Are 3D Printers Expensive to Run?

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It is always about the bottom line…

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How to Get Started with a 3D Printer

Even though 3D printers may be revolutionizing how the world does manufacturing or that the amount of objects that can be printed seems endless. It is always how much it costs that determines the final decision to buy or not a 3D printer.

Money always talks and to see if 3D printers are expensive to run, just continue to read our article. It goes in depth in this issue to make sure you have a good idea how much running a 3D printer will cost you. Take a few minutes to see if this is an investment you want to make.

The cost of running a 3D printer

There is no purpose making you wait till the end of the article to discuss the money aspect. That is why you started reading this article so let’s get it out of the way up front so you can concentrate on other bits and pieces of information that follow

#1. The cost of the printer

There are three types of 3D printers– the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), the SLA (Stereolithography) & the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering). The FDA may cost you about $150, depending of course, while the SLS will be around $1500 with the SLS somewhere in between.

#2. The size of the object

Costs vary here as how much filament you use and how much infill density you need varies on the size of the object. The bigger the printed object the more these two items will cost. Infills usually only make up 20% of the printed object but you can increase that if you want. When you do, you increase your price

#3. The price of the filament

Different brands have different prices so you will need to shop around. Obviously, a $10 spool of filament is going to save you $30 over a $40 spool but the quality of your object will not be as good.

#4. The cost of the electricity used

The good news here is that a normal 3D printer uses about as much electricity as a normal fridge. So you have to factor in that current usage with the time it takes to print the object

To find out a specific cost you will have to fill in the blanks with your own numbers. Different regions of the country have different electrical costs and so on but a ballpark figure using an FDA printer may be around $250 to $300 for one item.

Your cost will go down as you do not need to buy a new printer every time you print.

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How to keep your 3D printing costs lower

There are ways to lower your printing costs if you are setting yourself up in a legitimate business and printing legal objects. Here are some tips to help you save a little money over the long run:

  1. Buy your own printer- the price has been coming down for some time and there are many brands out there that are very affordable. Or you can rent till the price goes down even further.
  2. Do good shopping- in other words do some comparison shopping and buy the best quality material at the lowest price.
  3. Make smaller objects- the majority of your cost will be in filament and by reducing the size of the object you use less filament and save.
  4. Contract the work out there are plenty of 3D printing services that advertise over the internet. Find the one that does the best job for the lowest amount of money.
  5. Go the free route- it is possible for you to use free designs or make alterations to a free model before you print. Instead of paying someone to make the designs use those free options first.
  6. Instead of buying, build your own- this will save you on inflated costs as each middle man in the chain from manufacturer to retailer adds their own fee into the cost. Cut out all that extra expense and save.
  7. Buy large quantities- not the printer of course, but the materials you need to have a successful print run. The more you buy in bulk, the lower your per unit cost will be.

Cheaper is not always better

Nor is it always the worst item you can buy. When shopping for materials it is always a crap shoot as you want to avoid inflated costs while not sacrificing quality. But that old adage will ring in your mind reminding you that ‘you get what you pay for.’

While paying more is not a guarantee that your results will be top quality, it does put the odds in your favor. Here are some things to consider paying more for:

NumberItemCost
1.PrinterDepending on which one you buy your costs will be around $100 to $1000 but the lower end may not produce high quality objects where you can make your money back
2.FilamentTwo kinds- PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) & ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and both come in 1 kg spools or 2.2. pounds. Their average cost is about $30 per spool
3.Online servicesSaves you time, storage. electrical use and more. There is no sense in buying if your production is limited to 1 or a few more objects. Quality is not guaranteed
4.Your time and consumable costsThis is what you have to figure out as your time is worth something and you need to cover expenses as well as make a reasonable profit
5.Free designsEquals 0 cost but the designs may not be what you want to print

Some final words

Once you add up all the hidden and visible costs you may see that running your own 3D printer is not that expensive. The costs come down when you print more than one object. It is expensive if you buy all the materials and printer just to print 1 item

Look before you leap in order to know how much you will be spending when you decide to use a 3D printer

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