When 3D printing goes bad

A hilarious Flickr group catalogs the various whoopsies of 3D printing. Sometimes when it fails, it manages to do spectacularly.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read
Untested settings on an overnight print job. Chris Cecil, CC BY-SA 2.0

3D printing! It's the future! We will all have access to a "Star Trek"-style replicator in our homes!

3D printing is doing ever more new and exciting things, opening up a whole brave new world of home manufacturing and cheap, accessible goods -- as well as some amazing things in the lab. It has potential that we've only just begun to tap into -- and it's only going to get better.

What we don't see a lot of, though, is when it fails, which at times, it manages to do spectacularly. From human error through to technical failure, there's a lot that can go wrong, especially with a new technology that we're still learning how to use.

But there's actually a Flickr group for that. The Art of 3D Print Failure, inspired by a 2011 blog post by RepRap documenting his own missteps, is highly entertaining to browse, but also extraordinarily useful. Its purpose is highlighting where and why things went wrong, so that others can avoid the same accidents in the future.

"It may sound odd, but it's really essential that you fail when doing 3D printing," he wrote. "It tells you so much about your machine, the boundaries you can operate in and how good or bad things can be. If all you do is print with safe settings or never play with the electronics or firmware, then you are missing so much of this wonderful project."

Such accidents include the object becoming loose from the printbed (which isn't uncommon); a glitch in the extruder; unstable printbed temperature; and using the wrong settings. And sometimes things just spectacularly fail for a reason no one can ascertain.

Whatever their story, we find the resulting objects quite weirdly wonderful. Perhaps someone should start up a sideline in 3D-printed glitch art -- we're sure there's a market for that somewhere.

3D printing gone wrong (pictures)

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(Source: Crave Australia via The New Aesthetic)