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Study finds open-source home 3D printer could save $2,000 a year

'Enormous potential wealth for everyone,' boffin claims

A study by Michigan Technological University claims that the average US household could save itself up to $2,000 by printing their own products and parts instead of buying them from the store.

"With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone," said professor Joshua Pearce, coauthor of the paper "Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers", published in Mechatronics.

The study took 20 household objects, including cellphone accessories, a garlic press, and a showerhead, and calculated it would take between $312 to $1,944 to buy them on Google Shopping and have them delivered.

They compared this to the cost of buying a RepRap 3D printer, and calculated the same products could be made using $18 of printer supplies, 25 hours of production time, and a smidgeon of power. Under those circumstances the printer pays for itself in between four months and two years, depending on which 20 products are created every year.

"The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap is an economically attractive investment for the average US household already," says the paper. "It appears clear that as RepRaps improve in reliability, continue to decline in cost and both the number and assumed utility of open-source designs continues growing exponentially, open-source 3-D printers will become a mass-market mechatronic device.

But there's a lot of wiggle-room in a study like this. This hack doubts US households buy that many spoon holders a year, although to be fair they are easy to make, thus their inclusion, one supposes. Also, $18 for supplies seems very low, considering the cost of such supplies on the market today.

But there's more to making an object than copying its outside appearance. A good garlic press, for example, needs a heavy cutting edge, a strong central hinge and handles that can take a lot of pressure if making a good ragu isn't to become an exercise in frustration. ®

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