Saving money by 3D printing at home examined

November 7th, 2017 / By: / Out There

Michigan Tech researchers set out to determine if the average U.S. home could save money by using a desktop 3D printer versus buying products from online retailers. An article by Beau Jackson at 3D Printing Industry outlines the findings. The researchers used NinjaFlex filament in an upgraded FlexyStruder extruder. The material was loaded into a desktop Lulzbot Mini 3D printer to create a sample library of 20 common household spare parts.

The price of each part was calculated by the total cost of material, energy consumption and operation. On average, Michigan Tech’s 3D printed samples, which vary in mass and size, generated an average savings of 75 percent when compared to the least expensive products, and 92 percent compared to the highest. The article notes that higher savings can of course be made by incorporating a material recycling system into the process.

The researchers calculated that for return on investment in a Lulzbot Mini 3D printer, a FlexyStruder and NinjaFlex filaments, making roughly 160 flexible objects is required.

The study was conducted by  Aubrey Woern and Prof. Joshua Pearce, who regularly puts 3D printing to work. “At work almost all of my 3D printed objects are open source scientific tools—dozens of them,” Pearce says. “At home, I also do a lot of 3D printing with and for my family. . . . Now anytime something breaks, I either download and print an open source version, or, if what is available is not good enough, we just design and print it.”

The article states that Professor Pearce cites three main barriers to widespread adoption of 3D printing. First, he says, “People are not used to thinking of products as an investment as most products never pay for themselves.” Second, “to really get the most out of a 3D printer, you need to be comfortable in the use of some form of CAD.” And finally, “although there are millions of designs, most of them are not really awesome.”

The study discussed in this article can be read in full via the MDPI Technologies Journal.