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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.

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