Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ubiquitous 3D Printers Will Lower Costs

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ubiquitous 3D Printers Will Lower Costs

Article excerpt

It may seem like a stretch to envision a 3D printer in every home, but a Michigan Technological University researcher predicts that personal manufacturing, like personal computing before it, is about to enter the mainstream.

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

By depositing multiple layers of plastic or other materials, 3D printers make items ranging from toys to tools to kitchen gadgets. Free designs that direct the printers are available on such websites as Thingiverse. Visitors can download designs to make their own products using open-source 3D printers, which you build yourself from printed parts, or those that come in a box ready to print.

Such printers have been the purview of a relative few aficionados, but that is changing fast, Pearce says. The reason is financial: The typical family can already save money by printing items instead of buying them off the shelf.

Pearce drew that conclusion after conducting a life-cycle economic analysis on 3D printing in an average American household. In the study, Pearce and his team chose 20 common household items listed on Thingiverse. Then they used Google Shopping to determine the maximum and minimum cost of buying those 20 items online.

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. …

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