3D printer production cost
How Much Does a 3D Printer Cost?
In-house 3D printing is a versatile solution for a wide range of applications, from high-resolution models to rapid prototyping, rapid tooling for traditional production processes, manufacturing aids, and even end-use parts in manufacturing.
When you consider investing in a 3D printer, however, viability typically boils down to a simple question: does it make economic sense for your business? How much does a 3D printer cost and how much time and cost can you actually save with it for your business?
3D printer prices range from about $200 to $500,000+ depending on the printing process, materials, and the level of sophistication of the 3D printing solution.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the 3D printing costs for different technologies, compare outsourcing with in-house production, lay out the various factors you should account for to calculate cost per part, and look at considerations beyond cost when comparing various 3D printing solutions and other production methods.
Try our interactive ROI tool to see how much time and cost you can save when 3D printing on Formlabs 3D printers.
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The three most established plastic 3D printing processes today are fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), and selective laser sintering (SLS).
Each 3D printing technology has its pros and cons—here's an infographic for a quick comparison:
Download the high-resolution version of this infographic here. Would you like to learn more about FDM, SLA, and SLS 3D printing technologies? Check out our in-depth guide.
3D printer prices have dropped significantly in recent years, and today, all three technologies are available in compact, affordable systems.
As a rule of thumb, FDM 3D printers will create the cheapest parts if you’re printing only relatively simple prototypes in limited numbers. SLA resin 3D printers offer higher resolution, better quality, and a wide variety of 3D printing materials at a slight premium, but the difference quickly diminishes when you print complex designs or larger batches due to the less labor-intensive post-processing. Lastly, SLS 3D printing is the most cost-effective process for producing medium to large volumes of high-quality functional parts.
Comparing the overall cost of different 3D printers goes beyond sticker prices -- these won’t tell you the full story of how much a 3D printer costs and how much your printed part will cost. 3D printing material and labor costs have a significant influence on cost per part, depending on the application and your production needs.
Let’s look at all the different factors and costs for each process.
FDM, also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF), is a printing method that builds parts by melting and extruding thermoplastic filament, which a printer nozzle deposits layer by layer in the build area.
FDM is the most widely used form of 3D printing at the consumer level, fueled by the emergence of hobbyist 3D printers. Professional and industrial FDM printers are, however, also popular with professionals.
The lowest cost 3D printers are almost exclusively FDM printers. Prices for the cheapest entry-level DIY FDM 3D printer kits start at around $200. However, most of these models are more like toys or DIY projects themselves that require you to spend a considerable amount of time assembling, tweaking, and calibrating the printer. Print quality is highly dependent on the success of these steps and still, these machines will require you to do repairs and regular maintenance to keep them running, so they are only recommended for anyone with an (in progress) engineering degree and lots of time and patience.
Hobbyist FDM 3D printers which cost around $500-$1,500 might come as a kit or assembled, require slightly less tweaking, but they still share much of the same disadvantages as the lowest-cost 3D printers. Some models closer to the top of this range will offer bigger build volumes and also more material options beyond low-temperature materials like PLA.
Professional FDM 3D printers start around $2,500, and large-format professional FDM printers start around $4,000, while the most advanced industrial FDM printers can easily cost more than $10,000. Most of these printers will come assembled and calibrated out of the box, or they can auto-calibrate themselves. Printers in this category offer better print quality, a wider range of materials, larger build volumes, better reliability, and are easier to use and maintain. Unlike lower-cost printers, manufacturers of professional 3D printers also offer customer support to troubleshoot issues.
Regarding materials, FDM 3D printing material costs range from around $50 to $150/kg for most standard and engineering filaments and $100-200/kg for support materials. Cheaper alternatives might be available, but once again, with a trade-off in terms of quality.
Lastly, FDM printing can be highly labor-intensive. Many designs, especially complex models, require support structures for successful printing, which need to be removed manually or by dissolving the structures in case of soluble supports. To obtain a high-quality finish and remove layer lines, parts require lengthy manual post-processing, such as sanding.
SLA 3D printers use a laser to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic in a process called photopolymerization. SLA is one of the most popular processes among professionals due to its high resolution, precision, and material versatility.
SLA parts have the highest accuracy, the clearest details, and the smoothest surface finish of all plastic 3D printing technologies, but the main benefit of SLA lies in its versatility. SLA resin formulations offer a wide range of optical, mechanical, and thermal properties to match those of standard, engineering, and industrial thermoplastics.
SLA 3D printing offers a wide range of materials for a variety of applications.
While SLA technology used to be available only in large, complex industrial 3D printers that cost more than $200,000, the process has become much more accessible. With the Formlabs Form 3+ printer, businesses now have access to industrial-quality SLA for just $3,750. Large-format SLA with the Form 3L starts at just $11,000.
SLA 3D printers will come assembled and calibrated out of the box. They’re professional tools that are reliable also for production and require barely any maintenance. Customer support is also readily available to troubleshoot issues in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.
In terms of material costs, SLA resins cost around $149-$200/L for most standard and engineering resins.
SLA printers are easy to use and many steps of the workflow like washing and post-curing can be mostly automated to reduce labor needs. Printed parts have a high-quality finish right off the printer and require only simple post-processing to remove support marks.
In this free report, we look at how in-house large-format 3D printing with the Form 3L stacks up against other methods of production, chiefly outsourcing and using FDM printers. We also compare costs between methods, and review when it would be best to bring the Form 3L in-house.
SLS 3D printers use a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of polymer powder. The unfused powder supports the part during printing and eliminates the need for dedicated support structures, which makes SLS ideal for complex geometries, including interior features, undercuts, thin walls, and negative features.
Parts produced with SLS printing have excellent mechanical characteristics, with strength resembling that of injection-molded parts. As a result, SLS is the most common plastic 3D printing process for industrial applications.
SLS nylon parts are ideal for a range of functional applications, from engineering consumer products to healthcare.
Just like SLA, SLS used to be only available in large-format, complex 3D printing systems starting at about $200,000. With Formlabs’s Fuse 1 SLS printer, businesses can now access industrial SLS starting from $18,500, and $29,743 for a complete setup that includes a post-processing and powder recovery system.
Also similar to SLA printers, SLS printers will come assembled and calibrated out of the box. They are reliable and developed for 24/7 production, and come with advanced training and fast customer support.
Nylon materials for SLS printing cost around $100/kg. SLS requires no support structures, and unfused powder can be reused, which lowers material costs.
SLS is the least labor-intensive plastic 3D printing process in a production setting as parts have great quality right out of the printer and require only simple cleaning to remove excess powder.
Beyond plastics, there are multiple 3D printing processes available for metal 3D printing.
Metal FDM printers work similarly to traditional FDM printers, but extrude metal rods held together by polymer binders. The finished “green” parts are then sintered in a furnace to remove the binder.
SLM and DMLS printers work similarly to SLS printers, but fuse metal powder particles together layer by layer using a laser instead of polymers. SLM and DMLS 3D printers can create strong, accurate, and complex metal products, making this process ideal for aerospace, automotive, and medical applications.
While metal 3D printer prices have also begun to decrease, with costs ranging from $100,000 to $1 million, these systems are still not accessible to most businesses.
Alternatively, SLA 3D printing is well-suited for casting workflows that produce metal parts at a lower cost, with greater design freedom, and in less time than traditional methods.
Get design guidelines for creating 3D printed patterns, walk through the step-by-step direct investment casting process, and explore guidelines for indirect investment casting and sand casting.
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The various plastic and metal 3D printing processes have unique qualities that make them suitable for different applications. Here's a quick breakdown.
|Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)||Stereolithography (SLA)||Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)||Metal FDM||Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)|
|Ease of Use||★★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★☆☆☆☆|
|Build Volume||Up to 300 x 300 x 600 mm (desktop and benchtop 3D printers)||Up to 300 x 335 x 200 mm (desktop and benchtop 3D printers)||Up to 165 x 165 x 300 mm (benchtop industrial 3D printers)||Up to 300 x 200 x 200mm||Up to 400 x 400 x 400 mm|
|Price Range||DIY printers 3D printer kits start around $200, hobbyist printers range from $500-$1,500. Professional FDM 3D printers start around $2,500, and large-format professional FDM printers start around $4,000.||Professional desktop printers start at $3,750, large-format benchtop printers offer a bigger build volume for $11,000.||Benchtop industrial SLS systems start at $18,500, and traditional industrial printers are available from $100,000.||Metal FDM printers start from $100,000, but the full solution that includes a furnace goes well beyond that.||DMLS/SLM solutions start around $200,000. These printers also come with stringent facility requirements which may increase the costs further.|
|Material Costs||$50-$150/kg for most standard and engineering filaments, and $100-200/kg for support materials.||$149-$200/L for most standard and engineering resins.||$100/kg for nylon. SLS requires no support structures, and unfused powder can be reused, which lowers material costs.||Depends on the material and the technology. Significantly higher than plastics.||Depends on the material and the technology. Significantly higher than plastics.|
|Labor Needs||Manual support removal (can be simplified in some cases with soluble supports). Lengthy post-processing is required for a high-quality finish.||Washing and post-curing (both can be mostly automated). Simple post-processing to remove support marks.||Simple cleaning to remove excess powder.||Washing and sintering (both can be mostly automated). Optionally machining and other surface treatments.||Stress relief, support removal, heat treatment, as well as machining, and other surface treatments.|
|Materials||Standard thermoplastics, such as ABS, PLA, and their various blends.||Varieties of resin (thermosetting plastics). Standard, engineering (ABS-like, PP-like, silicone-like, flexible, heat-resistant, rigid), castable, dental, and medical (biocompatible).||Engineering thermoplastics, typically nylon and its composites (nylon 12 is biocompatible + compatible with sterilization).||Stainless steel, tool steel, inconel, copper, titanium.||Stainless steel, tool steel, titanium, cobalt chrome, copper, aluminum, nickel alloys.|
|Ideal applications||Basic proof-of-concept models, low-cost prototyping of simple parts.||Highly detailed prototypes requiring tight tolerances and smooth surfaces, molds, tooling, patterns, medical models, and functional parts.||Complex geometries, functional prototypes, short-run or bridge manufacturing.||Strong and durable parts, tooling, and manufacturing aids.||Strong, durable parts with complex geometries; ideal for aerospace, automotive, and medical applications.|
Calculating cost per part requires accounting for the costs of equipment ownership, material, and labor. It’s helpful to understand the factors that influence each of these cost components, and the questions to ask to evaluate alternative production methods and uncover hidden costs.
Fixed costs, such as the 3D printer cost, service contracts, installation, and maintenance, together make up the equipment ownership cost. These expenses occur regardless of whether your 3D printer stands idle or produces dozens of parts a week.
Distribute equipment ownership costs over individual parts by adding up all of the forecasted fixed costs over the lifetime of the machine and divide the sum by the number of parts that it is expected to produce. As a rule of thumb, the higher the productivity and utilization of your 3D printer, the lower the equipment ownership cost on a per-part basis.
Desktop 3D printers have achieved tremendous progress in recent years in lowering equipment ownership costs. With a price point 10-100 times lower than traditional industrial 3D printers and the capability to produce thousands of parts over their lifetime, the equipment ownership cost can become negligible.
Questions to ask:
Are there installation, training, or further initial expenses beside the cost of the machine?
Is there a (mandatory) service contract? What does it include?
Beyond the machine, what accessories and tools are required to create final parts?
What are the maintenance needs of the machine within the normal range of activity? What’s the expected annual cost of maintenance? How does it change if production levels rise?
Raw 3D printing materials and other consumables required to create parts are variable costs. These costs are highly dependent on the number of parts you’re producing.
Measure material cost by calculating the amount of 3D printing material that’s required to create a single part, and multiply it by the cost of the material. Calculate in waste and any other consumables that are needed. While equipment ownership costs decrease as production grows, material costs for 3D printing tend to flatten out quickly.
Make sure to clarify what materials you’ll need to create the given parts, as the cost of consumables for 3D printing varies. Also note that some 3D printers only work with proprietary materials, and thus limit your third-party material options.
Questions to ask:
What is the cost of each type of 3D printing material?
How much material is required to create a given part, including waste?
What’s the shelf life of the materials?
Are there other consumables required to create the parts?
Can the machine work with third-party materials?
While 3D printing can replace the complex workflows of traditional manufacturing methods and lead to substantial time savings, depending on the 3D printing technology, it can still be a fairly labor-intensive process.
Professional desktop 3D printers are generally optimized for ease of use. DIY 3D printers and hobbyist printers often require more tinkering to get the settings dialed in, whereas regular maintenance or changing materials on traditional industrial machines can involve time-consuming tasks that require a skilled operator.
Post-processing workflows vary by 3D printing process, but in most cases include cleaning parts and removing supports or excess material. There are solutions to automate some of these tasks; for example, Formlabs Form Wash and Form Cure simplify the washing and post-curing workflow for Formlabs SLA 3D printers, and Fuse Sift offers a turnkey post-processing and powder recovery system for the Fuse 1 SLS printer.
To achieve high-quality parts, more advanced processes like SLA and SLS don’t require time-consuming steps, but FDM parts will need lengthy manual post-processing to improve the quality and remove layer lines.
Questions to ask:
What is the entire workflow for producing parts? What are the specific steps required to set up a print, change materials, and post-process parts?
How much time does it take to post-process a given part?
Are there any tools or devices available to automate some of these tasks?
Outsourcing production to service bureaus or labs is recommended when you require 3D printing only occasionally, and for parts that are large or call for non-standard materials. Bureaus generally have several 3D printing processes in-house such as SLA, SLS, FDM, and metal 3D printers. They can also provide advice on various materials and offer value-added services such as design or advanced finishing.
The main downsides of outsourcing are cost and lead time. One of the greatest benefits of 3D printing is its speed compared to traditional manufacturing methods, which quickly diminishes when an outsourced part takes multiple days or even weeks to arrive. With growing demand and production, outsourcing also rapidly becomes expensive.
Desktop 3D printers are great when you need parts quickly. Depending on the number of parts and printing volume, investment into a professional 3D printer can break even within months.With desktop and benchtop machines, you can pay for just as much capacity as your business needs, and scale production by adding extra units as demand grows without making a significant investment in a large-format 3D printer. By using multiple 3D printers, you also get the flexibility to print parts in different materials simultaneously. Service bureaus can still supplement this flexible workflow for larger parts or unconventional materials.
Try our interactive 3D printing ROI calculator to see how much time and cost you can save when 3D printing on Formlabs 3D printers compared to outsourcing.
Investment, materials, and labor costs are relatively easy to calculate. But what about indirect costs and factors that are hard to quantify, but still influence your business? Let’s look at some of the key considerations when comparing desktop 3D printing to outsourcing or other production methods.
Time savings: What if you could bring products to market months faster? Or cut the lead time for your products by days or weeks? 3D printing simplifies traditional prototyping and production workflows, helping you to save time and outpace the competition.
Better results: 3D printing allows you to create more iterations, fail faster, and achieve better end products. Finding and fixing design flaws early also helps to avoid costly design revisions and tooling changes in production.
Communication: Having high-quality prototypes and parts allows you to better communicate with customers, clients, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Avoid confusion and costly mistakes.
IP protection: Do you work with sensitive information? Creating parts in-house means you won’t have to give away intellectual property (IP) to third parties, reducing the risks of leaks or IP theft.
Calculating cost per part, lead time, and comparing alternatives to figure out if a solution makes sense for your business would normally be the strenuous task of creating an elaborate spreadsheet and trying to gather all of the—often hidden—information from a manufacturer.
To skip this hassle, try our simple, interactive 3D printing cost calculator to calculate 3D printing cost and lead time on Formlabs 3D printers, and to compare time and cost savings to other production methods.
Calculate Cost and Time Savings
The Real Cost of 3D Printing - 3DPrint.com
After reading the now famous article about a ventilator valve that can be 3D printed for $1, compared to the traditionally-manufactured valve costing $11,000, I realized that the way 3D printing costs are calculated is still vastly oversimplified, which leads to reliance on two incomplete cost models. The most common says that unlike traditional manufacturing there are never economies of scale and that the cost per part stays constant, whether a single part or 100s of parts are printed. Another model is that 3D printing costs slightly decrease with the number of units as more parts are added to the build bed, and the average build time per part decreases.
Figure 1: Common models of 3D printing costs
Both of the above models provide a cost approximation and are often used by service bureaus, but they both have the same flaw: They don’t take the machine utilization into account.
For 3D printing, there are five main cost contributors:
- Material cost: Material usage for the part, support material, and other material waste
- Machine depreciation: Portion of the machine price attributed to a part due to the time the machine is being used to build the part
- Consumable costs: The cost of consumables used for the build (build trays, argon gas, filters, printhead, etc.)
- Labor costs: Personnel cost involved in the build (build file preparation, machine preparation, build monitoring, machine clean-up, and support removal)
- Risk: Risk of failure involved in building this part. Usually comes in two different types, time risk – the longer the print, the higher the risk of failure, and geometry risk – certain geometries might have higher risk of failure for certain technology.
In this article we will take a deeper look at the machine depreciation cost and how machine utilization influences it.
Let’s start with a basic equation that is often forgotten or ignored but is essential to understanding the cost of 3D printed parts.
Figure 2: Machine Depreciation Calculations
The machine utilization is the percentage of the time during the year where the machine is producing parts. Because the utilization is in the denominator of the equation above, there is an inverse relationship between part cost and machine utilization. In other words, the part cost goes down as the machine utilization goes up.
Real machine utilization is very difficult to guess without having robust data available, so a lot of companies will use a fixed number for utilization. They often choose a number between 60% and 70%… a number that is often overly-optimistic.
Other companies with access to historical data will estimate machine utilization based on past figures. Many factors can influence the utilization figure, such as maintenance, down time, and build cleaning, but based on our experience the main contributors are staff availability to change builds and having enough parts to produce.
Staff availability is often forgotten because additive manufacturing is seen as an unmanned manufacturing process. While this is mostly true, staffing is still required for preparing and cleaning the machine between builds as well as monitoring if the build has failed. If a build finishes in the middle of the night with no staff available, a machine will sit idle, lowering utilization until the morning when a technician can prepare the machine for a new build.
To solve this, companies tend to schedule longer builds to complete outside of working hours. Scheduling builds in this way reduces the time a machine sits idle between builds.
Figure 3: Unoptimized build planning 62% utilization
Figure 4: Optimized build planning 79% utilization
We have seen companies updating to a faster machine expecting cost savings due to better part throughput, only for the machine sit idle because there are not enough parts to keep it busy. If the machine can produce parts twice as fast but the number of parts produced per year is the same, then the machine depreciation cost per part stays the same.
Taking this into account, it is important to match the machine throughput to the part demand as closely as possible:
Figure 5: Production equipment matched with part demand
These two points show that 3D printing is similar to traditional production methods, where it is necessary to get throughput, part demand, and production planning right in order to minimize part manufacturing cost.
When taking into account machine utilization and how most users of additive manufacturing adopt the technology, we come up with the model below, which takes into account everything we discussed in this article and shows how the per part cost of 3D printing changes based on the number of parts manufactured and the number of machines needed to produce them:
Figure 6: Realistic utilization-based cost per part
Based on the graph above we see that costs can be cut to a minimum if we can match the parts demand with the machine capacity. At Blueprint, when we create a ROI model for our clients, we often group many parts together to improve the machine utilization. Sometimes we will change the material of some parts or redesign a part so it can fit in a smaller build chamber. Knowing this, what should you do?
If you are looking into acquiring some production equipment, ask for real build time figures based on your parts, then plan what a typical week of builds will look like. This will help you to create a utilization-based ROI tailored to your specific conditions.
Once the machine is up and running, monitor its utilization. If it is low (below 60%,) identify the cause. Can you schedule builds better? If you don’t have enough demands for parts, invest into identifying and transitioning parts to additive; that investment will end up saving you money in the long run.
Also look at changing the design of your parts to lower build times. Getting training on design for additive manufacturing will lead to less material utilization and shorter build time which will improve your overall parts economics.
Regardless of the design changes needed, don’t be scared by the initial cost per part based on cost calculations on a limited number of parts. Keep in mind that any extra part you manage to identify and transition to additive manufacturing will lead to a part cost reduction on all your 3D printed parts. Keep monitoring your use of additive manufacturing and observe the costs are shrinking the more you use it and you are getting more expertise. Actively managing your machine utilization and investing in upskilling your workforce will be the keys to achieving the favorable economics of additive manufacturing.
Loic leads the development of Blueprint’s algorithms that drive our proprietary analysis tools. He also works closely with many of our clients to analyze complex data and understand the economic impact that 3D printing and additive manufacturing could have on their businesses. In other words, he puts the numbers behind the hype. Loic has over 9 years leading projects to quantify the impact of the technology, working with users and vendors across the additive manufacturing industry.
Blueprint is an additive manufacturing consultancy, bringing together more than 16 years of knowledge and experience across the industry. As the world’s leading additive manufacturing consultancy, Blueprint regularly assists future-ready companies achieve additive success. Based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and Milford, U.K, the firm offers a unique, technology-agnostic perspective on all things additive, from strategic advice to design optimization services. More information is available online at www.additiveblueprint.com.
If you want to discuss this article or your additive manufacturing strategy, the team at Blueprint is here to help. Let’s talk.
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How to calculate the cost of printing on a 3D printer
Home / Blog / Useful / The cost of 3D printing. Examples of models with prices
- Available Technologies and the main differences
- FDM 3D
- Photopolymer printing
- Industrial printers
- Availability 3D-print
- 999 Printing examples
- Available Technologies and the main differences
- Custom 3D printing
- The cost of commercial 3D printing
- What is not profitable to print
- Examples of commercial printing
For some ideas, 3D printing is the fastest and easiest solution. In some situations, purchasing your own 3D printer can be a good solution, but sometimes it is much more profitable and faster to order the necessary product from a company specializing in 3D printing. Yes, and many owners of a 3D printer are thinking about how to “monetize” their hobby, but how to correctly calculate their costs?
Despite the fact that it is customary to indicate the price per gram of working material, simply multiplying the weight of the model by the cost of 1 gram will be wrong. In addition to the cost of consumables, many more, at first glance, non-obvious costs are added to the price of the product.
Each 3D printing technology uses its own consumables. Let's analyze the most popular and affordable of them.
Available technologies and key differences
Currently, a huge number of 3D devices have appeared, from small desktop ones that fit on the desktop to huge industrial machines. Among the most affordable, 2 technologies can be distinguished - FDM and photopolymer printers (LCD / DLP / SLA).
FDM 3D printing
Today, the most affordable 3D printing technology is FDM. A variety of materials and 3D printers allow FDM to be applied to a wide range of applications.
Schematic operation of FDM printer
A large selection makes it easy to choose a 3D printer for a specific task or find a universal device.
The material for printing is a plastic thread - filament. On the market you can find filament for various tasks, for every “taste” and budget. These can be very inexpensive ABS and PLA plastics or specific ones - conductive, burnable, etc.
Despite the fact that FDM allows you to print a wide range of plastics with different properties, the technology has some limitations. For example, it is impossible to obtain a perfectly smooth surface, to produce miniature and very thin elements, or to produce parts with very complex internal geometry with high accuracy.
Photopolymer printers can work on one of 3 technologies - SLA, DLP or LCD. These devices will come to the rescue if you need to make a small but very detailed model with many small details.
How photopolymer printers work
As a consumable material, a photopolymer resin hardened by UV radiation is used. Now there is a wide variety of photopolymer resins for every taste. From particularly strong and precise engineering or jewelry resins to soft flexes.
High print precision
Good surface quality
A wide variety of printers and consumables
Photopolymer printers have shown themselves well in a variety of industries that require a perfectly smooth surface and high accuracy. They are used in dentistry, the jewelry industry, for making miniature master models for casting, and much more.
These are already industrial machines, which require a separate room and sometimes certain requirements for ventilation, etc. In this article, we will not analyze these devices in detail, but briefly consider the most popular technologies.
In addition to desktop devices using FDM technology, industrial printers that work on the same principle are common.
This category includes devices with a large print area (from 30x30x30 cm and more). For example, Raise Pro2 with a print area of 30x30x30 cm.
Or machines designed for printing with refractory materials (eg PEEK). Such 3D printers usually have an active thermal chamber, and the extruder can be heated above 400 degrees.
CreatBot F160-PEEK for use with refractory plastics
Industrial photopolymer devices usually have a much larger working area, compared to their "home" brothers. In addition, many processes have been optimized and automated for faster operation. On such printers, you can quickly and accurately produce a small batch of models, a large prototype or a master model.
Prismlab Large Area Industrial Resin Printer Family
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3DP - Three-Dimensional Printing (translated as three-dimensional printing) is a logical continuation of conventional two-dimensional printers. Printing is done using nozzles that selectively apply a binder to the material (usually gypsum). A dye can be added to the binder and the model will be colored.
Colored plaster model
Since the plaster model is fragile, a similar principle is used for printing with metals. Only the finished product needs to be treated in an oven to remove the binder and improve strength. But despite the processing, such metal prints will still be inferior in strength to cast products.
This is a proprietary technology of 3D Systems. MJM is a mix of FDM, 3DP and sometimes SLA (depending on material chosen). Printing is done using a variety of small nozzles (from 96 to 488) located on the head of the machine. The accuracy and quality of the surface of models made in this way is in no way inferior to photopolymer printers.
Models made with MJM technology
Such devices can work with photopolymer resins, wax or thermoplastics. You can combine several materials at once - for example, for complex models, you can use wax as a support.
SLM is the layer-by-layer sintering of metal powder using a powerful laser. There are several similar technologies - SHS/SLS. The principle of operation is the same, only a thermal print head is used instead of a laser beam.
As a material for printing, you can use powders of various metals - gold, stainless steel, aluminum, various alloys, etc.
During printing, the working chamber is filled with an inert gas to prevent oxidation of metals. This allows printing even with titanium powder.
Models made by this method are in no way inferior, and sometimes even superior, to cast products. SLM allows you to produce models with complex internal geometry that cannot be produced by another method (casting or milling).
Cost of 3D printing
The cost of a model usually consists of several factors.
Equipment depreciation. The printer, like any machine, requires maintenance and periodic replacement of some parts. During operation, belts gradually stretch, bushings or linear bearings wear out. For example, when bushings or linear bearings are worn; shafts may wear out and need to be replaced.
Cost of materials
The main cost item for a 3D printer is, of course, the printed material.;
FDM (plastic filament)
Since FDM technology is by far the most common, the choice of filaments is very diverse.
Engineering plastics are usually nylon with various fillers added to improve the physical characteristics of the finished model. Special cost. plastics starts from 2000r per coil and above. It all depends on the manufacturer and filler (carbon fiber, fiberglass, etc.).
Decorative plastics are used to imitate various materials. Plastic can simply be unusually colored (luminous, transparent plastics) or a special filler is added to it (plastics with metal powder). The cost of decorative plastics starts from 1500 rubles per coil and more, depending on the filler.
A big advantage of FDM is the diverse choice of materials to work with. This allows, having one printer, to produce almost any product - from a child's toy to a complex engineering prototype.
Photopolymer resin printing technology is becoming more and more accessible. There are many different resins.
The cost of ordinary colored resin starts from 2500 rubles per 0.5 kg (volume +/- 0.5 l). You can find a smaller volume of resin (250 gr) on sale. You can buy several different resins in small containers and find out in practice which one is best for a particular model.
Engineering resins are resins with increased strength. They can be used not only for printing decorative items, but also for making functional prototypes and models. The cost for 0.5 kg starts from 5900r and above.
Special resins - burnable, dental, soft flexes, etc. Depending on the resin, the price for 0.5 kg can start from 4800 rubles and more. It all depends on the characteristics of the resin.
Photopolymer resins have not yet reached such a variety as FDM filaments, but they are surely catching up with them. Although due to the fact that a liter of resin costs significantly more than a spool of filament, the cost of the product is much higher.
Mag Pull for G3 magazines.
The model was downloaded for free from an open source (the file can be downloaded here). Printing with engineering carbon-filled plastic (price per spool from 4700 rubles). The weight of the model with support is about 25 grams. Post-processing was not needed. The cost of the finished model is 250 rubles.
The file was downloaded from an open source (can be downloaded here). Plastic - carbon-filled nylon (price per coil from 4700r). The weight of the finished product is about 20 grams. Print without post-processing. The total cost is 200 rubles.
The model is modeled to order (the cost of modeling is from 1000 rubles). The product is printed on an industrial printer using soluble support. Print without post-processing. The cost of the finished product - from 700 rubles per piece (depends on the number of required products).
The model is taken from an open source (you can download the modified version of the prosthesis here). The weight of the used material is about 600 gr, printed with ABS plastic (the cost of the coil is from 800 r). After printing, post-processing and assembly took place. The total cost of the product - from 3000 r (depends on the print material, support material, filling, etc.).
Production of a 3D model according to the drawing (from 1000 r). The weight of the finished model is about 200 gr. The product was printed with engineering carbon-filled plastic (the cost of the coil is from 4700 r). Post-processing was not needed. The cost of the finished product is about 3000 rubles.
Model jaws for crowns
Files for printing were obtained using a 3D scanner and finalized in a 3D editor (the cost of scanning is from 3000 r, the cost of manual revision is from 1000 r). Printing on an industrial photopolymer printer. Post-processing is not needed. The cost of the finished product is from 80 r per gram.
Burnout resin rings
The model is made to order. Printing on a desktop SLA printer with a burnable polymer. Post-processing is not needed. The cost of the finished product is 200 rubles per product.
The models were bought on the myminifactory website (the cost of the model is from $2). Made with a desktop DLP printer. Post-processing was not required. The cost of the finished figurine is from 70 r per gram.
Custom 3D printing
Many owners of 3D printers are thinking about monetizing their hobby. But you should understand that the price of 3D printing “for yourself” and the price of commercial printing are very different.
When starting to print to order, it is better to have several printers working on different technologies.
Cost of commercial 3D printing
In addition to the cost of the model, to the commercial production of products, you can add:
Modeling. Often the client needs not only to make a part, but to pre-model it. It can be a simple cogwheel that doesn't take long to model, or it can be a complex sculpture that takes more time to model than it does to make.
Model post-processing. This can be simply the removal of supports, with cleaning of the place of their contact with the product, or a complete processing cycle (puttying, surface grinding, painting, etc. ).
It should be borne in mind that it is not always possible to print the model the first time. Sometimes it may take several attempts. And these are additional costs.
What is unprofitable to print
Despite the wide possibilities of 3D printing, there are models that are unprofitable to make on a 3D printer. For such models, it is better to use other manufacturing methods.
Commercial print examples
Jewelry for further casting
Manufacture of promotional items and souvenirs
Piece miniatures or master model for further casting
3D printed model
Profitable to print on a 3D printer:
If the item is only sold as an assembly. For example, a small gear broke in the mechanism, but the mechanism is sold only “assembly”. It is much cheaper to make the desired gear on a 3D printer than to buy the entire mechanism.
A small batch of parts. Small batches, especially models with complex geometry, are more profitable to produce on a 3D printer than by casting or other methods.
If you need several models or a small project, sometimes it will be more expedient to outsource manufacturing. After all, in addition to buying equipment and materials, you will have to understand the nuances of the settings and the characteristics of various materials.
Buying a 3D printer for commercial use is justified if you can fully load it with work or then it can be used for other purposes.
To print to order, you need to have several printers working on different technologies. It is better to get several devices with a smaller print area than to buy just one printer, albeit with a large working area.
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How much does a 3D printer cost?
3D printing is a one-stop solution for a wide range of applications, from high-resolution model production to rapid prototyping, rapid tooling for traditional manufacturing processes, production of aids and end-use models.
However, when you consider investing in a 3D printer, the viability of a solution usually boils down to a simple question: Is it cost-effective for your business? How much does a 3D printer cost and how much time and money can it save your business?
3D printer prices range from $200 to $500,000 depending on the printing process, materials, and complexity of the solution.
In this guide, we'll break down 3D printing costs by technology, compare outsourcing versus in-house manufacturing, list factors to consider when calculating the cost of each model, and look at what else to look for when comparing different solutions. for 3D printing and other production methods.
This interactive ROI tool will help you find out how much time and money you can save by 3D printing with a Formlabs 3D printer.
Calculate your costs
Three of the most well-known plastic 3D printing technologies today are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).
Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages - take a look at the infographic:
Download this high resolution infographic here. Interested in learning more about FDM, SLA and SLS 3D printing technologies? Check out our detailed guide.
Prices for 3D printers have dropped significantly in recent years, and today all three technologies are available in compact, low cost systems.
FDM generally produces models at a lower cost if you only print relatively simple prototypes in limited quantities. SLA technology offers higher resolution and quality, as well as a wide choice of 3D printing materials at a slightly higher price. But this difference is quickly offset when you print complex designs or larger batches due to the less labor-intensive post-processing process. Finally, SLS technology is the most cost effective for medium to high volume production of high quality functional models.
Comparing the total cost of different 3D printers by price tags alone will not give you a complete picture of how the cost of a 3D printer and a printed model will compare. The cost of 3D printing materials and labor significantly affects the cost of a model, depending on the application and your production needs.
Let's look at the different factors and costs for each process.
FDM, also known as Fused Filament Manufacturing (FFF), is a printing method where the parts of a model are made by melting and extruding a thermoplastic filament, which the printer's nozzle applies layer by layer onto the model being made.
FDM is the most popular form of consumer grade 3D printing, fueled by the proliferation of hobbyist 3D printers. However, professional and industrial FDM printers are also popular among professionals.
The cheapest 3D printers are FDM printers. DIY kits for FDM 3D printers start at $200. However, most of these models are more like toys or DIY projects that require a significant amount of time to build, set up and calibrate. The quality of the print largely depends on the success of these operations. In addition, machines require repairs and regular maintenance to keep them working, so they are more suitable for people with a higher engineering education who have a lot of time and patience.
Hobbyist FDM 3D printers cost between $500 and $1,500, come pre-assembled or unassembled, require less setup, but have the same disadvantages as the cheapest 3D printers. More expensive models are capable of large print volumes and work with a wide variety of materials besides low temperature ones such as PLA.
Professional 3D FDM printers start at $2,500 and large format professional FDM printers are available from $4,000. The cost of the most modern industrial FDM printers can exceed 10,000 US dollars. Most of these printers come pre-assembled and calibrated in the box, or they can be automatically calibrated. Printers in this category offer better print quality, a wider range of media, higher print volumes, improved reliability, and ease of use and maintenance. In addition, professional 3D printer manufacturers offer customer support services for troubleshooting.
Material costs for FDM 3D printing range from $50 to $150/kg for most standard and engineering filaments, and $100 to $200/kg for auxiliary materials. There are also cheaper alternatives, but they are of lower quality.
In addition, FDM printing can be very labor intensive. Successful printing of complex models requires support structures that must be removed manually or dissolved in water. To obtain a high quality surface and remove layer lines, lengthy manual post-processing of models, such as sanding, is necessary.
SLA 3D printers use the process of photopolymerization, that is, the conversion of liquid polymers into hardened plastic using a laser. SLA is one of the most popular processes among professionals due to its high resolution, accuracy and material versatility.
Models printed on SLA printers have the highest precision, sharpest detail and smoothest surface possible of any plastic 3D printing technology. But the main advantage of the SLA method is its versatility. SLA polymers have a wide range of optical, mechanical and thermal properties that match those of standard, engineering and industrial thermoplastics.
SLA 3D printers can handle a wide range of resin materials for a wide variety of applications.
SLA used to be used only in large and complex industrial 3D printers costing over $200,000, but the process is now much more affordable. With the Formlabs Form 3+ Printer, businesses can now use industrial quality SLA printing for as little as $3,750. With Form 3L, large format SLA printing starts at just $11,000.
Stereolithographic 3D printers will be shipped in a box assembled and calibrated. These are professional tools that are highly reliable and require virtually no maintenance. Technical support is also always available. It provides troubleshooting in a critical situation (but its probability is extremely small).
Most standard and engineered polymers for SLA technology cost between $149 and $200 per liter.
SLA printers are easy to use and many workflow steps such as rinsing and final curing can be automated to reduce labor costs. Printed models have a high quality surface immediately after printing and require only simple post-processing to remove supporting structures.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers use a high power laser to sinter fine polymer powder particles. The unsprayed powder supports the model during printing and eliminates the need for special support structures. This makes SLS ideal for complex geometries, including internal features, grooves, thin walls, and negative taper.
Models produced using SLS printing have excellent mechanical characteristics - their strength can be compared with the strength of injection molded parts. As a result, SLS technology is the most popular plastic 3D printing process for industrial applications.
SLS printed nylon models are ideal for a range of functional applications, from consumer product design to healthcare applications.
Like SLA, SLS was previously only available in large format, complex 3D printing systems costing $200,000 or more. With the Formlabs Fuse 1 stereolithography printer, businesses can now solve industrial-scale tasks with SLS technology starting at $18,500. The complete kit, which includes the post-processing and powder recovery system, costs $31,845.
As with SLA printers, stereolithographic printers are shipped assembled and calibrated in the box. They are reliable and can operate 24/7. The package includes in-depth training and fast technical support.
SLS nylon print materials cost about US$100/kg. SLS does not require supporting structures and unused powder can be reused, reducing material costs.
SLS is the least labor-intensive plastic 3D printing process in the production environment, because the printed models are of high quality right away, and to remove excess powder, they simply need to be cleaned.
There are several processes for 3D printing not only plastics but also metals.
Metal FDM printers are similar in design to traditional FDM printers, but use extruded metal rods held together by a resin binder. The finished parts of the model are sintered in an oven to remove the binder.
SLM and DMLS printers are similar to SLS printers, but instead of polymer powders, they fuse metal powder particles layer by layer using a laser. 3D printers based on SLM and DMLS technologies can create strong, precise and complex metal products, making this process ideal for the aerospace, automotive and medical industries.
Prices for metal 3D printers have also begun to decline, ranging from $100,000 to $1 million today. However, these systems are still out of reach for most businesses.
SLA 3D printing is available as an alternative for casting workflows that allow metal models to be produced cheaper and faster than traditional methods and provide greater design freedom.
Get design guides for 3D printing samples, see the step-by-step direct investment casting process, and study guides for indirect investment casting and sand casting.
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Different plastic and metal 3D printing processes have unique qualities that make them suitable for different applications. Below is a comparison of different printing technologies.
|Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)||Stereolithography (SLA)||Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)||Metal FDM Printing||Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (SLM) 9 (1630DM) 9 (1630DM)9 (1630DM)|
|Permission||★ venti ☆☆☆||★ opa||★cle||★cle★☆||★ opa ★ Look||★ opa||★cle||★cle ★ Look|
|★ opa ★cle ☆ ☆||★cle||★ opa ☆|
|performance||★ opa||★cle||☆ organ ☆||★cle|
|Ease of use||★ opa||★ Look||★cle||★ opa||★ ☆☆☆☆|
|PROMISE 9 to LAR x 300 x 600 mm (Desktop and Workshop 3D printers)||Up to ~300 x 335 x 200 mm (Desktop and Workshop 3D printers)||Up to 165 x 165 x 300 mm (3D - workshop printers)||Up to 300 x 200 x 200 mm||Up to 400 x 400 x 400 mm|
|Price range||DIY kits for 3D printers start at $200, while hobby printers cost $500-1500. Professional 3D FDM printers start at $2,500, while large format professional FDM printers are available from $4,000.||Professional desktop printers start at $3,750, while high-volume large format desktop printers are available from $11,000.||Workshop industrial printers start at $18,500 and traditional industrial printers start at $100,000.||Metal FDM printers start at $100,000, but complete solutions including an oven are much more expensive.||DMLS/SLM solutions start at around $200,000. These printers require special infrastructure conditions, which can further increase costs.|
|Cost of materials||US$50-150/kg for most standard and engineering yarns and US$100-200/kg for auxiliary materials.||$50-150/L for most standard and engineering polymers.||$100/kg for nylon. SLS does not require supporting structures and unused powder can be reused, reducing material costs.||Depends on material and technology. Significantly higher than plastic.||Depends on material and technology. Significantly higher than plastic.|
|Labor||Manual removal of support structures (soluble support structures may be used in some cases). Long post-processing is required to obtain a high quality surface.||Washing and final polymerization (both can be automated). Simple post-processing to remove supporting structures.||Easy cleaning to remove excess powder.||Washing and sintering (both can be automated). It is possible to use mechanical processing and other types of surface treatment.||Stress relief, support structure removal, heat treatment, and mechanical and other surface treatments.|
|Materials||Standard thermoplastics such as ABS, PLA and their various blends.||Various polymers (thermosetting plastics). Standard, engineering (similar to ABS and PP, similar to silicone, flexible, heat resistant, rigid), injection molding, dental and medical (biocompatible).||Engineering thermoplastics - typically nylon and its composites (nylon 12 biocompatible + sterilizable).||Stainless steel, tool steel, inconel, copper, titanium.||Stainless steel, tool steel, titanium, cobalt-chromium, copper, aluminium, nickel alloys.|
|Applications||Basic experimental models, low cost rapid prototyping of simple parts.||Prototypes with a high level of detail requiring close tolerances and smooth surfaces: molds, tooling, templates, medical models and functional parts.||Complex geometries, functional prototypes, low volume production or limited trial production.||Strong and durable models, tools and production aids.||Strong and durable models with complex geometries; ideal for the aerospace, automotive and medical industries.|
When calculating the cost of one model, the cost of ownership of equipment, material costs and labor costs are usually taken into account. It is important to understand the factors that affect each of these cost components, as well as the questions to ask in order to evaluate alternative production methods and uncover hidden costs.
Hardware ownership costs are fixed costs: 3D printer price, service contracts, installation and maintenance. These amounts must be paid whether your printer is idle or produces dozens of models per week.
Add up all projected fixed costs over the lifetime of the equipment, then divide by the number of models you plan to make. As a rule, the higher the performance and efficiency of your 3D printer, the lower the cost of ownership of equipment per model.
In recent years, desktop 3D printers have shown excellent results in reducing the cost of ownership of equipment. With a price 10 to 100 times lower than traditional industrial 3D printers and the ability to produce thousands of models over a lifetime, the cost of ownership can be negligible.
Are there installation, training or additional initial costs other than the cost of the machine itself?
Do I need to sign a (mandatory) service contract? What does it include?
What accessories and tools are needed to make the final models?
What kind of maintenance is required for the machine to function properly? What is the expected annual maintenance cost? Will it change with an increase in production volumes?
The 3D printing raw materials and consumables you need to create models at an affordable price. These costs largely depend on the number of models you produce.
When calculating the cost of materials, determine how much material is required to create one model, and multiply this figure by the cost of the material. Count the amount of waste and any other consumables. As production grows, the cost of ownership of equipment decreases, and the cost of 3D printing materials tends to become more balanced.
Be sure to check what materials you need to create specific models, as the cost of 3D printing consumables can vary greatly. Please note that some 3D printers only work with their proprietary materials and thus limit your ability to use third party materials.
What is the cost of each type of 3D printing material?
How much material is required to create one particular model, including waste?
What is the shelf life of the materials?
Do I need other consumables to create models?
Can the machine work with third-party materials?
While 3D printing can replace complex traditional manufacturing methods and provide significant time savings, depending on the 3D printing technology, it can still be quite labor intensive.
Professional desktop 3D printers are generally optimized for ease of use. DIY kits for 3D printers and hobby printers often require additional effort to adjust settings, while regular maintenance or material changes on traditional industrial machines can involve time-consuming tasks that require the assistance of a skilled operator.
Post-processing workflows vary depending on the 3D printing process, but in most cases include cleaning up models and removing support structures or excess material. However, there are solutions to automate some specific tasks. For example, Formlabs Form Wash and Form Cure simplify the wash and finish process for Formlabs SLA 3D printers, while Fuse Sift offers a turnkey post-processing and powder recovery system for the Fuse 1 SLS printer.
More complex processes such as SLA and SLS do not take long to achieve high quality models, while FDM models require lengthy manual post-processing to improve quality and remove layer lines.
What is the whole model production workflow? What specific steps are required to set up printing, change materials, and post-process models?
How long does it take to post-process one particular model?
Are there any tools or devices available to automate some of these tasks?
Outsource production orders to 3rd party service bureaus or labs when you use 3D printing only occasionally or to produce large models in non-standard materials. Typically, the bureau has several in-house 3D printing processes such as SLA, SLS, FDM, as well as metal 3D printers. They can also provide advice on a variety of materials and offer additional services such as design or improved finishes.
The main disadvantages of outsourcing are the high cost and duration of production. One of the main advantages of 3D printing is its speed compared to traditional production methods. But it is noticeably reduced if the delivery of the model produced by the involved organization takes several days or even weeks. And as demand and capacity grow, the costs of outsourcing are rising rapidly.
Desktop 3D printers are the perfect solution for fast model production. Depending on the number of parts needed and the volume of prints, the investment in a professional 3D printer can pay for itself in just a few months.
With desktop and workshop printers, you can pay for the capacity that matches your business needs and scale your production by adding more devices as demand grows, without the heavy investment of a large format 3D printer. Using multiple 3D printers also allows you to print models from different materials at the same time. But if there is a need for the production of large parts or the use of non-standard materials, service bureaus can come to the rescue.
Investment, material and labor costs are relatively easy to calculate. But what about indirect costs and hard-to-calculate factors that affect your business? Let's look at some of the main considerations when comparing a desktop 3D printer to outsourcing or other manufacturing methods.
Save time: What if you could get products to market a few months faster? Or reduce the delivery time of your products by a few days or weeks? 3D printing simplifies traditional prototyping and manufacturing workflows, helping you save time and stay ahead of the competition.
Best results: 3D printing allows you to create more iterations, overcome failures faster, and produce better end products. Troubleshooting a design early on also helps avoid costly redesign and the use of additional tools.