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3D printers are now more affordable and easy to use

Three-dimensional printers were once considered too expensive to be part of the typical home's collection of gadgets, but a new study says that idea is changing. 

Michigan Technological University researchers -- led by associate professor Joshua Pearce -- have found that it could be cheaper for households to buy a 3D printer and create their own products than to buy them from stores. 

Three-dimensional printers take materials, such as plastic, and create products by printing layer upon layer from the bottom up, following a specific design. 

Pearce and his team came to this conclusion by identifying 20 common products found in the typical American home. They used the website Thingiverse, which offers free designs of these products for 3D printers.

After choosing the 20 designs, they looked at Google Shopping to see what the highest and lowest prices were for these items if they were to be purchased online (minus shipping charges). 

They then looked at the costs of purchasing the material for the 3D printer to use for product creation, and compared this data with the Google Shopping prices.

The result was that the average American household would spend anywhere between $312 and $1,944 for the 20 chosen products online as opposed to just $18 if they made them with the 3D printer. 

The 3D printers themselves cost anywhere from $350 to $2,000. Pearce said the 3D printer would pay for itself anywhere from a few months to a few years time. 

"For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime," said Pearce. "Say you are in the camping supply business and you don't want to keep glow-in-the-dark tent stakes in stock. 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 fact that prices are starting to come down for 3D printers, and the fact that it no longer requires an engineer to figure out how to use one, will make 3D printers more ubiquitous in the home in the coming years. 

Source: Science Daily

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But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By DaveLessnau on 7/30/2013 3:12:55 PM , Rating: 5
After reading the article, I scratched my head for a bit trying to figure out what little pieces of plastic I might want to print out for household use. I really couldn't come up with any. So, I followed the breadcrumbs all the way back to the source document:

and looked to see what they printed. Here's the list:

- iPhone 5 Dock
- iPhone 4 Dock
- iPhone 5 Case (custom)
- Jewelry Organizer
- Garlic Press
- Caliper
- Wall Plate
- Shower Curtain Ring x 12
- Shower Head
- Key Hanger (3 hooks)
- iPad Stand
- Orthotic
- Safety Razor
- Pickup
- Train Track Toy
- Nano Watchband (5 links)
- iPhone Tripod
- Paper Towel Holder
- Pierogi Mold
- Spoon Holder

First, I don't know what "orthotic" or "pickup" are in the list, above. Second, I could only come up with one or two items in that list that I would ever need. And, third, outside of the "train track toy" (i.e., little plastic el-cheapo garbage toys for your kid to swallow and choke to death on and allow you to sue the printer manufacturer, plastic "toner" manufacturer, open source design writer, etc.), most of those items (and types of items) are things which will be printed rarely, if ever. It would probably be far easier to just buy these once-in-a-blue-moon items than invest in the printer and toner, worry about obsolescence, and do the research to find and download an open-source design. So, regardless of their purported life-cycle costs, I can't see this ever taking off.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By XZerg on 7/30/2013 3:20:20 PM , Rating: 3
the point isn't about what was printed but rather it can be done and at a "cheaper" price point than going out there and purchasing them.

what the article and the claimer don't mention is the cost of the 3d printer and the material, the time taken to do it and additional process a person may have to perform to get the final product such as sanding and polishing.

By rs2 on 7/30/2013 8:13:36 PM , Rating: 1
Okay, but how does one print a 'safety razor'? Unless it's referring to the thing the blades clip into rather than the blades themselves. But printing one of those is pointless since the razor companies basically give the razors away for free so that they can charge ridiculous prices for the blades.

And with iPhone/iPad docks, don't those generally have internal circuitry? Can't exactly be 3d-printed if so.

Things like camera tripods make a lot of sense though (moreso than an 'iPhone tripod'), especially if the 3d-printed version can have articulated and telescoping legs.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By dgingerich on 7/30/2013 3:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
I can see a major series of items: gears. Printing replacement gears for vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, computer mice, computer printers, (Wow, the number of HP repairs I could have saved with one of these...) and other plastic mechanical devices would be a tremendous help.

I even have ideas for certain limited use devices that I could build with something like this, such as a mechanism to turn a crank and have it sweep food cans and boxes from the back of the pantry forward, or a small extension arm with a little grabby hand to get those spice containers out from between the stove and the counter.

Sure, they couldn't take a ton of stress with current technology, but they could be printed in the right orientation to withstand as much as the part they're replacing.

your imagination is just too limited. you're probably a product of public education, huh?

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By Camikazi on 7/30/2013 3:52:21 PM , Rating: 1
I've met more than enough "highly educated" people who couldn't think their way out of a paper bag, don't try to pin lack of imagination on public education since it all depends on the person and not the schools.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By dgingerich on 7/30/13, Rating: 0
By ClownPuncher on 7/30/2013 6:49:05 PM , Rating: 3
No, you are failing English because you aren't very good at it.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By dgingerich on 7/31/2013 11:31:13 AM , Rating: 2
OK, and do you have two short stories published? I did back in 1993 in Omni Magazine. Do you have political articles published? I did a run of 9 editorial articles in the Denver Post back in 1994. I decided I didn't want to do it for a living. (Honestly, it was more fun to work retail than write all the time, but in 1997 I got into computer support, which was even more fun.) My English grammar, spelling, and punctuation were just fine back then.

By ClownPuncher on 7/31/2013 11:43:18 AM , Rating: 2
I was just judging by your previous post, which was full of errors. Calm that ego.

By Just Tom on 8/5/2013 4:45:24 PM , Rating: 2
I will not comment on any of your other claims but you are lying about your publications in Omni. Omni published very little fiction and the only fiction writer published twice was Joyce Carol Oates. And I doubt you are Joyce Carol Oates.

Here is the list of fiction stories with the authors and issues published.

Fiction: Sacred Cow (pg 56)
by Bruce Sterling

Fiction: The Battle of Long Island (pg 62)
by Nancy Kress

Fiction: Like My Dress (pg 58)
by Kit Reed

Fiction: The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio (pg 58)
by Marc Laidlaw

Fiction: Grand Prix (pg 58)
by Simon Ings

Fiction: England Underway (pg 58)
by Terry Bisson

Fiction: Mrs. Jones (pg 58)
by Carol Emshwiller

Fiction: Art Appreciation (pg 62)
by Barry N. Maltzberg and Jack Dann

No fiction
Fiction: Thanksgiving (pg 78)
by Joyce Carol Oates

Fiction: The Relativity of Chaos (pg 70)
by Michaela Roessner, Connie Willis, and John Kesselby Joyce Carol Oates

By inighthawki on 7/30/2013 7:13:38 PM , Rating: 3
My papers are near perfect

lol. Of course they are. And all your English profs are out to get you.

By 91TTZ on 7/30/2013 4:40:49 PM , Rating: 3
How often do you really find yourself replacing gears in vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, or printers? I've never had to do it and the replacements only cost about $10 anyway.

If you look on Amazon you can find replacement gears for printers for really cheap. It's very unlikely that you'll be able to save money 3D printing gears when factories injection-mold these things by the thousands.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By augiem on 7/31/2013 2:00:16 AM , Rating: 2
The thing to consider is how long will it take you to model all these replacement parts? You have to have very precise measurements, which isn't going to be easy for most people. When the day comes where manufacturers give you access to replacement part 3D files, then it will be a lot easier. Or, of course, when entire products can be printed with plans. But alas, now we have assembly to worry about. So ultimately, is your time worth the massive time investment? Still, I think one would be a fun thing to have to play around with.

By krutou on 7/31/2013 12:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
"When the day comes where manufacturers give you access to replacement part 3D files, then it will be a lot easier."

No doubt manufacturers will charge you to use their plans.

Maintaining adequate stock and distribution of spare parts for an acceptable price is a challenge for manufacturers. If they could just charge you to let you do all the work yourself? They'd be all over that.

What this article and most proponents of 3D printing neglect is the cost of developing intellectual property. Anything that is more cost effective to print is generally protected by intellectual property laws because thats whats being sold. 3D printing isn't big enough where big companies have the incentive to sue websites like Thingiverse for copyright infringement.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By TSS on 7/30/2013 3:46:28 PM , Rating: 3
It's not ready for primetime yet. While these professors might be in possesion of a Phd, they could use a bit more common sense.

I don't even want to print out a new phone cover. I like the sturdyness of the default one and honestly i couldn't care less. It's a phone cover. Why an Iphone cover anyway, and not an android cover? Is it so they could pad the list with docks and iPads?

Now dinner plates, there's something interesting. Print out new ones with a new design each week and keep the wife happy. That alone will be worth the $2000 spent on a printer.

Thing is though for that there have to be more studies into the safety of these materials. I do wanna know if dinner plates made by 3D printers would melt either in the dishes or with a hot meal on them, or worse if they "give off ink" onto the food.

Also recycling is a big issue. Cooking with oil for instance means the oil could soak into the material of the dinnerplate. It wouldn't be possible for consumers to recycle that material without contaminating the rest of the "toner" so there'd have to be some sort of garbage collection to a central point where the impurities can be taken out and the material can be more easily converted back into a usable state. This in turn can lower the price of the material in the store, and a lower cost automatically means more uses.

As well as there not being any supporting economy yet. Your average joe has no clue how to work 3D modeling software (i'll bet most people on this site even don't know how to actually work with it). But he can download a design from a website. Similairly, there need to be several electro-engines of standard size and power, which have been taken into account into the 3D designs with moving parts and can be purchased locally, in order to get simple moving designs such as a deskfan. You're not gonna reach mass adoption with merely static objects and customization.

3D printing will be ready for prime time when your average joe can go to the store, buy a couple of standard engines that plug right into the socket, buy a 3D printer with some toner, then go home and print/assemble himself a deskfan within 15 minutes. As well as print dinner plates to eat off without any health hazards. Then when he's done with it throw it all (except the engine) in the printer-trash and just print new stuff for less then a buck.

By krutou on 7/31/2013 12:18:45 PM , Rating: 2
"Now dinner plates, there's something interesting. Print out new ones with a new design each week and keep the wife happy. That alone will be worth the $2000 spent on a printer."

But would they be as sturdy or as nice as the higher end materials used by companies like Corning?

Not to mention the negative environmental impact from a surge consumption brought about by 3D printing.

RE: But, Does Anyone Actually Need Those Parts?
By Strunf on 7/30/2013 7:36:53 PM , Rating: 2
3D printing is the new thing, everyone speaks of it but no one really cares about it.

3D printing is about creating new things you can't easily buy, anything else is just not worth it, besides 3D printers only do a few colors (at best) and the finishing isn't that great.

By FITCamaro on 7/31/2013 9:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
Well it can be if the printer is high resolution enough. But typically you do have to do a little finishing work yourself on printed items. We have 2 guys here at work with them. One for a business, another just for fun.

By marvdmartian on 8/1/2013 9:50:05 AM , Rating: 1
Another thing to keep in mind, especially with some of these, is that the strength of the end product can vary, widely, depending on the position of the item being built. These 3D printers, printing as they do in layers, have more strength in one direction (against the grain) than in the other (with the grain) building anything that requires any amount of strength will require the designer to figure out which way to lay out the design, for the greatest required strength.

You can also build items (with higher end 3D "printers") to be solid or honeycombed inside. This could result in a lower cost, for a lower required strength item.

You also have certain items, like spoon rests, that I wouldn't make with a 3D printer, solely because of the fact that the material is probably not rated to be "food grade" plastic.

And, as pointed out already, how often will you really need to build these items, versus the initial cost involved??

By MyndMelt on 8/2/2013 10:38:32 AM , Rating: 2
I really think 3D printers are very cool and can be very useful. However another thing to keep in mind is the environmental impact of the existence of more and more plastic. And now people are going to make cheap stuff and toss it away because the first 10 designs failed or it didn't look right, broke down or wasn't satisfactory in some way. If its possible to recycle and melt the stuff down to be re used again by a 3d printer that would be ideal, but there are going to be some people that will refuse to recycle the stuff.

Great news
By YearOfTheDingo on 7/30/2013 3:41:06 PM , Rating: 5
I've been spending way too many credits on plastic seashells. At the minimum I go through at least six seashells a day. Depending on what I've been eating I might use over a dozen. Making them at home should yield some serious saving.

RE: Great news
By Camikazi on 7/30/2013 3:54:31 PM , Rating: 5

RE: Great news
By Spookster on 7/30/2013 4:17:52 PM , Rating: 5
Camikazi, you have been fined one credit for a violation of the verbal morality statute.

RE: Great news
By Mitch101 on 7/30/2013 5:35:16 PM , Rating: 4
Its about dinner time who's up for Taco Bell?

The real trick is going to be the materials...
By theaerokid on 7/30/2013 3:23:29 PM , Rating: 3
I'm all for the commoditization of 3D printing, but let's not feed the hype without thinking about the practical implications of making your own stuff.

My first thought was, "yes, it would be great to make my own (whatever part broke and I want to replace but the company won't sell or prices it ridiculously high), but will it actually be a good enough replacement?" First of all, these printers have a limited resolution, so anything that will require tight tolerances or a certain fit specification is pretty much a toss up whether you'll be able to print a replacement at home.

Then there's the question of whether the material will meet the functional requirements of the part. A material that's easily printable may not be flexible or stiff enough for the application. Need fatigue durability for that specific application? Hardness? Solvent resistance? Good luck. There's no use printing a replacement if it won't get the job done, or last long enough to keep from having to print a new one every week.

I'm not raining on the parade, just hoping to adjust the expectations so we don't go rushing into this. I'm all for it when I have a good idea of what I'm buying.

RE: The real trick is going to be the materials...
By 91TTZ on 7/30/2013 4:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Right now all the hype is being created by people who aren't really mechanically inclined and can't foresee these things.

The people who are mechanically inclined would probably know that you could have bought a CNC lathe or milling machine 20 years ago that's more capable than a 3D printer. You can machine wood, metal, or plastic with one and create parts of much higher quality. Those who have used CNC machines know that a 3D printer isn't revolutionary at all.. it's just another tool you can use for the job.

By theaerokid on 7/30/2013 5:09:48 PM , Rating: 2
I understand what you mean about the CNC perspective. I come at it as a practicing engineer who started looking at this stuff back when the cheapest 3D printers were $25k and my company had me scope out these machines for purposes of prototyping parts that would later be machined or molded to spec.

Maybe it's an issue of "who is your target audience" and that's why people like you and I have a much more muted reaction to this "revolution".

By blue_urban_sky on 7/30/2013 6:13:28 PM , Rating: 2
And how much is a CNC lathe or a milling machine today? Although I think the list of stuff is a lot of rubbish for people that don't have access to CNC machines and alike it would be great little hobby tool.

I wanted to make a surround to dock my N7 in the car and this would give me a cheap method of making it.

By Strunf on 7/30/2013 7:57:13 PM , Rating: 2
CNC is a whole different beast, it's far too complicated for the average Joe and that's is why 3D printers are seen as revolutionary, they make it possible for anyone to print 3D objects without study for 1 year, cause that's more or less what you need to properly use a CNC (depending on the number of axis).

There are things a 3D printer can do a CNC can't, a hollow ball.

By Keeir on 7/30/2013 10:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
First of all, these printers have a limited resolution, so anything that will require tight tolerances or a certain fit specification is pretty much a toss up whether you'll be able to print a replacement at home.

This is a good point. Having used a variety of 3D printed parts in both plastic and metal, I can tell you that -very- high tolerances can be acchieved.

But I think focusing on "replacement" of broken things is a mistake. I'd say its more of filling your own personal niche market. For example, with some ink refills and springs I might be able to create a custom ergo pen for <.10 dollars a pop. With liquid/food safe plastics, printable cups would be great. I have a need for a narrow tall cup of 5-6 oz. Or various game peices (create my own chessman). Oh gosh, so many holders that I can't find just the right size for...

The issue still remains that today only plastic printers are really cheap enough to even consider for home use. The majority of plastic only parts tend to be very cheap... even though the base material is cheaper by another whole factor, its hard to feel like you saving real money when you nickle and diming you way up...

Logitech Replacement Parts
By Mitch101 on 7/30/2013 1:27:13 PM , Rating: 1
You want to make a quick buck start printing the little plastic cover piece to Logitech G930 headphones they break on everyone and Logitech refuses to sell them. If your headphones are not in warranty your SOL. Alternative is to hot glue the ear piece in place but then you lose the swivel option so hot glue it based on the angle when your wearing them.

RE: Logitech Replacement Parts
By russki on 7/30/2013 2:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
This would be fun to have, You can make any piece in a 3d cad program like pro engineer and then print it out. People can then share their libraries for different things they come up with. This is definitely the future.

RE: Logitech Replacement Parts
By krutou on 7/31/2013 12:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
And get sued by Logitech. Genius.

RE: Logitech Replacement Parts
By Reclaimer77 on 7/30/2013 2:12:58 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking more like sex toys. Imagine the applications man!!

*calls patent office*

This is great
By Ammohunt on 7/30/2013 2:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
I want a 3-D printed mini guitar! More trinkets and garbage to go to the landfill!

I suppose it would be useful in printing replacement barbie or gi-joe appendages.

RE: This is great
By dayanth on 7/30/2013 2:56:14 PM , Rating: 2
But the plastic can and will be recycled if you're a responsible person. So if anything breaks or isn't needed, you can just put it in the recycling bin.

Big Bang Theory
By rountad on 7/31/2013 10:04:08 AM , Rating: 2
I am going to make an action figure of myself!

What would I do?
By CaedenV on 8/1/2013 1:05:57 AM , Rating: 2
After I take care of a few other priorities I am going to get a 3D printer. The main motivating factor is that I really want to build some sort of amazing dollhouse for my daughter. It could be awesome after I get past the learning curve. But then the other obvious thought is to be able to print custom legos for my son. The savings on those 2 things alone will save thousands of dollars over my kid's childhoods (doll stuff is crazy expensive!). Plus, it will all be one of a kind custom stuff that is theirs and theirs alone.

On top of that there is a ton of home improvement things that can be done. Wire organization clips, disposable tools (especially wrenches and screwdrivers that I rarely use and can even more rarely find), parts wearing out on the car (like the plastic tip of the e-brake), phone and other tech mounts and cradles. It seems like a no brainer thing to purchase and learn to use, even if it is just for fun little toys and gifts.

And about the whole time issue involved... I recently started cataloging all of the movies, games, and shows I have played over the years... I thought I would be somehow proud of the wide variety of things I had watched over the years, but really I feel more like I could use a hobby like this.

Even better for local shops
By aliasfox on 8/1/2013 10:01:51 AM , Rating: 2
Most of these items are one-time purchases, or at best once a year purchases. It doesn't make sense to buy a printer just for these things.

But imagine what a Kinkos, Amazon Local, or Walmart could do. Instead of warehousing tp holders, spatulas, and yes, iPhone cases, they have a few roomfuls of plastic that can be made into anything. I could walk into Walmart, order a Nerf gun from the kiosk, and have it ready for me by the time I get to the checkout line. Or I could buy a schematic from Amazon and walk into Kinkos to have it printed - or even better, Amazon Local lockers would be replaced with 3D printers. Nobody need stock little plastic trinkets/pieces anymore.

Also useful for any type of repair shop that deals in small plastic parts. Computer, vacuum, TV, even hardware repair shops can keep far fewer items in stock because cases, gears, pegs, and plastic chassis components can all be printed. Why rent 1000 sq ft of store front when you only need 300 sq ft and room for a few barrels of plastic?

Obviously, high end machining and craftwork is still a long time away, but entry level, individual and small batch work is already here.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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