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How Much Electricity does a 3D Printer Use?

How Much Electricity does a 3D Printer Use? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

August 30, 2022

3D printers are used in almost every industry imaginable, from automotive to electronics. But how much electricity does a 3D printer use? Let's find out.

Most consumer-grade printers are built to use between 200W - 500W of electric power on average with higher rates during initialization. However, results may vary by up to 20% depending on the printer type, material chosen for 3D printing and heat losses incurred by printers with larger print beds.

Electricity is an important part of 3D printing, so it's best if you know how electricity works. Luckily, we have some useful information for this article on the subject! Keep reading and make sure to get all your questions answered about what exactly goes into powering these devices when they print something out in plastic or metal.

We've scoured the internet for all of your information needs. We know there are tons out on blogs, user reviews, and videos. Still, we did our due diligence in ensuring that this list is up-to-date with accurate details so let's get started, shall we?

Table of Contents

How Much Electricity Does a 3D Printer Use?

3D printers use electricity in two main ways. The first is to power the motors that move the printing head; this process accounts for 30% of total energy usage. The other primary use of electricity is heating. Few different types of miscellaneous functions take up power as well.

We can estimate that most consumer-grade printers are built to use between 200W - 500W of electricity on average with higher rates during initialization. However, this does vary based on printer type, filament used, and other factors like interface speed.

Having said that, consumers who only want their prints to take a few hours should definitely go for the 100W - 200W range for optimal electricity consumption.

Determine Power Draw Using Printer Specification

The power consumption of your 3D printer can be difficult to estimate. Still, there is an easy way for you to determine it. Simply check the specification sheet that came with your machine or download one from their website and look at what's listed under "Power."

Every 3D printer will have a maximum and minimum power rating, marking the range of its functional capabilities

For example, if a printer requires 45A of electricity and a 12V power source, it will have a max wattage of 540 (45*12=540); however, the printer won't always run at the upper limit. This max limit will only kick in when necessary parts require heating during intensive printing load. It will fall to a lower limit when power isn't needed or when the printer is in standby mode.

Factors Affecting 3D Printer Electric Power Consumption

3D printers come in different shapes and sizes. Each brand also has its proprietary specifications and sizes, which means that the power consumption of a 3D printer varies widely between models.

Other factors can affect the power consumption of a 3D printer as well including:

1. Cold printing

Since 3D printer parts are usually metal, they will become extremely cold during printing operations. This can cause condensation, which leads to water accumulation on the machine surface and insulation material. When you power a machine with low wattage, it will take longer to heat up its parts enough for normal operation.

The excess time spent at this stage is called "cold printing" or "warm-up time." You should be aware that this process increases power consumption and energy costs as you're not only paying for your electricity but also waiting for your printer to warm up properly.

In addition, some materials used in 3D printing release flammable gases when they're heated up. If those particles accumulate inside your printer, they can pose a fire hazard.

2. Thickness of Layer

The thickness of each layer is also an important factor to consider when talking about energy usage. Depending on the model you choose, your 3D printer can make use of different coating materials; some are more effective than others in terms of power efficiency.

For instance, PLA materials require less wattage during processing (about 5W), but they also heat up more slowly (60C). That's why many users report that they don't experience any real problems with energy consumption when working with PLA filament.

On the other hand, ABS requires higher temperatures to process it into final products (~100-150C), which means that it also requires more wattage for printing purposes (~20W/mm). This is one of the main reasons behind its higher risk of burning out components or causing major fires.

So, what does this mean for the average user? If you need reliable results, it's best to stick with PLA materials as they have a lower risk of hot-end damage. However, if you still want to work with ABS filament, try to find printers that aren't too aggressive in terms of heating material. Some models can even be programmed for low-temperature layers, which means your wattage consumption rates will be significantly lower.

3. 3D printer power supply

There are two types of 3D printers; those that draw power from an external source and those that use a self-contained power supply. The latter type is usually considered more efficient since it doesn't rely on alternating current (AC).

A 3D printer with a self-powered power supply should deliver constant and prolonged wattage. This means you can expect to spend less money on electricity over the lifetime of your machine.

If you opt for a model that uses AC, make sure it's compatible with alternative energy sources such as solar cells or batteries. This will allow you to work off the grid without having to rely too much on conventional electrical sources.

4. Number of extruders

The number of extruders in your 3D printer has a direct impact on power consumption as well. The more extruders you have, the more you'll be able to do with it and the longer its operational lifespan will be (e.g., multi-color prints). However, each extruder will consume additional energy, significantly affecting your electricity budget if you have too many of them.

5. Number of Hot-Ends in Use

The number of hot-ends that you're using should also be accounted for in your power consumption rates. The more extruders you have, the more hot-ends you should expect to use at any given time.

As a result, it's best to know how many hot-ends are actually working on or with your machine, as this will determine the overall wattage required by an external source.

For example, if your printer has one extruder and uses ABS materials, it can work fairly well on low energy consumption settings like 15W (on the first layer) and 25 W (on all other layers). However, some users report that some models can even survive at 8W per hour, which is relatively efficient for home use.

On the other hand, if you have two extruders and you're using PLA materials, expect to use 15W for the first layer and around 25W on all other layers.

6. Heat Losses

It's important to keep in mind that 3D printers will also lose energy through heating and cooling down. The larger a print bed is, the more power will be lost due to heat dissipation.

Here are some rough estimates for just how much wattage will be lost from large objects:

  • 250 x 300 x 200mm: 15W
  • 400 x 600 x 400mm: 30W
  • 600 x 400 x 400mm: 50W

As you can see, the larger the object is, the more energy overall will be lost as heat. That's why it's important to consider power consumption rates not just at home but also in large-scale printing jobs that involve ABS and other sensitive materials.

Accurately Measure Electric Use of 3D Printers

3D printing machines are great options for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and even home users who need to create rapid prototypes or products. They can serve as effective tools in the early stages of product development when it's important to test new ideas quickly.

However, just like any other electrical device around the house, 3D printers will use electricity while they're plugged into an outlet. You'll want to know exactly how much energy you can expect your machine to use in a given period of time before investing in expensive equipment.

The best way to determine this is by using a Kill-A-Watt device, which allows you to measure your household energy consumption accurately. Such instruments are typically designed with modern digital technologies that make measurements fast and accurate despite a wide range of power consumption rates.

As a rule of thumb, you should expect to spend between 10 and 50 cents per hour depending on the size of your print bed, model type, and other relevant factors that affect overall energy consumption. In most cases, 3D printers won't use more than 1kWh over a standard 8-hour day at home.

Range of Electricity Use For a 3D Printer

To give you a better idea of what to expect from different 3D printers, it's also important to look at their average energy usage over a given period. For example, the Ultimaker 2 has an average wattage consumption rate that ranges from 60-100W depending on how intensively it's being used (printing speed, size of object, etc.)

The Ultimaker 2 is known as one of the most energy-efficient devices in its class; even though it uses more energy than other options on the market, it still does so without causing any major functional issues.

Here are some of the most common 3D printers and their wattage utilization rates:

  • Ultimaker 2+ – 60-80W/30-40W
  • Makerbot Replicator 2 – 70W/25W
  • Rival 110 Hero – 80W/20W
  • Rival 310 – 100W/30W
  • Printrbot simple metal – 110W/25W
  • Zim - 20-40W/10-20W
  • Zortrax M200 – 60-100W/30-50W
  • Zortrax M300 – 60-100W/30-50W

Please note that these numbers can vary significantly depending on a given user's settings and overall usage habits. If you need precise energy measurement results, try using a Kill-A-Watt similar device to get more accurate numbers.

How To Reduce Electricity Costs with A 3D Printer?

The overall power consumption can go up significantly when you use your 3D printer for extensive periods (printing large objects). This is why it's important to focus on lowering the amount of energy used when possible.

Here are some general tips that should help you reduce electricity consumption rates while using 3D printers:

1. Use Smaller Models

When possible, try to print small items that require less electricity over extended periods. Many users will simply not need large models, so there's no reason to spend extra money on electricity or other related expenses.

If you have to print a larger item, then keep your printer running continuously. Don't start and stop the device unless necessary.

2. If You Are Using PLA filament, Try Printing Slower

PLA filament is the most commonly used material for 3D printers. It has a lower melting point compared to other types. So, if you go over a certain temperature range, it could end up becoming damaged and unusable.

If this is your preferred kind of material, you should attempt to use a slower print speed. This will help reduce the overall temperature inside your printer so that PLA can remain usable for longer periods. You may even need to recalibrate the printer to maintain optimal conditions with lower speeds.

3. Don't Use Heated Beds If Possible

The heated bed found on many models is designed to keep ABS plastic in place while it's being printed. Since ABS typically needs higher temperatures than PLA (making it more challenging to work with), the heated bed is often required.

But if PLA is your preferred type of filament, you should avoid using a heated bed altogether, as it will increase power consumption rates. Remember that the 3D printer will have to use more energy to heat up an object, so this isn't recommended for prolonged periods.

4. Don't Use Fans Unless You Have To

Fans are used on printers when there's a need for additional cooling. Most times, this occurs after long periods of constant use where the device has been printing one object for several hours straight.

If you're working on smaller prints or short items, don't use fans. They can cause power consumption rates to increase. Instead, rely on your 3D printer's natural design to help prevent overheating.

5. Stay Consistent

The more you use your 3D printer, the better you'll know what settings work best for different objects. If there are certain times when power consumption rates go up (like after a long print), take note and avoid making that mistake again in the future.

Doing this will ensure that you're maximizing performance while minimizing overall costs associated with doing so.

The Truth About 3D Printing Electricity Consumption

It's important to note that many factors can increase or decrease the overall power consumption of a 3D printer. The type of filament being used, the time spent printing and, even the size of an object all play a role in how much energy is needed to operate a device.

In general, though, you shouldn't have to worry about your power bill going up significantly over time if you're using your machine correctly. Just be sure not to use more electricity than necessary and always consider other tips that should help lower energy costs while operating a device. 

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 Electricity does a 3D Printer Use?

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