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The World’s First 3d printed Christmas Ornament Exchange!

Christmas in Community College

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The world’s first 3d printed Christmas Ornament exchange happened two years ago on December 3rd, 2016 at a Community College in Woodbridge Virginia, you heard it here first!  3d printer Chat delivers again!  The first reaction that you will have to hearing the news is:  What is a 3d printed Christmas Ornament Exchange?  The second reaction that you will probably have is that you were a participant in the world’s first 3d printed ornament exchange, and what is the basis of the claim.  The response to both of these reactions are addressed in this article.  

Promotional T-shirt to support the event

What is a 3d printed ornament exchange?

A 3d printed ornament exchange is based off of the local neighborhood cookie exchange and the most basic rule is very much in place to this day, no store bought!  The practitioners show up to the agreed location with as many gusts as they see appropriate.  They bring their ornaments with them too.  They hopefully have at least three times more ornaments than they have guests as a general rule of thumb.  

Variety of ornaments with small variances in complexity

How Does an Ornament Exchange work?

The first step is to take all of the ornaments and evaluate them within the total pool and assign a point value from the floor to the ceiling, I recommend a floor of one and a ceiling of 20.  The points are applied in the following way: the less interesting ornaments, singular color, or small will likely have a point value of one.  Ornaments that are a little more interesting, maybe with a z height over three inches will have a few a point value of five to ten.  The next level would be multicolor and/or exceptionally tall.  Finally, the most impressive, most intricate, most interesting ornaments will get points at the top of the scale.

The total number of points in the pool is then divided by a whole number such that no one person can get the top category of ornament with just their own points.  The cascade effect of this mathematically means that the remaining ornaments should be able to be accessed evenly across all participants, the points should be applied accordingly. 

Guests pick the ornaments they want*

The next step is to have each member pick their ornaments.  Each participant goes one by one.  The person who goes first is determined in any number of ways, it can be determined by aged, youngest or oldest goes first.  It can be determined by birth month, or any number of fun ways for start an activity.  Before the first participant makes their selection picking, everyone is allowed a chance to swap points with each other.  I suggest making side deals similar to those in the board game, “Monopoly”.  Then the first person selects their ornaments, and then the next until all of the ornaments are picked.  The trading starts once all of the picks have been executed. 

No single person will get everything that they want if the point values are applied properly, this is why the trading takes place.  Participants will seek out complete sets of four, specific color schemes, or central design themes like Star Wars.  There are ornaments for every taste in a well executed 3d Printed Christmas Ornament Exchange.

Tanya Akinora designs for Christmas ornaments.


A 3d printing Christmas ornament exchange is an easy way to give your friends and relatives a unique holiday gift, and it is also a way to expose people to 3d printing that would not usually get involved.  The example presented by this community college is a world’s first for three specific reasons.  1.  There were multiple maker groups who contributed ornaments.  2. The participants were not exclusively members of a maker’s household or family.  3.  The point system stimulates dealing, trading and interactions as designed.  The “World’s First 3d Printed Ornament Exchange” claims are supported by these three aspects.   

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  1. Tom Baxter says

    I would like to work on getting something like this organized for the maker community in my area. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own, but will solicit help from local makers. It could be an ornament exchange for different “maker” categories. (3D Printed, CNC’d, carved, etc.)

  2. Justin Flugum says

    It would be a nice idea but as a community thing around here anyway, it would be almost impossible. I don’t know of any maker spaces or even clubs but, it would be nice if such a thing existed here.

  3. Richard Bynum says

    Such a neat idea. I’ve found a few local friends that are into 3D printing by going to Facebook and getting on a lot of 3D Printing group pages and looking for mutual friends that have joined those groups. I haven’t talked to them yet. It’s not a lot (I live in a very small town full of more cow fields than people…haha). But I know there are so many other people into 3D printing in the cities next to mine. I just need to find a way to connect with them. This would be a fun thing to do! I guess I should Google search by city and 3D printing clubs to see if there is anything already out there. So far I’m just friends with fellow hobbyist through the internet. It would be nice to be around people in this hobby in real life.

    1. Tom Baxter says

      I wonder if we could do some sort of online exchange where we just trade with other members of the site or Facebook group. Something like the Reddit Secret Santa.

      1. Daniel Faegnell says

        We could. Lets ask in the communities on facebook. maybe add a star rating for the active ones so on..

  4. ASHTAD IRANI (@IraniAshtad) says


  5. John Smith says

    I missed out on it this year, but I would surely try this Christmas ornament exchange the next year. It is such a fascinating idea to use your 3D printer and surprise your friends. Credits to the discoverer!

  6. Juanca says

    I will give them a try

  7. Michael Perkins says

    good ideas all…

  8. Darren says

    Great looking exchange that I will check out next Christmas.

  9. Mihaly says

    Useful ideas in January… LOL

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