Emergence of Home Manufacturing in the Developed World via Return on Investment for Open-Source 3-D Printers

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Economic Advantage to Making Your Own Stuff with 3D Printing
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Abstract

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Through reduced 3-D printer cost, increased usability, and greater material selection, additive manufacturing has transitioned from business manufacturing to the average prosumer. This study serves as a representative model for the potential future of 3-D printing in the average American household by employing a printer operator who was relatively unfamiliar with 3-D printing and the 3-D design files of common items normally purchased by the average consumer. Twenty-six items were printed in thermoplastic and a cost analysis was performed through comparison to comparable, commercially available products at a low and high price range. When compared to the low-cost items, investment in a 3-D printer represented a return of investment of over 100% in five years. The simple payback time for the high-cost comparison was less than 6 months, and produced a 986% return. Thus, fully-assembled commercial open source 3-D printers can be highly profitable investments for American consumers. Finally, as a preliminary gauge of the effect that widespread prosumer use of 3-D printing might have on the economy, savings were calculated based on the items’ download rates from open repositories. Results indicate that printing these selected items have already saved prosumers over $4 million by substituting for purchases.

Keywords

[distributed manufacturing]; [additive manufacturing]; [3-D printing]; consumer; economics; [open-source]

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