5 Surprising Ways a 3D Printer Can Save You Money

It would seem that we're headed full speed ahead toward a world where 3D printing is a part of everyday life — a world in which we print a replacement coffee mug when ours breaks rather than buy a new one. It's been hailed as the next revolution in manufacturing, and Amazon, Home Depot, and Staples are just a few of the major brands that are getting in on it, making plans to build their own 3D printers for consumers. The world of 3D printing is novel, but it is also highly utilitarian.

Depending on the complexity of the job at hand, a 3D printer costs anywhere from a few hundred to more than a hundred thousand dollars. A hobbyist 3D printer — the kind you might use to create a small figurine toy — is far less expensive than a printer capable of, say, building a house. Of course, there are many money-saving things that one can print in an attempt to cancel out the expense of the printer itself. Read on for our roundup of some of the ways a 3D printer can save you money. (See also: 3 Great Home Gadgets That Can Save You Real Money)

1. You Can Sidestep the High Cost of Orthodontics

A 24-year-old college student in New Jersey wanted a straighter smile. But he was strapped for cash. And, since name brand options for clear braces, such as those made by Invisalign, can cost up to $8,000, he decided to use a 3D printer to create his own. Believe it or not, it worked. And it cost him less than $60.

2. You Can 3D Print Cheap Prosthetics

The family of a young boy born without fingers in Oregon could not afford a high-tech prosthetic hand. Not to mention the fact that such prosthetics are hard to find for children — and they cost many thousands of dollars. And so, the boy could not properly grip a baseball bat or play a game of catch. That is, of course, until he was given a 3D printed prosthetic hand. The materials for such a contraption can cost as little as $20 to $50, and some experts say they work just as well, if not better, than the traditional, much costlier prosthetics.

3. You Can 3D Print a Gorgeous Custom Guitar

A personalized electric guitar — the kind that the guitarist in your favorite band might play on tour — can cost several thousand dollars. Plus, it takes a long time to build. This is a dilemma that any professional or semiprofessional guitarist knows all too well. High-performing professional instruments are just plain expensive.

Introducing the beautifully detailed, custom 3D printed guitar by Customuse. At roughly $2,500 a pop, these instruments are not exactly cheap. But they are heaps cheaper and far, far faster to assemble than many other guitars made the traditional way. With 3D printing, creating 10,000 completely unique electric guitars costs about the same as it would to make 10,000 identical guitars in traditional fashion. If you're out for a top notch musical instrument, 3D printing just might be your best, most cost effective bet.

4. You Can Create Everyday Household Items as Needed

With a 3D printer on hand, you can make your own iPhone cases, razors, paper towel dispensers, garlic presses, and other everyday household items as needed, thereby reaping a potentially big savings over time. According to one study, the total cost of printing 20 household products is about $20, or about one dollar apiece. In comparison, online retail costs range from of $300 to $1,900; averaging between $15 and about $100 per product. Why purchase a new set of shower curtain rings if you can make them yourself for cheap?

5. You Can Sidestep the High Cost of a Printer

You're off the hook. That's right, it's now possible to reap the cost-saving benefits of 3D printing without having to make the initial investment in the printer itself. Here's how: The Denver Public Library and the DC Public Library in the nation's capital have several 3D printers available for public use. Bonus: The DC Public Library also offers free classes that teach the basics of 3D printing. At the DC library, printing costs $.05 per gram of the object's weight, plus a $1 charge.

The library estimates that most prints range in price from $1 to $5.

And while they aren't sophisticated enough to print a car or a house, the library's 3D printers are well equipped to build small to medium-sized household objects as well as trinkets and toys. In addition to libraries, some universities, Maker clubs, and UPS Store locations have public use 3D printers. There's also 3DHubs.com, which can connect you to 3D printing services near you.

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