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Open-source may drive down the cost of 3D printers significantly

If you’re a regular reader of Spellchek, you’ve seen the post on 3D printers and how they’ll make any limits on magazine sizes irrelevant. Not just magazine clips, soon you’ll see entire weapons printed out directly from consumers home printer. The sky will be the limit on what one can reproduce.

Of course, cost is a limiting factor. High-end printers run in the thousands. But even that is quickly changing thanks to open-source technology. Open-source can be both hardware and software. A staff member at Michigan Tech University is working hard to overcome that cost barrier.

How about using recycled milk jugs along with open-source hardware/software to bring the cost down to just a few hundred dollars?


Using free software downloaded from sites like Thingiverse, which now holds over 54,000 open-source designs, 3D printers make all manner of objects by laying down thin layers of plastic in a specific pattern. While high-end printers can cost many thousands of dollars, simpler open-source units run between $250 and $500 — and can be used to make parts for other 3D printers, driving the cost down ever further.

“One impediment to even more widespread use has been the cost of filament,” says Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering. Though vastly less expensive than most manufactured products, the plastic filament that 3D printers transform into useful objects isn’t free.

Milk jugs, on the other hand, are a costly nuisance, either to recycle or to bury in a landfill. But if you could turn them into plastic filament, Pearce reasoned, you could solve the disposal problem and drive down the cost of 3D printing even more.

Take a look around the house. Just imagine all the stuff you could copy. I could waste a serious amount of time on one of these.


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