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A simple, 3D-printed product that's actually useful

Posting in Technology

At times, it seems, the promise of 3D printing is overstated. There's U.S. President Barack Obama calling 3D printing the "next revolution" in manufacturing. Or predictions that 3D printers will be in every home within a decade. And while you can now find some extremely cheap 3D printers, the technology still lends itself more to hobbyists, makers, and businesses looking to innovate than the average consumer. That's not to say that 3D printers aren't producing some amazing, useful things like bones, homes, rocket parts. But it's rare to find an everyday object made using a 3D printer that I find myself actually interested in purchasing.

That is until I came across a product (via Fast Company) that can be made using a 3D printer that also meets an actual need.

It's called the Clug. It's a tiny clip used to store bicycles more efficiently. You attach the clip to the wall and can store the bike vertically or horizontally against the wall (as long as one wheel is on the ground) without big objects sticking out of your wall when the bike isn't there and at a price cheaper than other indoor bike racks. Here's a look at how it works:

As you can see from the video, Hurdler Studios, the makers of the Clug, is raising money on Kickstarter to get the product on the market. They have already achieved their goal of raising $32,000 CAD (Canadian dollars) and, with more fundraising, they hope to create the Clug for bike tires of various sizes.

So here's an object that wouldn't just be a plastic trinket, and meets the needs of urbanites -- increasingly turning to bikes and living in cities that are embracing smaller living spaces -- in a simple, smart way.

The Clug also offers insight into business models for companies creating products that can be made with at-home 3D printers. Consumers can pay enough money to get an already-made Clug ($9 CAD). Or for $5 CAD the company will send you a 3D printer file to reproduce the product with your own 3D printer. The benefit for the company is that they can make money purely from their design. The benefit to the consumer is that they have the ability to reproduce the object, as many times as they want, at a reduced price. That's a good deal for everyone, unless they turn out like this.

The company is also hoping to make enough money to be able to produce the Clug in a more conventional way (injection molding). Even so, 3D printing could get the product into the hands of consumer much sooner.

Photo: Kickstarter

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— By on May 21, 2014, 2:34 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure