The rapidly growing DIY Maker Movement has used Atmel-powered 3D printers such as MakerBot and RepRap for quite some time now, but it is clear that 3D printing has entered an important new stage in recent months.
Although it may take some time for 3D printers to find a home in every residence, one Michigan Technological University researcher believes that personal manufacturing, much like personal computing before it, is about to enter the mainstream in a big way.
“For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime,” explained Associate Professor Joshua Pearce. “3D printers [may] have been the purview of a relative few aficionados, but that is changing fast. The reason is financial: the typical family can already save a great deal of money by making things with a 3D printer instead of buying them off the shelf.”
As Pearce notes, open-source 3D printers for home use typically have price tags ranging from about $350 to $2,000.
“[Plus], you don’t need to be an engineer or a professional technician to set up a 3D printer,” said Pearce. “Some can be set up in under half an hour, and even the RepRap can be built in a weekend by a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer.”
Pearce also emphasized that 3D printing likely heralds a new world in which consumers have many more choices – where nearly everything can be customized.
“With the exponential growth of free designs and expansion of 3D printing, we are creating enormous potential wealth for everyone,” Pearce added. “It would be a different kind of capitalism, where you don’t need a lot of money to create wealth for yourself or even start a business.”
Interested in learning more about 3D printers from an academic perspective? Be sure to check out “Life-Cycle Economic Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing with Open-Source 3-D Printers,” by Joshua Pearce here.