Study: 3D Printers Provide Household Savings of $300 to $2000 per Year

For those of us interested in how technological advances can save us money (large attraction of LENR), there’s an interesting study published by researchers at Michican Technological University which looks at the impact of owning a 3D printer might have on the household budget.

The study selects 20 typical items an average household might purchase during a year (e.g. shower curtain rings, smartphone case) and compares the cost of purchasing the items from retailers to printing it with an open source RepRap 3D printer which costs under $2000, and which can print out parts to make other printers.

The results show that even making the extremely conservative assumption that the household would only use the printer to make the selected twenty products a year the avoided purchase cost savings would range from about $300 to $2000/year. Assuming the 25 hours of necessary printing for the selected products is evenly distributed throughout the year these savings provide a simple payback time for the RepRap in 4 months to 2 years and provide an ROI between>200% and >40%.

The authors state that even now 3D printers are an attractive investment for consumers, and will become more so over time as their costs decrease and their capabilities improve. The value of 3D printing, according to the authors in their conclusion, goes beyond the cost savings in and of themselves:

The potential implications of these results are i) expected rapid growth of distributed manufacturing using open-source 3-D printing, ii) large-scale adoption and shifts to life-cycle thinking in consumption, iii) growth of localized cottage industries, and iv) a revitalization of hands-on engineering based education.

I can think of plenty of items that I would want to purchase that can’t be 3D printed, and at the moment I don’t see myself as a potential purchaser of a printer at the moment. But I can see there could come a point where that might change. I have no doubt that over time these machines will become far more sophisticated with the ability to print in a greater variety of materials, and with greater precision. It seems like we are well on the way to a new mode of manufacturing, and it may well be the case that somewhere down the road that we could even be able to print out our LENR devices!

  • frank sedei

    3D E-Cats?

  • Job001

    Real savings are far higher because of creativity, productivity, transportation, time, profits, and taxes.

    Super cool savings levels occur if we defund excess negative productivity in;
    False IP
    Government waste

  • Felix Fervens

    Am highly dubious that most spend $300 on tiny plastic trinkets each year

    But if you do 3D print, just be careful:

    3D printing indoors can be bad for your health

  • Timycelyn

    As a sometime chemist the 3d printer area leaves me awestruck. Yes, I can easily see how polymer 3 d printing can happen, providing you aren’t too fussy over the physical strength properties of the finished item. But when one moves first into performance polymers being 3d printed,then other media (metals! Cell growth culture!) I stand back in awe. Then finally I hear that NASA are looking at 3d printing things from moonrock and I just have to sit down somewhere quiet….

    Incredible, and with a power to transform our lives of a similar scale to the e cat. In fact, the technology of the e-cat sems to be easy-peasy by comparison. The rapid growth of 3d printing technology gives some idea about hat could happen to cold fusion technology once we finally pass the credibility tipping point.

  • humblemechanic

    Having nursed along all sorts of automatic and semiautomatic machinery as an industrial mechanic in the paper, plastic and metal
    forming industries I have some doubts as to the abilities of the average
    untrained person to produce any item on these machines. The properties of plastic and other mouldable materials are complex and there must be some high precision metal parts and their controlling electrical-electronic components and circuitry. The proponents of 3d printers don’t
    seem to realise this when they talk of 3d printers reproducing their own parts ready for assembly. They talk the talk of software and keyboard. Producing hardware is difficult and there are no Delete, Insert or Backspace keys; mistakes rebound on the perpetrators.
    At least that’s how it was in the not so old days; 3d printers may be
    good in trained hands producing small runs but for one offs the router,
    pantograph and improvised plastic forming machinery cannot be beaten.

    • Allan Shura

      A boon to the inventor or small manufacture design prototypes. In
      isolated cases it could provide a substitute part where the physical properties of the part are not intrinsic but this is rare for most
      items expected to be used for very long.

      However this kind of talk might lead some to believe a 3D printer
      could effortlessly reproduce itself with free plans and then there
      be no market for inexpensive 3D printers.

  • Kevin

    I won’t be satisfied until 3D printers have a major impact on the cost of the big three, Housing, Food and Transportation. I’m quite sure we’re five to ten years from that. But there are 3d printers in development that can use old finished output as new feedstock, and can use plastic bags as feedstock as well. A story came out yesterday about a 3d printer that works within a gel. So it effectively has an undo function.

    • Jim

      Concept for 3D printer to build a house in 20 hours.

      • Kim

        Printing Plumbing Parts!

        How many trips to the Hardware Store!

        3d ACAD.dwg drawings for most plumbing parts are on my computer.


  • Allan Shura

    Have they factored in the time to design each piece the average household needs for these savings?

    The cost of plastic screws might go up on the store shelves then contractors who get paid $1000 per screw on megaprojects would have
    to be paid $2000.

  • Joel C.

    Can anyone here ask Andrea Rossi if it is reasonable to print out an E-cat when the 3D printers become mature enough to do so?

  • Iggy Dalrymple

    I my opinion 3d printer technology will be most useful in printing human body parts.

    • BroKeeper

      I can see the “Fifth Element” replication machine coming to a store near you. 🙂

  • Jim

    Inexpensive distributed energy, 3D printers, robots, domestic asset sharing, open source code, open source science…

    Egad, the world is running out of opportunities to form progress- suppressing, resource-hoarding, rent-seeking, labor-exploiting monopolies!

    But I’m confident some people will find a way…

    • GreenWin


  • Hal

    @Bob Greenyer
    The login procedure at MFMP is near impossible, I have just tried several times to negotiate with the captcha, as have many times before and given up. sentient questions are better!!

    • Ecco the Dolphin

      It’s better if you create an account there, you don’t have to negotiate with the captcha that way.

  • GreenWin

    Yes Frank, these gadgets are very impressive. Though I am not sure what I would print first that would save money. I kinda like the Makerbot Replicator X2 experimental 3D printer. Looks like a good way to get familiar with the tech.

    On another note, French giant EDF – (Électricité de France S.A.) world’s largest builder/operator of nuclear power plants has quit the US nuclear business. “EDF finance chief Thomas Piquemal said, ‘This was the last and final chapter of our U.S. nuclear investment.'”

    The world energy industry is changing rapidly now. The shale gas boom is converting coal power plants to NG. And well hidden behind the walls of dozens of energy companies is the growing awareness that Distributed Energy Resources are replacing the centralized power industry.

    Despite the cold fusion FUD, blacklists, and media blackouts – the big boys e.g. EDF, a €65 Billion energy giant, has bailed out of U.S. nukes and into its Distributed energy division. What do they know??

  • Tom59

    Right now, the affordable 3D printers – FDM technology – for households (even up to $10000 level) print in one color, the parts are not foodgrade, surface finish poor with pores inside the material. This is likely to change in the future but for now, you need to be a dedicted and enthousiastic hobbyist who could use the printer for other stuff, and who is willing to spend time to learn 3D designing. With kid’s education in mind, early adopter menthality, it can be fun for a while. The kid’s though will return to their videogames after part #3 (my experience). But long term, say 5-10 yrs, this will come, in particular if money can be earned by selling 3D designs and an industry has developed around such type of use.

    • Roger Bird

      It is entirely possible that this machine would develop a scanning mode such that you have a broken widget, so you glue the widget together, put it in the “scanner” and get the design. Then do a little touch-up to removed the image that is the result of the glue not being perfect. Then switch to print mode and make another copy of the previously broken widget.

      Also, I hope that the material is recyclable. This way there isn’t a huge amount of waste with broken widgets filling up the landfills.

  • Sean

    Well I had seen a demo in the early nineties. It was a liquid polymer suspension hardened by UV laser light as the base plate moved in its vertical axis. Very smooth finish jelly like. Then you placed it in an oven to cure. As a R&D designer I am not impressed yet with melting plastic filaments. We already have a very successful 3D printer, its called a multiple axis CNC, Lathe or mill. I will leave this 3d printing fad to the entertainment industry. However here is the future: – New physics will find a way to 3D print by compressing energy into mass starting in micro scale. If you want to start, there are pre-made atoms ready for us to compile and glue and stack. Its and exciting future ECAT and all..

  • Jonas

    The technique used for home 3D printers now (the additive manufacturing with strings of ABS plastic) will have to evolve a few steps (or completely change to something else) before the general public can truly benifit from it. As of now it is just a bit too ‘wobbly’, and there are so very many variables to change for every single print, but if you are dedicated you can already now make some truly mind boggling things at home.

    I’ve had mine for a couple of months now, and I’ve been through quite a few frustrating moments, but am finally landing on an acceptable level, I think. As hard it’s been at times, I’m just so utterly fascinated by it, that it almost feels like a miracle every time I hold a completed object in my hands.

    And this is where it starts – those of us dedicated to it will start helping those ‘just interested’ and so things will grow from there. But we will shortly see a huge explosion of printers, especially if the 2D printing companies (Canon, HP a.s.o) desides to get in the game.

    • Roger Bird

      I was kind of hoping that the 2D printing companies would all kill themselves because of a deep sense of guilt over the issue of selling cheap printers but making sure that their cartridges lie about their being out of ink. I don’t want these lying bags of you know what gaining control of the 3D printer market. They will probably sell cheap 3D printers and then sell goo cartridges that have little chips that declare that they are out of goo long before they actually out of goo.

      • Barry

        Heh Heh.

    • racribeiro

      Completly agree.

      I’ve made my own last year and the time to make it print just right (most of times) is huge. Reprap is a great learning tool, but I don’t think that it will be the technology of the mass market. I would put my coins on a laser based printer using liquid plastic that solidifies upon light/heat. The speed, lack of moving parts and much higher level of control will be the major assets to this technology.

      • Jonas

        Absolutely, except the fact – as of now – that resin stl machines doesn’t make working objects, but fragile prototypes. When this changes (and when the powder or liquid material used is also easily managed), that’s when the real revolution begins.

        Or even when the molecule machines (mentioned somewhere here) comes, with the magic ability to produce anything – in any material – well, that’ll be the day!

  • Omega Z

    3D printing perceptions.

    Overly Optimistic today for the consumer, but a couple decades from now may be partly justified. It’s very likely for the foreseeable future if you need mass production of a product, it will be cheaper done as it is today.

    Custom products may become available at cheaper prices as there may be a local jobber who will do it for you, Verses Big Business, who have to charge much more if they will do it at all. I see this as the most likely outcome as most people will not want to learn the process & the headaches that will come with it.

    3D will likely make consumer products cheaper due to reductions in development costs(Usually a substantial part of the product cost) at the business level. Products developed in weeks instead of months or years. Prototypes are expensive when they require special machines to make. Machines & Molds that may have to be repeatedly reconfigured or re-manufactured to redo/fix early prototype flaws. All eliminated or drastically reduced because they can just change programing code instead of major retooling. Mostly done with auto-cad with new simple inputs.

    Regardless how this plays out, Everyone will benefit from this.
    Follows is a NASA project that shows the 3D potential. Though I seen this coming, I was actually surprised at how far it has come so soon. Metal Printing.

    This took 2 weeks to print, 2 weeks to touch up & polish & $5 grand verse the standard process that took 6 months & $10 grand.
    That’s a $5 grand savings in Tax payers dollars. Imagine if there’s a flaw & having to redo this multiple times.
    Also if it were mass produced, The prototyping alone makes it cheaper. In this particular application, it may just be cheaper for batch run production.

    NOTE: This is actually metal & I believe the original article I read, it was tested at several 1000 degrees.

    As for some who wonder if E-cats can be printed with these. Parts of it Maybe, Eventually.

    But mass produced will be cheaper. Also already assembled & near Plug & Play ability. At least for the Tech you’ll need.

    Printing things such as E-cat would likely be a hobbyist project. Fun to play with, but as with most hobbies, Not Cost effective.

    A BIG Advantage/Potential to 3D Printing. People who have great Product Ideas, but not the means, Financial or otherwise to develop it may soon be able to. Even if it’s just a working prototype to demo to a mass production Manufacturing concern. Up front development costs are drastically reduced for these businesses making it financially possible. Many products are not considered because of this.(The Payback time)

  • Manuel Cruz

    It looks like the study doesn’t take into account electricity and opportunity costs of having to spend 25 hours printing replacements that you can buy for cheap at the market.