3D printing could be the best way to fix nearly everything

We all own lots of very complicated things, from cars to laptops, and they always cost way more to fix than they should. It's definitely not because the parts actually cost that much to make, because as it turns out, you can just print them yourself for 10x cheaper.

When Instructables user Dscott4's Bugaboo baby stroller broke, the company quoted him $250 for a replacement part the size of your thumb. And why shouldn't they? The manufacturer basically has a monopoly on the parts, and what was Dscott4 gonna do, go get the part at his neighborhood baby stroller parts store? Of course not! Pay up, sucker!

But Dscott4 is not a sucker. Instead, he simply copied the broken part into a CAD program, pieced it back together, and then sent the file off to Shapeways, a company that will print you anything you want in 3D for cheap. A few days later, he got the exact part that he needed (custom printed out of aluminum), and the stroller was fixed. Total cost? $25.

shapeways_part.jpg

Right now, this experience is noteworthy, but it may not be too long until it's completely typical. Something breaks, you go to your hardware store, and they scan the broken part for you and print up a new one for little more than the cost of the raw materials. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from doing that right now using mail-order companies like Shapeways, as long as you're comfortable modeling the part in a CAD program (such as Google Sketch-Up, which is free).

Wouldn't it be great if at some point there could be a cheap 3D scanning system that could do all the hard work for you? Yeah, it would.

Shapeways, via Instructables and BBG

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