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There are many different types of 3D printers available on the market today. These machines serve different needs and vary by manufacturer, technology, motion control systems, features, and classifications.
When determining 3D printer costs, you’ll find that prices might vary widely, depending on the model you choose and your requirements. Consider your needs and pricing range before shopping for a 3D printer.
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Different Types Of 3D Printers
There are many differentiating factors to consider when purchasing a 3D printer. And you might not end up with the 3D printer you initially wanted because it is unavailable or out of your price range.
To narrow your options, look for the category that best fits your needs. The available types include:
- Entry Level
The size, capabilities, features, and price of a machine vary by category. An entry-level 3D printer may cost as little as $300, while a high-end industrial machine can cost more than $100,000.
However, since the technology behind 3D printing is continuously developing, consumers can now purchase more advanced equipment at a lower cost.
There are many other factors to consider when purchasing a printer. It would be best if you research first before buying a 3D printer for additional information on what to look for in a machine, such as ease of use and materials.
How Much Does A 3D Printer Cost?
Here are a few things to consider when estimating the cost of a 3D printer. Let’s talk about each category’s intended audience, the usual features of these machines, and any extra expenditures, including maintenance, associated with each type of 3D printer.
Entry-Level 3D Printers
The first category includes low-cost and do-it-yourself (DIY) machines, which generally range in price from $100 to $300.
It’s advisable for those just starting with 3D printing to begin with one of these devices. Even though they are not well known for their reliability, they are a cost-effective choice for 3D printing.
Unfortunately, this is the case because printers of this kind, especially Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers, often break down and need human repair.
When working with a low-cost FDM printer, you should anticipate investing significant time and effort to get high-quality prints.
Compared to FDM printers, Resin printers have not made much of an impression in this sector. However, remarkable innovators are swiftly changing that.
In general, the machines that fall in this category lack high-quality features regarding their performance and user experience. It means you can’t find many machines in this price range with automatic bed leveling, high-quality air filters for resin enclosures, and full-color LCDs.
Since these printers don’t have a lot of extra capabilities, many customers decide to modify them with accessories. Makers often update to a new nozzle or install auto-bed leveling sensors on FDM machines, typically costing up to $100.
Resin 3D printer modifications are less sophisticated than those for FDM printers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t DIY user experience enhancements.
Perfect resin 3D printing needs some post-processing, which is where improvements might help. Curing chambers are among the most valuable and well-liked complementary enhancements. A decent one might cost anywhere between $65 and $250.
Advantages of Entry-Level 3D Printer
The fact that DIY and budget printers have very low ecosystem costs is one of the aspects that makes them so appealing. It indicates that the prices of materials, replacement components, maintenance, and other expenditures should not pose a substantial obstacle.
These machines don’t cost very much since they use inexpensive parts, making replacing broken or worn-out components easy and affordable.
For instance, manufacturers that utilize masked stereolithography apparatus (MSLA) machines should anticipate replacing components such as the sheet made of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), the screen, and maybe even the build plate after extended usage of the machines.
The price might vary between $25 and $80, depending on the component that needs replacement.
Regarding the types of materials used for 3D printing, FDM printers that fall within this price range can often print using the most basic types of materials.
However, the compatibility of higher-temperature materials, such as ABS and ASA, is determined by the temperature constraints of the particular printer used.
In contrast to the material limitations imposed by FDM printers, resin printers – regardless of the price range they fall into – are capable of printing the vast majority of photopolymer resins, provided that the resins cure when exposed to a wavelength of 405 nanometers.
Budget-friendly printers accept almost all brands of filament or resin. Standard resins start at $40 per liter, and inexpensive filaments can cost up to $25 per kilogram.
It means that most printer repairs (such as replacing a toner cartridge) are entirely free of charge since you have to do them yourself.
Examples of Entry-Level 3D Printers
The target market of entry-level 3D printers is starters, individual customers, thrifty hobbyists, and those unfamiliar with 3D printing. Some of the examples include the following:
- Ender 3 (Pro/V2)
- Biqu B1
- Anycubic Mega S
- Elegoo Mars 2
Hobbyist 3D Printers
While sophisticated hobbyist printers typically cost up to $750 more than DIY and budget 3D printers, they often have several advantages that you may find well worth the additional money.
These printers, which cost around $1,000, are well-liked and practical for lone users with prior 3D printing knowledge. The printers in this price range could also be suitable for minor operations for small enterprises.
The machines in this category tend to be more dependable, as you could expect considering their higher price. As a result, there will be less need for tinkering, but don’t get rid of all your tools just yet. You never know when something may go wrong.
Resin printers like the Elegoo Mars are top-rated and affordable options in this category. For those who like FDM printing, there are the well-known Creality CR-6 SE and Original Prusa i3 MK3S+, both of which get recognition for their numerous additional features.
Ultra-detailed prints benefit from greater build volume and enhanced resolution, making the slight upcharge worthwhile.
From PLA filament to nylon, most FDM printers in this group can handle a wide range of commonly used conventional 3D printing materials.
It’s possible to print more valuable pieces, such as models that will be outside, since this group’s FDM materials are compatible with several higher-temperature FDM materials.
All photopolymer resin printers in this group could work with any resin as long as the light source is compatible with the resin.
Because of the higher-quality components utilized in these printers and the additional functionality and build space they provide, you can print for extended periods without experiencing any problems.
Advantages of Hobbyist 3D Printers
Hobbyist 3D printers have a somewhat higher ecosystem cost than budget 3D printers, but they are still relatively affordable compared to that more costly equipment.
Regarding 3D printers like the Prusa MK3S+, the parts are still very affordable to change, but the quality has seen improvement so that you don’t have to replace them nearly as frequently.
As long as you use the suitable filament, these printers can accommodate whatever brand you throw at them. While many sophisticated hobbyist machines have built-in functionality, many users still pay around $30 to $300 on more expensive modifications.
Examples of Hobbyist 3D Printers
Customers interested in this product category include seasoned individuals and small enterprises. Some of the examples include the following:
- Original Prusa Mini+
- Original Prusa MK3S+
- Anycubic Photon Mono X
Professional 3D Printers
The pricing range for professional 3D printers is open to a broad spectrum of customers, from seasoned professionals to small- and medium-sized organizations.
Despite their high price, these printers aren’t prohibitively expensive for businesses, which is why they’re so popular with consumers. Despite this characteristic, these printers are excellent all-in-one devices that can produce high-quality output.
One exception to the DIY category is the Sintratec Kit, which is the most inexpensive SLS printer on the market.
Professionals and performance enthusiasts afraid to spend the large sums of money necessary to purchase most industrial printers will find this kit an excellent entry point into the world of SLS printing (even if it does cost a little more than comparable kits at this price range).
With their concentration on prototype and FDM printers for the same reason, these machines are a good match in this equipment category.
Advantages of Professional 3D Printers
High-detail and swift resin 3D printing are possible in this category. Regarding resins, both general-purpose and industry-specific options are readily accessible, including castable and dental resins.
Additionally, industrial features and sturdy extrusion systems are standard on the FDM side. These machines can handle professional materials like carbon fiber and polypropylene as well as certain metals.
Also, these printers include a full-color LCD, additional interface connectors, Wi-Fi capability (remote access), and more to guarantee that your experience is as seamless as possible.
In addition, you’ll discover several performance characteristics on these printers, such as built-in leveling sensors that result in outstanding accuracy and precision for 3D prints.
With professional 3D printers, additional costs are involved, even if customers and businesses don’t invest as much in enhancements as they may with low-cost or hobbyist machines. In many cases, these devices are limited to a single brand of material, which may cost up to $80 per kilogram.
Additionally, since the machines that make up this higher grade of the printer are often more sophisticated than those that make up the other grades, the maintenance process is more complicated.
As a result, some users and companies may spend between fifty to two hundred dollars on machine maintenance to maintain their equipment and even more money on new components.
Examples of Professional 3D Printers
Small and medium-sized enterprises and manufacturing facilities are the ones targeted as potential clients. Some of the examples include the following:
- Formlabs Form 3
- MakerBot Method X
Business and Industrial 3D Printers
Lastly, commercial and industrial 3D printers focus on large-scale manufacturing and professional enterprises that need 3D printing to conduct their operations.
The printers that fall under this category are not for the typical consumer since their prices range from $2,500 to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In this price range, you will typically see selective laser sintering (SLS) printers and other specialized 3D printing technologies (such as binder jetting). However, there are still industrial FDM and resin 3D printers available.
Suppose you run a large firm that requires 3D printed components and prototypes regularly to operate. In that case, you undoubtedly have no problem shelling out a hefty sum of money for a reliable piece of equipment.
Although these industrial printers can malfunction, as with all printers, this occurrence is becoming less common.
Advantages of Industrial 3D Printers
Improved user interface and inbuilt touchscreen tablet are other perks of these corporate printers.
Additionally, these SLS machines come loaded with performance-enhancing features, such as sensors all over the place that can detect and try to correct any issues, integrated filament storage bins, and protective housing that keeps out external variables like heat and dust.
As a result, these FDM printers can hold temperatures much beyond those accessible to amateurs, as well as additional automation to decrease the time spent calibrating.
Many more filament material possibilities are available for industrial printers, including lightweight aerodynamic polymers often used in rockets and materials like PLA and Titanium.
Due to advances in additive manufacturing, several of these materials are now accessible for 3D printing.
Most new technology, such as selective laser melting devices, cost between $100,000 and $300,000. Also, laser bed fusion and laser-engineered net shaping may be used, as well as ultrasonic additive manufacturing.
Most of these machines will cost at least six figures, and a few will cost over a million dollars if you’re fortunate enough to discover one at the low end of this price range.
They all fall into a price range that is out of reach for most people. Instead of listing a price, most websites direct customers to speak with a sales representative, reinforcing the message to potential customers that if they have to inquire how much something costs, they presumably can’t afford it.
Businesses in the medical and aviation industries, among others, are fast adopting the equipment. As a result, much expectation exists for costs to plummet and technology to increase, similar to how FDM, SLS, and SLA have recently done.
Even if you don’t intend to buy any of the items in this category for your use, it’s a good idea to have a look if you have any business or manufacturing facility connections. Using 3D printing to create specific products is essential; these printers are the finest in the business.
Because of their high-quality components, industrial printers have a low failure rate, but they’re very costly to replace. Maintaining and replacing equipment might cost anything between $100 and $3,000.
In addition, these printers’ ink and other components are pretty expensive. For example, businesses must pay up to $150 per kilogram if the devices can only print on a particular brand of material.
These top-of-the-line printers are also a financial issue since these printers’ sophisticated specifications tend to use a lot more power than printers in the preceding category.
If you use your machine often, you may have to pay an additional $50 to $200 monthly in energy costs. Of course, this estimate varies widely by location and geopolitical events.
Examples of Industrial 3D Printers
Customers in the professional business sector and large-scale manufacturing companies make up the bulk of the target market. Some of the examples include the following:
- Peopoly Phenom XXL
- Sintratec S2
- Formlabs Fuse 1
- Ultimaker S5
Price Of Each Component
When determining the cost per unit, it is necessary to consider the prices of the materials required and the work involved. Understanding the elements that drive each of these parts and the questions you should ask to assess alternative production processes and reveal hidden costs is helpful.
Cost Of Ownership Of The Equipment
The total cost of owning the equipment includes all of the fixed expenditures, such as the price of the 3D printer, service contracts, and the cost of installation and maintenance.
These costs are a reality, regardless of whether the machine produces hundreds of components weekly or sits idle most of the time.
Calculate the ownership costs of the equipment on a per-part basis by adding up all the fixed expenses anticipated to be incurred throughout the machine’s lifespan, then dividing that total by the expected number of parts the machine will create.
Your equipment ownership costs will be reduced per-part basis if your 3D printer has a greater productivity and utilization rate since this will result in fewer parts getting wasted.
In recent years, desktop 3D printers have made significant strides in achieving reduced costs associated with the ownership of their equipment.
With a price point that is ten to one hundred times cheaper than standard industrial 3D printers and the potential to generate thousands of components throughout their lifespan, the cost of owning the equipment may become minimal.
Cost Of Consumables And Material
The variable expenses of creating components include the raw materials used in 3D printing and any additional consumables. These prices are pretty sensitive to the quantity of the parts getting manufactured.
To determine how much it will cost for the material, first determine how much 3D printing material you will require to manufacture a single piece, then multiply that number by the price of the material.
Consider not just the trash but also any additional consumables that you may require. Material prices for 3D printing tend to level off somewhat fast, in contrast to the declining costs associated with ownership of the equipment used.
Because the cost of the consumables used in 3D printing might vary, you must determine what kinds of materials you will need to generate the specified pieces.
You should also be aware that certain 3D printers can only operate with proprietary materials, which will restrict the possibilities available to you for using third-party materials.
Even though 3D printing replaces the time-consuming workflows of traditional manufacturing processes, the printing process itself might still be labor-intensive, depending on the technology employed.
In general, desktop 3D printers made for professionals are user-friendly from the get-go. For budget and hobbyist printers, getting the parameters dialed in might be more time-consuming than for standard industrial machines that need a professional operator to maintain or change materials.
Post-processing processes could differ depending on the kind of 3D printing, but they often consist of cleaning the components and removing any supports or extraneous material.
More modern methods such as SLA and SLS do not need time-consuming procedures to produce high-quality parts. Nevertheless, you will require significant manual post-processing to increase the quality of FDM components and erase layer lines.
3D Printing: In-House Or Outsourcing?
When you only need 3D printing periodically, for big components, or for parts that need non-standard materials, you should consider outsourcing production to service bureaus or laboratories.
This consideration is also the case when you need to print non-standard materials. The majority of bureaus are equipped in-house with a variety of 3D printing methods. Additionally, they can guide a wide range of materials and provide value-added services such as design and sophisticated finishing.
The most significant drawbacks of outsourcing are the increased costs and longer lead times. One of the most important advantages of 3D printing compared to conventional production processes is its increased speed.
However, this advantage rapidly becomes nullified when an outsourced component takes several weeks to arrive. As both demand and production continue to rise, the cost of outsourcing will also continue to grow.
When time is of the essence, and you need components fast, desktop 3D printers are an excellent option. The initial investment in a professional 3D printer may return its cost within months, depending on the number of components and printing volume involved.
Desktop and benchtop machines allow you to pay for as much capacity as your company needs. You can expand production by adding more units as demand rises without investing in a large-format 3D printer.
When you use several different 3D printers, you give yourself the option of concurrently printing pieces in various other materials. You could still use service bureaus as a complementary component to this flexible process for materials or features that are not typical.
Other Factors To Consider
Calculating the amount of money needed for investments, supplies, and labor is not too difficult. But what about indirect expenses and other things that may be difficult to measure but still impact your company?
Let’s look at some of the most important factors to consider when contrasting desktop 3D printing with other manufacturing techniques such as outsourcing.
Imagine if you could bring things to market several months earlier. Or would you want to reduce the lead time for your items by a few days or weeks?
Traditional processes for prototype and manufacturing may become more efficient using 3D printing, allowing you to save time and get a head start on the competition.
3D printing makes it possible to build more iterations, experience failure more quickly, and produce superior final goods.
Finding and resolving design faults as early as possible helps prevent expensive design modifications and tooling adjustments later in the manufacturing process.
Better Client Communication
You can improve your communication with clients with high-quality prototypes and components. Stay clear of uncertainty and blunders that may cost you.
Do you deal with confidential information in your work? If you create pieces in-house, you won’t have to hand over any of your intellectual property (IP) to other parties, reducing the likelihood of information leaking or getting stolen.
So, How Much Does A 3D Printer Cost?
Overall, if you have prepared to spend any amount of money on a 3D printer (except for less than one hundred dollars), you will be able to find one within your price range. Even though our pricing groups lead one to believe that the more one goes up in price, the better the printer they would get, this is not necessarily the case.
For instance, the Ender 3, one of the printers with the lowest price tag, can do exactly as well as, or even better, machines that cost more than $1,000 when properly adjusted.
Because of this, before purchasing a printer, you should ensure that you have done enough research on the device. Even if the 3D printer cost may seem essential to the consideration, you should consider the purpose for which you will use the printer.
Consider the machine’s dependability, print quality, and convenience of use, in addition to any related external and variable expenditures.
Before you decide to purchase a printer, it is a good idea to watch reviews on YouTube, read blog posts and articles written on 3D printers, and talk to others who already own printers.