Being a father is one of life’s greatest adventures, simultaneously rewarding and incredibly challenging. Some of the most rewarding moments are those when you get to overcome those challenges in a creative way.  I have had the pleasure of using 3D printing to solve some of the challenges fatherhood raises and to help my children understand they can make whatever they want, now.

My crowning victory in domestic innovation and DIY mastery came when I repaired my broken stroller for under $25, saving money and opening my wife’s eyes (and many other geek dads) to the potential of 3D printing. It was incredibly empowering after being abandoned by a manufacturer because a product was out of warranty that I could crack it open and fix it, like a modern day handy man, using LASERS….

My son sees a constant stream of 3D printed objects enter our house and become part of our daily lives, watching me design on the kitchen table, then have them arrive in the post a couple of weeks later. It was not long before my son wanted me to start designing him toys too. Our first 3D printed project was a robot, which we designed together, him telling me what color, how big and what features he wanted, including the ability to attach lego.

It took us about 20 minutes to design (the exact attention span of a 4 year old) and we uploaded it to Shapeways to 3d print.  He then walked to the letterbox not quite understanding the passage of time.  When it arrived he was so excited and it was only about 2 days later when he asked me to design him a lego minifig head to replace the one he had somehow swallowed.

Continuing on the theme of swallowing small objects, my son also saw the 3D printed jewelry that had been flowing through the house, given as gifts to friends and family members in sterling silver and stainless steel.  He wanted one he could wear so I designed a couple for him including a tiny skull ring which he proceeded to swallow, claiming he was testing to see what was inside it, and at the same time testing it’s toxicity for all the Shapeways community. He survived with no noticeable side effects.

3D printing has given me the ability to repair and prolong the life of those objects our family uses every day, to interact with my children in a creative way and help them to understand the value of making things for yourself.  It is now completely natural to my children’s paradigm of reality that almost anything they want they can make for themselves.  As the materials of 3D printing get more sophisticated and the tools of creation get simpler I look forward to seeing what my children will be designing in the future, and cannot wait get my first 3D printed ashtray for father’s day.