Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands'
July 31st, 2013
12:06 PM ET

Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands'

By Heather Kelly, CNN

Personal 3-D printers may sound like a pricey luxury or a niche product for geeks, but soon they could become a household appliance that saves people thousands of dollars a year.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University conducted a study to find out how much a family might save by printing common objects, such as simple replacement parts or toys, at home instead of buying them in stores or online.

"It was relatively shocking what the return on investment was," said associate professor Joshua Pearce, who led the study. "Realistically, it's in the thousands."

Much of the recent 3-D printer hype has focused on how the technology is going to revolutionize the manufacturing industry or what cool things it can create - human organs, duck feet, see-through hermit crab shells shaped like cities. But it's the small, mundane objects that could have the most immediate impact on wallets. (Especially if you print your own wallet.)

Printing 3-D objects does require a big upfront investment. Current desktop 3-D printers cost between $350 to $2,000. For the study, researchers used a $575 RepRap printer and selected 20 free 3-D designs that were available online.

Their calculations didn't take into account shipping costs or sales tax associated with buying from a retailer. The researchers say they did that to keep the estimates for the study on the conservative end.

"We assumed the average family would only make 20 items a year, which is silly because if you get one of these you'll make 20 items in one weekend," said Pearce.

The MakerBot Replicator 2 is one of the more popular desktop 3-D printers.

After printing all 20 objects, the researchers tallied the cost of plastic and electricity needed to make each and compared it to the low- and high-end versions of the same product from retailers. For example, a shower head costs $2.53 to make on the 3-D printer (3 cents for electricity, $2.50 for plastic). A comparable model costs anywhere from $8 to $437 at a store.

According to the study, the biggest savings were with objects that could be customized, like orthotic insoles for shoes. A custom insole can cost $500 to $800 from a retailer, but someone could create an insole on a 3-D printer for about $2. It does take more skill - and advanced equipment, like a 3-D scanner - to create the custom shape, but once you have the optimal design it's simple to produce multiple copies with no additional effort.

The team printed a variety of doodads for the study, including an iPhone case, garlic press, safety razor, perogi mold and spoon holder. Smaller mass-produced objects saved the least amount of money - a dozen 3-D printed shower rings cost $1.20 to print and $2.99 to purchase from a store. The iPhone 5 case cost 27 cents to print, a huge improvement over the inflated $20 price tags found in Apple Stores and other retailers.

Printing all 20 objects took about 25 hours and cost a grand total of $18 in plastic and electricity. The savings came out to between $294 and $1,926, depending on the quality of the comparable retail products.

Free open-source files are a key part of keeping 3-D printing costs low. There are online databases of designs, like Thingverse, that anyone can download and create with printer at home. If you pay for a 3-D design or invest time in making your own, the cost per object will go up.

Pearce says replacement parts will be a major category for personal 3-D printers. Customization will be another big trend in the future, as people turn to these printers to create things they can't find at a Wal-mart. The types of printable materials will expand as well. Right now you can only print a plastic smartphone case, but in the next year you should be able to print a case with an antenna in it. After that, whole circuit boards for the phone.

And desktop 3-D printers wouldn't just save cash; they could also help save the environment by cutting down on packaging and pollution from transportation.

The technology of 3-D printing has improved in recent years. Higher-end models can be used by anyone with minimal set up and training, and using pre-made files means you don't have to know how to create a 3-D design. Improved software is already making it easier to customize those designs with an easy-to-use interface.

Instead of a 3-D printer in every living room, Pearce can also see local stores setting up 3-D printers. The cost to consumers would be slightly higher, but they wouldn't need to buy a printer - and that paper-towel holder will still be cheaper than a retail model.

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Design • Environment • Innovation • Tech
soundoff (276 Responses)
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    July 7, 2014 at 5:52 am | Reply
  2. In home Personal Training

    I couldn't agree more. I think what needs to be done is we need the blueprints of all house hold items to be stored somewhere so we can download and print them as we need them. They must be easily found.

    April 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  3. Isaiah

    Thanks, I've recently been looking for information about this topic for a long time and yours is the best I've discovered till now. However, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the supply?

    January 2, 2014 at 6:10 am | Reply
  4. Linda

    I wonder if this can make a clear, thin, flexible, 4 color template about 6" x 8".

    I also have questions about what kind of fumes might be emitted. Would these be carcinogenic?


    September 5, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Reply
    • PeteD

      Many different printers can print with a 8" by 12" footprint. Printing in multiple colors/materials requires a separate filament driver, hot end, and electronics for each one. Since these go for about $50.00 each, it quickly gets expensive.

      As for fumes, that really depends on what material you use. Currently, the two most common plastics used in 3D printing is PLA and ABS. PLA is made from plant starches, mostly cornstarch, and doesn't out-gas anything harmful at its melting temperature. ABS does out-gas trace amounts of Hydrogen Cyanide, but you would need to be in a unventilated room for several days with a constantly running 3D printer before there is enough to do you harm. Other materials, such as Nylon, can be a bit more dangerous, but usually if you print in a well ventilated room you should be fine.

      December 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Reply
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    August 27, 2013 at 5:45 am | Reply
  6. Mary Faith

    Gee, just what the world needs – more plastic STUFF.

    August 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  7. billy-joe

    Heather Kelly – why does CNN want you to write a story like this with so much hype? The story could have been fine without, "comparable model costs anywhere from $8 to $437 at a store." You will not print a $437 shower head. why not do some research and write, "comparable model costs anywhere from $8 to $77 at a store." – that might be believable. Or custom orthotic insoles for " $500 to $800 from a retailer, but someone could create an insole on a 3-D printer for about $2" – hype! not useful information

    August 4, 2013 at 11:51 am | Reply
  8. Jamica

    Is there a limit to the size stuff can be? I'm thinking long and thick!

    August 3, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • pook


      September 27, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
  9. Tom_D

    This will only work if the plastic is cheap. Watch out when they corner the market.

    August 3, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply
  10. joeskufca

    I can't imagine that my wife would be very happy if I replaced her nice bathroom fixture with something made our of plastic. And it would certainly not be worth $400, no matter how beautiful the CAD may have looked.

    Please don't try to convince me that the world would be great if we just started making everything from plastic.

    August 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Reply
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  11. fresheating

    What is the fastest 3d printer on the market today? I am thinking about printing something that I normally have to pay 50 cents for. I want to print like 30,000 of them. The dimensions are 5x5x2.5... is this a feasible option, or do I still need to goto china to get made and shipped?

    August 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
    • Stu

      3D printers are for prototyping or making unique/hard to find parts. For manufacturing you're better off using one of the tried and true methods of mass production.

      August 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  12. Jack

    Great !!
    Technology to create items thus eliminate jobs of people that used to make them.
    Now all those people are out of work and can't afford to buy the items now being
    made by the technology that replaced them. Company goes under shortly after that.
    How lovely !!

    August 2, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply
    • Chuck

      Yeah people also used to make buggy whips, time changes things, don't freak when someone moves your cheese...embrace it.

      August 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Reply
      • Eric

        Oh my goodness Chuck – thanks for the huge laugh!!! I couldn't agree with you more! There's so many examples of inventions / innovations that make things easier for people and some result in hurting a particular business. But that's why you always have to be setting strategies and predictions for your industry. Adapt to change or get out of the way. I think Jack needs to move back to the farm (nothing against farms – my father owns several from inheritance) ... just sayin.

        August 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  13. ken

    ROTFL. We run an industrial 3D printing service bureau and even at 24/7 operation with bulk discounts on consumables, discounted tech support, operating with economies of scale, manage a minimal profit for the amount of investment. With the slow, low quality machines available to consumers on a budget, it's a net money sink. Unless the machine can print diamonds from carbon dust, it's utterly laughable how they can make money. Average home user will lose inordinate amounts of time and money trying to print a sub-par plastic part that he can get a dozen for 25 cents in a hardware store. If the personal satisfaction is worth it, more power to them. But 3D printing is not a money saver, it's a time and money sink just like any other hobby. Once the novelty wears of, 95% of home printing adopters will be left with broken and dusting impulse bought toys and thousands of dollars lighter in their pockets. The other 5 percent will still be losing money, but they will be happy with their new toy and hobby at least.

    August 2, 2013 at 9:54 am | Reply
    • Eric

      Ken, I'm ROTFL at YOU! This is EXACTLY what all the "Haters," said about the PERSONAL COMPUTER!

      August 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply
    • CounterRevolution

      I couldn't agree more. 3-D printing does have a place but most people don't have the required skill to make the drawings much less the ability to visualize their net product as a finished item. Ignore Eric. I have been using 3-D printers such as the Stratasys Water Works FDM 2000 model since 2001 and they have serious limitations as well as great potential. PolyJet and glass reinforced parts are good mechanically but it is time consuming and expensive to operate the machine. Eric is obviously a technologically challenged liberal from his language.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  14. Labels in India

    3D printer is a nice can make a product really look good and attractive

    August 2, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply
    • CounterRevolution

      You haven't actually held and manipulated one of the parts produced by rapid prototyping have you?

      August 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  15. Navin Johnson

    When they can make hotdogs, call me.

    August 2, 2013 at 5:15 am | Reply
    • Deep State

      Do a search for "3-D Print Food" and you will be surprised...

      August 2, 2013 at 8:38 am | Reply
  16. Ar U. Gaetü

    Before y'all start naysaying, "Researchers at the University of Warwick have just taken a huge step in the right direction with the introduction of a 3D-printable electrically conductive plastic. They’re calling it 'carbomorph.'" [wired . com]

    Now, you can make circuits. As this particular technology advances with higher resolution printers and carbomorphs with a variety of conductive compounds, we're not very far from making our own computers and mobile phones. Rather than Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, we'll have Conductor, Semiconductor, Insulator and Transparent (for fiber optics and optical computers… and Barbie dollhouse windows).

    “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    August 2, 2013 at 5:15 am | Reply
  17. rchoetzlein

    Here's a better experiment:
    1) Give 100 random people with no prior experience a 3D printer and a pile of common household items.
    2) Ask those people to find, buy, and pay for the common items in stores.
    3) Now ask those same people to use the 3D printer to make the same parts.

    Now I *really* want to see the outcome of this experiment...

    August 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  18. rchoetzlein

    I challenge anyone with a 3D printer to do the following..
    1) Keep receipts for every piece of plastic, object, part or hardware or some small household fix that you bought in the last 3 months. Total the receipts.
    2) Now write down how long it would take you to find or make cad models, print those parts (if possible), polish them to working order, and print them on your 3D printer without defects. Take that time, multiply by your hourly pay rate, then add on the material cost of the ABS plastic.
    Now compare the two costs.......
    You would be doing more than this article, which doesn't consider time spent.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Reply
    • Bnode

      You must be in the retail business.
      You may want to change professions or you can go the way of the buggy whip makers.
      Progress waits for no man.

      August 2, 2013 at 7:01 am | Reply
      • TJ

        Not really. I own three businesses, and my time is quite valuable. Also, Consider an attorney or doctor who typically earn $250 or more per hour. The time invested does detract from the ROI.

        Oh, and retail brick and mortar businesses ARE the backbone of this nation, and always have been. For the record, I'm not in retail.

        August 2, 2013 at 7:29 am |
      • CounterRevolution

        You haven't actually used a rapid-prototyper have you?

        August 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • RC Roeder

      Time and progress move forward, 3d printing for the home is in it infancy, just like computer were in the 80's. I can see a time when people rather than buying a product they can make it, the company sells the plans for the part or thing. Nokia has released its files for some of the cases to their phone so people can customize them. Will I run out and buy one, probably not, but I do see a future. Who would have thought 10 years ago cell phones would be as powerful as they are today and people making money selling apps for those phone. Technology changes embrace it or move out of the way.

      August 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  19. Skeptic

    I suspect inexpensive 3D plastic will be very inexpensive like ink for an Epson printer.

    August 1, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  20. trollol

    Copyright laws introduced by crooked politicians impedes the usefulness of the 3D printers. The United States' copyright laws have been twisted and warped over the years. What was once less than 30 years for a product to lose it's copyright and patent protections has been pushed past 100 years so innovators will never get a chance to innovate and improve the existing product. Designing from scratch takes time and money and even if you came up with the idea all on your own, there is a chance that a patent has already been filed which would bar you from ever using your invention. The copyright laws have been forged not to encourage innovation but to cultivate greed.

    August 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Reply
    • SB

      No copyright law will prevent you from designing, printing, and using your own shower head, phone case, flower pot, etc. Trying to bring it to market as your own invention is of course an entirely different matter. But your assertion that you could not use something you created is absurd.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Reply
      • trollol

        Unfortunately there is no edit button and I don't spend a whole lot of time checking for errors. I'll clarify; .. using your invention for monetary gain.

        August 2, 2013 at 4:54 am |
  21. Dave Harper

    All this talk about the future of 3D printing makes me laugh. I remember when the first personal computers came out. There were pundits saying outrageous things like one day we would be using them to do shopping and pay bills. What ever happened with that?

    August 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Reply
    • jeff

      Youre either making a joke, or incredibly stupid.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Reply
      • azdave

        The incredibly stupid person is the one the doesn't know which is the case.

        August 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
      • Dan

        Dave Harper – for Jeff's sake, in the future please use the sarcasm font for your posts

        August 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  22. SB

    I don't understand the negativity I'm seeing in the comments. I'm all for being practical but not at the expense of imaginative or critical thinking. This technology is in its early stages. It's not going to get worse or less capable from here on out. The opposite will happen, as it always does; it will evolve and become even better.

    Knocking 3D printing because of what it can't do today is just as shortsighted as mocking the computers of 25 years ago for what they couldn't do.

    August 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Reply
    • dac

      What I don't understand is what materials are they using to make these objects? I'm thinking of printers like the ones we have now. Obviously they would need to use plastics etc. Do these come in sheets like paper? I need to see one of these in action. Hopefully since I've been a cad drafter/designer for over 30 years I can design my own stuff easily enough it's just the actual process that I have no knowledge of.

      August 2, 2013 at 8:02 am | Reply
      • LivinginVA

        The plastic comes in spools – imagine the stuff a weedwackers uses. I saw on in use for the first time a couple weeks ago – it's pretty cool, but it will need some refining before they live up to their potential (just as the first PCs did).

        August 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  23. Engine-uity

    Im surprised no one has mentioned mold making. Probably a nearly lost skill these days except in manufacturing.

    You print the mold in the weaker material and then use the mold to make the part out of what ever strong or softer material you need for your application, like metal casting, carbon fiber, fiber glass, foams, silicone etc.

    Just think, custom jewelry, car parts, eyeglass frames, artificial limbs, Halowen masks... there is no end to this list.

    Until you can print strong multi materials directly, theres always the mold technique and THAT does lend itself to mass production if you are so inclined.

    This is cool and I'm glad its being shared open source.

    Time for some inovators to start making their ideas into reality.

    August 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Reply
    • DP

      depends. most of the printers use plastic to print. the jewelry mold would melt when pouring in the hot metal.

      August 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
      • cryofpaine

        You would print the jewelry the way you want it, then make a mold off of that in standard mold-making materials that can stand up to the heat of the metal.

        August 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
      • Steve Johnson

        You don't print the mold... you print a plastic copy of the shape you want, and form the mold off that.

        August 1, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  24. Random Person

    Children's toy prices will finally go down once this is released. No one in their right mind would buy a crafted piece of plastic when they can make it. I'm sad for LEGO though because they're pretty awesome.

    August 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • jerslan

      LEGO could always cash-in on it by releasing for-pay designs for more intricate pieces (ie: better tree's for City builders, cooler looking guns for spaceships in the Star Wars line, etc...).

      The time it would take to 3D print an entire Lego set (sometimes in the 1,000's of tiny pieces) would be huge since each piece would need to be done individually or maybe in small batches.

      August 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • cryofpaine

      Lego has nothing to worry about. The time it would take to print out enough parts to make a set would make it not worth it. The money savings is going to be offset by the time. Plus, their licenses give them an advantage.

      August 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Reply
      • iRex

        Even if printing of blocks becomes faster/easier in the future, it doesn't necessarily hurt Lego which could just sell digital versions of the sets, at a much higher profit ratio since they wouldn't need to buy plastic, make it into blocks, pack it into boxes, design and print instructions, get a retailer to buy it, and ship it to them.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Tina

      LEGO is an exception. Most plastic toys are quite inexpensive. (Barbies are about $5 a doll.)

      Aside from the iPhone case and a few other exceptions, most of the stuff they cite is stuff that costs under $5 at Target. A plastic pencil box for my kids' school supplies? Why would I go to the trouble of making it myself when China supplies me with an endless array of colored boxes from which to choose at Target? For the things that are hard to find and expensive, I guess I could see it, but Chinese production of cheap plastic goods will give 3D printing a run for its money for the foreseeable future.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Reply
      • M

        I'd rather print my own plastic products than continuing to give our nation's money and jobs to China. We have become nearly completely dependent on their cheap labor and undervalued curency. It's become nearly impossible to find basic non-food items that are NOT made in China. I would be more than willing to pay more for something if it was made (or printed) the United States, than to give one more dime to the Chinese.

        August 2, 2013 at 4:02 am |
      • Charlie

        Why buy Chinese when Sterilite makes them in America for less than Chinese trash? At Wal-Mart, 60 cents-$1, depending on size, and made in Townsend, Ma.

        3-D printing right now is best for industrial purposes; the whole idea will probably come to maturation in the next 15-20 years, but remember, some products are too big to make at home, and some people don't want to use them or won't be good with the 3-D CAD you need to use to make stuff of your own design. Real manufacturing will never go away, but I can see large amounts of re-definition coming- even more than we've already seen.

        August 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • ken

      It's probably cheaper to buy and melt a lego set and extrude it into a spool to use in your personal 3d printer to print your lego set than buy a spool to print your lego set. Think about it for a minute.

      August 2, 2013 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • CounterRevolution

      LEGO....Well, thirteen years ago when we purchased a high-end 3D Printer from Stratasys, we were doing LEGO "Battle-Bots" for underclassmen who had no machining/designing skills and the BEST parts we could turn out as custom "LEGO" parts were not as good mechanically as standard LEGO components (Mindstorms/MECHANICA specifically) and would readily break and not hold tolerance. Students resorted to super-gluing assemblies which disqualified them. 3D printing is best used for product visualization/prototyping as the plastic resins and even METAL are not capable of being engineered as well as standard engineering plastics and metals.

      August 27, 2013 at 8:14 am | Reply
  25. Daveyiscoolerthanyou

    3-D printers are amazing, I want one so much.

    August 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  26. Vyradder

    I'm surprised by so much pessimism in the comments. This tech is in it's infancy still. Give it some time to mature a bit, and we'll all have uses for this kind of manufacturing. Look at the crap we used to call computers 20 years ago. Apply the same sort of progression to this tech and we'll have something quite useful I'm sure.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • SilentBoy741

      Well, I have a use for one already: I have an old Grundig living room stereo from 1950. All the knobs and dials are even in German. But one interior mechanical part was made from cheap post-war "pot metal", which became brittle disintegrates to the touch. It's the arm that moves the relays to switch between phono, AM, and shortwave radio, so without that arm most of the features are useless, and needless to say, a replacement part would be impossible to get. But I could print a plastic replacement arm and get it working again, and even if I had to print a new one once a year, the fix would still cost next to nothing.

      August 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  27. muvunyin timothy

    This printing is good but will kill business if the machines are households.

    August 1, 2013 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • Kristof

      Have all of the doubts in the world about the benefits of 3D Printing, but as these devices get better and better cheap[er and cheaper they have a huge impact the economy. So they will not only be printing in plastic but several other types of material at the same time, and the possibility of them printing electronic components is not to far in the distance either.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • CounterRevolution

      I have and still use the technology and production parts will always be better for general consumer use. This article is mostly hype. 3D printing has it's uses/benefits but is slow to use and will always produce a lower quality part than other production means. Some of those cups and things you see in the article look cool but would generally take hours (if not a day or so) to produce. The finer the surface detail and the denser the build, the longer it will take to produce. IT'S PHYSICS, not wishful thinking that will control the market.

      August 27, 2013 at 8:21 am | Reply
  28. Bubba Jones

    Ho hum, another 3D printing hype article, even though it pretends to not be... Basically, layered resins have a tiny fraction of the strength of injection-molded parts, so in any case where a plastic part has broken on some device, it's extremely likely that the "printed" part won't last any length of time at all.

    The iPhone case example is plain stupid, since you can get a perfectly good, and probably better than printed, case at a dollar store for a buck or two.

    Rapid -prototyping- has a place, but it's not in high-volume manufacturing, nor day-to-day home use.

    August 1, 2013 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • Derek c

      I was thinking something along the same lines. While I can believe that 3D printers will evolve to the point that the finished product will be as good as what you can buy at the store, as some of these produce parts that are very strong, I still can't see how it would be cost effective for most people. Let's take a broken PVC pipe.... I can go to Lowes and buy 5 feet of PVC for a buck or two. I'd have to print a heck of a lot of pipe before I saved any money given the cost of a 3D printer and it's own material input which isn't free.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
      • CounterRevolution

        Yes, printing a one-foot long piece of pipe that would replace a 3 inch PVC version would break/leak (through the pores)quickly and would take about 10-12 hours to "build". This is the voice of experience.

        August 27, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Chumley

      Just wrong - Yes you could get a dollar store iphone case but it will be crap and it will still cost MORE than the 3d printed variety. The ones people think are cool are customized – personalized and that is what 3D printing has in spades.

      August 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • Blake

      An even worse example is printing your own shower curtain rings. Print a dozen rings and save yourself....$1.79. A custom, one-of-a-kind could be alright.

      August 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • Harry

      The 3D printed parts are very strong, look at one and see.

      August 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Reply
      • CounterRevolution

        Hold one, and see that you're wrong. Even glass and carbon-reinforced parts are fragile (and leak) Go to Rapid Concepts and try out their "Rapid Quoter"

        August 27, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • darwintales

      Yes, cheap and weak. I suppose the ability to print a friggin gun isn't strong enough for you? I bet back in the 80s you thought the PC was just a stupid toy that would never amount to anything. You're short sighted my friend. There is a massive amount of applications this technology can be used for. A printer large enough could construct buildings, one small enough could make semiconductors, one powerful enough could print with metals, endless possibilities.

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  30. writer1

    And the printers emit toxic particles into the air. Different types of plastics will emit different things when melted. That seems like an important fact to leave out of the article.

    August 1, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • j.

      Sadly, it will probably take 20 to 30 years, after cases of lung cancer go up, for people to realize just how bad these things are for human health and the environment.

      August 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply
    • iRex

      And cell phones cause brain cancer, which explains the brian cancer epidemic we currently have!

      Oh wait, we don't have a brain cancer epidemic.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Reply
  31. Name*frank c.

    A shower head that ranges between $8-$437?! What kinda shower head is this?! that must be one golden shower spewing bits of gold for that kinda dough!!!

    August 1, 2013 at 5:18 am | Reply
    • Greg

      You never shopped for bathroom fixtures? Yes shower heads can run into the HUNDREDS of dollars. Thousands for shower systems. Get a clue man.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
  32. Bobby Wong

    I can use 3-D printer to produce some small notion to decorate my wine cabinet in the future.Just buy plastic to make Ferrari car model.

    August 1, 2013 at 3:20 am | Reply
  33. z

    personal "open source" 3d printers remind me of linux. they will be in the stage of beta product forever. I write this in the tongue in my cheek.

    August 1, 2013 at 3:01 am | Reply
  34. swingstater

    As much as I think 3D printers are cool, they aren't going to be in every home. First of all, not everyone wants things made of plastic. And who knows what quality of plastic that will be in the first place? Second, if you are talking about decor, many people don't know what they are looking for until they see it on the shelf.

    So it's a neat technology, but so was the advent of quality "pro-sumer" video cameras that were supposed to make everyone a film director, too, and that didn't happen. Just because you can get the tools, it doesn't make you a good or creative craftsman.

    August 1, 2013 at 2:33 am | Reply
    • Trench Wolfhound

      Yeah, that particular type of camera didn't 'make everyone into a director', but it was the introduction, the beginning. Don't believe me? Have you seen a website called
      This is the start... It will succeed, and it will be amazing. Mark my words, 3D printing is going to change a lot in the world.

      August 2, 2013 at 8:05 am | Reply
  35. Rick Mangus

    I wonder how far-off holo decks are?

    August 1, 2013 at 1:44 am | Reply
  36. chris olic

    in 5 to 7 years maybe , but right now the prices are way to high for anyone to be saving money, it costs like 30 bucks to make a small toy

    August 1, 2013 at 12:22 am | Reply
    • FriarTech

      30 bucks? are you using 2 lbs of plastic in this "small" toy? Perhaps you should talk to some people that actually own some of these printers about cost of material vs design considerations.

      August 1, 2013 at 1:09 am | Reply
  37. bruce

    If I could print a 3d printer... that might be worth it.

    Also, I need to be able to print the plastic stuff that goes inside it.

    August 1, 2013 at 12:01 am | Reply
  38. runswithbeer

    This is called rapid proto-typing and has been around for 20 years. Unless you are into making cheap plastic models it's not much of an asset. They do have a 3d liquid metal "printer" proto-type that shows some merit. Give the tech another 20 years. 50 for a food replicator.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Reply
    • Crandall

      Sure rapid prototyping has been around a long time – but the innovation killing patents are finally dead so rather than spending 30 grand for a 3D printer now you can build one yourself for a few hundred and then make a lot of the plastic products in your house.....which is a lot. Look around.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Reply
    • SteveF

      "rapid proto-typing", I have to laugh. That was my job back in 1978 only it was circuit boards.
      This article leaves much to be desired. $8-$437? Really? Can't they evaluate where the printed product is within that spread? Is it a Walmart special or a Top quality designer model? My bet is for the Walmart special!
      This IS the future for sure. How long until you print your new car, we will see. The bottom line is to bet on the printer and/or design creators that make it happen. Then you too could be rich!

      August 1, 2013 at 12:31 am | Reply
  39. Crandall

    Did anyone notice the article was about open-source reprap 3D printers - the kind that print their own parts and fix themselves - yet all the photos were of Makerbot printers that are now closed source Stratasys systems? Yeah sure if you print a few dozen products you can pay for any desktop printer - but to get a really high return on your 3D printer you have to have it for a long time - and that won't work for a closed system because you can't fix and upgrade it the way you can with an open source one. I think there are dozens of open source 3d printer companies - that have as good or better products than Makerbot - but they don't get the press coverage even when the stories are about them? Why is that CNN?

    July 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  40. Sam

    So let me get this straight - there are 1000s of designs we can print for free on a 3D printer that are less expensive than what we can buy in the store. Right? Yeah – this is going to be huge.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  41. sdflkj2klj2kljskl

    Today, for the average person, its nothing more then an expensive toy. For the average person you can print out toys, desktop items, thats about it. You can play arround with it, but no serious application. Sure you can print a shower head or somethign simlar but the material strength is not there. For the home 3d printers.

    However, this technology's promise can not be overestimated. It has the potential to change everything. But where not there yet.

    3d printed organ replacement. Is happening right now. For simple organs. Bladders, esophegai, etc have been printed and implanted for years now. A functional mouse heart was printed several years ago. Its only a matter of time before complex organs like a kidney is printed. Image the the idea of wait lists for organ replacement being a thing of the past. 5-10 years and it might be a reality.

    And if you can print functional organs, you can certainly print a steak for instance. Thats being done now as well, tho its far too expensive at this point.

    3d printed rocket parts, happening right now. Extremely complex rocket engine injectors have been printed and test fired. Thats impressive, because of the stress those parts have to endure.

    Once you can print rigid plastic, elastic plastic, metal, semiconducting, etc, all in one pass without finishing steps. Now you have something that can change the world. Were at least 10 years off for that. And then longer for the price to come down to being in every home.

    The advances over the last couple lears in additive manufacturing have been pretty amazing tho. Were just not there yet for the average person.

    July 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    • Crandall

      Id try to type your name – but I am guessing that is not your real name - you clearly work for a old 3d printer company....Sorry you are just plain wrong – RepRaps can print any plastic the big boys can now. Sorry, these were toys a few years ago - now they are tools and they are cheaper than yours - and they fit on a desktop.

      BTW exactly are you doing with your shower head that demands so much strength?

      July 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Reply
      • ggibson

        Look around your home how many things are made of a single piece of plastic? 3D printers cant even make a single piece of plastic with four different colors (toys have many different colors) let alone items that are made of multiple types of plastic plus rubber, plus glass, plus multiple types of metal ... 3D printers are no where near that. Try printing a TV remote control and get back to me in 30 years when it is done.

        August 1, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  42. phil

    Wow Since I can't seem to get a job in an Architectural Firm. I could use this to Open my own Design Consultant firm. Think of it an actual 3-D model of a future house, building, or project. Where do I get mine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  43. ORChuck

    Cheap, flimsy plastic things you make yourself... it's like having a Dollar Store in your living room!

    July 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      Hmm being able to repair a device in a day with a piece of plastic for $2 bucks that some company wants to charge you $30 bucks for and will ship to you in a few weeks ... hmmm no, that can't possibly be useful. Nothing to see here...

      July 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  44. jfpoawef

    I don't know what kind of insole costs $800, but I guarantee that one printed for $2 won't be anywhere near the quality or use the same materials.

    July 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply
    • badfeet

      More than 25 million people affected by diabetes - many of whom foot orthotics like me. I can tell you from personal experience they cost a fortune - $560 for my pair. I think I am like most people and I would move them between shoes to save money. I used the customizer app to make my own from the designs someone else already posted at thingiverse. I made a half a dozen for all my shoes- and easily paid for the printer with just this product. Now I use it all the time to mostly replace things around the house as they break and make cool toys for the grand kids.

      July 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  45. Blake

    This article is almost good enough for The Onion. As a Makerbot owner, I had to cringe and laugh a little while reading it.

    The printer could make cheap replacement parts. But, the user would either have to have the original 3D CAD file or a decent copy. Why would any product manufacturer share their 3D drawings? And if an accurate model was obtainable, the user could recreate the physical model but not the original product's characteristics. Ie. a plastic "safety razor" would appear similiar to the original but wouldn't be sharp enough to cut. A plastic custom shoe sole would appear similar to the original, but probably wouldn't be as comfortable.

    3D printers have a future, though. They have evolved, becoming more "affordable" with more capacities. But, I seriously don't think they will alter the future of consumer products. 3D printers are well-suited for creating prototypes, scale models and perhaps toys.

    Please Note; the article shows the Makerbot Replicator 2. It currently retails for a cool $2,200. Slightly above the range the article mentions. I own this exact model. And it's not really "easy to use" or "plug n' play". I've spent dozens of hours fine tuning this machine. It's a neat machine, but it's still a "toy" for me.

    July 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      This is actually all true, with some caveats. Certain problems will be pesky enough that some people will make their own models to share with all if for no other reason just to free others (will everyone? No, but many will and the public archive will grow). Completely agree with the not 'plug and play', mine is a touchy pain (for > $2k no less) but they get better each generation and when you can custom craft circuit boards you will see awesome stuff get produced (EE's & circuit hobbyists alike will be able to afford to make small production runs of their flights of fancy...some of them will assuredly take off). The fact that you own one means like me you have some decent hopes for what this tech will become and are exploring what it is currently capable of. Luck to you man!

      July 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • Alan

      True, but if I, as a qualified engineer, create a replacement part and then upload it as open source, it is easy enough to just print the part. Once thousands of others – perhaps millions – do the same thing, the world is your oyster.

      July 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Reply
      • FriarTech

        THIS! YES!

        July 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • badfeet

      I think they ment print the safety razor holder and put in the normal disposable safety razor blades. That is old school shaving!

      July 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  46. Matt PSU

    I run a 3D printer at work.

    Even though I have access to the machine for personal use, I rarely find myself doing it. Last week I made a connector piece that broke on my shoe rack. Guess what? The plastic was no where near as strong as the original part, and it's already broken. Never mind the fact that it took my $6k Solidworks licensed program to draw the part in 3D. Next project is the pin I broke on my waffle iron. Hopefully I don't start a fire...

    Oh, and the resin is $50/lb as opposed to $1/lb for the industrial ABS in the parts I design. And, the resin is light-sensitive (that's how it hardens in the first place). Leave it in the sun for a couple days and thinner parts will warp.

    I love the technology, but fact is that it has a long way to go.

    July 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      You sound kind of scared of losing your job ... just saying...

      July 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  47. fresheating

    What's the status of being able to print circuit boards?

    July 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • vbscript2

      Much closer than the status of being able to print the parts to put on them... Then, once you print the circuit board and buy all of the parts, then you need get all of the parts in exactly the right position on the board and run it through a reflow oven (or solder the parts on yourself, if they're big enough.)

      August 2, 2013 at 10:09 am | Reply
  48. Maltytasker

    If retail stores weren't already struggling enough.....

    July 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      Welcome to capitalism!

      July 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
      • veggiedude

        So instead of cheap plastic crap made overseas, we can make even more cheaper plastic crappier stuff here in our living rooms. I think the novelty will wear off when people see their own stuff breaks more easily than the 'real stuff' from China.

        August 1, 2013 at 1:12 am |
  49. Melissa

    See, things are cheaper now. What the greedy will do is massively increase the prices of replacement parts and plastic to make up for the difference. It's cheaper now. In 5 years, it will be the same price. That being said, we are seeing the beginning of the star trek style replicator.

    July 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • james

      your prediction flies in the face of history. adjusting for inflation, just about everything you buy is cheaper than it was ten years ago, and even cheaper than it was twenty years ago.

      July 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Reply
      • Melissa

        No, some things are cheaper, other things aren't. They also generally tend to break down easier than they used to.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  50. Dave

    If you do not see 3D printing as the future of technology (just ONE future) than you are blind.

    July 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  51. Mike Scott

    More plastic. Is it recyclable?

    July 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Reply
    • Martin Rooney

      PLA plastic (widely used for 3D printers) is bio-degradeable. Most other plastics can be recycle3.

      July 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • suzie

      Can I print my sister-in-law......she is so plastic!

      July 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Reply
      • Maltytasker

        If she's good looking, can you send me the design?

        July 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • FriarTech

      Yep, recycleable. There is a device in the works that allows for home recycling. It grinds up failed or obsolete printed models and uses the plastic chips to make new plastic 'feed' wire for use in your 3D printer. While the company works out the kinks of that device they are accepting shipments of the same material for credit against their existing inventory of plastic 'feed' wire.

      July 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  52. Al

    I think 3D printers have a usefulness. They will be able to make small volume parts, and replacement costs cheaper than before. Yes. But that is about it. Why will I spend an hour printing a plastic fork for $3.00 when I can buy one for $0.02 High volume manufacturing will ALWAYS be cheaper and better than 3D printing. Very few plastic items in my house are unique enough where printing them would be cheaper.

    July 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      Perhaps a plastic piece on a stroller breaks or the windshield washer fluid container in your car falls apart due to age. All kinds of possibilities in the future for this tech.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • caw

      They are actually working on 3D printing a house right now...soon how about designing a custom car? A car company can building the underlying car and then your 3D design (within specs) can be printed and your very own custom car can be delivered to you.

      3D printing is the future of manufacturing.

      July 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply
      • vr13

        Wonderful idea. That's exactly what I'm concerned about – someone will print a car and make a part that's supposed to have particular physical characteristics (in addition to appearance), from a cheap plastic. Somewhere on the first turn, that plastic ball joint breaks or that plastic steering fails... well, you got the point. In design of many items, physical characteristics of material play as important role as its dimensions.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
      • FriarTech

        vr13, why aren't you concerned that people will make car ball joints out of playdoh? Or, why aren't you trying to get playdoh banned for the sake of humanity? hmmm....

        July 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  53. photon_engineer

    Even with a professional SLA system costing in the hundreds of thousands, the parts still need post-finishing to look smooth and fit together. These inexpensive systems could not possibly produce parts that accurately and cleanly built, let alone any part that will subjected to a load or be exposed to temperature variables throughout its lifetime.

    July 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
    • keeroc15

      tthank you for providing some sanity on this subject. the practicality of this is many years away. -and folks the many types of printer cartridges for different materials are going to be very expensive.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Reply
      • FriarTech

        Then why aren't they already *very* expensive? My Replicator2 stock feed "cartridge" (which is actually a heavy spool of material in the form of plastic wire is about 50 bucks for 2.5 pounds of it and that is only if I buy the premium OEM stuff. Do you know how many replacement parts for latches, toys, protective cases, custom tablet docks, quick drop phone charging docks for the vision impaired, and scores of other non-load bearing primary and replacement items, etc ... you can make with 2.5 pounds of material that by its nature is lightweight? Not to mention the potential income for commodization of those custom items?). But some people just like to whine instead of create.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  54. Danny O'Danny

    People are going to be printing d i l d o s and b u t t plugs like crazy. And the best part, you don't have to wash them anymore. Throw it out when you're done and print another one!

    July 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  55. DaveT

    The concept of 3d is coming along fast and soon will be common place, I really posted today to point out even though I hate the use of irregardless it is in fact a accepted correct word.Check it out am afraid the nex thing we will do is unthaw the hamburger.

    July 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
    • ....

      I don't....... What?

      July 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  56. us_1776

    Walmart is going to become a GIANT 3D printer.


    July 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Reply
    • nwg6011

      Too bad Billy Mays is dead. He would know how to sell all that 3d printed crap.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Reply
      • Danny O'Danny

        I'm going to print a new Billy Mays.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  57. Grandpa

    Hmmm.... Doll house and furniture for granddaughter, toy soldiers for grandson like we had in the 50's and 60's, bird house (annual gift) for spouse, replacement button for the one missing from the TV remote, plastic gizmo for yard doodads #1, #2 and #3, breadboard base and case components for electronics and amateur radio projects, flingwheel replacement for lawn grass seed/fertilizer spreader, downspout water tank drain plug replacement... Yeah, I can think of a few things this technology is ALREADY good for AND would save $$$ AND would be fun AND would help inspire the younger generation as we boomers were inspired by Star Trek, Space 1999, etc...

    July 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • Kat

      My exact thought....I saw a "replicator" from Star Trek the minute I saw this!M

      July 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Reply
      • tet1953

        I've been considering getting a MakerBot for months. I'm sure there is one in my near future. I also saw an article (or was it on tv?) that discussed a real replicator. Using basic atomic structures it could make anything.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • vr13

      Yeah, until you try to make a fling wheel out of a cheap plastic that doesn't hold the load or is not strong enough and it becomes a fly wheel. So far, all they are talking about is replicating physical dimensions of parts, rather than their load characteristics, temperature resistance, finishing, and so on.

      July 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Big Walt

      Lego is going to go out of business.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:19 am | Reply
    • 1025g

      You said it Grandpa! The techies have given us another great tool/toy! Put it into the hands and heads of the young and perhaps they will print peace. I'm discovering my new FlashForge and can't but get one for granddaughter!

      August 1, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  58. SPF

    This is really neat technology, but it has a long way to go. Give it time. I for one certainly have no use for a 3-D printer myself considering the limited things one can make with plastic, added with that fact that I don't go through enough shower heads or small plastic parts to justify a 500 dollar price tag for the printer. But I am sure this tech will ultimately grow into something useful in the future.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  59. Roger

    Can I print a life-sized Salma Hayek?

    July 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Reply
    • harharhar

      you could probably print most celebrities. they are mostly made of plastic

      July 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Reply
      • Melissa


        July 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  60. Person

    CEO and his Bankster Sidekick: "If people save thousands in their pockets, that's thousands not in ours!"

    July 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Reply
    • SCBAMA

      Get a grip dude. Someone had to pay to develop the technology. I am almost certain they did not do it for free. I assume you think everything in this world should be free. Get a job man.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  61. Joseph.Adam

    I am waiting for a 3D printer than can successfully print a 3D printer.

    July 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • Yusef

      A professor at Uwm did that

      July 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • Michael

      Ahh.. a von Neumann machine. One could say a machine like that is technically a life form since it can reproduce.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Reply
    • portiaz

      July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply
      • Al

        I'm not sure who they are kidding, but no 3D printer printed the metal bars, circuit boards, servos, wires, sensors, electronics, etc. Yes, it printed the brackets. Oooohh..

        July 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Al

      Maybe a 3D printer can make toner cartridges for my 2D printer.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Reply
      • vbscript2

        haha! The cartridge, sure. The toner to put in it, not so much.

        August 2, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  62. Tim R.

    The negative comments about this technology sound like the same things they said about the PC. "It's useless, it's only a toy, it's impractical, it's too complicated, etc. etc." This technology will be really big. Give it 10 years.

    July 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      My thoughts exactly. There are always critics of everything new. If these people lived 130 years ago just think about what they would say about the car. It takes all types to make the world go around. I don't know why it does but that's the way it works.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
    • Portland tony

      I don't think most commenters had negative remarks about the technology, only that it's not ready for prime time today. Maybe in time when a similar 3D device can " print" with all metals or composites in relatively large sizes will the technology take off. And in time, they will!

      July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Archeopteryx

      It also my go the way of the laser-disc or beta player .. just sayin' even though I agree that in 10 years these will be everywhere.

      August 2, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply
  63. Maybe I'm Wrong but...

    Oh, great. More non biodegradable crap in the landfills. Yay! Let's make more plastic stuff we don't need. 20 objects in a week? Do you really need another skull-cup, or fake diamond or useless landing gear?

    July 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • markjasonstanton

      it's better to make one good product than making thousands of bad products.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Reply
    • PaddyBlaine

      There's always this kind of a fool making these kinds of comments. Every. Single. Time.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • iCantRead

      Lol, the Replicator 2 uses PLA as the material, which is biodegradable since it is " a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States), tapioca roots, chips or starch (mostly in Asia), or sugarcane (in the rest of the world)."

      July 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
      • vr13

        It's made from bio degradable materials but it doesn't automatically mean it is bio degradable. For example, crude oil is bio degradable, but the plastics made of it – not.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Mobious

      Derp.. The plastic is "renewable and BIODEGRADABLE"

      July 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • 3DLandingGear

      landing gear rotf....

      July 31, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • The fact of the matter

      They're going to be made irregardless. The only question is by what method.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Reply
      • JackAnapes

        You mean, "regardless".

        July 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • Mobious

        LOL "irregardless" way to make up a word.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
      • leeB

        Actually, the use of "irregardless" is not necessarily incorrect and it is definitely not a made-up word. There is some argument between linguists regarding if "irregardless" is a proper word, some believe it is correct but outdated, some believe that it has always been incorrect, and I suspect there are many, like myself, that understand what people mean when they say, write, or type "irregardless". The naysayers are probably in the majority but a reasoned argument can be made for the words use. So, to be less anal retentive, the use of the word is fine, most everyone but the very thick headed will understand what you mean but you should realize many will declare that "irregardless" is not a proper word and/or outdated.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
      • Michael

        Yo, Mobios ... way to make up a word. Grab a dictionary before commenting on someone else's vocabulary. I use "irregardless" on a regular basis, but my vocabulary is somewhat expanded... and I take great joy in obfuscating the issue just to watch the confused looks on te P'taQ's faces ...

        August 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • SCBAMA

      Get educated tree hugger and then come back and make an intelligent comment. More un-informed/uneducated voters.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Reply
      • Aaron

        1. For someone telling another person to get education; you don't seem to know how to write in complete sentences.
        2. How do you know he votes?

        July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Scritley

      Print a ball gag and for the love of GOD, stick it in your own mouth and STFU!

      July 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  64. Jesus H. Valladolid

    when will 3D printers be capable of printing laptop computers?

    July 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • nwg6011

      Sooner than you think.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • anonymoose

      i want to see 3d printers print 3d printers to print more 3d printers

      July 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
      • Aaron

        It's called a reprap... check out a mendelmax or prusa printer

        July 31, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Aaron

      If I could answer questions like that I would be too rich to be sitting here writing this message.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Person

      When are they going to start being able to fabricate nanoscale transistors with PLA material and a garage makerbot instead of high grade silicon and the multimillion dollar equipment in clean rooms at Intel fabs?

      July 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Reply
      • BPC

        Xerox is actually working on this.

        August 1, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  65. Jamie

    Umm. I don't know who thinks a printed part be it SLA, FDM, or SLS can replace real plastic injection molded parts but they really need to do thy're research. Printed parts from the machines mentioned here are flimsy and melt at 150-200 degrees Farenheit. They are made with photo-reactive resins, not polymers.
    They have nowhere near the mechanical properties or melting temps of real, tooled plastic parts. As a Mechanical designer who models, prints, and engineers parts professionally; I can't see any real or dependable use for these at home. Stick to real OEM or aftermarket parts that have been designed and developed by people with real experience. You won't regret it.

    July 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • OC Mark

      The liquid composition is a blend of oligomers, monomers, photoinitiators and additives. There is a notable degree of skin sensitivity to these ingredients by a percentage of the general population, especially with some of the monomers. it's a great system for developing prototypes instead of having to make expensive molds and then casting them. As for parts that are intended for "real life" use, I agree, I would not touch the parts made from 3D printing. And, I would assume that the lawyers would be screaming "LIABILITY" all day long if someone actually tried to sell these to the consumer. Why not build mini nuclear reactors that you can house in your backyard and be off of the electrical grid? This technology in the hands of the average consumer would be very dangerous.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Joseph.Adam

      Do you mean that the shower head I just printed, will melt when exposed to hot water?

      July 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • 3DLandingGear

      So my 3d suit of armor might give me a rash?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • Scritley

      As in the prosthetic foot that was created for the duck, 3D printed parts can be effectively used to create molds for higher strength and temp resistant materials.

      July 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Reply
    • vr13

      Thank you. Finally the voice of reason.

      July 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      While your insights are true your observations seem to limited to languishing in the short comings of the tech rather than its actual current abilities or the potential of how the current devices work. Picture the same setup using two part fast hardening material stored separetly in liquid form, like say the current crop of chemical bonding agents like "JB engine weld", which is named such becase it forms a bond in metal strong enough to repair certain types of cracks in car engine blocks ... but is just a non metal chemical blend. Can you see the possibilities now? :)

      July 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  66. brian

    This article is very misleading or maybe the author is misinformed.

    You cannot compare a $2.53 printed shower head to an $8 discount store special much less a $437 high end version. You cannot print perfectly round nozzle holes because of the terracing inherent in the process. The printed material is also not as strong as production plastics, much less metals. The printed shower head would likely leak at the connection and would spray water in all different directions and have a life span of a week or so.

    The other examples are similarly bad. A printed phone case would offer zero drop protection for your several hundred dollar phone.

    You could print something like a Lego or other simple toy type products, but the durability will not be the same. And who is responsible now when a printed Duplo breaks in half and a 3yr old chokes on it?

    Don't get me wrong, I work in the prototyping industry and this technology provides an outstanding opportunity for designers to quickly evaluate their designs and compress the product design cycle, but they are a long long way from having a useful place in a household.

    July 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • cskinner

      Yes and No it all depends on the media you are printing with and the technique using. If I use something like Taulman 645 nylon at .1mm with octagramspiral fill pattern its going to make a strong and durable product.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Reply
    • Charles

      I printed that exact shower head 3 months ago and have been using it ever since. No it doesn't spray 100% perfect but can I still shower with it? You bet. I also have a phone case that I printed that I have been using for almost a year. It replaces the thin cases you find just perfectly but won't work the same as an otterbox (but, it isn't billed to replace an otterbox). Think about the people who buy an $8 discount shower head. Odds are they are all about saving as much money as possible and not nit picky on the surface finish and spray quality. The top end might be a stretch, but perhaps the idea is to make people think about how much they spend on things that can be replaced for much cheaper. I wouldn't replace my brushed aluminum cabinet handles with a 3D printed plastic one, but making a custom wall plate for 25 cents for the plug I just put for behind my TV...why not?

      July 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Reply
      • vr13

        The people who buy $8 discount shower heads will not buying $500-$3,000 3D printers.

        Though who knows, they still buy $300 smart phones.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  67. Craig

    At least initially, the place where these printers are really going to shine is in R&D for little, independent inventors. Currently if you want to create a "new widget" you have to design it and then, most likely, have somebody make one. If you discover an error, or an improvement, you have to have them make another one, or perhaps re-machine the original. That cost's money. Maybe you have the tools necessary to make it yourself, but that's still a lengthy process (most likely).

    A 3D printer will make prototyping a dream. Design it, convert the drawings to instructions, and push the button. If you missed something, or discover an enhancement, take a few minutes to modify the drawing and do it again. What might take a week or more now can be done while you go to lunch...and at minimal cost. I have no doubt that people will buy them for home use too, and as the on-line library of stuff grows, more and more will do so. Plus, you can make your own Lego blocks...creating a piece that the company will never supply. What more could you want?

    July 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  68. iBod

    Got to start somewhere. If it's affordable, it's going to have cheap applications in the first operative stages of its programming. It's cool, and it will certainly advance in following through with Moore's Law; but until it becomes more advanced, it will probably be most appropriate for parents who have a few kids. Think about all the plastic toys that are made and that children use! Supersoakers, Action Figures, Barbies, Wiffleballs/bats, etc. Kids have millions of plastic toys over the course of their childhood. So, in that respect, I can see a 3D Printer saving thousands in the long haul.

    Obviously we're not talking about metals and glasses just yet. It may already be possible, but the expense is just too large at this point. Give those kinds of applications another decade, perhaps - maybe less.

    But, overall, these are very cool. Certainly a piece of tech to get excited over.

    July 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  69. Peter Q wolfe

    What I hope is that 3d printing lowers health-care costs in America and internationally and saves more peoples lives. The added benefit would be in certain skilled fields like mechanics, electricians, artists, construction or etc in my view. For the typical american this isn't there enough to justify in every american home.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • BPC

      Check this out Peter

      August 1, 2013 at 11:42 am | Reply
  70. Al

    I'm not sure I buy this argument for a few reasons. So lets say your $2.53 shower head could replace your $437 shower head because of 3D printing? If that is the case, why couldn't the shower head manufacturer use the same technology, probably make the shower head for $1.00 in volume and sell it for $3.00, making a tidy profit. So now your savings are maybe $0.50 if you are lucky, not including your added time.

    Then there are structural issues, safety issues, and much more. If that $2.53 shower head pops off and causes injury to you, then what? Do we want products out there that nobody has really tested? That we don't know is safe? And how are you going to build things that aren't plastic?

    This all is not to say 3D printing won't change things, certainly, but will I be printing a new TV or stove? I don't think so.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      3D Printers have a long way to go before you can print a TV or a Stove but one day I'm sure you will be able to do much more. I would bet that the things you will be able to print will not be the latest gadgets though.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • Squeezebox

      The liability would be on you or whoever you bought the pattern from. The machine just does what the user tells it to do. If you design your own showerhead and it works like a POS, who's fault is it? The person who designed it and the person who made it!

      July 31, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  71. kevin

    I don't get the usefulness yet, what do I need to print that is made of plastic? I try not to use plastic as its bad for the environment anyways. Can it print me a new sofa? how about a new TV?

    July 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Reply
    • PaddyBlaine

      Read the article first, and then make foolish comments. In that order

      July 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Squeezebox

      I wonder if the plastic can be melted down and stuck into the machine again to make something else? Also, is the plastic toxic the first time you use it? How about the second?

      July 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Reply
      • Charles

        Search for the filabot. It takes materials and melts them into filament, recycling items at home, and I don't see why you can't do the same for old prints. Also this study says they used PLA, which is biodegradable. The jury is still out on ABS and being toxic.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  72. bruce thompson

    I tried to invent this process at Unimation Robotics back in 1981 in the Welding Applications Lab. I stored a few programs on tape(yes-tape cassette) and sent by wire, weld-deposited a few objects on the table with a welding robot. They told me the concept had no use. I STILL beg to differ.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  73. wstwood

    boy I am seriously liking this new techy gadget. Gonna have to get one soon!

    July 31, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  74. atd2005nyc

    There's a great future in plastics. Think about it....

    July 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply
    • Benjamin Braddock

      I will keep that in mind.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:07 am | Reply
  75. DinkyPink

    so how will 3d printing at home affect the economy? won't it take food off people's plates? I guess if you are saving thousands a year, you do not need that job at the toy store or manufacturer.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • TheMovieFan

      If those manufacturing jobs are in China then I won't care.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Reply
      • bob

        why is that?
        the production line worker in china went from earning $400 a year as a farmer to $3000 a year as a production line worker. a HUGE increase in quality of life. The american production line worker went from earning $30,000 a year making cheap stuff out of plastic, to working as a cashier at the local grocery store for $20,000 – a big hit in pay but all in all the quality of life is at least in the same ballpark.

        why is it so important to overpay people for their work just because they were born on us soil?

        July 31, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • Portland tony

        @bob.....When folks don't make decent wages, they can't buy the good stuff.... no matter where it's made. So no good stuff gets anybody.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
      • bob

        @portland tony
        manufacturing has been on the decline for decades, yet our economy still grows and people continue to buy stuff. color me unimpressed with your concerns.

        July 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • vr13

        Bob, from $30K to $20K is a 30% decline in living standards. It's not in the same ballpark. It's a sharp decline in American prosperity. And this decline is only going to continue in down spiral. And yes, such drop in living standards and a rise in the population that straggles to have their ends meet will have enormous impact on the entire society. The occasional comparisons to third-world countries you here nowadays are not baseless.

        July 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • NCT

      It will only take food off the plates of people in China.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • nwg6011

      The guy that fed the horse that pulled your carriage is also out of a job.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Reply
    • FriarTech

      That guy that had a "job" at the toy manufacturer bought one of these and quit his "job" to go into business for himself making innovative toy designs that previously would have costs him tens of thousands just to make a small production run ... add the 'just add water' e-commerce website to that equation and he now has a virtual store front to sell his innovated creations...and another man is freed from being a corporate wage slave .... good times, great future!

      July 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  76. rad666

    Going to get one and make a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home with a luxury auto in the garage.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • nwg6011

      There's already someone who is 3d printing the building materials for a real house, similar to large Lego building blocks.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Reply
      • Squeezebox

        James May of the BBC had a show called Toy Stories and on one episode he really did make a house out of Legos. It wasn't a very good one.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • vr13

        Why can't I shake off the images of plastic beams collapsing under the load, plastic walls not providing enough temperature insulation, roof that melts under the direct sun, and further biodegrades in a rain. Is this going to be Ken's and Barbie's house?

        July 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  77. sundevil98

    It's just a matter of time before someone breaks some item at home, scans the broken item with a laser scanner, prints it on his 3D printer, and replaces the item without any consideration for the structural integrity of the item. One of these days, someone's going to post some sort of 3D design on the interweb (like a gun or cannon), and someone else is going to kill themselves after printing the item out at home because they used the item in an inappropriate matter. Just because you CAN 3D print something, it doesn't mean you SHOULD print it. As said above, these things are great for making prototypes or toys, they're not good for making things that may see critical strains, stresses, or the like. Different printers use different plastics with different physical properties which only makes things more complex.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • TC

      I have to kind of agree. It is going to take one person printing an item and having it break in such a way as to cause damage to themselves or something else and then that person suing the maker of the printer before the industry re-examines the "homemade quality" versus "commercial" issue.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Reply
    • Malo

      3D gun plans already exist. There is a guy in Austin Texas that has them. Google it. US GOvt is all over him because you can not track the gun like you can other firearms.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply
      • Joseph.Adam

        I thought the point was, who would be responsible if someone printed a gun, and the gun backfired injuring the user? Could you sue the website where you downloaded the 3D file for the gun?

        July 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
      • GunLovinTexan

        It is not illegal to make your own gun for personal use, just look at all the 80% AR's you can buy and 'finish'. If you later decide to sell it, well then you need to put a serial number or some designation on it to comply with the law, and if you do that more than once or twice then expect a whole lot of scrutiny.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • FriarTech

      Well I guess we can just ban 3D printers to allay your fears just like we banned playdoh because someone might want to build a suspension bridge using it ... or wait we didn't ban playdoh ... hey here's an idea if you want to 3D print a part that is used for a load bearing or mission critical application why don't we create a reputable certification process for 3D models ... engineers can join it like a guild and put their stamp on certain models suitability to certain tasks ... hmmm... to logical we should just ban anything that might lead to thinking I guess.

      July 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  78. Wallace

    As an Engineer, I've been working with "3D Printing" for over 25 years. It is a remarkable process that will have an impact in the home in the future, but, the material science needs to come a long way.

    One industrial process that is rarely mentioned is Selective Laser Sintering. This is a 3D process that melts together metal powder and builds up parts layer by layer, like in other processes.

    I have produced some medical devices out of stainless steel using SLS with geometries that cannot be machined or cast with conventional processes. The FDA even allows SLS produced parts to be directly implanted into patients.

    But the real impact will not be in making toys at home, it will be using 3D printing to build the forms for organs, such as the liver and heart, on which stem cells can attach and grow.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  79. John

    Not hardly. Take a closer look at who paid for that study. It's all about marketing and guiding consumers into believing that they need one of these in every room of their house, with savings beyond the imagination.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Reply
    • bs1

      Right, and no 3D printer that is within reach of even fairly affluent people can print in the mixed materials required to print an item of more complexity than an iPhone case. Even the $$$$ ultra high end 3D printers aren't able to do that yet.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • harharhar

      shut up! I need this as an excuse to get one, just as I use high gas prices to defend my purchase of a $20,000 Harley to save on fuel costs

      July 31, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  80. OldSchool

    These 3D printers still can't compete with large scale manufacturing. They are tediously slow and the cost to print something is quite significantly higher than other molding methods. Sure, they are good for one-off prototypes, but that's pretty much it...

    July 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Reply
    • AGeek

      However, if your option is to use a 3D printer to create a replacement part that is not available for purchase – meaning you need to replace the *entire product* rather than replacing a simple part – you could achieve *significant* savings and keep crap out of the landfills.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      Or to replace something you need. These aren't intended for mass manufacturing.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • Joseph.Adam

      As long as the 3D printer is faster than the USPS, that's all I care about. I can have a replacement part in 18 hours, rather than 5 days.

      July 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Crandall

      Please at least read the article before you comment. No one cares if your injection molder can spit out 10,000 kitchen gadgets an hour - I can print my own kitchen gadget at home while I am watching tv for 90% less than I can buy yours for in the store. Sorry No Sale!

      July 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  81. Aaron

    Couple a 3D printer with a 3D scanner and you might have something cool. Imagine taking the broken piece, putting it in the scanner and having a model that's already in the right dimensions. Then you just fix the model in your 3D editor and print the fixed piece. Voila!

    July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • neal kelley

      almost like the star trek replicator... getting closer....

      July 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • sundevil98

      Imagine the consequences of not taking into consideration the physical properties of the broken item and replacing them with your structurally unsound 3D printed item. It's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt trying to do something like you've suggested. It's a bad idea just waiting to happen.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
      • Aaron

        So you're saying we shouldn't innovate because someone will do something stupid with our innovation? Should we get rid of cars too? People do stupid things with those every day.

        July 31, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
      • FriarTech

        Yeah, because I didn't undertake a multi million dollar study involving a world renown think tank when I created new army men toys for my kid ... geez. Just because you don't exercise common sense in your life doesn't mean that everyone else in the world is just as irresponsible. Those who say it can't be done shouldn't never get in the way of those who are actually doing it! (-Einstein, i think)

        July 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  82. gunprintr

    Printing guns... jheah!

    July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  83. James B.

    Tried it. Too expensive and leased printers do not have high enough resolution yet. Everything has micro lines even at .100mm resolution. Paid over $40.00 to get 2 and 1/2 inch model at high res and still looked bad. Wait a couple more years before buying; let the technology catch up. Right now they are in the "daisy wheel" phase.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • Crandall

      100 micron resolution is pretty good and now standard for most of the printers we are talking about - if that is not good enough you can do a simple chemical treatment - so for abs prints you can paint them with nail polish removier and you have your smooth surface.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Reply
    • Malenky

      If you want high resolution don't use FDM printing, find a company with an SLA printer. So accurate you can't tell if it was made with a plastic injection mold or not. And the company I use prints clear, the Plastic is as clear as glass. If you want a quality print job, its going to cost a few hundred. You got a model that looked bad, because you only spent $40. the model wasn't cheap, you were.

      August 2, 2013 at 10:17 am | Reply
  84. Portland tony

    Maybe in 25 years, these 3D printers will be able to effectively print something worthwhile. Now, the only practical uses are in engineering prototyping applications. In time, factories won't need employees since, for example, completed car parts can be "printed" and assembled by robotic tools which in turn can be" printed", So the need for human labor will disappear. Even the 3D printers will be self where will humans fit in. Or earn the cash to purchase any of this stuff?

    July 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      massage parlors

      July 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • Loki

      bet you were a buggy whip maker in a past life

      August 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • CounterRevolution

      Just like machine tools, Rapid-Prototypers are already being used to produce more parts for new machines. See "Make" magazine.

      August 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  85. Mike Diana or

    July 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Reply
    • damn John

      nothing to see there but the domain names are for sale.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  86. 3D printer geek

    I use a 3D printer almost every day and love it. It was saved thousands of dollars in tooling costs for many projects from the 1 – 10 piece build to testing new parts and modifying parts before paying for a production mold. Love it, buy one. they pay for themselves very fast.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply

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