How Much Does It Cost to 3D Print Things?

Quick Answer: Basic desktop 3D printers start at around $200, while professional-grade printers can reach over $10,000. The cost of individual print jobs varies from a few cents in materials to hundreds of dollars for service bureaus. Typically, users spend $500 to $2,000 for an entry-level desktop printer, about $30 for a kilogram spool of PLA filament, and 2 to 8 cents per hour for electricity. Yearly software subscriptions cost around $100 to $500. Additional costs include design services, storage, maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and space for printing operations.

Outsourcing to online printing services generally costs $10 to $500 per job, depending on size, material, complexity, quantity, and turnaround time. Small business and consumer orders from these services average $20 to $300 per part in small batches.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has revolutionized product design and manufacturing over the past decade. As the technology continues to advance, 3D printers are becoming increasingly accessible to small businesses, makers, and everyday consumers. Despite the current costs involved, the scope of 3D printing is evolving every day. Learn more about the “3D Printing Trends Top 10 Innovative” that will continue to shape the industry.However, the costs associated with 3D printing can still present barriers for many. This article will provide an overview of the key costs to consider when evaluating 3D printing and tips for keeping expenses reasonable.

Upfront Printer Costs

Desktop 3D printers for home and office use range widely in price. Entry-level desktop printers typically cost between $200-$500. These tend to have smaller print beds, slower print speeds and may require more calibration and adjustments during printing. Mid-range desktop printers cost between $500-$2,000 and offer larger print beds, faster print speeds, and more reliability. High-end prosumer and professional desktop printers range from $2,000 up to $10,000+, with industrial-grade features and performance.

When purchasing a printer, key factors that impact costs include print technology, build volume, print speed and quality, connectivity and software options, and any additional features such as self-leveling print beds, heated build chambers, filtration, etc. Consider both current needs and future applications when investing in a printer to get the most value long-term.

3D Printing Machines and Equipment

Filament Costs

The printing filament required costs anywhere from $ 15 to $ 50+ per kilogram spool. The most commonly used filament, PLA (polylactide), costs around $20-$30 on average per spool. Specialty filaments, like flexible, engineered, glowing, or metal-filled, tend to cost more. Prices also vary based on filament quality, diameter tolerance, certifications, etc. Higher-end filaments usually produce better print quality with fewer issues.Picking the right filament can make a significant difference in your final product.

To estimate filament costs for any given print, there are simple filament calculators available online. These will factor in variables like print dimensions, infill percentage, layer height, and filament cost per spool to provide total cost estimates. Tracking filament expenses for each print job is recommended for businesses.

Energy Costs

Electricity costs for running desktop 3D printers may only equate to around $0.02-0.08 per hour on average. However, tallying several dozen hours of print time monthly can make energy consumption add up, especially with larger, more powerful 3D printers. Using solar power or energy-efficient systems can help mitigate these expenses, especially for high-volume printing.

Post-Processing Costs

After 3D printing the model, some additional post-processing may be required depending on the printing method and material used. Printed parts often have support structures that need removal. Sanding, filling, painting, coating, or finishing may also be needed to achieve the desired end appearance and performance. Any additional tools or supplies should be included in the total operational costs.

System Maintenance & Upgrades
All printers and related equipment require periodic maintenance and eventual upgrades or replacements as needed. Build platforms, nozzles, belts, motors, and other components wear over time. Being proactive with preventative maintenance, upgrades, and calibrations avoids more costly repairs down the road and keeps print quality consistent. Budgeting for these system maintenance costs yearly is prudent.

3D Printed DIY Cell Phone Case

Software Costs

Many desktop 3D printers come with proprietary software from the manufacturer to prepare and slice 3D model files for printing. There are also free STL model prep software options. More full-featured software programs for accurate and detailed design, modeling, scan-to-print, and file optimization range yearly from around $100-$500+. Evaluate free trial periods for different programs before purchasing, if possible.

Material Storage Solutions

Having adequate and proper storage solutions for unused filament spools, as well as organizing printed parts once completed, may necessitate costs for shelving, bins, labeling, etc. Storing filament improperly can result in it getting wet or dusty, which can degrade print quality. Accounting for reasonably-priced storage costs ensures print quality and easier model inventory management.

Custom Model Design Services

For businesses and users without specialized 3D modeling and digital sculpting skill sets, outsourcing model design creation or editing services is an option. Rates vary significantly based on complexity, design time required, revisions requested, designer skill level and experience, etc. Average hourly rates for freelance 3D modeling range from $30-$75 per hour. Quality and turnaround times also fluctuate.


3D Printed DIY

Operational Space Costs

A commonly overlooked expense associated with 3D printing operations is physical space costs. Whether in a home, office, or separate facility, rent or usage fees should be factored especially for businesses and higher-volume printing. Adequate space is needed not just for 3D printers themselves but also for ancillary tools, supplies, model storage, shipping space, etc.

In summary, from the actual 3D printer and filaments to all the supporting tools, supplies, software, services, and operational space costs, 3D printing does entail a variety of ongoing investments that should align appropriately with each user’s or organization’s needs and budget. Tracking detailed print job expenses and being strategic about scaling equipment over time allows for maximizing value from 3D printing investments. Evaluating all these key factors provides the most accurate picture of total lifecycle costs. With reasonable expectations set, 3D printing can offer rapid prototyping capabilities and digital manufacturing solutions at competitive prices across diverse industries.To understand how these prototypes can boost your business, read our comprehensive article on 3D Printing Driving Business Benefits.