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  (Source: instructables.com)
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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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.




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