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Can You Make a Living From Home 3D Printing?

We’ve made it easier to buy than to make or repair. Home 3D printing could offer people a chance to save money and make money. The global manufacturing industry is worth over $12 trillion. A staggering amount, but suitably large to cover the (inequitable) demands of 7 billion people. Over the course of history the amount of manufacturing done in-house has wildly varied. Mass manufacturing and creates centres of production, industrial areas. Creation at home is generally something you eat or some sort of hobby.

A technology that can reverse this trend is the 3D printer, additive or subtractive manufacturing using materials previously locked away in industrial sized lots. Plastics are now easier and safer to work with than ever. Making a living from something is a loaded question, it hides the saving and degrowing element of balancing accounts.

Lowering Costs

A study from the Michigan Technological University suggests there are savings in the long run. A student with no experience of 3D printing was given a $1,250 Lulzbot Mini. 26 items were printed, having estimated a rate of one new item per week. The homemade versions were compared to a low-cost and a high-cost model, saving 93% and 98.65%. Items included in the study were; a spoon holder, an Arduino nano enclosure, a carpet corner, a bathroom wine-glass holder, a tool holder, a soap holder, a snowboard bind plate, a speaker grill, a lens cap holder, a trumpet mute, a shower head and several toys.

Despite boasting of a 1,000% return of investment, this is only the case when the objects are compared to the high-cost item they intend to replace. When taken against the low-cost item the projected profit arrives in the third year of ownership. Given that sometimes, as with say a snowboard bind plate, the expensive option has important safety test a 3D printed model cannot always be substituted. As a tool in low-cost living a 3D printer would be useful if it is able to function long enough without breaking. $519.89 in savings is nonetheless a starting point, the extreme end of $2,714.81 may be possible for some, their friends and family receiving nothing but 3D printed gifts.

Making a Profit

Owning a 3D printer would put you in the bracket of ‘prosumer’. A consumer producing things with something they consumed, a cyclical business model. See YouTube sponsored-content creators using GoPro and ‘specialist’ vlog cameras. Churning out phone cases once a week will not pay any bills, unless its a really good phone case. Open source 3D printing is challenging intellectual property rights in a way pirate media has for decades now. The profits made from a home-based 3D printing outfit are really contingent upon marketing (wherever and however they’re found) to the right audience.

The materials used in 3D printed objects are developing. We can all imagine 3D printed objects, they do look not quit rendered. The structure is concrete and lifeless, often uniform in colour. Adding textures to objects is another stage in construction or ignored in favour of the tech aesthetic.

For more an interview with Joshua Pearce, the author of the home 3D printing study, visit 3dprintingindustry.com


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Mathew Sayer

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