How Much Does 3D Printing Cost

3D printing was basically used by engineers and designers for very complex designs. Today, the narrative is changing as the technology is becoming readily accessible to everyone.

how much does 3d printing cost
Photo Credits: Marco Verch,

Although 3d printers are becoming affordable, the cost of purchasing a quality brand is still on the high side. Furthermore, the filaments used by some printers are quite expensive and this may influence the cost of 3d printing an object. This raises a concern of “how much does 3d printing cost?”

Video: How Much Does 3D Printing Cost

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

Is It Expensive to 3D Print?

It is not expensive to 3D print. What is expensive is the cost of purchasing the printer. The materials are readily available and affordable at a minimal cost.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of expensive 3d printers, you can also find a cheap 3d printer. This could be very useful to Do It Yourself (DIY) category of people.

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More so, if you decide to purchase a low-quality 3d printer, it implies that you will use cheap filaments to print. But using a cheap material will give you a low-quality object.

There are various brands of filament and they play a major role in the final look of your printed object. You can get a spool for about 12 USD per kg. But this may not give you the same quality as a spool of 45 USD per kg.

Furthermore, some materials are more expensive than others but one of the cheapest is the ABS. It is commonly used for printing in plastic.

How Much Does ABS Plastic Cost Per Pound?

ABS plastic costs $1.50 per pound. It is inexpensive and readily available. In addition, it can be blended with other materials to produce electrical insulators, pipe fittings, and toys at a minimal cost.

But bear in mind that if you want to print with metal or any other complex material, it will influence the printing costs. Metal filaments are quite expensive, costing hundreds of dollars.

Why Are Metal Filaments Expensive?

Metal filaments are expensive because they are made from raw materials extracted through scientific experiments. These experiments incur equipment and material costs which are usually high. Also, it takes more time to refine them.

This implies that irrespective of the design you are printing, the printing costs will differ based on the materials used.

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Factors that Determine 3D Printing Price

The factors that determine 3D printing price include the following:

1. Printing tecnology

2. Size of the printed part

3. Density of the infill

4. Time spent

5. Printing layout

6. Thickness of printed layer

7. Cost of the printer

These factors will be discussed in detail as you read on.

The Printing Technology

In 3d printing, there are different technologies that are employed in the production of 3d printed objects. The technology used will determine the final look of the 3d printed item. It also affects how the item will be printed and the speed at which the printer will operate.

What Are the Types Of 3D Printing Technology?

The types of 3D printing technology are:

1. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

2. Stereolithography (SLA)

3. Digital Light Processing (DLP)

4. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

5. Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

6. Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)

7. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

This technology can be used by manufacturers to create prototypes or models of a newly developed product. They function through a process known as extrusion of material. This kind of printer is widely used, and it is the cheapest 3d printer.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages Of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology?

Advantages of FDM technology are:

1. It is easy to learn

2. It is cost-effective and timesaving

3. It can be used to produce high strength, quality, and waterproof materials.

On the other hand, the disadvantages are:

1. It does not produce an overly neat result

2. It can easily bump up if the extrusion head is not moving

3. It can be affected by temperature fluctuation.

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA is the first technology in 3D printing. It is used to produce prototypes since it does not take so much time. In addition, the cost of using SLA technology is cheaper when compared with other methods of creating prototypes.

How Does SLA Printing Work?

SLA printing works by using light to cure resin. When resin, a chemical hydrocarbon secreted by plants is exposed to light, it solidifies through a process called photo-polymerization. During this process, it builds 3D objects layer by layer accurately.

SLA is well known due to its accuracy and high level of precision. To manufacturers, SLA technology is more economical.

This explains why it is popular in various fields such as medicine, automotive, aerospace, and entertainment industries. Manufacturers use it to customize goods for their consumers.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

The DLP is similar to SLA but slightly better than it. It seems to be an improvement on the SLA technology. The digital light processing technology is capable of printing an object with quality resolution. It does this within a short period of time.

How Does Digital Light Processing (DLP) Work?

Digital Light Processing (DLP) works by using micromirrors to reflect color and light on a screen. These micromirrors are very tiny and usually positioned in a semiconductor chip. Consequently, the movement of the micromirrors on the screen produces gray shades used to form 3D objects. They are also called Digital Micromirror Device (DMD).

With this type of 3d printing technology, you do not need to have a lot of materials. The printer will utilize fewer materials and still come up with objects that are flawless.

If you are considering this technology, it will help to reduce the waste of materials. On the other hand, the costs of printing will be drastically reduced.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

What is Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)?

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered materials like nylon, plastic, and alumide into a 3D model. Additionally, the laser acts as the source of power and heat that binds the material together to form a solid object.

SLS technology uses metal in powder form. It can also use other types of materials such as ceramics, nylon, glass, silver, steel, aluminum, and much more. The ability to utilize a wide range of material makes SLS very popular.

However, this technology requires a high level of skill and it is quite costly.

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

SLM technology is used to 3d print parts with very complex geometry. It is not suitable for use in homes due to its very expensive nature. It is popularly used by orthopedics and aerospace industries.

How Does Selective Laser Melting (SLM) Work?

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) works by melting successive layers of metallic powder with a laser. The laser first heats powdered metallic particles until it melts. Then, the machine adds another powdered metal to the melted layer. This process continues till the desired object is formed.

What Is the Difference Between Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)?

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) uses laser to melt powdered metals into 3D objects. It heats the metal until it fuses and melts completely.

On the other hand, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses laser to sinter materials like nylon, glass, ceramics, and other polymers. It heats the materials to a fusing point, without melting them completely.

Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)

What is Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)?

Electronic Beam Melting (EBM) is a 3D printing technology that uses high-velocity electrons to create heat and vaporize a material. These electrons are channelled into a narrow beam and directed to a specific workplace. Also, this technology is majorly used to produce cut outs with precise measurements and metals.

The EBM technology is used to 3d print very dense metallic parts for automotive, dental, medical, and aerospace industries.

What Are Electron Beams?

Electron beams are accelerators of particles. They are emitted by heating a filament. When a filament is heated, voltage draws the electrons from the filament through a vacuum tube and directs them to carry out a specific task. Also, they are used to produce images on television screens, x-rays, and microscopes.

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Although this technology isn’t well known, it is one of the fastest and cheapest 3d printing technology. The printing material required here is cheap which makes the technology readily accessible. However, the printed parts will require additional work such as screwing, gluing, or drilling.

How Does Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) Work?

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) works by using heat and pressure to fuse plastic or paper together. This process requires overlaying a flat surface with heated plastic, then cutting it into the required shape or size.

It is important to note that the cost of 3d printing is dependent on the technology utilized.

Size of the Printed Part

The cost of printing is dependent on the size of the part to be printed. This is because the size of the printed part determines the amount of printing material to be used.

 3d printing cost
Photo Credits: Keith Kissel,

In essence, printing a large-sized object will consume a large quantity of filament thereby increasing the cost of printing.

Density of Infill

What is Density of Infill?

Density of infill is the amount of materials like plastic, metal, and polycarbonate used inside a print. A print with high density infill implies that the print is highly concentrated with materials. In the same way, a print with low density infill implies that the print is not concentrated with materials.

Before printing, you need to decide on the density of the printed object. This relates to how heavy or solid the object should be made.

If you need an object with a density of about 30 percent, it will be cheap when compared with a density of 70 percent. Hence, the density of infill determines the cost of 3d printing.

Time Spent on 3D Printing

The time it will take the printer to print an object is a very important factor in 3d printing services. This is as a result of the volume of electricity units that will be consumed when the 3d printer is in operation.

A 3d printer uses the same number of electricity units that are used by a refrigerator.

The Printing Layout

printing cost
Photo Credits: Marco Verch,

When an object is placed to print in a horizontal layout, it consumes lesser time than when placed vertically. This is true because if you place an object vertically, it will print many layers than when turned the other way.

The Thickness of the Printed Layer

The thickness of a printed layer affects the time it will take the printer to get the work done. This does not have a direct effect on the quantity of filament used. Rather, it affects the volume of electricity consumed which in turn, affects the printing services.

What is Layer Thickness In 3D Printing?

Layer thickness in 3D printing is the measurement of the height of each successive layer as they are stacked on each other to form a 3D object. A good layer height for 3D printing is 0.2 millimeters. Also, a layer height is half the size of nozzle printed with.

Cost of the 3D Printer

The aim of every business is to make a profit and have returns on investment (ROI) within the shortest time possible. Hence, a 3d printing service needs to factor in the cost of purchasing a 3d printer.

Well, before you venture into 3d printing business, you need to decide on which printer will suit the volume of 3d printing service you will handle.

How Much Is a 3D Printing Machine?

A 3D printing machine costs $200. It varies in cost, depending on your specific needs. An average 3D printer cost ranges from $200- $10,000.

There are actually very cheap 3d printers but you may end up spending more money on repair and maintenance. However, with expensive machines, there could be less need for frequent maintenance.

So, you need to be smart in making business decisions. If getting a 3d printer cheap, will cost you more in repairs, why don’t you get the expensive brand? This means that the major expense will be on purchasing the machine rather than repairing it later.

Furthermore, if you are still at a loss on how to value your 3d printing service, you can use an online 3d printing cost calculator.

What Is a 3D Printing Cost Calculator?

A 3D printing cost calculator is an online tool used to calculate printing costs and profit. It is available on websites like Omni, 3D addicts, and 3Dprinting pro. Additionally, these websites are highly interactive and user friendly.

All you need to do is input the specified figures, then you will have a price tag to attach to the job you have done.

Here are some other detailed articles you may find useful:

How to Use A 3D Printing Cost Calculator

To use a 3D printing cost calculator, do these:

1. Input your printing material

2. Input the height of the layer you printed

3. Specify the percentage of infill

4. Input the speed at which the layers were printed. This unit is usually measured in millimeter per second.

5. Upload the STL file to calculate the cost.

What Are the Factors A 3D Printing Cost Calculator Considers?

A 3D printing calculator considers the following

1. The rate of electricity charges in your region. This is measured in kilowatts per hour.

2. The cost of labor and set up

3. Cost of packaging and shipping the final product

4. The cost of maintaining the 3d printer

There are several online 3d printing cost calculators. But anyone you decide to use will require almost the same procedure.

How Much Does 3D Printing Cost- Related FAQs

Is SLA Printing Faster Than FDM?

SLA, Stereolithography in full, is not faster than FDM, which is Fused Deposition Modelling in full. SLA printing uses a technique of curing resin with light. This makes it time-consuming. As a result, it requires patience and hard work. It is also the oldest 3D printing technology.

FDM printers, on the other hand, can be set at a higher speed. This makes them flexible and easy to use. Also, FDM printers use large nozzles to increase speed while printing a 3D object.

However, the quality of objects printed with SLA technology is higher than that of FDM technology. 

Is 3D Filament Expensive?

The 3D filament is not expensive. However, this depends largely on the type of filament you need to produce your 3D object. Plastic filaments like PLA and ABS are cheaper than other filaments. An average PLA filament costs about $15- 20 per kilogram.

Also, the cost of filaments is determined by color, quality, quantity, and tolerance. Resin, for example, is expensive because of scarce availability.

The cost of filaments, therefore, ranges between $15- $400 per liter for resin, and per kilogram for other materials. The 3D object you intend to create will determine the material you will purchase.

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What Skills Do You Need For 3D Printing?

The skills you need for 3D printing include the following:

  1. Computer literacy. This includes adequate knowledge on how to operate a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software.
  2. Inter-personal skills. This involves having a drive or passion for solving problems and creative ideas. Also, this will boost your ability to Do-It-Yourself (DIY).
  3. Expert career skills. Consequently, this will help those in fields like engineering, architecture, and medicine to be more productive.
  4. Awareness of patent and copyright laws

3D printing does not require formal education at the entry-level. However, to make a bubbling career out of it, there is a need for advanced learning of the techniques involved in the technology. This can be done online or via a training school.

How Do You Calculate 3D Printing Time?

To calculate 3D printing time, follow these steps:

  1. Download Cura software into your computer.
  2. Fill in the required information like printing material, the height of the layer you intend to print, specify the percentage of infill, and the speed at which the layers were printed. This unit is usually measured in millimeters per second.
  3. Upload the STL file.
  4. Afterward, wait for the print time result.

With these steps, you will be able to predict the time that will be required to print out your 3D object.

How Do I Start a 3D Printing Service?

You can start a service of 3D printing by following these simple steps:

  1. Research about 3D printing from scratch. This will get you acquainted with the important basics.
  2. Learn how to use different CAD software to create 3D models. You can try out FreeCAD for starters.
  3. Write out a detailed business plan.
  4. Make a budget.
  5. Select a suitable printing technology. 
  6. Seek for platforms to sell the 3D products. This could be online, as well as in retail stores.
  7. Create a prototype for advertisement.
  8. Start receiving orders.
  9. Establish a service retail outlet for your product.

3D printing is a very viable business enterprise that can yield high Return on Investment (RoI) overtime. 

How Long Can You Run a 3D Printer?

You can run 3D printing machine for about 30 seconds to one week. However, this is dependent on certain factors like the size of the model, printing technology in use, cost of electricity consumption, as well as time.

3D printers are strong and consume 50 watts per hour, the same watts as with a refrigerator. As a result, they are cheaper and less cost-intensive to run.

Consequently, smaller prints are printed more than larger prints because they reduce the risk of making the printer malfunction due to prolonged usage. Also, in the event of any mistake, a larger print will be ruined. This will cause a greater loss. 

Therefore, it is advisable not to run it for prolonged hours without breaks.

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