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The Almighty Buck Technology

Study Finds 3D Printers Pay For Themselves In Under a Year 322

Posted by samzenpus
from the pini-money dept.
Lucas123 writes "Researchers using a RepRap open source 3D printer found that the average household could save as much as $2,000 annually and recoup the cost of the printer in under a year by printing out common household items. The Michigan Technical University (MTU) research group printed just 20 items and used 'conservative' numbers to find that the average homeowner could print common products, such as shower rings or smartphone cases, for far less money than purchasing them online at discount Websites, such as Google Shopper. 'It cost us about $18 to print all [20] items... the lowest retail cost we could find for the same items online was $312 and the highest was $1,943,' said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU. 'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"
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Study Finds 3D Printers Pay For Themselves In Under a Year

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  • by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:11AM (#44444053)
    I wonder... have they tried our Chinese [aliexpress.com] friends?
    • by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <asmunder&stud,ntnu,no> on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:21AM (#44444079)
      This. With free shipping on everything, and a shower curtain including 12 rings costing $10, an iPhone case costing $3.50, I think the 3D printer would take a long time to break even.
      • by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:35AM (#44444153)

        ... I think the 3D printer would take a long time to break even.

        Unless... mmmm... unless our friends start selling 3D printers at lower prices. Probably in a year or two.

        • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:52AM (#44444467) Homepage
          Yep. At which point forget reprap, makerbot, and all other similar designs. They'll figure out how to manufacture these things the same way that inkjet printers are manufactured:
          1) A handful of injection-molded parts that can be manufactured at 10 cents a part, and at a rate of tens of thousands per-day
          2) Super-dedicated electronics with just a couple of significant ICs -- the logic chip (probably some MCU initially, and eventually an ASIC) and the motor-driving chip
          3) Optimized motors which they buy in groups of 100,000 from another manufacturer in the same province
          4) compact, light-weight designs so that they can pack countless units into a single shipping container

          All this aristocratic "Look at me! I spent $2000 on a Makerbot!" bullshit will disappear. Oh, and just like printers -- the most expensive part will be the "ink".
          • Sorry for double-posting but the phrase I was looking for while typing that comment was Economies of scale [wikipedia.org]. I apologize for my senility.
          • by coofercat (719737) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @07:26AM (#44444947) Homepage Journal

            I don't disagree entirely, but I'd like to add that it's not quite as simple as you make out. As an Ultimaker owner, I've found that very small details make a huge difference to print quality. I've also found that as the machine's design evolves, so does the 'ease' of getting quality out of it.You can get some really astounding quality out of an Ultimaker, but it takes hours and hours to print, and simply printing again doesn't always yield the same quality as it did the first time. I seriously doubt people will want to wait hours for their $2 curtain rings, and they certainly won't want to tinker with the machine and software for an hour before printing, or indeed put up with failed prints.

            Lastly, the quality of the model has as much to do with the outcome as the printer itself. I've tried some truly horrible models that I've downloaded, and I've also used some really good ones. Garbage in, garbage out.

            Ultimately though, you will be right. It'll just take a few years until the cheap printers really can do what the more expensive ones can do. In the 2 years I've owned an Ultimaker, I'd say the cost of the quality I bought 2 years ago is down by about 30%. Paying the same as I did 2 years ago probably gets you better quality/reliability/repeatability than back then too though. And even though the Ultimaker has been copied by the Chinese, and there already are various Chinese printers available, I'm not aware of any that are credible enough to eat any of Ultimaker's lunch just yet.

            Suffice to say though, you'd need to be some sort of shower-curtain weirdo to need to print enough curtain rings and whatnot to make it worth owning a printer. Popping down to your local Tescos and having them print it for you sounds a lot more likely (and is something they've talked about on their blog).

            • by SQLGuru (980662)

              How is waiting hours for shower curtain rings any different than clicking the buy it button and waiting a few days for it to show up at your door. I know this is the "now" society, but I think the wait factor isn't that bad.

              • by morgauxo (974071)

                You don't click 'buy it now' and wait. You click 'buy it now' and go on with the rest of your life until it arrives. You do click 'print' and wait / babysit it until it is done.

            • by tsadi (576706) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @11:12AM (#44446767)

              I'm wondering. Say I look at online photos of some really expensive shower curtain rings, make my own 3D rendering based on those photos, then print some for myself (and maybe for some friends who come over). Am I guilty of pirating? Will lawmakers see that as "stealing"?

              Or how about if I copied the design of some really cool & expensive smartphone case and just printed one for myself instead of buying one. Will that be stealing?

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            I'm not so sure. Why don't Chinese manufacturers sell extremely low cost printers to go with their low cost inks? It's because you really can't go any lower than existing manufacturers already do, due to shipping costs and the like. If they sold both a low cost printer and low cost ink it wouldn't be profitable, even in China.

            I'm not sure we will ever see widespread low-cost adoption of 3D printers. Factories will appear that use industrial versions to produce things in low volumes, and the local print shop

        • by Dr Max (1696200)
          You can build a reprap for a couple of hundred dollars, but how many sets of curtain rings and crappy iphone cases do you need per year? I think we need bigger build areas, that will open more bigger options (which usually cost more and have higher shipping costs). If you can print coat hangers, coffee tables, rc planes, and a replacement stand for my floor fan I'm going to be a lot more interested (yes i know you can print bigger things by doing it in parts, but it's a lot more hassle and not as strong).
        • I paid over a thousand bucks for the first HP color inkjet ages ago, when that was a lot of money, just to be able to print red titles and an occasional chart, no photos worth that name and certainly no shower curtain rings.
          This will get better, fast!

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:17AM (#44444307)
        Without considering that a set of shower rings can last 5 years or more... I think this study is obviously bogus. I honestly can't think about any bunch of stand-alone plastic items I spend $2000 on every year.
        • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @05:06AM (#44444507) Homepage
          This is an article that's deigned for SEO. Anyone with any inkling of how these things work and the quality of the products would call BS instantly. An iPhone case? You can get a beautiful, highly-detailed case for your phone for $2 on ebay, but you're going to opt for a rough, "pixelated", bad-fit 3D-printed one? This study would only apply if you looked for the stupidest possible way to buy things -- the equivalent of buying a soda in a movie theater.
        • by niftydude (1745144) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @05:34AM (#44444583)
          Exactly. The actual paper is behind a paywall that I have access to. So below I'll include a list of their 20 items. I can't imagine buying any of these annually. The bulk of the $2000 claim comes from two items which significantly skew the statistics.

          The first is a medical orthotic, the retail price of which they set at $800, and which the majority of people in the world without fallen arches/foot problems will never need.

          The second is a shower head which they price at $437.22. Again, you don't buy a shower head every year, the $400+ ones will have a 10-year warranty and are going to be of significantly better quality than what comes out of a 3-D printer.

          Additionally, in a clear attempt to boost costs, 6 out of the 20 items are overpriced Apple accessories: iPhone 5 dock, iPhone 4 dock, iPhone 5 case, iPad stand, Nano watchband, and an iPhone tripod.

          The full list of 20 items:
          iPhone 5 dock
          iPhone 4 dock
          iPhone 5 case
          Jewelry organizer
          Garlic press
          Caliper
          Wall plate
          12 x Shower curtain rings
          Shower head
          Key hanger (3 hooks)
          iPad stand
          Orthotic
          Safety razor
          Pickup
          Train track toy
          Nano watchband
          iPhone tripod
          Paper towel holder
          Pierogi mold
          Spoon holder
          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            The full list of 20 items:
            iPhone 5 dock
            iPhone 4 dock
            iPhone 5 case
            Jewelry organizer
            Garlic press
            Caliper
            Wall plate
            12 x Shower curtain rings
            Shower head
            Key hanger (3 hooks)
            iPad stand
            Orthotic
            Safety razor
            Pickup
            Train track toy
            Nano watchband
            iPhone tripod
            Paper towel holder
            Pierogi mold
            Spoon holder

            Orthotics, really? Why not include eyglasses, too? As for safety razors, what about the blades? Last time I checked, you couldn't 3D print those. A carppy iPhone case is a possibility, but I seriously doubt a working iPhone dock could be made. Last time I checked, you had to get all of those connectors to be able to plug into your iPhone..

            But as long as they are including things that aren't really possilbe to make, why not 3D print an iPhone? A family of 4, each printing their own phone, without having t

            • As for safety razors, what about the blades? Last time I checked, you couldn't 3D print those.

              They set the retail price for the safety razor at $78!!! I'm pretty sure that for $78 in the store you'll get razors included, but the rep-rap certainly won't print any.

              but I seriously doubt a working iPhone dock could be made. Last time I checked, you had to get all of those connectors to be able to plug into your iPhone..

              The iphone 5 dock is priced at $30, and the iPhone 4 dock $40. I don't know what they are printing that they think is comparable to those, but it certainly won't be functional.

              • by L1mewater (557442)

                They set the retail price for the safety razor at $78!!! I'm pretty sure that for $78 in the store you'll get razors included, but the rep-rap certainly won't print any.

                They're probably talking about actual, old-fashioned double-edge safety razors, not a Gillette Mach 3 Turbo or whatever. And yes, a very nice one can cost $78 and does not come with blades. The $78 razor would also be a heck of a lot nicer and shave a lot better than anything you could print, and would last for decades. I use one, and it's older than I am. I didn't pay anywhere near $78 for it. More like $10.

              • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @07:57AM (#44445051)

                As for safety razors, what about the blades? Last time I checked, you couldn't 3D print those.

                They set the retail price for the safety razor at $78!!! I'm pretty sure that for $78 in the store you'll get razors included, but the rep-rap certainly won't print any.

                but I seriously doubt a working iPhone dock could be made. Last time I checked, you had to get all of those connectors to be able to plug into your iPhone..

                The iphone 5 dock is priced at $30, and the iPhone 4 dock $40. I don't know what they are printing that they think is comparable to those, but it certainly won't be functional.

                And let's not forget the time involved. These low-end printers aren't supposed to be left unattended while operating, so at a an estimate of 4 hours per object created, assuming each design is perfectly designed and no clean up time, there is 80 hours. If you estimate your time is worth $10/hour, that is another $800 of cost. Or put differently, those shower curtain hooks may cost $0.50 of ABS plastic, but $40 of time. Then there is the time involved to sit down and design all of the stuff you want to print.

                Of course, most people don't have that skill, so what they design, will look like crap if it even is printable or they will have to purchase designs. We went through all of this when inkjet and laserjet printers became cheap enough for consumers to own. All of a sudden, all of the print shops and graphic design houses were going to go out of business. It never happened because 1) consumer devices don't have the quality that professionals demand and 2) most people don't have the skill set to even make the consumer devices perform.

                But, hey, people can fabricate a study much easier than they can fabricate good looking consumer goods with a 3D printer, and a lot cheaper, too.

            • by horza (87255)

              Eyeglasses are a great idea! My friend has 2 kids that break the frames all the time, she would pay for the 3d printer just with replacing those.

              The key hanger is also a great one, I just spent a couple of hundred bucks getting kitchen and bathroom stuff: wall-mount spice racks, toilet roll holder, coat hooks, key hangers, soap dish, soap dispensor, ice-cube trays, fruit bowl, vase... each is only $15 or so but once you've bought 20-30 items it adds up a lot.

              My girlfriend would definitely be printing a new

          • Most low-end 3D printers use PLA plastic. This is basically processed corn starch, and while initially hydrophobic, it will rapidly degrade (rot) if exposed to water for an extended period of time. In addition, the prints are much stronger in the direction of the filament than cross-wise (using the tensile strength of the filament vs the bonding strength of the layers), so it's not just model quality but actual printing technique that matters for durability.

            They're making huge strides, but 3D printing is

            • by Applekid (993327)

              Most low-end 3D printers use PLA plastic. This is basically processed corn starch, and while initially hydrophobic, it will rapidly degrade (rot) if exposed to water for an extended period of time. In addition, the prints are much stronger in the direction of the filament than cross-wise (using the tensile strength of the filament vs the bonding strength of the layers), so it's not just model quality but actual printing technique that matters for durability.

              They're making huge strides, but 3D printing is nowhere near the "run out and buy an HP inkjet and hook it up" level of utility.

              You might find this post interesting, in which a PLA object was left outdoors for about a year. http://www.protoparadigm.com/blog/2013/06/weathering-of-3d-printed-pla-objects/ [protoparadigm.com]

              Spoiler: not as bad as one might think. The fine print on those application white papers usually say that, to bio-degrade PLA, it needs to be ground up very finely and composted in a very specific manner.

        • Without considering that a set of shower rings can last 5 years or more... I think this study is obviously bogus. I honestly can't think about any bunch of stand-alone plastic items I spend $2000 on every year.

          As a miniatures enthusiast, I can. The problem is that the resolution is not fine enough for that kind of detail yet. Games Workshop is the one that has to start worrying. Maybe they will go to a "customize and print on demand" model.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        3D printing of the Makerbot / Reprap kind is probably fine for utilitarian purposes (assuming you can model a part), but it looks absolutely hideous for anything decorative that people have a chance to examine up close. So curtain rings, yes, iPhone case probably no.

        Since the paper is behind a paywall I have no idea what things they think could make the printer pay for itself in a year, but somehow I doubt these represent a typical purchase pattern of anybody anywhere.

    • by Weezul (52464)

      Aliexpress and Ebay are always cheaper than say Amazon, assuming you're fine waiting one month. 3D printers get you the part now though.

      Also, these house hold items could usually be improvised for free, like using a coat hanger for a shower ring or super gluing the old ring back together.

  • China (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:12AM (#44444057)

    Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business? (Well not completely of course - though you can print the iphone case, you still can't print the iphone yet, but the little accessories and nicknacks make up a huge chunk of the Chinese exports.)

    • Where do you think the plastic consumables come from?

    • by longk (2637033)

      At the moment, the number of materials you can use to print is still limited. Many iPhone covers are unprintable at the moment, simply due to material restraints. Also, after you print that cover, who's going to paint Spongebob or stick shiny fake diamonds onto your cover? Not the printer. Not yet anyway.

      • True. But there are already printers in a demonstrator stadium that make pretty good attempts at printing ceramics, or a mixture of metal particles and glue.
    • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:38AM (#44444171)

      Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business?

      You wish... what it actually means: China will be the number one 3D printer manufacturer.

      • Well the article states that these printers can mostly print themselves.

        What they can't print are the things like the logic boards and connectors. However those aren't often made in China anyways, usually they're made in domestic facilities and then sent to China for assembly.

        Although unlikely, it's not unreasonable to believe that these printers could one day come in incomplete kits, and you can e.g. have your neighbor print up what isn't included and just assemble it yourself.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          What they can't print are the things like the logic boards and connectors. However those aren't often made in China anyways, usually they're made in domestic facilities and then sent to China for assembly.

          Ummm... what???? I'd rather say, more often than not, that's exactly where they are made. Unless they choose to outsource them... I don't know.... say, Africa?

          • Re:China (Score:5, Interesting)

            by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @05:54AM (#44444637)

            Chandler, Arizona is the location of the worlds most advanced semiconductor fabrication plant, and Intel owns it. Yet everything you buy that comes out of it is stamped "Made in Malaysia."

            Why? That's where it's packaged.

            I shouldn't have used the word domestic like that though - domestic could imply domestic to the US, but in reality many secmiconductor fabs are located abroad, but often not in China, and are domestic to the actual company who designs the chip (which is what I meant) - usually Japan, South Korea (Samsung being a big one), and even Europe. TSMC is probably the biggest in China, though some argue Taiwan isn't China.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business? (Well not completely of course - though you can print the iphone case, you still can't print the iphone yet, but the little accessories and nicknacks make up a huge chunk of the Chinese exports.)

      Not until they make a 3D printer with an output of quality comparable to an injection mold.

      So far... 3D printers haven't reached even 80% of the quality; you can 3D print low-quality improvised devices and design prototypes

      The printout is cheaper, but the

    • No, 3D printing is at best a fantasy of Star Trek level replication which is who knows how many lifetimes away. Until then, it's best off used for fast prototyping and other such applications, not to pretend it will replace walmart or the dollar store for shoddy goods.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:16AM (#44444069)

    If you thought the whining of the content industry concerning the illegal copying of imaginary property was loud, this will be deafening.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AlphaWolf_HK (692722)

      I don't think the cries would come from any one industry or group, but from several.

      A lot of these designs that they use are rather simple, and somebody could come up with them on their own without much effort, so I don't think it would be an intellectual property thing. However the complaints would arrive thus:

      Retail stores, who usually see most of their profit come from accessory markup decline.
      UPS/USPS/Fedex shipments decline (as a result of the above from online retailers)
      Labor unions that represent ass

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:48AM (#44444447) Homepage

        Today's "poor" are wealthier than they've ever been. The poor in America now frequently own personal computers, cell phones, blu-ray players, playstations, big screen TV's, and don't have any problems paying for food.

        You've obviously never actually been poor or have been around actual poor people, and thus have a very deranged and clueless view of how poor people live.

        • Oh? If we go based on income standards, I'm poor right now actually. I have Nephrotic Syndrome to the point where I'm tired all the time and can't stay awake worth shit to hold a job for damn, even so much as sitting in a chair for a few hours causes my feet to swell up so bad with edema that they hurt like a bitch, and even with supplements my calcium levels are so low that I get severe muscle cramps just walking around. My income? Other than whatever random tasks I can scrape by (usually fixing somebody's

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Personally I always see it as being a good thing. I've frequently said I'd rather live in a world where my income is $10 an hour and my lunch costs $4 than being in a world where my income is $20 an hour and my lunch costs $20.

        The lower income is created because fewer people have a job at all, that is, a larger pool of qualified workers competing for a small number of jobs; that means more people are unemployed, and the cost of their lunch went down, but they still receive $0 an hour.

        This situation

        • In order to end up in a situation where you end up with $0 an hour and absolutely cannot find a job to save your life, first an environment has to be created where either the demand for the lunch is zero, or the supply is just too low. We're consumers by nature, so the first environment is an impossibility in practice. We've only actually seen the later happen once in the history of the US, and that was the result of the Smoot-Hawley tariff act creating a sudden artificial supply barrier.

          When they say the r

      • by cupantae (1304123)

        a car phone or a TV larger than 40"

        I love my 42" car phone, but it does make it difficult when I have a passenger.

  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:21AM (#44444077) Homepage

    In order to recoup the ~$1,000 cost of the printer and save $2,000 on household items in a year, you'd need to buy $3,000 on household items a year in the first place.
    Excluding the cost of plastic and electricity ofcourse.

    And not just any household items, but only household items that are made of relatively weak plastic and don't have to look smooth.

    How many shower curtain rings, spoon holders and smartphone cases do you buy every year?

    Also; how fast should a 3D printer be in order to produce that amount of items in a year?

    • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by longk (2637033) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:37AM (#44444163)

      Not to mention the man hours needed to make technical drawings for all these objects. So far I've only seen Nokia release drawings for covers.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      How many shower curtain rings

      Once. Ever.

      spoon holders

      Zero. Ever. We have one made of glass that came with a gravy boat for the ladle. But it matches the boat, and I wouldn't want a plastic one.

      smartphone cases

      Approximately 1 or so per year or so between all the family members and smartphones between us.

      Still, again, I'm pretty particular about mine -- (slipperyness / texture / etc and nothing I could 3d print would be what I want. And even then I found one exactly as i wanted it for $10 at a mall kiosk.)

    • Re:BS (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spazmonkey (920425) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:02AM (#44444263)
      I design and manufacture 3d printers and even i see this as overblown BS to an embarrassing degree. 3d printers have great practical if very specific uses, but they will not save - much less even find use in - the third world, they are not and will never be self-replicating, and they won't pay for themselves in the average household anytime soon. The hyperbole spewed by the almost religious sects that have sprung up around the reprap will be the undoing of 3d printing as a serious technology, or at least set it back a decade. I am a huge advocate of 3d printing, and these crazed reprap messiah types even creep me out.
    • Yup, sounds like BS to me as well. If I spent $1000 on the kinds of things that they're talking about in a year then I'd consider that pretty excessive. I think that the study is not assuming that all of these things are used by a singly house though, it's assuming that the printer is running almost non-stop year-round printing things that someone wants. That sounds a lot more plausible: these devices tend to do quite well in MakerSpace-type places, and probably print enough stuff to offset their capital
    • In order to recoup the ~$1,000 cost of the printer and save $2,000 on household items in a year, you'd need to buy $3,000 on household items a year in the first place.

      How many shower curtain rings, spoon holders and smartphone cases do you buy every year?

      This, precisely. I don't think I've spent $3k on cheap plastic household items in the last five years - let alone the last year. And that's not just because my spoon rest is ceramic, it's just that most of those items last for years.

      And not just a

    • Re:BS (Score:5, Funny)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:49AM (#44444453) Journal
      1) Print gun
      2) Rob bank
      3) Profit!
    • Unfortunately I could not find the list of items they bought / printed so I've no idea how they came up with that figure.

      One thing that 3d printers offer is a much wider variety of designs for printed household items; I suspect that "designer" items will be much cheaper to print than to order, as the margin on those things is rather high. Hard to put a price on that, though.

      I see a lot of potential value in replacement parts. I lost a little plastic retaining thingy inside my dishwasher, my option w
    • Re:BS (Score:5, Funny)

      by tbird81 (946205) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @05:22AM (#44444551)

      Don't mock the article. Here's what I found from a brief Google search:
      Yearly spending per household 2009:
      Housing – shelter – $10,023
      Pensions, Social Security – $5,027
      Food – food at home – $3,465
      Transportation – gasoline, motor oil – $2,384
      Shower curtain rings - $2,105
      Healthcare – $2,853

      You'd be surprised how much the average household spends on shower curtain rings. Shower curtain ring failure is an important cause of household injury, and has a high fatality rate. Also, you probably underestimate addictiveness of the shower curtain. While you may only need the ones that came with your shower curtain when you moved into the house 15 years ago, plenty of addicts blow through new shower curtain at a rate of dozens per day.

      You may have heard of Narcotics Anonymous or the AA. There's also the SCA, and a non-spiritual group called Glass door which helps people get over this dreadful affliction.

      While 3d printers may reduce the cost of the curtain rings, which may help financially, they will not be doing anything for the root cause of the problem. This is just another reason 3d printers should be banned from general use.

  • Printing shower rings in a 3D printer is not a quick process.

    Typical numbers might be 30 minutes set-up (download, heat up and slicing) + 30 minutes each x 10 rings x 1.25 (failure rate) = approx 7 hours. Granted you dont have to sit there for the whole time, but you do have to nurse the printers through quite regularly - tweaker the slicer, clean up failed prints, remove finished prints. They're not as set-and-forget as poeple might think.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Yep, they led with the stupidest example. I just looked on Amazon, you can buy a dozen plastic shower curtain rings for about $3-5, depending on how "fancy" you want to get. And those are actually guaranteed not to decompose or melt in a hot, humid environment, unlike several of the common materials used by 3D printers...

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        even pla doesn't decompose in shower conditions.. and abs is abs.

        but it's a stupid example.

        the worth is doing one off parts or parts you can't find for sale. I did a gutter end for a friend the other day.. 15 mins of cad and 3 hours of playing borderlands 2 and it was done (they couldn't find a replacement for sale anywhere around here).

    • by sFurbo (1361249)
      30 minutes for a shower ring? Unless you want it with exceedingly fine layers, my estimate would be closer to 10 minutes.
  • SHOWER RINGS!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:23AM (#44444093)

    Seriously... shower rings. Yes, that's the future of 3D printing that will save the world.

    But I can't fault the summary, the article is even worse: "It blows my mind you can print your own shower curtains and beat the retail price," said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU.

    So now printing a couple 1" diameter pieces of hard plastic more or less equates to an entire shower curtain? Seriously, go Michigan Technical University, your academic rigor speaks for itself! And in all of my years of eating I never even realized I needed a "spoon rest", but apparently I'll save up to $2000 by printing my own vs whatever barbaric technique I have been using to somehow keep my spoon on the table.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      And in all of my years of eating I never even realized I needed a "spoon rest", but apparently I'll save up to $2000 by printing my own vs whatever barbaric technique I have been using to somehow keep my spoon on the table.

      A spoon rest isn't for the table, they're for the cook and they're very common and useful for keeping the counter clean. I currently own four of them, one in the kitchen, one in RV, one with my BBQ tools, and the only plastic one is a kitschy piece o' krep my wife got from somewhere aro

    • by VanessaE (970834)

      Forget the spoon rest - will it be able to compete with Spatula City?

  • The journal article Computer World references is behind a pay wall. I know a better way to save money. Buy good stuff. My metal shower hooks look much better than those cheap plastic ones. And since they are metal, they don't break. I'm not sure what items they are talking about that would need to be bought on such a consistent basis. I have serious reservations about their claims. I'm not going to print plastic replacement parts for mechanical things such as vehicles and appliances. Can anyone with access
  • just no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bloodhawk (813939) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @03:34AM (#44444151)

    'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"

    No, the unavoidable conclusion is these researchers have no clue as to what the average householder uses and further more they are financially inept when it comes of where and how to shop for said items.

  • ...3d printers just got 200% more expensive
  • It seems to me that the MIT Technology Review already had an article "What if...?", recently, in which the author hypothetically places himself in the future and looks back upon the fictional history of something that is, in our days, still nascent. Didn't that article mention an enormous increase in amounts of plastic garbage having to be processed by municipalities ?
  • You can 3D print all those things you buy all the time that can be made entirely out of PLA or ABS.... like not much at all really.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @04:22AM (#44444333)

    I have had a long hard think about 3D printers and I could not come up with one, NOT A SINGLE ONE, example of where I would 3D print something which I could just buy commercially and be better off. Why would I want a phone case made of a single colour plastic when there's a plethora of cases on the market with fancy designs, colours, custom grips, etc.

    For me the desire for a 3D printer is not replace things I buy but to make things I can't. Custom cases for projects, little stands and holsters for things, the indexing latch on my 20 year old coffee grinder for which there's no longer a replacement part (though a screw through a piece of wood is working fine at the moment). I could do so much with a 3D printer, and I will once the price comes down further, as it has been for the past few years.

    • by crossmr (957846)

      How detailed are these things? Can they print really fine detail?
      If they could.. they might be useful for say a table top DM. Rather than running out and trying to buy miniatures, baddy of the week could be printed up, a coat of primer and slap some paint on him. there might be an application in certain hobbies.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        The better ones claim 100 micron resolution. They can be used to make quite intricate parts, though I presume this may not be achievable in the cheaper sub $750 machines. So far all the great examples I've seen are from reputable and rather expensive machines like the Makerbot Replicator 2

  • Factor in the average households inability to set up an email account without help, the chances that the average family would find it easy to print what they need is not for this generation. I would see a business model more like the photo printing services, good quality, expensive machines doing print to order stuff. Why would you waste your time printing a curtain ring?

  • But do you really spend $2,000 on cheap plastic crap like iPhone cases and shower rings? This will only work for things that can be made from 100% medium grade plastic - and I'm pretty sure I don't spend that much on such things
    • by tmosley (996283)
      No. This was written by men locked in the basement of the ivory tower who have only the vaguest conception of the outside world.
  • Mis-shapen plastic Yoda's must be worth a mint.

  • I wonder about the material, though. Household products are made of a wide variety of materials. Even if we restrict ourselves to plastic, there are many different kinds of plastic, designed for different properties: flexibility, robustness, strength, UV tolerant, food safe, etc, etc.. If the properties of the printed item are unsuitable for the task, it will just be frustrating when it breaks after a couple of uses.

    Still, it's a move in the right direction. I can well believe that 3D printing will mature:

  • If your shower curtain rings cost a bomb, then your shower curtain must've been made by Aperture Science, cos all that technology and buying the salt mine to develop in doesn't come cheap :-D
  • A 3D printer? That would be some savings!

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @07:26AM (#44444945) Homepage

    Just because you can print them does not make them usable. The durability of reprap items is very very low. Something that these guys completely ignored in their "study".....

    Printed iphone cases fall apart, I know this, I have a 3d printer and the parts that come out are NOT durable. They are great prototype quality items butthey do not handle a year of abuse.... most fail within 30-60 days.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @08:24AM (#44445173) Homepage

    I don't even find the cost of ink makes it worth owning a color inkjet, but a 3D printer is cost effective?

    That's a little surprising. The stuff you feed into the printer must be dirt cheap, or at least cheaper than ink and photo paper.

    Because if I need to print out photographs, it's far cheaper to take the digital files to a place which can print them for a few cents each.

    • by lxs (131946)

      Plastic filament is dirt cheap compared to ink [ultimaker.com] but that still doesn't make 3D printing of commodity items cost effective. However for making replacment parts (that can be ridiculously expensive when bought) or custom parts they come in pretty handy.

  • by sootman (158191) on Thursday August 01, 2013 @12:02PM (#44447371) Homepage Journal

    I think the boom will come when you can easily REPAIR all the things that would otherwise be "broken" when all it is is one little plastic piece inside that needs replacing. I'm thinking of things like cheap but otherwise good toys, the little battery cover on the back of a remote, etc. Or being able to make anything you can think of. There are plenty of little "boy, I wish I had a little stand/holder that would do X and Y" that would make life better.

    Same with regular printers. It might be hard to quantify exactly how much you're saving by being able to print coupons, boarding passes, etc. on your home printer, but the overall convenience and general quality of life are definitely improved. Little "I'll do this because I can" things are what make it worth it.

    I don't need a purchase to pay for itself in a certain amount of time, I just need it to make my life better enough that it's worth buying. I didn't buy a smartphone with google maps because I need to save enough gas to pay for the phone, I bought it to reduce the amount of time I have to sit in traffic.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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