10 household items that will be far, far cheaper with 3D printing

Michigan Tech researchers calculate that consumers can print their own small household items eight to 80 times cheaper than purchasing them at stores.

A researcher at Michigan Technological University says 3D printing will save consumers a lot of money -- to the tune of thousands of dollars.

MTU Associate Professor Joshua Pearce bases this prediction on calculations made on common household items, comparing the average retail price against the cost of producing them on 3D printers -- accounting for raw material (plastic), electricity, and other ancillary costs.

Pearce calculated costs based upon open-source 3D printers, typically with price tags between $350 and $2,000. He made a conservative assumption that a typical family would only make 20 items a year. The estimates are based on the cost of producing relatively inexpensive items, such as cellphone accessories,  showerheads, shower curtain rings, and spoon holders. Factor in more high-end items, such as customized orthotics, photographic equipment, or auto parts, and the savings could be multiplied.

It's also notable that many of these common items are currently manufactured across the globe by lowest-cost bidders. 3D printing has the potential of shifting manufacturing not only back to home countries, thereby posing a threat to the immense outsourcing industry that has built up in many areas, such as China. But here's where it really gets interesting: since 3D printing also brings production right onto consumers' premises, domestic retailers also have something to worry about. Will retailers begin to respond with strategies to counter the rise of 3D printing?

Note on the list of 10 items below, the potential savings is anywhere between eight to 80 times the retail price. Of course, the consumers' hourly labor rate and lost opportunity costs are not factored in. But even more time (and gas -- not factored in Pearce's calculations) would be spent traveling too and from the stores to get these things.


Retail price range

Cost to 3D print

iPhone 5 dock $3.56-$29.99 $1.65
Shower head $7.87-$437.22 $2.53
Paper towel holder $11.20-$25.00 $2.26
Jewelry organizer $9.00-$104.48 $0.70
Spoon holder $4.95-$15.00 $0.41
Shower curtain rings $2.99 $1.20
Wall plate $2.30-$22.07 $0.56
Key hanger (3 hooks) $6.98-$49.10 $0.61
Safety razor $17.00-$78.00 $0.36
iPad stand $16.99-$49.00 $0.41
TOTAL COSTS $82.84-$812.85 $10.69

Source: Life-Cycle Economic Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing with Open-Source 3-D Printers, by Joshua Pearce, July 2013

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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