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Study: Home 3D printing may bring 'make it, don't buy it' to families

Some common household items made with 3D printer. Credit: Joshua Pierce
Some common household items made with 3D printer. Credit: Joshua Pierce

HOUGHTON, Mich., July 30 (UPI) -- Families may someday save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by making their own household items with a 3D printer, a U.S. researcher says.

Personal manufacturing, like personal computing before it, is about to go mainstream in a big way, Michigan Technological University Professor Joshua Pierce says.

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"For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime," he said in a university release Tuesday.

3D printers deposit multiple layers of plastic or other materials to make almost anything, from toys to tools to kitchen gadgets, and free designs the printers can create are available on the Internet by the thousands, he said.

While 3D printers are not exactly household items yet, that is changing fast, Pearce said, as prices will eventually fall from thousands of dollars to hundreds.

Pearce and his team chose 20 common household items like a shower head, spoon holder and garlic press available as 3D printer files on the Internet, then used Google Shopping to determine the minimum and maximum cost of buying those 20 items online, shipping charges not included.

Next, they calculated the cost of making them with 3D printers.

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Their conclusion: it would cost the typical consumer from $312 to $1,944 to buy those 20 things, compared with $18 to print them in a weekend.

Even if a family only made 20 items a year, Pearce and his colleagues said they calculated the printers would pay for themselves quickly, in a few months to a few years.

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