10 3D printed objects that defy traditional manufacturing


Traditionally, when engineers and artists begin designing models, there have been sets of “rules” that designers had to follow. These design rules of manufacturing prohibited the creation of products with intricate centers, hollowed sections, organic curves and movable, interactive pieces in many instances. Mold manufacturing and machining simply couldn’t create these models, and if they somehow could, the process was contorted and extremely expensive. However, since the implementation of 3D printing, these rules have been bent and broken. Here is an interesting and fun list of ten things created through 3D printing which “defy” the rules of traditional manufacturing.

Gyro The Cube

This design by Shapeways user Virtox isn’t new, but it is more than explosive within the 3D printing world. Not only does this model offer high detail, hollowed sections, and a complex center – but it is a functional object. If you haven’t seen it “in action,” I highly recommend that you watch this video. Gyro The Cube is an exceptional example of a fully functional object coming straight from a 3D printer. Details here.

3d gyro the cube

Objet’s 3D Printed Toddler

At least to my knowledge, not a single style of manufacturing can do something similar to what Objet did with this print. This “child,” with visible internal bone structure, is composed of multiple materials, all created layer-by-layer. Look at the levels of intricacy for yourself. Traditional manufacturing can’t even attempt something like this. Detail here.

3d printed toddler

Spinning Gear Models

Thingiverse modeler Emmett Lalish definitely had an interesting concept when he started to design these models; prints which can spin and rotate through these “gears” are pretty cool if you ask me! Perhaps other forms of manufacturing could create something similar to this – but this kind of piece isn’t very common. I feel like Emmett had to get a mention for these cool models, as you don’t see fully functional models like this every day. Details here.

3d spinning gear models

Colored Mermaid Delight

3D printing manufactures parts layer-by-layer, and artists like George Hart are taking advantage of it. By that I mean artists LOVE creating models with hollow spaces, as well as models with extravagant interiors – like this one. Through the process of additive manufacturing, pretty much anything can be placed within the center of a model. Mold manufacturing and machining simply can’t come close to the levels of meticulous detail and part-within-part structures offered through 3D printing. Details here.

3d mermaid delight

High Resolution Printing

Many 3D printers have super high resolutions and can create very detailed models. Some printers offer 16 micron resolution or less — that’s less than half the diameter of a human hair. Here is an example of a print created by artist Luke Jerram, showcasing an extremely high level of detail, against which other forms of manufacturing have a hard time competing.  Details here.

high resolution 3d printing

3D Printed Jewelry

Various pendants like this one are changing the concept of jewelry design. Although I’m not a jeweler, I can promise you that this piece, by Nervous System, would be very difficult to hand carve, and traditional manufacturing would face a tough challenge trying to replicate something similar. More details.

3d printed jewelry

Tentacon(Or pretty much anything by Bathsheba)

This model by Bathsheba truly represents the capabilities of 3D printing. Take notice of the curves, hollow spaces, and levels of detail when looking at this sculpture. Material removal processes can’t replicate much of anything similar to this, and mold manufacturing definitely can’t get close to making objects like this. Details here.

3d printed tentacon

Replicating Art Through 3D Scanning and Printing

3D scanning and then printing objects has been a new trend in the maker movement. Some software allow for the creation of a 3D model just by taking 2-3 pictures, while others require full, traditional scanning. This 3D print of “Cardinal de Richelieu” by Bellin was first “scanned” by taking several photographs (then processed with My3DScanner) of the sculpture. You can have this sculpture 3D printed through Paul Marx’s store on Sculpteo. Although other forms of manufacturing might be able to replicate this kind of piece, the trend has clearly been dominated by 3D printing. More details.

paul marx 3d sculpture

3D Printed Fashion

Many artists often ask the question “Why not?” when it comes down to designing intricate pieces like this “Seed of Life” corset designed by Aaron Trocola and Amandacera. Unfortunately for traditional manufacturing, this kind of model can’t be created without 3D printing. Just look at the shoulders of this “fashion statement” and you’ll see the elaborate shapes, curves, and hollow sections. More details.

3D Printed Bobble Heads

This kind of service is phenomenal, in my opinion, as it speaks for the advancement of truly custom products. Machining can offer custom manufacturing, but it can’t do anything like manufacturing your face on a bobblehead at this level of detail! More details.

3d printed bobbleheads

The Final Word

3D printing offers various processes for producing models – most of which change the way we can manufacture things. Sophisticated parts and products can be created in hours, as can 100% custom pieces. 3D printing technology directly revolutionizes the way manufacturing takes place, not just by bending the “rules” of design, but by placing the power of creation in the hands of almost anyone who wants it.

About Chris Waldo


12 Responses to “10 3D printed objects that defy traditional manufacturing”

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  1. David says:

    Great red!
    But you might want to rethink the geared models never being manufactured before:

    • David says:

      Make that “read”
      And shortly after, it was printed in several variations too:
      But, yes it is a very cool model!

      • Chris Waldo says:


        The spinning gear heart model is one of my favorite pieces; I’m surprised that I haven’t seen that. I definitely can’t argue that it has been around for awhile, you got me there! Thanks for reading & pointing that out.


      • Chris Waldo says:


        I made sure to edit this section, thanks for pointing this out.


  2. Pamela Waterman says:

    Great examples – visuals really help spread the word about 3D printing capabilities. Thanks for posting.

    • Chris Waldo says:


      Absolutely, some of these artists are so creative! Definitely glad that this technology is in existence within my lifetime. 3D printing seems like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie but it’s real, and it’s amazing! Thanks for reading.


  3. Robert McLean says:

    Hello Chris Waldo,

    3dEffigy.com, 3DSavvy.com, 3DObjex.com

    What do these three domains have in common?

    robert p mclean

  4. 耿延文 says:


  5. clemclem says:

    Hey !

    can i make a french traduction of your aticle, and give the source of this page, for a french fablab ?


  6. clemclem says:

    (sorry, can delete last com ^^)


  1. Busy Open Hack Saturday | Xerocraft Hackerspace - Tucson, AZ says:

    [...] of the things that only 3D printing can make.  Jeremy moves the kinetic sculpture — Gyro the Cube — which Karl bought from [...]

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