A paper newly published in Mechatronics describes the work of a team of Michigan Tech researchers, who chose to study 20 common household items whose schematics are available on the 3D printing site Thingiverse. They used Google Shopping to determine the maximum and minimum prices associated with those items. The result: “[I]t would cost the typical consumer from $312 to $1,944 to buy those 20 things compared to $18 to make them in a weekend.” Given the ever-lowering costs of home 3D printers, the team estimated that the printers would pay for themselves fairly quickly even if a typical family only made 20 items a year.
What’s the Big Idea?
Team leader Joshua Pearce notes that even though 3D printing is a bit more involved than 2D printing, the process is rapidly becoming easier and more affordable, and along with the increased availability of free designs, “we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone…It would be a different kind of capitalism.” He also says that the ability to provide highly customized items benefits consumers, especially those in developing countries who have limited access to certain goods.