If you've been pondering whether a 3D printer is a sound financial decision, here might be your answer: researchers have calculated that they can pay for themselves inside a single year.
The study, conducted at Michigan Technological University, considered 20 common household items—smartphone cases, a garlic press, a shower head, the list goes on—listed on Thingiverse, then used Google Shopping to work out the maximum and minimum cost of buying them online (not including shipping). Then, the researchers also calculated how much it would cost to make each using a household 3D printer.
The results are pretty amazing: While they were only looking at American prices, it would cost between $312 (£206) to $1,944 (£1,300) to buy the items, but just $18 (£12) to make, using the 3D printer. Clearly, the printers are expensive, but those figures suggest that they can pay for themselves in a time frame of months to years. The research is published in Mechatronics. Joshua Pearce, who led the research, explains:
“With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone... [Y]ou don’t need to be an engineer or a professional technician to set up a 3D printer. Some can be set up in under half an hour, and even the RepRap can be built in a weekend by a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer.”
Of course, there's a time investment involved in downloading designs, tweaking them, and experimenting with manufacturing—but that could be seen as part of the charm, too. If you weren't excited about 3D printing by now, this news might be just enough to tip you over the edge. [Mechatronics via MTU via Slashdot]