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Is 3D Printing Expensive?

Is 3D Printing Expensive? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone


January 25, 2023

Whenever something knew arrives on the scene, questions abound. This article will address several of those type of questions surrounding 3D printing.

If you are considering getting into 3D printing.  One of the first questions you may ask: “Is 3D printing expensive?”  The answer actually depends on you and how you respond to the following questions:

·       How hard is it to learn 3D printing?

·       Will 3D printing be a one-time experience, a hobby, or a business?

·       What type of objects do you want to 3D print?

·       Should I use a 3D printing service or buy a 3D printer?

Cost is a tricky question, since $100 may be expensive to you and inexpensive to another person. But as you begin to understand the various options available you will soon learn whether 3D printing is the right thing, and if the cost is worth your efforts.

So, let’s begin.

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Table of Contents

How hard is it to learn 3D printing?

Learning 3D printing is as easy as the effort you are willing to invest, and that doesn’t mean months and years.  3D printing can be learned in literally days and weeks.  The cost to learn about 3D printing is free, so if you are willing to invest the time then you are sure to succeed in 3D printing.

Since it first surfaced in the 1990’s, 3D printing has primarily been available to large manufacturing companies.  However, 3D technology has advanced quite rapidly in recent years and is now accessible to anyone.  As technology improves and the average person gains interest in it, companies develop tools that make it easy for even the most novice of users.

After a few hours of browsing the internet, on all topics 3D printing, you will soon find the resources you need to learn about 3D printers,3D materials, 3D design, 3D companies, and the 3D industry as a whole.

There are hundreds of articles, how to videos, and experts everywhere willing to share their knowledge.

It can seem overwhelming at first, by the sheer volume of information, but as you start to digest it, the pieces come together and you find yourself talking like an expert.

Will 3D printing be a one-time experience, a hobby, or a business?

Knowing your purpose is important in determining if 3D printing is expensive.

The saying goes, go big or go home.  Well, you don’t have to go big in 3D printing you can go as small or as big as you want. It’s up to you.   But you do have to decide, in order to answer the question is 3D printing expensive.

It’s all about the one-time experience.

Maybe 3D printing is just something you heard about and all you want to do is try it once or twice. That’s ok.

We all like new things, but all new things are not for everyone, so taking a test run helps you to evaluate and decide whether you will invest more.

The best way to take 3D printing for a test run is by using a 3D printing service.  This is the lowest cost approach.  All you have to do is come up with an idea like print a golf ball, a screwdriver, a figurine or something else.  Take the idea to a 3D printing service and ask them to estimate the project.  They will give you a price and then all you have to do is pay for it, if the price is right.  Remember, the smaller the object, the less expensive it will be.  For $50 or less you could have something 3D printed.

I’ve got time, I want to make 3D printing a hobby.

If you decide 3D printing will be a hobby, you’re probably ready to invest in a home 3D printer so you can print your own objects.

Obviously as a hobbyist, 3D printing becomes a little more expensive because you will be investing in a 3D printer and materials.

The good news is you can get a 3D printer for less than $300 and have all the power to produce a similar object someone else may have paid a3D printing service to do.  
Material is the only other cost involve and you can find some of the least expensive filament costs as little as $20 per kilogram.

3D software is the last thing you will need to create 3D models, but no worries, there is a lot of free software you can find online so this doesn’t add to the cost.

As a hobbyist you could get all you need for under $400.  That doesn’t seem too expensive for someone that wants to make it a hobby.

I’m in it for the money, let’s start a business.

If you are interested in starting a 3D printing business, you most likely will need to invest in a more powerful printer, and use higher cost materials.  This is a venture you would want to take only after learning all the ins and outs of 3D printing as a hobbyist.  If you find you are good at 3D printing, then you probably can find a market for your services, and charge people money to make 3D objects for them.

What type of objects do you want to 3D print?

Whether you are printing at home or using a 3D printing service, the type of objects your printing determines the expensiveness of 3D printing.

The complexity of a design does not matter.  

What matters is the size, speed, and type of material needed to complete the project.

The smaller the object, the less expensive.  The bigger the object the more expensive.

The smaller the object, the less time required, the less expensive.  The bigger the object, the more time required, the more expensive.

The less material you use, the less expensive.  The more material you use, the more expensive.

The type of material used plays a big factor.  Plastic is cheaper than metal.  You get the idea.  

Unless you are creating a business, most individuals and hobbyist would select plastic as the material of choice as it helps to keep the costs down, particularly while you are learning.

Should I use a 3D printing service or buy a 3D printer?

Outsourcing or buying is always a tough decision.  The hardest part is knowing how much because that allows you to compare costs accurately. How much will I be printing?  What types of objects will I be printing?  Do I have the knowledge?  Do I have the time?

For the most part, if you have answered the questions in the previous sections you should have a good idea if using a 3D printing service or buying a 3D printer is the right decision.

Either way, you now have a guide to help you determine if 3D printing is expensive or not to you.

Investing in 3D printing is not for everyone, but 3D printing is certainly available to everyone.

Electricity revolutionized the world, changing how we live of function.  3D printing technology will do the same.  One day you may well see a 3D printer on every desk at home or at work.

Whether or not you want to spend any money on 3D printing, it is worth investing a little time learning about the capabilities of this new up and coming technology.

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Is 3D Printing Expensive?


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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