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20 of the Coolest Things Ever Made with a 3D Printer

A foot for puppy, a self-driving car, and parts for spaceships: You won't believe all the things people are making with 3D printers.

3D-dog prostheticCourtesy The University of North Georgia

A prosthetic foot for a dog

Jon Mehlferber, PhD, visual arts professor at the University of Northern Georgia loves dogs and 3D printing. When he met Hope, a young boxer mix who was missing a foot, along with her owner, Mehlferber had a lightbulb moment: How about 3D printing a prosthetic foot for Hope? In 2015, the 3D-printed prosthetic dog foot became a reality, and Hope's a happy, lucky doggie, running, playing, and following mom everywhere.

If you've ever wondered why your dog follows you literally everywhere, here's why.

watchCourtesy Vortic Watch Company

Wristwatches

Colorado-based Vortic Watch Company creates vintage pocket watches for modern use (as wristwatches) by combining vintage pieces with 3D-printed parts, each of which is custom engineered. The watch-case shown here is printed in titanium, which makes the restored watch both light and strong.

Test yourself: Try to guess the uses for these vintage items.

olliCourtesy LM Industries

Um, is that a bus?

Actually, it's a 3D-printed, self-driving, smart shuttle created by Local Motors. Called Olli, it can autonomously drive passengers to their destination. The company's goal is to put the shuttles to work moving people around towns, college campuses, companies, etc. Local Motors also created the world's first fully 3D-printed car three years ago. It's called the Strati.

If you're overwhelmed by the modern, check out these 10 cool vintage cars.

lockheadCourtesy Lockheed Martin

Spaceships

What's the most "out there" use of 3D printing? How about the 3D-printed brackets on NASA's Juno spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin? The spaceship has covered than 1.7 billion miles (and counting). The probe is currently orbiting Jupiter and returning stunning images of the planet while solving puzzling mysteries about the planet's atmosphere—like the fact that Jupiter's lightning storms congregate at the poles of the planet (Earth's lightning storms are more common around the equator). The 3D-printed parts help hold the antenna structure together.

self driving carCourtesy Optimus Ride

Self-driving car parts

Here's another self-driving vehicle that uses 3D printing: Optimus Ride (a self-driving car company) partners with the 3D-software company Autodesk to quickly print various elements of their self-driving smart shuttles.

phone caseCourtesy Performance 3-d

Phone case

Company P3-D prints a lot of useful things, but none so useful as their 3D-printed phone case: "Its unique design made it a tough print," the company tells Reader's Digest. Nonetheless, the finished product is both flexible and durable—excellent protection for your valuable phone.

bikeCourtesy BigRep

Bicycle, complete with tires

BigRep made the world's first full-size bicycle frame, produced in a single 3D print, as well as the first airless bike tire, also printed as a single 3D piece. By replacing the empty space in tires with a three-layer honeycomb design, they've created a wheel that will never go flat.

clipsCourtesy Makers Empire at St. Paul's

Clothing clips for a toddler with cerebral palsy

Makers Empire helps educators teach 3D printing to young children, and those kids are solving real-world problems in their communities. For example, 5th-grade students at St. Stephens School in Perth, Australia, 3D printed these safety clips for their teacher's toddler, who has cerebral palsy. The clips keep her leg straps firmly in place.

armCourtesy Beaver Country Day School

A human hand

At Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, student Christian de Weck printed a prosthetic human hand. He also figured out how to mass produce these while still allowing for customization—and at a substantially lower cost than most prosthetics on the market.

heartCourtesy BIOLIFE4D

Human heart tissue

The emerging tech company, BIOLIFE4D recently announced it has successfully 3D printed human cardiac tissue. This tissue can be used in people who have acute heart failure to help restore lost heart function. This is a huge step toward 3D printing an actual human heart viable for transplant. Learn more about how 3D printers are making body parts that can take over when yours wear out.

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