3D printing your household items could save you some serious cash, study finds

Whether it’s to give you an excuse to buy the latest piece of cool tech, genuine financial need, or (most likely) a combination of the two, you probably had the experience of gazing at some fancy new gadget and wondering whether the money it will save you could make it cost-neutral over time. This is frequently the claim of smart devices, which regularly advertise the cash they can save customers by cutting down on wasted resources around the house.

At Michigan Technological University, Associate Professor Joshua Pearce recently decided to explore that question using 3D printers.

“For years we’ve been using 3D printers to print high-end scientific equipment in our lab,” he told Digital Trends. “It’s very easy to show that if you use an affordable 3D printer, you can make your money back by printing thousands of dollars of scientific equipment over the course of just one weekend. But we wanted to find out was whether there would be a similar benefit for normal, everyday consumers using 3D printers.”

Even in the past few years, Pearce noted that the number of freely available 3D printable models for everyday items has exploded online. Yes, there are still plenty of replica lightsabers and other objects which aren’t going to necessarily improve your life on a day-to-day basis, but there are also shower heads, kitchen utensils, light switches, sporting equipment, and many others that can function in your daily activities.

For the study, Pearce decided to give Emily Peterson, an undergrad student majoring in material science and engineering, a new LulzBot Mini 3D printer without any instructions, and information about where she could find downloadable models. She then printed out items ranging from GoPro camera mounts to Dremel tools, after which she and Pearce ran high-cost and low-cost price comparisons.

Low-cost comparisons saved users an average of 93 percent per item, while high-cost items saved an average of a massive 98.65 percent.

“If you’re not printing high-value items, if you’re just printing normal consumer goods that you might pick up at Walmart, you can make your money back in three years — even if you choose the lowest cost items available online,” Pearce said. “If you choose higher-end custom items, it’ll pay for itself within six months, provided that you print one item a week. In that case, you’d save more than $12,000 over a printer’s five-year lifecycle.”

The fact that a customer could earn close to a 1,000 percent return on their 3D printer investment over half a decade is, frankly, amazing — and proof positive that 3D printers can be much, much more than a luxury item for buyers.

We may not yet be at the tipping point at which every home has additive manufacturing facilities, but at this rate, it is not going to be long before they do. After all, it makes perfect business sense.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.