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Make It Yourself and Save--a Lot--With 3D Printers

By Michigan Tech News

July 31, 2013

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Personal manufacturing from three-dimensional (3D) printers is about to enter the mainstream, says Michigan Technological University professor Joshua Pearce.

He notes that 3D printers can deposit multiple layers of plastic or other materials to make almost anything, and free designs that direct the printers are now available by the tens of thousands on several websites. Users also can download designs to make their own products using open source 3D printers.

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

The researchers chose 20 common household items with downloadable designs for 3D printers, and used Google Shopping to determine the maximum and minimum cost of buying those items online, excluding shipping charges. The researchers compared the costs with the cost of making the items with 3D printers. The researchers found that it would cost the typical consumer between $312 and $1,944 to buy those items, compared to $18 to make them at home using a 3D printer. Open source 3D printers cost between $350 to $2,000, so the printers could pay for themselves in as little as a few months, according to the researchers.

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