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How much do companies charge for 3D printing?

How much do companies charge for 3D printing? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

February 10, 2021

Whenever you need to develop a prototyped part or experiment with its design, 3D printing services can be really helpful. However, you must be wondering how much the companies charge you for the service and why their price differs.

How much do companies charge for 3D printing? The charge for 3D printing service varies greatly, as the pricing involves several factors:

·     Type of 3D printing technology

·     Type of material

·     Model size & intricacy

·     Equipment depreciation cost 

·     Manual service cost 

·     Cost for facility

·     Printing time

So, you can see, in order to estimate the 3D printing service fees, it is necessary to understand how the companies actually price their service. I will talk about how the pricing works, and also some suggestions to choose the best 3D printing service!

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Table of contents:

How to Price 3D Printing Service Fees

For your thorough understanding, I am going to elaborate on the above-mentioned factors, one by one:

Type of 3D Printing Technology

The type of 3D printing technology plays a significant role in pricing. As the technologies differ, the material type and forms also vary. Some of the most popular 3D printing technologies are-

  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
  • Stereolithography (SLA), and
  • Selective laser sintering (SLS)

Among these three, FDM is the cheapest, and SLS is the most expensive technology.

Type of Material

The 3D printing fees largely depend on the consumption and the type of material used. The material cost can be calculated by the amount, i.e., volume (cubic centimeter cube) or weight (gram or kg) of material deposited per hour during printing.

Although the cost will vary with the brand or manufacturers, the materials can be broadly categorized into two types: polymers and metals.

Polymers

Polymers are basically natural or synthetic substances composed of repeating, long chains of molecules. They can be subdivided into thermoplastics and thermosets.

  • Thermoplastics: These are often called ‘plastics’ that can be heated, melted, and solidified for multiple times, without losing the material properties. They can come in either filament form or powder form.
  • Filaments are commonly used in FDM printers. They can be of various types, such as- PLA, ABS, carbon, PETG, etc. The prices will vary with type and manufacture; however, an approximate range could be $.02- $.07 per gm. In general, PLA is the cheapest option available.
  • Powder forms are usually used in the SLS printers. The most common type of polymer is polyamide (PA), such as nylon. The cost of nylon, in general, can be at the range of $.045-$.075 per gm. However, there are other expensive options.

As you can notice, the SLS feed materials are pricier than those for the FDM printer. That is why FDM technology is so popular.

  • Thermosets: Thermoset polymers are basically resins, which are usually used in SLA printers. The average cost for the SLA resin could be around $.05/ml.

Metals

Metal powders are typically used through sintering technology, the most popular one being direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Here, heat or pressure is applied to weld the powder together below the melting point. Selective laser melting (SLM) is also widely used, where particles melt and fuse together due to the heat applied.

However, it is quite expensive to use metal for 3D printing. The cost may range from $.35 to $.55 per gm.

Model Size & Intricacy

The model size and intricacy can significantly influence the 3D printing cost. In general, the overall size will indicate how long the printing will take, hence a bigger size will cost more and vice versa.  

Similarly, the extent of intricacy in the design, such as solid or hollow, single color or multicolor, etc. also impacts the cost. Nonetheless, there are several other aspects of model structure, which should be taken into account, such as-

  • Infill: Infill refers to the amount of material to occupy the internal space of the model. The infill rate can vary from 10%-100% depending on your preference of density, structure and, strength.
  • The most commonly used infill rate is 20-25% that offers a good balance between material consumption and sturdiness. Besides, breakaway support materials can also add to the cost.
  • Resolution: Resolution denotes the layer height used during the 3D printing. A finer resolution means there will be more layers; consequently, the printing time will increase. Thus, the resolution affects the total cost.

Equipment Depreciation Cost

The companies charge an equipment depreciation cost based on the original price of the 3D printer, the machine lifetime hours, and maintenance cost. The consumables for operating the machine are also considered, such as the blue painter’s tape used to mask the printing bed.

Manual Service Cost

Usually, the charge for the software license, printing service, and expertise are included in the price. Yet, if the project requires some add-on service such as priming, coating, or painting, this may increase the cost for manual labor.

Cost for Facility

Cost for using the facility such as rent and electricity are also considered while calculating the printing cost. In case of large projects, a 3D printing operation may take place for several days. Therefore, everything that goes into the operation is taken into account.

Printing Time

You must have realized by now that many of the costs associated with the 3D printing service are calculated by hours, hence depend on the printing time required. That is why you should always estimate the printing time while designing the model you would like to print.

After considering all these costs, there could be some markup% for the company profit.

This article can provide you some additional idea of how to compare the price for 3D printing services. Many companies offer an online cost calculator so that you can estimate your price before you order.

Who is the best 3D printing service to use?

As 3D printers are very expensive to purchase, using 3D printing services from well reputed companies can be a great option. This not only allows you to have access to industrial grade 3D printers but also you can borrow their expertise to ensure superior outcomes.

It is not necessary to find a 3D service near you. There are many online marketplaces or services available that are cost-effective and provide fast shipping worldwide. Some companies act as a marketplace for designers as well as 3D printing services, whereas some have their own 3D printer to provide purely the printing service.

Some of the best options to avail 3D printing services are listed below:

Shapeways
i.materialise
Kraftwurx
MakeXYZ
Sculpteo
Protolabs
Voodoo Manufacturing
3D Hubs
Xometry
Quickparts by 3D Systems
Stratasys Direct
3DPRINTUK

The very simple steps to take advantage of such 3D printing services are:

  • Create your customized design either using CAD or the company’s website.
  • Send the design to the company to use
  • Select your preference for material, infill, resolution etc.
  • Make an order and wait for shipping
  • After 3D printing and post-processing is complete, receive your final product.

All Ready to 3D Print

Once you’ve got your budget together and project ready for printing, you’re all ready to go. I hope you can make the best use of these services for your project!

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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How much do companies charge for 3D printing?

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