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!