How 3D Printing Will Save You Money (VIDEO)

Here’s justification for splurging on a cool new 3D printer: It’s actually a money saver.

Buying a 3D printer to make plastic iPhone cases and paper-towel holders at home can already save you money in the long run, according to a new study. That doesn’t mean 3D printers will soon replace stores, let alone shut down factories in China or Vietnam. But it does suggest how the technology is creating a world where you could eventually make many products at home or at a local shop.

Printing money (savings)

A 3D printer such as the open-source RepRap may not only pay for itself but actually save money by making just 20 household items — such as shower-curtain rings and safety razors — per year, said Joshua Pearce, a materials engineer at Michigan Technological University. His new study, wordily titled “Life-Cycle Economic Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing with Open-Source 3D Printers,” challenges the skepticism of big manufacturers and the caution of 3D-printing experts who say the technology still has a long way to go.

“Today, we have the ability to print plastic, which actually opens up an enormous catalog containing thousands of products that we all have in our homes and use every day,” Pearce said in an email. “The material selection is expanding quickly, and it seems likely that for many products, consumers will make their own rather than purchasing them.”

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RepRap 3D-printer owners could save anywhere between $300 and $2,000 per year, depending on what 20 household items they make, Pearce found. RepRap owners can also continually upgrade their open-source 3D printer over time — even printing new components — as the technology improves, rather than having to buy a new 3D printer every few years.


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