The computers and printers we own have a heritage dating back to devices that cost many thousands of dollars and in some cases were larger than the desks our devices currently sit on. As both technologies entered households, revolutions began, thanks to the potential they offered the average person, and 3D printing may trigger its own revolution. Now researchers at Michigan Technological University have performed an economic analysis to determine the financial feasibility of 3D printers in the average American home.
Three-dimensional printers work by building structures layer by layer out of some material; often plastic. Many people believe that as they enter households, we will see people printing out products from designs they download online. In fact websites already exist to freely distribute these designs. The Michigan researchers decided to compare the cost of printing 20 items to the cost of purchasing them all from a more traditional store. These items included cellphone accessories, a showerhead, a spoon holder, and more. The results showed that the purchased items would cost between $312 and $1944, while printing them would cost only $18, for the plastic filament.
Of course there is more than the cost of the plastic involved in 3D printing, as the printers themselves can cost between $350 and $2000. Even at those prices though, the printer would likely pay for itself in a matter of months or years, and as the technology evolves, potentially sooner.