginning with 3D printing or if you need a quick refresher, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the materials you’ll be using. Most of these projects can be printed with PLA, the most affordable and arguably easiest filament to work with. Take a look at our articles on How to Succeed When Printing with PLA and our Materials Comparison Guide, and you’ll be ready to jump into these printing projects!
Practice Designing with Tinkercad
Custom Cookie Cutters
Get creative in the kitchen with unique cookie cutters. Try one of these cute Unicorn or T-Rex Footprint designs or, for a tasty way to teach geometry, have kids create their own outlines and forms using MatterControl or Tinkercad. You can also take inspiration from our MatterControl stencils tutorial and tweak the positive image to make your own original cookie stamps. For the youngest learners in the family, simplify your designs to basic shapes and letters (Like these Alphabet cookie cutters) to bring elementary learning lessons into your baking class that can 3D print in under an hour. If you're going to be indoors all day, it may as well smell like cookies.
Create Your Own Cutting Board
Continuing the theme of home ec classes, this custom cutting board will make a great addition to any kitchen. We’ll be making use of a different method of fabrication for this woodworking project: subtractive manufacturing. Have your CNC machine, project wood, and dust control system ready, then follow along with the simple steps outlined in our guide. As with every project, but especially with a CNC router, make sure that children are supervised at all times while the machine is in use.
We took advantage of Inventables’ free web-based software, Easel, to create this project because of its handy pre-made cutting board shapes. Easel's introductory tutorial is also a great way to teach your family the basics of designing for subtractive manufacturing, which has its own considerations. Carbide Create is also another free alternative for makers with a Shapeoko 3 (Standard, XL, or XXL) at home who want to skip the steps of fussing with compatibility and exporting Easel’s Gcode.
3D Science Projects
A free sampling of the in-depth science models offered in the 3D Printed Science Projects book, these designs make learning potentially difficult concepts much more accessible for students. Whether it’s examples of fibonacci sequences found in nature, molecular compositions, or comet trajectories, these tactile models add a visual learning tool to elevate your in-home lesson plans. Additionally, they’ve been designed to be easy to print and need only a relatively small build area (5” x 6” x 5”). We strongly recommend adding these prints to your homeschool curriculum. You can find them at this link to the MatterHackers Digital Designs page.
3D Jointed Puppy Dog
For any parent whose child has begged, "Can we please get a dog?" the answer is finally yes! ...Kind of. This poseable pup, a free model designed by Thingiverse user jazmy, is named Charlie. This design features articulated joints, prints in one single piece, and distracts your little ones long enough for them to forget they ever wanted a real dog in the first place.
We recommend this project for its ease-of-concept and early age appropriate entertainment. Expect about 4 hours from start to finish to print your new furry friend and a few extra minutes to remove supports. For even more fun, get the primer and paint kit ready to really bring your 3D printed pet to life.
Snap Together Da Vinci and Wind-Up Car Gift Cards
Designed originally as snazzy gift cards, there’s no reason why you can’t assemble and keep these Catapult and Wind-Up Car mechanical models all for yourself. Printed flat against the build plate, the parts to this deceptively simple card can be popped out and configured into surprisingly transformative, functional designs.
This project is a great way to bring experiential learning to any student's desktop. The pieces are capable of being snapped together, so no glue or other messy products will be necessary - all you need to add is a piece of string. We especially like the inspiration drawn from Leonardo da Vinci, and the fact that it can print as a single piece with no supports in just about three hours is a huge bonus.
OpenRC Formula 1 Car
You may have seen this design before in our Summer Projects Collection. Just one of many excellent Daniel Norée Open-Source projects, the OpenRC F1 Car is the perfect advanced homework for the robotics enthusiast in the family, making it a great choice if you’re looking for a multi-day project.
This design consists of several parts, all free to download online, and the ones most likely to take a hit in case of a crash are best printed in durable materials such as a carbon fiber-infused nylon, NylonX. Electronics and hardware can be purchased separately (Daniel has provided a list of those parts here) if you really want to make this car go. Best of all, we’ve made an easy-to-follow guideline to walk you through the build. Check out our step by step instructions at this link.
Micro Planter Chess Set
Bring the garden indoors with this Micro Planter Chess Set. A MyMiniFactory prize winner and custom design by XYZ Workshop, this project provides a mess-free way to enjoy nature from the comfort of your own couch while practicing one of the oldest strategy games in history. The board prints as a thin sheet that you can place on any flat surface to transform it into your play area.
We're big fans of this project for any students with a sharp mind and a green thumb. After a round of chess, keep those plants healthy and happy with the free MatterHackers-designed Earth Day Watering bulb.
Chili Pepper Maracas
Music class is in session! These fun and colorful musical instruments are a breeze to put together. One maraca consists of just two parts that you can print in four hours using PLA, ABS, or the material of your choice. Simply fill the pepper with beans, beads, or even snips from your discarded filament scraps to upcycle your spare plastic, then use superglue to secure the top to the base. These files are available to download for free on the MatterHackers Digital Designs page.
MatterHackers Hex Tile Project
Give your tile an educational spin with a little extra customization - for example, you can create an elementary mathematics project by starting with a frame that can fit three tiles. Next, design the individual hex tiles themselves, each assigned with a number or an operation (multiplication, addition, etc.) which can be swapped in and out of the frame. Place whichever of the numbers and operations inside the frame you choose, and voila! You have a visual learning tool to practice any combination of algebra equations.To create your own tile, follow these easy steps outlined in our instructional guide. Not only is this a great way to practice 3D modeling and other educational concepts, MatterHackers is also accepting your Hex Tiles to display at our headquarters in Southern California. Click here for directions to send your Hex Tile to MatterHackers and get a $5 discount code to our store!
DNA/RNA Building Set
Concepts as complex as the human genome can be pretty intimidating to young learners. Fortunately, 3D printed models such as this DNA/RNA toy set can help break down the barriers to understanding the structures of our DNA. Each block represents a nucleotide with a letter indicating its base: Thymine (T) or Uracil (U), Cytosine (C), Adenine (A), and Guanine (G).
The pronged shapes and inserts at the top of each block representing hydrogen bond donors and acceptors intuitively help students comprehend the chemistry of compatible base pairing. This printing project is an excellent way to incorporate tangible learning tools in your science lessons.
Nintendo Switch Arcade Cabinet
Bonus Project for Pets
Prevent boredom and destructive behaviors by stimulating your pet’s mind. Treat toys challenge pets to use their brains and problem solve their way to a tasty reward. What better way to keep your cat or dog occupied while you work from home? Originally designed by kpimmel and then refined by hroncok, this D20 themed treat toy available for free on Thingiverse is a critical success. Consider using a sturdier material like PETG, Nylon, or ABS if your pet tends to play rough.
Need more inspiration?
Check out these 3D Printing project books to learn and practice STEAM-related 3D printing education at home.
For even more in-depth lesson planning ideas to bring 3D Printing to your home classroom, we suggest adding the Printlab Classroom to your curriculum. A 12-month subscription will give you access to a huge amount of resources, including professional development, downloadable student workbooks, and a library of lesson plans that are frequently updated. Try our promotional 7-day free trial of PrintLab
To our customers, fans, colleagues, and friends:
We know that this can be a stressful time for families, and we take our role to support our maker community very seriously. MatterHackers is dedicated to helping you find ways that 3D printing can improve your daily life and to supporting you on your digital manufacturing journey. We are continuing to ship orders, and our support lines will remain open, so please reach out to email@example.com if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about how to bring 3D printing into your home.