3D printers are an emerging and exciting technology field. As printers continue to grow, the cost is will continue to plunge, but a decent printer still runs $300 and up. If you have not purchased one yet, you may be looking for reasons to justify your excitement and financial investment.
Others around us (family, significant others, friends) are skeptical. They ask “Why would you want a 3D printer when you can drive down the street to a big box store to get what we need? Why get a machine to make trinkets?”
How can you justify the expense and time needed for a 3D printer? If you need help convincing others, here is my list of ways that I have convinced others.
Work for Humanity
By getting a 3D printer, you can become a humanitarian. The internet is full of cute pets getting 3D printed limbs.
3D printers can become a volunteer for e-NABLE and 3D print affordable prosthetic hands for children.
3D printers can also print items to help people with special needs. Recently Thingiverse hosted the AssistiveTech challenge, where the design community competed to 3D print items for the elderly and people with unique needs.
The International Committee of the Red Cross of India (ICRC) recently hosted the Enable Makeathon. This event challenged designers from around the world to make tools for people with disabilities in rural and impoverished areas. 3D printing was a pivotal tool for many design teams including 3DPT. In the challenge, I used 3D printing to make handwriting grips to support students education.
When it comes to home improvement, 3D printing can cover a wide range of home repair and improvement needs.File sharing sites are full of files to replace all those broken knobs, little plastic do doodads, and kitchenware you break.
Not only that, you can 3D print your own decore` to truly customize your house. Forget going to Ikea, you can truly design and build your own pieces to make your house a home.
For sci-fi fans, you can bring Star Wars or Young Frankenstein into your room. A popular knife switch plate was made from the movie Young Frankenstein, so now you too can “throw the third switch”! Better yet, you can print it with ColorFabb glowfill so you can find the light switch at night.
If you live in a historic house, 3D printing can help you in restoring it to its original beauty. 3D printing has been used to recreate molding profiles and tile work. It can also reproduce ornate decor` and details that would cost you thousands to make with a craftsmen.
Yes, you can 3D print toys. Unlike the toys you get from big box stores, they are far more affordable; a hand sized toy can cost ~$0.20, while bigger toys cost less than the gas it takes to drive to the store. With 3D printing you can print spare toys for when your little wrecking crew turns their toys into shards.
Not only are 3D printed toys affordable, they can be safer. With 3D printing you know where the toy was sourced from, including the materials. This greatly reduces the risk of toys from Asia that are contaminated with heavy metals. If your little ball of joy is a biter, you can 3D print the shells of any toy thicker to extend the life of the toy. With 3D printing toys tend to be large and with few pieces that pass the choke test, so you don’t have to worry as much about kids swallowing them (though you should ALWAYS supervise children and toys).
3D printing something for another person can give it far more intrinsic value than something from a store. Owning something you make is far more valuable than buying.
In our consumer society, we are encouraged to throw away things on a constant basis; whether its due to poor quality, planed obsolescence, or normal wear. With 3D printing we are encouraged to maintain, reuse, and adapt what we have.
Making something in this consumer society is revolutionary. 3D printing is poised to be the next industrial revolution, where consumers 3D print what they need in house. This will greatly reduce our dependence on big box stores and foreign imports.
Big box stores rely on wage slave labor from Asia to mass produce cheap consumer goods. 3D printing what you need in house is far more ethical then supporting big box stores.
By 3D printing, you know where your item came from, and the working conditions of the labor involved.
3D printing just what you need uses far less energy than a factory that mass produces the same item. 3D printing can greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that come from industrial factories and transportation.
Getting 20 – 40 objects from a kg of filament that is sourced domestically is far better for the environment than transporting the same objects from overseas.
With sites like 3Dhubs(link my hub), you can make money on the side to get a return on investment (ROI) for the 3D printer. You can 3D print locally, supporting the community around you. By 3D printing locally(Adivist manifesto?), you inject money into your local economy, with taxes supporting your local schools and public services.
If you add more printers, you can become a small 3D printing business that supports the local economy.
3D printing is set to become the next industrial revolution. It will mean that commercial production returns to domestic markets. 3D printing can reduce our need for foreign imports, improve our employment rates, and decrease homelessness.
How can we justify a 3D printer?
When it comes to 3D printing, the better question is “How can we NOT justify it?”
In the future there will be 3D printers in the majority of homes in the US. 3D printing is a technology that is changing the world for the better as I write this.