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August 5, 2013

3D printers can save a lot of money

Households could save hundreds of pounds by making their own household items with a 3D printer.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Families could save money by producing items with a 3D printer instead of buying them off the shelf, new research has revealed.

The study, conducted at Michigan Technology University, looked at 20 common household goods on Thingiverse including smartphone cases, a shower head and a garlic press.

Researchers then used Google Shopping to work out the costs of buying them online, followed by a calculation on how much it would cost to make each using a household 3D printer.

The figures showed that it would cost a consumer between $312 (£203) to $1,944 to buy the items, but $18 to make using a 3D printer in a weekend.

Pearce’s group said open-source 3D printers, which range from about $350 to $2,000, would pay for themselves quickly, in a few months to a few years.

Joshua Pearce, who led the research, said: "With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone."

"You don’t need to be an engineer or a professional technician to set up a 3D printer. Some can be set up in under half an hour, and even the RepRap can be built in a weekend by a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer," he explained.

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The "Life-Cycle Economic Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing with Open-Source 3D Printers" study is to be published in the journal Mechatronics later this year.

3D printers deposit multiple layers of plastic or other materials to make almost anything, including toys, tools and kitchen hardware.

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