Jul.30, 2013

3D printers are fast becoming one of the hottest new technologies. While the technology is still in the very early stages, Michigan Tech researcher Joshua Pearce is predicting that personal manufacturing, like personal computing before it, is about to enter the mainstream in a big way.

"For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime," said Associate Professor Joshua Pearce.

3D printers allows users to make almost anything, from toys to tools to kitchen gadgets. Users can download tens of thousands free designs on websites like Thingiverse and make their own products using open-source 3D printers.

After conducting a lifecycle economic analysis on 3D printing in an average American household, Pearce concluded the typical family can already save a great deal of money by making things with a 3D printer instead of buying them off the shelf.

In the study, Pearce and his team chose 20 common household items listed on Thingiverse, such as cellphone accessories, a garlic press, a showerhead, a spoon holder, and the like.

Some of the 20 things Joshua Pearce's group printed (Credit: Justin Plichta/Michigan Technological University)

Then they used Google Shopping to determine the maximum and minimum cost of buying those 20 items online, shipping charges not included.

Next, they calculated the cost of making them with 3D printers. The conclusion: it would cost the typical consumer from $312 to $1,944 to buy those 20 things compared to $18 to make them in a weekend.

Open-source 3D printers for home use have price tags ranging from about $350 to $2,000. Making the very conservative assumption a family would only make 20 items a year, Pearce's group calculated that the printers would pay for themselves quickly, in a few months to a few years. And 3D printers can save consumers even more money on high-end items like customized orthotics and photographic equipment.

(Credit: Justin Plichta/Michigan Technological University)

3D printing isn't quite as simple as 2D printing a document from your home computer—yet. "But you don't need to be an engineer or a professional technician to set up a 3D printer," Pearce said. "Some can be set up in under half an hour, and even the RepRap can be built in a weekend by a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer."

It's not just about the money. 3D printing may herald a new world that offers consumers many more choices as everything can be customized. "With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone." explains Pearce.

Before 3D printers become as ubiquitous as cellphones, they could form the basis of small-scale manufacturing concerns and have huge potential both here and for developing countries, where access to many products is limited.

"Say you are in the camping supply business and you don't want to keep glow-in-the-dark tent stakes in stock," Pearce said. "Just keep glow-in-the-dark plastic on hand, and if somebody needs those tent stakes, you can print them."

"It would be a different kind of capitalism, where you don't need a lot of money to create wealth for yourself or even start a business," Pearce said.

The study is described in the article "Life-Cycle Economic Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing with Open-Source 3D Printers," to be published in the journal Mechatronics.

 

Source: Michigan Technological University


Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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Austin Pinzon wrote at 8/20/2013 11:43:16 PM:

What you are failing to see, which is partially because you are quick to snap to an assumption without thinking, is that the "20 objects" that were printed were an example of the capabilities. It doesn't mean you have to print those 20 more or less. Yes, you could probably find those at a dollar store, but what about items you cannot find or are not easily accessible. Showing the 20 items printed is a justification of the overall purchase. One of the practical uses for the 3D print technology involves the ability for astronauts to print tools that are damaged or they simply do not have while they are up at the space station, as opposed to shipping the items to them. Same applicability is involved in the daily household. It is the availability of the items, not the cost. Oh snap! My magical, amazing broom broke. Then pop, there is a new broom printed in your kitchen. As well one of the complaints is that you are going to have to pay for the models or blueprints. Of course you are, nothing in life is free get over it. However that does not mean you will have to pay for everything, there will be many sites offering blueprints for free or memberships just as there are websites for stock photos, informative articles and porn. As far as people getting discouraged installing it and letting it sit in the corner, do you know how to install your surround sound system? Maybe you do, some people don't. That is why there are people who install it, GeekSquad or what-have-you, it will create jobs for people to install, maintain, create blueprints, and frankly create innovative ways of printing the future. If that scares you, grow up.

Asdf Dsaf wrote at 7/31/2013 5:55:14 PM:

"Making the very conservative assumption a family would only make 20 items a year" ...how is this "very conservative"? Why would 3D printing be immune from some people finding it too much trouble to set up and ending up sitting in the corner?

ARRG wrote at 7/31/2013 5:21:59 PM:

So yeah... who's 3D-modeling the objects so that your printer knows what to print ? Is that step factored in the 18$ ? For common objects I guess there'll be a (free) market for such models. But for custom stuff, you'll have to be able to do it yourself, or pay someone to do it for you, and that won't come for free nor for 18$.

Mentifex (Arthur T. Murray) wrote at 7/31/2013 5:14:58 PM:

This article is really cool. It makes me want to find the website for "Thingiverse". The article reminds me of when I used to be an Amiga computer salesman back in 1989 and people were talking about a "Santa Claus machine" that would make for you whatever you asked it to make. Since I work in artificial intelligence at http://ai.neocities.org/AiSteps.html the whole idea of 3D printing appeals to me as a way to let the AI Minds create the tools that they need.

Ted wrote at 7/31/2013 4:06:32 PM:

"20 common household items...a spoon holder" I'm sorry, a "spoon holder"??

Dave wrote at 7/31/2013 12:52:23 PM:

Good point Tom. Matt, what is your sinister motivation for not agreeing with the article??

Jack wrote at 7/31/2013 12:46:28 PM:

And you create the 3d models for it on the same weekend?

Mike wrote at 7/31/2013 12:18:47 PM:

Tom, he said, "It's such an uncreative way to think"... I can agree with him; why on earth would the average household need to have a machine they would use 20 times a year? Kinko's for 3d printers would be a much better way to go. "3d printing in every home" is unskilled and uninspired.

Mike wrote at 7/31/2013 12:18:06 PM:

Tom, he said, "It's such an uncreative way to think"... I can agree with him; why on earth would the average household need to have a machine they would use 20 times a year? Kinko's for 3d printers would be a much better way to go. "3d printing in every home" is unskilled and uninspired.

Sarah wrote at 7/31/2013 5:54:35 AM:

What this study showed is only 20 prints justifies owning a printer if you shop on the internet. This is a bit silly as no one needs to stop at 20 you can print as much stuff as you want. Have you checked out thingiverse lately? There is over 125000 things - a lot of it is junk the same as the dollar store -- but there are a hell of a lot more than 20 gems.

Sarah wrote at 7/31/2013 5:52:46 AM:

What this study showed is only 20 prints justifies owning a printer if you shop on the internet. This is a bit silly as no one needs to stop at 20 you can print as much stuff as you want. Have you checked out thingiverse lately? There is over 125000 things - a lot of it is junk the same as the dollar store -- but there are a hell of a lot more than 20 gems.

Tom wrote at 7/31/2013 5:47:46 AM:

It looks the this 3d printing thing is actually starting to scare people like Matt -- maybe he works for a toy manufacturer or something similar. If you take an honest look at the thousands of designs already open and free - you cant tell me that you dont think there is a huge threat to the status quo. Why would people buy your junk if they can make anything they want at home.

Proteus wrote at 7/31/2013 1:46:52 AM:

Yikes, so many people making predictions. Stop telling us what is going to happen and actually make it happen. Sadly I feel that the more popular printers become the more popular censoring software for them will become. Not that it wouldnt be easy to break, but...

Proteus wrote at 7/30/2013 11:04:22 PM:

Yikes, so many people making predictions. Stop telling us what is going to happen and actually make it happen. Sadly I feel that the more popular printers become the more popular censoring software for them will become. Not that it wouldnt be easy to break, but...

Nick wrote at 7/30/2013 9:30:46 PM:

Hmmm, those things could all be bought from a $1 store in 5 mins

matt wrote at 7/30/2013 5:35:43 PM:

How many times is this type of article going to be published. "3d printing in every home" It's such an uncreative way to think. The thought process to arrive at such a conclusion is very shallow.



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