Looking for an ideal printer that could be handy to satisfy all your needs? Want to know how much does a 3D Printer cost? Keep reading the article to clear all your doubts regarding the different types of printers along with their special features. This article also covers the cost of printers right from entry level to industrial level.
The cheapest 3D printers cost about $250, an average consumer 3D printer around $800 and finally the high end 3D printer could be around a certain thousand dollars.
For three years, it has been surveyed about the gradual decrease in the price of 3D printers. Initially in 2014 it was very difficult to own a 3D printer below $2200, but today diverse high-quality printers are available in the markets under $1100 also.
As a matter of fact, professionals prefer high-quality apparatus compared to hobbyists so they are worth it to that extent itself and professionals invest more to own them.
In 2017, Sculpteo recorded the budget of an average professional 3D printer to be $9600 and in 2016 it was found that the value of printers increased by 55%, which proves the improved demand for 3D printers in large scale industries.
Before you own a printer, be it for home or office purposes, question yourself what kind of printer could satisfy your needs and what is your budget to invest on it.
When you try to answer these questions by researching a handy printer, you will then be able to make a firm decision. To take up this firm decision, this article helps you to find out the answers by giving you a clear cut idea regarding different types of printers by juxtaposing their prices too.
The Different Categories Of 3D Printers:
There are several categories of printers available in the markets, in order to buy a printer that could satisfy your needs you must go through the different categories of printers and research on them.
There are five five categories in 3D printers, namely-
- Entry level 3D Printers
- Hobbyist 3D Printers
- Enthusiast 3D Printers
- Professional 3D Printers
- Industrial 3D Printers
These categories of printers are completely distinct from each other in size, capability, features and cost. An entry level 3D printer almost ranges from $200 and the top industrial 3D printers could cost beyond $100,000.
Happy news for consumers is that 3D printers will always be changing as per the advancement in technologies, so we can get better quality devices for low price itself.
Now, let us have a look at the features and price of each of the categories of printers mentioned above.
Entry Level Category 3D Printers (250$ to 450$):
Entry level 3D printers are specially designed for new learners. Before enhancing a new expensive printer, you must know completely about the technology in different ways. By doing so, you can experience great things about 3D printing technology. This level of 3D printers have limitations too.
Most of the entry level printers restrict the choice of materials. These printers allow the use of only one kind of material i.e, filament. Moreover, they don’t even allow you to print beyond 3-4” at any proportion either in length, width or height.
The quality of print is poor and non impressive in entry level 3D printers. Prints are even very small and have low durability. The printers are very noisy and time consuming when opposed to the expensive printers of the same category. In spite of this, there are even more learning tools available that can satisfy all your needs and lets you perform better models.
The entry level 3D printers range from $250 to $450. The best 3D printer at this level is FlashForge Finder.
This level of printers restrict the build volume of the desired part and even in the choice of materials. Thus only tiny objects can be printed. They progress very slowly and print less accurate parts. 100 micron is the final resolution expected in these printers and it is of course complicated to print a desired part.
Hobbyist Category 3D Printers (400$ – 1600$):
Printers in this category are ideal for users who have the hobby of 3D printing. Hobbyist printers are highly capable devices for those who have a good passion for it. They help hobbyists to print more creative 3D models. They often give 1-2 bugs which lowers its value. In this category, many 3D printers deserve plenty of time from the hobbyist.
These 3D printers are capable of printing little large and smooth objects when compared to entry level printers. Their software is also far better in contrast to entry level 3D printers. They allow you to print parts with 5-6” in each dimension. Printers run a bit faster and are capable of printing with a bit more different materials. That means a little more flexible and creative models can be manufactured using these printers.
It is often noticed to have low speed and low print quality. It is very complicated to run and maintain these printers due to the occurrence of a lot of repairs after a few prints. These printers restrict you to print only with low temperature materials like PLA and the printers are even enclosed in this category.
However, this category of printers are not reliable for the right times; they are unfit for commercial and educational purposes.
The price of hobbyist level 3D printers range from $400 to $1,600. The best 3D printer in this category is QIDI Tech I.
Enthusiast Category 3D Printers ( $1,600 to $3,800):
If you are trying hard to take your hobby to the next level, then now you are an enthusiast. So, now you need to know all about the enthusiast level category 3D printers. These printers run at a bit faster rate when compared to entry level and hobbyist category printers.
Printers in this category offer the parts with good size and allow you to print from 8” to 12” in all dimensions. These printers run with a limited speed without affecting the quality of print, whereas other printers run with low speed to print good quality parts.
Enthusiast printers provide a greater material selection to print, but only some printers in this category demand for standard manufacturing materials by limiting your choices.
When you try to start a business with these printers, you often get frustrated due to frequent repairs, so it is good to stop production because they are not suitable for business purposes. It is complicated to maintain these printers for a long time. These printers are ideal only for grade schools and high schools.
Faster printing might always be noisy, but always go with slow speed printers to get the best quality prints.
The price of enthusiast category 3D printers range from $1,600 to $3,800. Most popular and best 3D printer in this category is LulzBot TAZ 6.
Even at this price range, many of the printers in this category are not durable enough and that becomes a big burden to bear its maintenance.
Professional Category 3D Printers ( $3,800 to $7,000):
To own a professional category of 3D printers you must have plenty of cash to invest on it. In the same way you can even expect fruitful results from them.
These devices manufacture good quality parts with smooth finishings. They allow you to print parts around 12” in all the dimensions. A wide range of print materials in different colors along with various textures are accepted by these professional 3D printers.
Best devices in this category can print at a faster rate and maintain high print quality.Thus, these 3D printers are useful for professional users in schools, universities, robotic clubs. Moreover, they can also be used for small and large enterprises.
Before you own a professional 3D printer, investigate on two things-
Initially look for a high performance 3D printer that must be capable to print objects in a short period of time along with the maintenance of high quality of print with great resolution. Also have a look at the physical setting features of the printer and take out a sample print.
At last, when satisfied with the first feature check the durability of the printer and also while taking the sample itself you must check the time consumed by the printer to print a sample. Only then you can proceed to own the desired printer without suffering from a great loss of money.
The only limitation in this category is to maintain constant printing temperature throughout the process.
Professional 3D printer prices range from $3,800 to $7,000. Best 3D printer of this category is Fusion3 F400-S.
Industrial Category 3D Printers ( $20,000 to $100,000):
Since this industrial category comes under serious business, no one blindly trusts an industrial 3D printer. These printers manufacture parts at a faster rate with high print quality compared to other 3D printer categories.
Industrial 3D printers are made up of pure quality metal and hence they are highly durable. They are user-friendly and have many convenient features for custom prints. High quality and durable machines demand extra maintenance fees in the industrial category.
There are only a few material options and the filaments are too costly when compared to professional and enthusiast categories. These are suitable only for large scale business enterprises, only for those who can invest more on it.
Industrial 3D printers are often very large in size and they are ideal for the production of rapid functional prototypes, medical custom prosthetics and many other commercial items. Limitations are very low for this category of printers excluding size and cost.
Industrial category 3D printers price ranges from $20,000 to $100,000.
Factors that Influence the 3D Printing Cost
There are two main categories affecting the 3D printing cost, namely- material costs and equipment costs.
- Printed Object Material
- Wastage of Material during printing
- Material used by Support structures
Cost of Equipment:
- Time for installation and initial configuration
- Costs incurred while Running
- Servicing of the 3D printer periodically
- Post-processing of the printed objects
- Down-time of 3D Printer and Maintenance
By the above factors, we could understand how 3D printing cost relies on the Cost of Equipment and Materials used. In the next section, we’ll discuss 3D Printing Materials and how it can impact the printing cost.
Cost Of 3D Printing Materials:
When compared to 3D printing metals, plastics are available at a cheaper rate. But 3D printing composites are now more expensive than the general metals.
Let us go through some common materials used in 3D printing-
There are two categories in 3D printing plastic materials, they are thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics, the name itself indicates the material is reactive to heat and it is quite simple to extrude out the material while printing. Thermosets are polymer resins ideal for printing prototypes, they are solidified with the help of UV rays.
The most common 3D printing metals are aluminium and stainless steel. Titanium and alloys of copper are used in rare cases for specified applications. These materials are widely used for binder jetting, laser sintering and laser melting 3D printing techniques.
Carbon fiber, Kevlar, and strands of fiberglass are the common composite materials used in 3D printing, they provide strength equally to that of aluminium. They are highly expensive when compared to other 3d printing materials like metals and plastics.
Parts composed of composite materials have great structural strength. These materials are commonly used in industries for the large-scale production of medical and aerospace customs tools or parts respectively.
How Design Impacts the 3D Printing Costs:
Parts volume has a great impact on its price. The cost of the part is directly proportional to the size of it, which means if the part’s volume is large, then obviously the cost is also high.
Support structures usually increase the strength of the material. Since support structures are required in material jetting and material extrusion, in this case the printed parts are highly expensive. Whereas in powder bed fusion technique there is no need for support structures and hence the parts are low-priced.
Infilling helps the parts to preserve their original shape by taking excess material to increase part’s strength and density, which will in turn increase the cost of the material.
In case you desire to get high quality parts then post- processing is mandatory. Thus, post-processing increases the cost of the 3D printing process.
Cost of 3D Printing is always affected by Multiple factors as discussed in the article. The Size of object, application and quality of the 3D Printing defines the kind of 3D printer and Materials to be used which in-turn impacts the cost.
Thus a 3D printing cost can vary from 50$ to 20,000$ or more based on the requirement. Also, paying for electricity consumption, Software and servicing would be added costs if you own the printer.
Experienced Project Engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the field of Product Design & Development industry in Mechanical Engineering. Skilled in 3D Printing and Re engineering Technologies with CATIA V5 , Materials Science, Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Mimics, ANSYS Workbench and Casting Simulation software. Strong engineering professional with a Master’s Degree focused in Industrial Metallurgy from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore.