Solutions for Self-Reliance

How a Retiree Invented a Way to Save Big $$ on 3D Printing


Snow is slowly starting to fall outside my window.   It’s a sign that (hopefully) the last blizzard of the year has arrived.

As much as I enjoy winter, I’m ready for this one to end.  I’m lucky, I’ll get a short reprieve from the snow when I travel to Austin Texas this weekend for the SXSW festival.

What am I hoping to find when I get there?  A couple of people making a difference.  People pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with local abundance.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be successful.  There are great many people working on ways to produce more locally now, and that number is growing every day.

It’ll keep growing because that’s where the future of prosperity is.

What do these inventors look like?

Hugh Lyman is a great example.


He’s 83 and a retired business owner.  When he retired 17 years ago, he developed a passion for inventing things (an increasingly common affliction).

His most recent invention solved a problem he found when making things with 3D printers.  He found that the cost of the plastic filament (the white cord you see below) used to make items using a 3D printer was too expensive.

NOTE:  I’ve been told that this cost is mostly due to patents held by a couple of big firms that are exercising their monopoly privileges

Plastic Filament

As a work around, he created a device that made plastic filament from low cost plastic pellets.   It cuts the cost of filament from $40-50 a kilo down to $5.  Nice!

The Lyman Filament Extruder is a simple, low cost device, that melts the pellets and forms them into a filament that you can wind on a spool.

Lyman Filament Extruder

Further, as we’ve seen with an increasing number of inventions today, the invention is available for download as an open source design (on Makerbot Thingverse).

What makes this doubly interesting is that by lower the costs of printing, Hugh’s innovation makes it easier for other people to be creative with 3D printing.  Here’s  a printed Cathedral model set from Thingverse as an example of what can be done:


In short, Hugh’s experience shows that anybody with an inquisitive mind can invent things that are both useful and needed.  You DON’T need a bank, a university, or the government backing you in order to make a significant contribution.  You can do it entirely on your own.

Keep inventing the future!



JR Small

PS:  Patents don’t incentivize people to invent things.  That’s a myth.  Patents were created to generate revenue for the sovereign.  The king allowed business owners to buy, at considerable expense, a monopoly on the use of specific technologies.  In truth, people invent because they love to do it and it’s in our nature to do so.







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