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Study Finds 3D Printers Pay For Themselves In Under a Year

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the pini-money dept.

The Almighty Buck 322

Lucas123 writes "Researchers using a RepRap open source 3D printer found that the average household could save as much as $2,000 annually and recoup the cost of the printer in under a year by printing out common household items. The Michigan Technical University (MTU) research group printed just 20 items and used 'conservative' numbers to find that the average homeowner could print common products, such as shower rings or smartphone cases, for far less money than purchasing them online at discount Websites, such as Google Shopper. 'It cost us about $18 to print all [20] items... the lowest retail cost we could find for the same items online was $312 and the highest was $1,943,' said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU. 'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"

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Apropos lowest retail cost (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44444053)

I wonder... have they tried our Chinese [aliexpress.com] friends?

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (3, Informative)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about a year ago | (#44444079)

This. With free shipping on everything, and a shower curtain including 12 rings costing $10, an iPhone case costing $3.50, I think the 3D printer would take a long time to break even.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (4, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44444153)

... I think the 3D printer would take a long time to break even.

Unless... mmmm... unless our friends start selling 3D printers at lower prices. Probably in a year or two.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (5, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about a year ago | (#44444467)

Yep. At which point forget reprap, makerbot, and all other similar designs. They'll figure out how to manufacture these things the same way that inkjet printers are manufactured:
1) A handful of injection-molded parts that can be manufactured at 10 cents a part, and at a rate of tens of thousands per-day
2) Super-dedicated electronics with just a couple of significant ICs -- the logic chip (probably some MCU initially, and eventually an ASIC) and the motor-driving chip
3) Optimized motors which they buy in groups of 100,000 from another manufacturer in the same province
4) compact, light-weight designs so that they can pack countless units into a single shipping container

All this aristocratic "Look at me! I spent $2000 on a Makerbot!" bullshit will disappear. Oh, and just like printers -- the most expensive part will be the "ink".

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about a year ago | (#44444537)

Sorry for double-posting but the phrase I was looking for while typing that comment was Economies of scale [wikipedia.org] . I apologize for my senility.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444475)

Your Chinese friends already started selling 3D printers parts, kits and consumables. I noticed that a couple of weeks ago.
http://dx.com/p/heacent-3dp01-diy-3d-printer-full-assembly-kit-black-silver-110-220v-220815

http://dx.com/s/3d+printer - very slow as it is their search engine result

Have to wait a bit to see if their filaments qualities are any good.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (2)

Dr Max (1696200) | about a year ago | (#44444659)

You can build a reprap for a couple of hundred dollars, but how many sets of curtain rings and crappy iphone cases do you need per year? I think we need bigger build areas, that will open more bigger options (which usually cost more and have higher shipping costs). If you can print coat hangers, coffee tables, rc planes, and a replacement stand for my floor fan I'm going to be a lot more interested (yes i know you can print bigger things by doing it in parts, but it's a lot more hassle and not as strong).

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#44444307)

Without considering that a set of shower rings can last 5 years or more... I think this study is obviously bogus. I honestly can't think about any bunch of stand-alone plastic items I spend $2000 on every year.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (5, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about a year ago | (#44444507)

This is an article that's deigned for SEO. Anyone with any inkling of how these things work and the quality of the products would call BS instantly. An iPhone case? You can get a beautiful, highly-detailed case for your phone for $2 on ebay, but you're going to opt for a rough, "pixelated", bad-fit 3D-printed one? This study would only apply if you looked for the stupidest possible way to buy things -- the equivalent of buying a soda in a movie theater.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (2)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44444549)

You can get a beautiful, highly-detailed case for your phone for $2 on ebay, but you're going to opt for a rough, "pixelated", bad-fit 3D-printed one?

A lot of people still buy things like iPhone cases at retail; especially at the ATT or Verizon store, where the markup on these high-margin accesories is probably the highest.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (5, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | about a year ago | (#44444751)

And you think they are the people who are going to buy a 3d printer, search and find the templates they need and print it themselves?

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444555)

Or get metal ones, they'll last forever.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444759)

Probably not forever. Most matter will decay in billions of billions of year. Protons are probably decaying in something like 10^34 years.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (4, Informative)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year ago | (#44444583)

Exactly. The actual paper is behind a paywall that I have access to. So below I'll include a list of their 20 items. I can't imagine buying any of these annually. The bulk of the $2000 claim comes from two items which significantly skew the statistics.

The first is a medical orthotic, the retail price of which they set at $800, and which the majority of people in the world without fallen arches/foot problems will never need.

The second is a shower head which they price at $437.22. Again, you don't buy a shower head every year, the $400+ ones will have a 10-year warranty and are going to be of significantly better quality than what comes out of a 3-D printer.

Additionally, in a clear attempt to boost costs, 6 out of the 20 items are overpriced Apple accessories: iPhone 5 dock, iPhone 4 dock, iPhone 5 case, iPad stand, Nano watchband, and an iPhone tripod.

The full list of 20 items:
iPhone 5 dock
iPhone 4 dock
iPhone 5 case
Jewelry organizer
Garlic press
Caliper
Wall plate
12 x Shower curtain rings
Shower head
Key hanger (3 hooks)
iPad stand
Orthotic
Safety razor
Pickup
Train track toy
Nano watchband
iPhone tripod
Paper towel holder
Pierogi mold
Spoon holder

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#44444677)

The full list of 20 items:
iPhone 5 dock
iPhone 4 dock
iPhone 5 case
Jewelry organizer
Garlic press
Caliper
Wall plate
12 x Shower curtain rings
Shower head
Key hanger (3 hooks)
iPad stand
Orthotic
Safety razor
Pickup
Train track toy
Nano watchband
iPhone tripod
Paper towel holder
Pierogi mold
Spoon holder

Orthotics, really? Why not include eyglasses, too? As for safety razors, what about the blades? Last time I checked, you couldn't 3D print those. A carppy iPhone case is a possibility, but I seriously doubt a working iPhone dock could be made. Last time I checked, you had to get all of those connectors to be able to plug into your iPhone..

But as long as they are including things that aren't really possilbe to make, why not 3D print an iPhone? A family of 4, each printing their own phone, without having to lock into a contract would save the cost of a printer many times over.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (1)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year ago | (#44444741)

As for safety razors, what about the blades? Last time I checked, you couldn't 3D print those.

They set the retail price for the safety razor at $78!!! I'm pretty sure that for $78 in the store you'll get razors included, but the rep-rap certainly won't print any.

but I seriously doubt a working iPhone dock could be made. Last time I checked, you had to get all of those connectors to be able to plug into your iPhone..

The iphone 5 dock is priced at $30, and the iPhone 4 dock $40. I don't know what they are printing that they think is comparable to those, but it certainly won't be functional.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (2)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#44444767)

3D printing of the Makerbot / Reprap kind is probably fine for utilitarian purposes (assuming you can model a part), but it looks absolutely hideous for anything decorative that people have a chance to examine up close. So curtain rings, yes, iPhone case probably no.

Since the paper is behind a paywall I have no idea what things they think could make the printer pay for itself in a year, but somehow I doubt these represent a typical purchase pattern of anybody anywhere.

Re:Apropos lowest retail cost (1)

Weezul (52464) | about a year ago | (#44444409)

Aliexpress and Ebay are always cheaper than say Amazon, assuming you're fine waiting one month. 3D printers get you the part now though.

Also, these house hold items could usually be improvised for free, like using a coat hanger for a shower ring or super gluing the old ring back together.

China (3, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444057)

Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business? (Well not completely of course - though you can print the iphone case, you still can't print the iphone yet, but the little accessories and nicknacks make up a huge chunk of the Chinese exports.)

Re:China (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#44444081)

Where do you think the plastic consumables come from?

Re:China (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#44444187)

Any oil refinery.

Re:China (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#44444211)

Not China. . .

Re:China (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44444213)

the plastic itself isn't from china..

Re:China (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444483)

Not only from China. There's probably plastic mines all over the world.

Re:China (5, Funny)

DeBaas (470886) | about a year ago | (#44444723)

That's stupid, everyone knows it grows [wikipedia.org] in the pacific ocean

Re:China (1)

longk (2637033) | about a year ago | (#44444159)

At the moment, the number of materials you can use to print is still limited. Many iPhone covers are unprintable at the moment, simply due to material restraints. Also, after you print that cover, who's going to paint Spongebob or stick shiny fake diamonds onto your cover? Not the printer. Not yet anyway.

Re:China (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44444227)

True. But there are already printers in a demonstrator stadium that make pretty good attempts at printing ceramics, or a mixture of metal particles and glue.

Re:China (4, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44444171)

Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business?

You wish... what it actually means: China will be the number one 3D printer manufacturer.

Re:China (1)

jmhobrien (2750125) | about a year ago | (#44444297)

Why can't I print those?

Re:China (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44444461)

Why can't I print those?

Because the amount of filament required will cost you more.

Re:China (2)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444351)

Well the article states that these printers can mostly print themselves.

What they can't print are the things like the logic boards and connectors. However those aren't often made in China anyways, usually they're made in domestic facilities and then sent to China for assembly.

Although unlikely, it's not unreasonable to believe that these printers could one day come in incomplete kits, and you can e.g. have your neighbor print up what isn't included and just assemble it yourself.

Re:China (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44444477)

What they can't print are the things like the logic boards and connectors. However those aren't often made in China anyways, usually they're made in domestic facilities and then sent to China for assembly.

Ummm... what???? I'd rather say, more often than not, that's exactly where they are made. Unless they choose to outsource them... I don't know.... say, Africa?

Re:China (4, Interesting)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444637)

Chandler, Arizona is the location of the worlds most advanced semiconductor fabrication plant, and Intel owns it. Yet everything you buy that comes out of it is stamped "Made in Malaysia."

Why? That's where it's packaged.

I shouldn't have used the word domestic like that though - domestic could imply domestic to the US, but in reality many secmiconductor fabs are located abroad, but often not in China, and are domestic to the actual company who designs the chip (which is what I meant) - usually Japan, South Korea (Samsung being a big one), and even Europe. TSMC is probably the biggest in China, though some argue Taiwan isn't China.

Re:China (1)

laejoh (648921) | about a year ago | (#44444533)

I don't think so... after a while people with 3D printers will be able to print new 3D printers, and then there will be no need for china anymore.

Re:China (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44444209)

1. Chinese labor cost + 3d printing = even cheaper chinese ripoffs
2. even more american companies relocate to china
3. america becomes even more dependent on imports from china
4. americans buy increasing number of products from china
5. china goods for US dollars
6. china uses US dollars to buy assets (land, companies, etc) in america
7. china bankrolls election campaign candidate and drowns out all other candidates on greedy corporate media (that china probably has significant ownership of anyway)
8. americans "elect" president
9. president favours lobby groups with chinese interests that funded his campaign for the white house
10. american private sector employers haemorrhage jobs, putting many middle class workers on welfare
11. government comes to "save" them by giving them public sector jobs paid for by printing money from the fed
12. increased dependence on the "welfare" state
13. bills pass that reduce liberties once taken for granted and enshrined in the constitution
14. president increases authority over congress and the courts
15. america becomes authoritarian state
16. american president pledges total cooperation in exchange for economic free trade with china
17. american "empire" ends
18. Zefram Cochrane launches the Phoenix

Re:China (3, Funny)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444285)

You forgot:

19. A 3D printer is invented that can make a full course meal in seconds, we call it a replicator eventually we don't have to do any real work anymore so Scotty becomes obese.
20. Since we don't do any real work anymore, soon it becomes popular to randomly speak in meaningless technobabble so that people can still feel important.

http://www.spike.com/video-clips/mr9tu4/cinemassacre-top-10-star-trek-technobabbles [spike.com]

21. But it's ok because people still end up making more sense than your rant just did.

Re:China (2)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44444565)

Does this mean 3D printers put China out of business? (Well not completely of course - though you can print the iphone case, you still can't print the iphone yet, but the little accessories and nicknacks make up a huge chunk of the Chinese exports.)

Not until they make a 3D printer with an output of quality comparable to an injection mold.

So far... 3D printers haven't reached even 80% of the quality; you can 3D print low-quality improvised devices and design prototypes

The printout is cheaper, but the durability and expected lifetime of a detailed part is lower; and aesthetically less appealing than what manufacturers can do.

Just wait 'til companies catch on (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44444069)

If you thought the whining of the content industry concerning the illegal copying of imaginary property was loud, this will be deafening.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (2, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444179)

I don't think the cries would come from any one industry or group, but from several.

A lot of these designs that they use are rather simple, and somebody could come up with them on their own without much effort, so I don't think it would be an intellectual property thing. However the complaints would arrive thus:

Retail stores, who usually see most of their profit come from accessory markup decline.
UPS/USPS/Fedex shipments decline (as a result of the above from online retailers)
Labor unions that represent assembly line workers as well as the above workers might see loss of union dues.

I think what you'll see against 3d printers is more akin to what is going on with the rideshare service: Environmentalists will complain that they are energy hogs, health "experts" will complain about the dangers of nanoparticles, 3d printers can be used to print dangerous objects (i.e. the liberator.) These arguments will be used by lobbyists representing the above industries (as well as gun control-type groups) to try to regulate the crap out of their usage, regardless of whether they are actually dangerous or not.

At which point society reaches a crossroads:

The question will come down to whether or not people see having reduced need for labor as being a good thing. Personally I always see it as being a good thing. I've frequently said I'd rather live in a world where my income is $10 an hour and my lunch costs $4 than being in a world where my income is $20 an hour and my lunch costs $20. In the later scenario, although I have more income, I am in fact poorer by every definition. Technology makes you wealthier, even if it might reduce your income - it makes nice stuff available for cheaper or available easier. Cheaper stuff means somebody got paid less to make it.

And it shows: Today's "poor" are wealthier than they've ever been. The poor in America now frequently own personal computers, cell phones, blu-ray players, playstations, big screen TV's, and don't have any problems paying for food. Recall during the 80's how only the filthy rich had a car phone or a TV larger than 40" (with a picture quality that is crap by today's standards) and the kid with the rich parents had both a sega and a nintendo. Don't confuse wealth with money - the notion that income disparity is creating more poor and killing the middle class is a flawed one, because it's simply moving the goalpost based on a single number on a spreadsheet and completely ignores everything else that should properly define the word "poor" (material possessions being one of them.)

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444335)

I'd rather live in a world where my income is $10 an hour and my lunch costs $4 than being in a world where my income is $20 an hour and my lunch costs $20

The reality for an increasing number of people may be that their income is $0 and lunch cost $4.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444473)

So long as the demand for a lunch still remains, somebody would still have to pay for it and therefore be paid for it. So for somebody to truly not have the ability to make a buck, this person would have to lose the ability to make a lunch to begin with, otherwise there would be such thing as a free lunch.

For those who are unable (health issues for example) I'm not opposed to working out accommodations, but I personally have no sympathy for somebody who believes a job at McDonalds is ever below them, which research shows is the attitude that the majority of the homeless have. We already give people with this mindset free food and shelter, which I strongly believe is more than adequate.

If you think McDonalds is bad, try having some of the jobs I've had, one of which included sitting in a lab filling chemical powder samples into little jars all day long. At least at McDonalds I'd be able to move around more and chat with customers on occasion. It required more skill because I had to know clean room handling, but it only paid about the same. Being a garbage man actually pays pretty well in some areas, but nobody takes that job because they don't like the idea of being called a garbage man.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44444619)

At least at McDonalds I'd be able to move around more and chat with customers on occasion. It required more skill because I had to know clean room handling, but it only paid about the same.,

It looks better on a resume to be doing clean room handling work; do anything requiring a lot of skill and careful work, and you could potentially make a go for a management job to better yourself in the future.

If you are a professional with past experience in a professional field; having a McDonalds job on there would taint the resume, and maybe ruin what chance you had at another go....

Anything that may ruin your chance for long term improvement can carry a stigma

As for garbage man... you don't want to put that on a resume either. Although usually 'garbage men' do something else; it's much better if you can put down Facilities management; or facility image management/beautification

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444629)

I personally have no sympathy for somebody who believes a job at McDonalds is ever below them

1) McDonald's own advice to their employees is to get two jobs. Think about that and the direction that is going.
http://gawker.com/mcdonalds-to-employees-get-a-second-job-or-drop-dead-803511522 [gawker.com]

2) There are already burger making robots, warehouse robots. There'd be no need for many people if there are robots making $4 lunches for those with the money.

There are just so many items a rich person can choose to spend on, so if you're not already in their "operating expenditure" good luck getting in their "capital expenditure".

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44444447)

Today's "poor" are wealthier than they've ever been. The poor in America now frequently own personal computers, cell phones, blu-ray players, playstations, big screen TV's, and don't have any problems paying for food.

You've obviously never actually been poor or have been around actual poor people, and thus have a very deranged and clueless view of how poor people live.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (2)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44444547)

Oh? If we go based on income standards, I'm poor right now actually. I have Nephrotic Syndrome to the point where I'm tired all the time and can't stay awake worth shit to hold a job for damn, even so much as sitting in a chair for a few hours causes my feet to swell up so bad with edema that they hurt like a bitch, and even with supplements my calcium levels are so low that I get severe muscle cramps just walking around. My income? Other than whatever random tasks I can scrape by (usually fixing somebody's computer or something for a whopping $50, an event that rarely occurs) zero. I don't even get social security.

You know what though? I still have some pretty nice shit. I can't afford my own place so I live in a shared domicile, but I do have a car and I don't drive like a teenager so insurance is cheap, and since I don't have to commute I don't spend much on gas. I have a nice computer with a big TV and a netflix subscription, which combined with my internet bill (50/10) is $40 a month. It's not so bad, I have my own room and my combined monthly expenses are about $300. The trick is to not live in New York where the rent and taxes are so god damn high that minimum wage will never cover your expenses, and then wonder why you can't make ends meet like a retard. Instead I live in the suburbs in a modest metro area, so the city is close enough that I can acquire provisions on the cheap. Living arrangements such as this are available easily if you just look. Instead I find people who complain the most tend to insist upon living in some upscale area beyond their means, hence the "occupy movement" was formed.

Had it not been for my kidney disease, I'd probably be working at a major tier 1 ISP who just showed massive interest in hiring me (they called me in for multiple interviews, with them telling me they were impressed with my skillset, and with me telling them that I'm sick in all of them - I'm not going to do the douchy thing of playing the ADA card and forcing them to hire me when I can't perform their tasks reliably) so it isn't as if I'm just refusing to work either. Believe me, if I could take that job, I so would, I love networking with a passion. I literally do it for fun.

If I even made less than minimum wage, I'd be better off right now. So yeah by your income definition, I'm an actual fucking poor person.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44444607)

Personally I always see it as being a good thing. I've frequently said I'd rather live in a world where my income is $10 an hour and my lunch costs $4 than being in a world where my income is $20 an hour and my lunch costs $20.

The lower income is created because fewer people have a job at all, that is, a larger pool of qualified workers competing for a small number of jobs; that means more people are unemployed, and the cost of their lunch went down, but they still receive $0 an hour.

This situation isn't necessarily as beneficial as it would first appear. If say you got that $10/Hour job, but while you are being hired, the guy who two guys who had the job before you paid $12/Hour just got laid off; perhaps the other guys had a few more children to feed, so his lunch cost $8, and your life situation permitted you to accept a lower wage.

Anyways, you will be expected to do twice as much work for 16% less pay in real terms.

And in 6 months, some newbie straight out of college who doesn't own a home or have any assets requiring servicing, and is content to live on $2 ramen; will take your $10 job, by offering to work for $4/Hour.

And oh, by the way, your lunch still costs $4. The decrease in labor required is not the only dynamic in the employment markets; additional changes emerge there over time.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444755)

> The poor in America now frequently own personal computers, cell phones, blu-ray players, playstations, big screen TV's, and don't have any problems paying for food.

My friend, you have no idea what you're talking about. I live on student loans and I'm wondering where next month's food is coming from Sure I have a computer, but if my situation were as it would have been 20 years ago I wouldn't need one to do my school work.

I'm not among the worse off by any means. The population of homeless Americans and those on food stamps has exploded. It feels good to believe we don't exist, it justifies your scroogy ways, but it's provably false.

As for your rant about technological toys, especially "big screen TVs" you've embarrassed yourself so badly I don't even have to address it.

Visit a slum and get some perspective.

Re:Just wait 'til companies catch on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444449)

You forgot to put "illegal" in quotes.

The only actual crime here is the "content" Mafia stealing our money in return for doing absolutely zero work but only giving us a mere copy of the result of the work of somebody else (the artist) that they ripped off too.

Their existence serves no purpose. The Internet made them pointless. (And by the way: Total "sales" went UP, *not* down. It's just that the money went to e.g. iTunes, not the Mafia. In total it's still *more*!)

But the only "payment" that I, for one, will ever give them for that, is also a mere copy of the result of the work of somebody else. I'll ask my pal to make a copy of his money that he earned at his job, and make sure it has this stamp across it that shows it's completely worthless (and makes it legal). I'll also tack on a "license", saying they are not allowed to do *anything* with said copied bills, except put it in their pocket and play Monopoly with it. No paying anyone with it, no showing it to others. :P

BS (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44444077)

In order to recoup the ~$1,000 cost of the printer and save $2,000 on household items in a year, you'd need to buy $3,000 on household items a year in the first place.
Excluding the cost of plastic and electricity ofcourse.

And not just any household items, but only household items that are made of relatively weak plastic and don't have to look smooth.

How many shower curtain rings, spoon holders and smartphone cases do you buy every year?

Also; how fast should a 3D printer be in order to produce that amount of items in a year?

Re:BS (3, Insightful)

longk (2637033) | about a year ago | (#44444163)

Not to mention the man hours needed to make technical drawings for all these objects. So far I've only seen Nokia release drawings for covers.

Re:BS (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year ago | (#44444205)

That doesn't [thingiverse.com] seem [thingiverse.com] to be a problem [thingiverse.com] .

Actually, I think all of those are covers, not cases, but that is also what TFS mentioned.

Re:BS (2)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#44444249)

How many shower curtain rings

Once. Ever.

spoon holders

Zero. Ever. We have one made of glass that came with a gravy boat for the ladle. But it matches the boat, and I wouldn't want a plastic one.

smartphone cases

Approximately 1 or so per year or so between all the family members and smartphones between us.

Still, again, I'm pretty particular about mine -- (slipperyness / texture / etc and nothing I could 3d print would be what I want. And even then I found one exactly as i wanted it for $10 at a mall kiosk.) Meanwhile the other cases we have... one is a leather one, one is suede, and one is colored up to look like a cute panda. Is any of that going to come off a 3d printer? Nope.

Seems like
a) I'd never get my money back using a 3D printer even if I did switch to printable versions of everything.

b) but why would i want printable versions of things, I like nice stuff, not cheap plastic garbage.

c) even i wanted cheap plastic garbage... I'd probably be ahead shopping at the dollar store.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444259)

And the $2000 figure was comparing against the *highest* retail cost they could find. I can sell them a well-researched academic paper for $2M if they want high costs.

If they're going to that extreme, then why aren't they going to the other - it costs $0 to make one, just use something vaguely similar that you have lying around.

Possibly the most BS piece of research since the last one.

Re:BS (4, Interesting)

spazmonkey (920425) | about a year ago | (#44444263)

I design and manufacture 3d printers and even i see this as overblown BS to an embarrassing degree. 3d printers have great practical if very specific uses, but they will not save - much less even find use in - the third world, they are not and will never be self-replicating, and they won't pay for themselves in the average household anytime soon. The hyperbole spewed by the almost religious sects that have sprung up around the reprap will be the undoing of 3d printing as a serious technology, or at least set it back a decade. I am a huge advocate of 3d printing, and these crazed reprap messiah types even creep me out.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444273)

Just go to the nearest bank with some 3D printed scary looking guns and say that they're real 3D printed guns! and that you're wearing a 3D-printed bulletproof west + have 3D printed hand grenades too and you're bound to be a successful robber. Considering the current media hype the thought that a real gun might work pretty well against your 3D crap won't strike anyone.

A more serious idea would be if many people bought a 3D printer together and had a pay to the common pot by use principle for paying back for it. That might very well make it pay for itself in a timescale which makes it a good decision. One year is quite a lot of time for prices to go down and better printer models to come with the current pace of technological development...

Re:BS (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#44444291)

Yup, sounds like BS to me as well. If I spent $1000 on the kinds of things that they're talking about in a year then I'd consider that pretty excessive. I think that the study is not assuming that all of these things are used by a singly house though, it's assuming that the printer is running almost non-stop year-round printing things that someone wants. That sounds a lot more plausible: these devices tend to do quite well in MakerSpace-type places, and probably print enough stuff to offset their capital cost within a year or so. Having one at home is still not a good investment though.

Re:BS (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44444433)

In order to recoup the ~$1,000 cost of the printer and save $2,000 on household items in a year, you'd need to buy $3,000 on household items a year in the first place.

How many shower curtain rings, spoon holders and smartphone cases do you buy every year?

This, precisely. I don't think I've spent $3k on cheap plastic household items in the last five years - let alone the last year. And that's not just because my spoon rest is ceramic, it's just that most of those items last for years.
 

And not just any household items, but only household items that are made of relatively weak plastic and don't have to look smooth.

Which frankly, doesn't describe any of the cheap plastic items TFA proposes that the average householder print.

Re:BS (4, Funny)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#44444453)

1) Print gun
2) Rob bank
3) Profit!

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444543)

Classical bank robbery stopped to be profitable quite some time ago, thanks to better security at the bank and more effective investigation methods at the police.

Re:BS (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#44444499)

Unfortunately I could not find the list of items they bought / printed so I've no idea how they came up with that figure.

One thing that 3d printers offer is a much wider variety of designs for printed household items; I suspect that "designer" items will be much cheaper to print than to order, as the margin on those things is rather high. Hard to put a price on that, though.

I see a lot of potential value in replacement parts. I lost a little plastic retaining thingy inside my dishwasher, my option was to replace the entire soap tray unit (around $40), or print a replacement retainer (<$1). For a lot of household items replacement parts are not even available, so the savings go up to the replacement value of the entire item. Then again, I do not have that much breakage in my home over the course of a year, so it's still more attractive to order parts from the manufacturer or from a fablab than to buy my own 3d printer.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444517)

I hate to see a person that create that amount of garbage/waste every year buying that much crap. It is certainly not good/responsible behavior.
That's like $8.20 per day just on cheap breakable plastic household things. Not even when you are using fast food utensils, disposable dishes and plastic toys for every meal. Not that 3D printers are certified food safe or anything.

Re:BS (5, Funny)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year ago | (#44444551)

Don't mock the article. Here's what I found from a brief Google search:
Yearly spending per household 2009:
Housing – shelter – $10,023
Pensions, Social Security – $5,027
Food – food at home – $3,465
Transportation – gasoline, motor oil – $2,384
Shower curtain rings - $2,105
Healthcare – $2,853

You'd be surprised how much the average household spends on shower curtain rings. Shower curtain ring failure is an important cause of household injury, and has a high fatality rate. Also, you probably underestimate addictiveness of the shower curtain. While you may only need the ones that came with your shower curtain when you moved into the house 15 years ago, plenty of addicts blow through new shower curtain at a rate of dozens per day.

You may have heard of Narcotics Anonymous or the AA. There's also the SCA, and a non-spiritual group called Glass door which helps people get over this dreadful affliction.

While 3d printers may reduce the cost of the curtain rings, which may help financially, they will not be doing anything for the root cause of the problem. This is just another reason 3d printers should be banned from general use.

Do they factor in time? (2)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year ago | (#44444089)

Printing shower rings in a 3D printer is not a quick process.

Typical numbers might be 30 minutes set-up (download, heat up and slicing) + 30 minutes each x 10 rings x 1.25 (failure rate) = approx 7 hours. Granted you dont have to sit there for the whole time, but you do have to nurse the printers through quite regularly - tweaker the slicer, clean up failed prints, remove finished prints. They're not as set-and-forget as poeple might think.

Re:Do they factor in time? (1)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year ago | (#44444101)

P.S. - I still think 3D printers are awesome, but most of the time the unit I have at home (solidoodle) is a solution looking for a problem.

Re:Do they factor in time? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#44444145)

Yep, they led with the stupidest example. I just looked on Amazon, you can buy a dozen plastic shower curtain rings for about $3-5, depending on how "fancy" you want to get. And those are actually guaranteed not to decompose or melt in a hot, humid environment, unlike several of the common materials used by 3D printers...

Re:Do they factor in time? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44444237)

even pla doesn't decompose in shower conditions.. and abs is abs.

but it's a stupid example.

the worth is doing one off parts or parts you can't find for sale. I did a gutter end for a friend the other day.. 15 mins of cad and 3 hours of playing borderlands 2 and it was done (they couldn't find a replacement for sale anywhere around here).

Re:Do they factor in time? (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year ago | (#44444215)

30 minutes for a shower ring? Unless you want it with exceedingly fine layers, my estimate would be closer to 10 minutes.

SHOWER RINGS!? (5, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#44444093)

Seriously... shower rings. Yes, that's the future of 3D printing that will save the world.

But I can't fault the summary, the article is even worse: "It blows my mind you can print your own shower curtains and beat the retail price," said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU.

So now printing a couple 1" diameter pieces of hard plastic more or less equates to an entire shower curtain? Seriously, go Michigan Technical University, your academic rigor speaks for itself! And in all of my years of eating I never even realized I needed a "spoon rest", but apparently I'll save up to $2000 by printing my own vs whatever barbaric technique I have been using to somehow keep my spoon on the table.

Re:SHOWER RINGS!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444143)

Somewhere John Candy is laughing.

Re:SHOWER RINGS!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444197)

You can also print plastic gears for window roller-blinds and a multitude of other complex shapes you might need. Curtain rings is just a (not so good) example.

Re:SHOWER RINGS!? (1, Redundant)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44444481)

And in all of my years of eating I never even realized I needed a "spoon rest", but apparently I'll save up to $2000 by printing my own vs whatever barbaric technique I have been using to somehow keep my spoon on the table.

A spoon rest isn't for the table, they're for the cook and they're very common and useful for keeping the counter clean. I currently own four of them, one in the kitchen, one in RV, one with my BBQ tools, and the only plastic one is a kitschy piece o' krep my wife got from somewhere around last Christmas. (And the only reason we still have it is the box of stuff in the hall closet for Goodwill isn't full yet.)

So, before taking Michigan Technical University to task, set your own house in order.

NICE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444105)

If I need shower rings. Or shoes for turkeys. Follow the money back on this so/.called story and you will find a maker of a so/.called 3d printer.

Re:NICE !! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44444129)

If I need shower rings. Or shoes for turkeys.

Or vagina.

Re:NICE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444561)

Mentioning that word is against the Slashdot Code of Conduct. Please stop.

Guy doesn't know how to shop online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444113)

If 20 simple household items that can be printed on a 3D printer cost him at least $312, then he obviously doesn't have internet shopping fu. For an average of $15 per item, I could probably buy a lifetime supply of each plastic thingamabob.

It is still mainly useful for tinkerers at this mo (1)

Camembert (2891457) | about a year ago | (#44444125)

The study has a point if you need many shower rings and other pieces that do not have to look very refined. For most households however it would be working at a loss. However they are great devices for creative people and all kinds of tinkerers. I would love to design printable parts for a simple medium format camera for for example.

Quality? (2)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about a year ago | (#44444135)

The journal article Computer World references is behind a pay wall. I know a better way to save money. Buy good stuff. My metal shower hooks look much better than those cheap plastic ones. And since they are metal, they don't break. I'm not sure what items they are talking about that would need to be bought on such a consistent basis. I have serious reservations about their claims. I'm not going to print plastic replacement parts for mechanical things such as vehicles and appliances. Can anyone with access to the journal please let us know what items they are talking about?

TLDR - Don't buy cheap crap, don't break stuff, and some things just shouldn't be plastic.

Re:Quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444175)

Elsevier, quality science publishing...

just no (4, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a year ago | (#44444151)

'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"

No, the unavoidable conclusion is these researchers have no clue as to what the average householder uses and further more they are financially inept when it comes of where and how to shop for said items.

Hmm, after this report... (1)

cripkd (709136) | about a year ago | (#44444189)

...3d printers just got 200% more expensive

Google shopper may not be the best choice (1)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#44444201)

Online purchasing has a minimum cost ot make it effective. This is one area where you may still get better prices on the high street. Especially given the existence of 99p/99Â/99Â¥ stores. Plastic items can be moulded cheaply so these stores will provide a direct alternative.

What if ? (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44444203)

It seems to me that the MIT Technology Review already had an article "What if...?", recently, in which the author hypothetically places himself in the future and looks back upon the fictional history of something that is, in our days, still nascent. Didn't that article mention an enormous increase in amounts of plastic garbage having to be processed by municipalities ?

Sweetie, you don't understand! (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44444219)

The problem isn't cost, the problem is you have a world where they dictate who gets to sleep with whom! Would you believe that they actually have enough power to have laws enacted that would force me to marry their daughter rather than to allow me to marry who I want to? Really now, WTF is that?

Breakage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444229)

I'm not an expert on plastics, but I am pretty sure shower rings are created with an injection mold and 3d printing is a layered process. I would love to see some stress/shearing/tensile strength comparisons on commercial vs home printed shower rings. it won't save you money if one tug breaks it. //and seriously this is the best they can come up with for 3d printing? Viva la revolution!

That's before the health costs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444231)

...caused by all the nanoparticles that clog the families lungs.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/nanoparticles-emitted-from-3d-printers-could-pose-a-risk

Awesome! (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44444243)

You can 3D print all those things you buy all the time that can be made entirely out of PLA or ABS.... like not much at all really.

Still needs more.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444265)

Until they can print a limited edition Tiffany diamond ring my wife wont let me have one :(

Ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444313)

This article is ridiculous!

Do you realize how hard it is to find good cad models for a specialized part in a shower head?

Ive done cnc for years. The cost of the machine pays for itself in parts. But, the cost of time, effort and experience is left out of this study!

As a programmer, I would estimate I've spent $10,000 per year on my "hobby", in time-cost, learning how to program a cnc with good results.

You're saying that's cheaper than paying a few extra bucks for a specific shower head

The benefit is in custom parts (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#44444333)

I have had a long hard think about 3D printers and I could not come up with one, NOT A SINGLE ONE, example of where I would 3D print something which I could just buy commercially and be better off. Why would I want a phone case made of a single colour plastic when there's a plethora of cases on the market with fancy designs, colours, custom grips, etc.

For me the desire for a 3D printer is not replace things I buy but to make things I can't. Custom cases for projects, little stands and holsters for things, the indexing latch on my 20 year old coffee grinder for which there's no longer a replacement part (though a screw through a piece of wood is working fine at the moment). I could do so much with a 3D printer, and I will once the price comes down further, as it has been for the past few years.

yes, cost effective... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444367)

...until the price of the printer cartridges sky rocket! ;)

You could make a lot of Legos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444403)

And board game pieces.

unbelievable, seriously! (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#44444405)

Factor in the average households inability to set up an email account without help, the chances that the average family would find it easy to print what they need is not for this generation. I would see a business model more like the photo printing services, good quality, expensive machines doing print to order stuff. Why would you waste your time printing a curtain ring?

Save on doctor bills. (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about a year ago | (#44444427)

If we print all the little things we buy we'll save a fortune on doctor bills since we'll no longer have to open a sealed package that would be a challenge to godzilla.

TEM-PLA-TE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444439)

One word: TEMPLATE

You'll need a 3d template to make the item, so it won't be just a press of a button.
There is also the quality of the materials (eg. rubberised v/s hard plastic), toxins when using the machine, cost of power, cost of maintenance, etc.

I like the idea of 3D printers - but don't over-sell them.

I realise that this study is in the USA (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44444519)

But do you really spend $2,000 on cheap plastic crap like iPhone cases and shower rings? This will only work for things that can be made from 100% medium grade plastic - and I'm pretty sure I don't spend that much on such things

Who'd have thought it? (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44444557)

Mis-shapen plastic Yoda's must be worth a mint.

Has it's potential uses (1)

blackdropbear (554444) | about a year ago | (#44444597)

At ~$700 for a brand new piece of plastic for my Nissan Patrol/Safari electric mirror (OEM price) to stop it shaking around, I figure I can pay for it pretty quickly in savings. For those connectors on your older car which can only be gotten from the original manufacturer, a bit of time mucking around with a 3d CAD system could save a car restorer a fortune.

What about the material? (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year ago | (#44444609)

I wonder about the material, though. Household products are made of a wide variety of materials. Even if we restrict ourselves to plastic, there are many different kinds of plastic, designed for different properties: flexibility, robustness, strength, UV tolerant, food safe, etc, etc.. If the properties of the printed item are unsuitable for the task, it will just be frustrating when it breaks after a couple of uses.

Still, it's a move in the right direction. I can well believe that 3D printing will mature: Printers will, perhaps, be able to mix different materials during printing in order to control the properties of the resulting item. We will also need vast online libraries of common items - Ma and Pa Smith will not be able to design their own shower rings, after all.

Interesting direction, but not quite there yet...

You could just... (1)

hoelk (1537469) | about a year ago | (#44444705)

...print a single 3D printer, thus instantly regaining the money you paid for it.

My time is worth $0! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44444779)

This is great because my time to plan and print all these things costs me nothing! I'm giving up stealing underpants for good. PROFIT!

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