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How Much 3D Printing Cost? Factors Affecting Prices

When asked “How much does 3D printing cost?”, our answer “depends on the situation” is not to avoid the question, but because the cost of 3D printing is indeed influenced by multiple complex factors. The cost of each 3D printing is unique, ranging from a few dollars to thousands of yuan. Below, we will delve into these key factors in detail to help you better understand the cost structure of 3D printing.

How Much 3D Printing

Factors Affecting 3D Printing Prices

Material Cost

Material cost is one of the most direct and obvious costs in 3D printing. Different 3D printing technologies require different materials, such as plastics, metals, ceramics, etc. The price of materials varies depending on their type, quality, and source. For example, some high-performance engineering plastics may be more expensive, while some common PLA or ABS plastics are more affordable in price.

  • Thermoplastics:Thermoplastic filaments, such as PLA and ABS, are common in FDM printing. They are affordable and come in a wide range of colors and properties. Prices typically range from $20 to $50 per kilogram.
  • Resins:Resins used in SLA printing offer high detail and strength but are more expensive than thermoplastics. Standard resins cost between $50 to $200 per liter, with specialty resins costing even more.
  • Powders:Powdered materials for SLS and DMLS printers can be costly. Nylon powder for SLS printing ranges from $50 to $100 per kilogram, while metal powders for DMLS can exceed $500 per kilogram.

Type of 3D Printer

There are various 3D printing technologies, for example, SLA technology can usually produce higher quality prints, but equipment and maintenance costs are also high. Therefore, when choosing printing technology, it is necessary to balance cost and quality.

Desktop Printers

Desktop 3D printers are typically used by hobbyists, educators, and small businesses. They are relatively inexpensive, with prices ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The most common types of desktop printers include:

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): These printers are affordable and widely available. They use thermoplastic filaments that are heated and extruded layer by layer.
  • Stereolithography (SLA): SLA printers use a laser to cure liquid resin into solid objects. They offer higher resolution and detail than FDM printers but are generally more expensive.

Industrial Printers

Industrial 3D printers are used for professional and large-scale manufacturing purposes. They offer greater precision, speed, and material options but come at a significantly higher cost. Common types include:

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS printers use a laser to sinter powdered material into solid structures. They are ideal for producing durable and complex parts.
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS): DMLS printers work similarly to SLS but use metal powders. They are used in industries like aerospace and medical devices for creating metal parts with high precision.

Printer and Maintenance Costs

The prices, features, and application scenarios of different types of 3D printing equipment vary significantly.

Home-level 3D printers are typically designed for hobbyists, educational institutions, and small studios. These devices are relatively affordable, usually ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Industrial-level 3D printers are used for large-scale production and applications requiring high precision. These devices are significantly more expensive, typically ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Type of 3D PrinterExample ModelPrice Range (USD)
Desktop 3D PrinterEnder-3 V2200 – 500
Educational 3D PrinterMakerBot Replicator+1,000 – 2,000
Industrial 3D PrinterStratasys Fortus 450mc50,000 – 100,000
Resin/SLA 3D PrinterFormlabs Form 33,000 – 5,000
Metal 3D PrinterMarkforged Metal X100,000 – 200,000
Large-scale 3D PrinterBigRep ONE50,000 – 100,000

Related resources: Metal 3D Printing Cost: Influencing Factors and Cost Control Strategies

Regular maintenance and occasional repairs are necessary to keep printers running smoothly. High-maintenance printers can lead to higher operational costs, which may be passed on to the customer.

Layer Height and Resolution

Layer height and resolution impact both the quality and cost of 3D printed parts:

  • Layer Height: Thinner layers result in higher resolution prints with smoother surfaces, but they take longer to print. Higher resolution prints are more expensive due to increased time and precision.
  • Resolution: The printer’s ability to accurately reproduce details affects the cost. Higher resolution requires more advanced and expensive machinery, leading to higher printing costs.


Post-processing involves additional steps to finish the printed object, such as cleaning, curing, sanding, painting, or assembling parts. These steps can add significant cost and time to the overall 3D printing process.

  • Cleaning and Curing:For SLA prints, cleaning off excess resin and curing the printed part under UV light are necessary steps. These processes require additional equipment and time.
  • Surface Finishing:Sanding, painting, and applying other surface treatments improve the aesthetic and functional qualities of the printed object but require manual labor or additional machinery.
  • Assembly:For parts that are printed separately and then assembled, additional time and expertise are needed to ensure proper fitting and function.

Design Complexity

The complexity of the design significantly affects the cost of 3D printing. More complex designs require more time and resources to print.

  • Geometric Complexity:Designs with intricate details, overhangs, and internal structures require more support material and longer printing times, increasing the cost.
  • Size of the Object:Larger objects require more material and longer print times, which directly impacts the overall cost. Additionally, large prints may require industrial printers capable of handling bigger build volumes.
  • Customization:Customized designs or one-off prototypes are generally more expensive per unit than mass-produced items due to the unique setup and design work involved.
  • Model complexity: The complexity of a model directly affects printing time and consumables consumption. Complex models require longer printing time, more supporting materials, and higher post-processing difficulty, resulting in a corresponding increase in price.
metal 3D Printing parts

Print Speed and Resolution

Higher resolution and faster print speeds often come at a premium. Printers capable of higher resolutions (e.g., SLA printers) create more detailed and smoother surfaces but take longer to print and consume more material, increasing the cost.

  • Layer Height:A finer layer height (e.g., 50 microns vs. 200 microns) results in a smoother finish but requires more layers to complete the print, increasing both time and material usage.
  • Print Speed:Faster print speeds can reduce the overall cost by minimizing the time spent on the printer, but achieving high speeds without compromising quality requires advanced and often more expensive machinery.

Related resources: How to Adjust PLA Print Speed for Faster Results

Labor Costs

The human element involved in the 3D printing process cannot be overlooked. Skilled labor is required for designing the object, setting up the printer, monitoring the print, and performing post-processing tasks. Labor costs vary based on the complexity of the project and the level of expertise required.

  • Design and Setup:Designing a 3D model and setting up the printer for the print can be time-consuming. Complex projects may require professional CAD designers and engineers, increasing the cost.
  • Monitoring and Troubleshooting:3D printing is not always a straightforward process. Prints can fail, requiring monitoring and troubleshooting by skilled technicians, which adds to the labor cost.

Scale of Production

The volume of production has a significant impact on the cost per unit. Factors include:

  • Prototyping vs. Mass Production: Single prototypes are more expensive per unit than mass-produced items.
  • Economies of Scale: Larger production runs reduce the cost per unit due to the spread of setup and operation costs over more units.
  • Batch Processing: Grouping multiple parts in a single print job can optimize material use and printing time.
  • Outsourcing vs. In-House Printing:Deciding between outsourcing 3D printing services or investing in an in-house setup depends on the production volume and frequency. Outsourcing can be cost-effective for low-volume, occasional prints, while high-volume production may justify the investment in in-house equipment.

Businesses must consider the trade-off between the initial cost of a small batch versus the long-term savings of larger production runs.

Profit and Pricing

For 3D printing companies, ensuring the continuous operation and profitability of their business usually involves increasing a certain profit margin on the basis of costs.

The profit margin of 3D printing business may be between 50% and 90% of material costs. But this is a rough estimate based on material costs. In fact, when considering other costs such as labor, equipment depreciation, maintenance, rent, utilities, etc., the profit margin will significantly decrease.

When the cost of 3D printing is below a certain amount, the company may adopt a strategy of charging an additional basic price (or minimum fee). This is because even in highly automated 3D printing services, a certain amount of manual involvement is required, such as file preparation, print monitoring, post-processing, etc. Therefore, in order to cover these costs, the company may set a minimum fee, such as $30-90.

Assuming the material cost for a 3D printing project is $50, and the company aims for a profit margin of 70% on the material cost. The basic printing fee (excluding the base price) would be calculated as follows:

Material Cost: 50ProfitMarginRate:70BasicPrintingFee=MaterialCost×(1+ProfitMarginRate)=50 × (1 + 0.7)
= 50×1.7=85

So, the basic printing fee (excluding the base price) would be $85.

If the company decides to add a base price of, say, $50, the total price would be:

Total Price = Basic Printing Fee + Base Price
= 85+50
= $135

Therefore, the total price with the base price included would be $135.

Printing Service Providers and Geographical Location

Different service providers have different pricing strategies, operating costs, brand positioning, and value-added services provided (such as design consulting, fast delivery, quality assurance, etc.), resulting in price differences.
Meanwhile, geographical location has a direct impact on additional costs such as shipping and taxes, and local service providers or those providing free delivery may have a price advantage.

Considerations Beyond Direct Costs

When considering the total cost of 3D printing, in addition to direct material and equipment costs, there are a series of other factors that need to be taken into account. Professional 3D modeling software may require additional licensing fees, and learning and mastering these software also requires time and effort. If you don’t have professional design skills, you may need to hire designers to make models, which will increase costs. Due to various factors such as machine stability, software settings, etc., printing may fail and require reprinting, which can increase costs. If it is necessary to provide training on 3D printing technology for employees, this cost should also be considered. In addition, if copyrighted designs or materials are used, copyright fees may need to be paid.

3D Printing parts

How Long Does 3D Printing Take?

The time required for 3D printing is influenced by a combination of multiple factors. Generally speaking, larger objects require longer printing time. For example, a 20 x 20mm cube may only take 5 to 30 minutes to print, but larger objects will require longer time.

3D printing has different printing specifications, such as 0.2mm, 0.3mm, and 0.7mm. Usually, the higher the printing accuracy (such as 0.2mm), the longer the printing time. For example, if printing a 0.3mm object takes 10 minutes, then printing the same 0.2mm object may take about 30 minutes. To obtain more accurate estimates, you can use 3D printing software or consult a professional 3D printing service provider for simulation and prediction.

How Much Does 3D Printing Cost Per Hour?

To calculate the cost of 3D printing for one hour, you need to consider various factors such as electricity, material costs, wear and tear, labor, amortization of printer cost, and indirect costs.

1. Electricity Cost

You’ll need to know the power consumption of your 3D printer (in kilowatts) and the electricity rate (in dollars per kilowatt-hour).


  • Printer Power: 0.2 kW
  • Electricity Rate: $0.1 per kWh
  • Print Hours: 1 hour

Electricity Cost = 0.2 kW × 1 h × 0.1perkWh=0.02

2. Material Cost

Determine the cost per unit of material and the amount of material consumed per hour.


  • Material Cost per Unit: $10 per unit
  • Material Consumption per Hour: 0.05 units/hour

Material Cost = 10perunit×0.05units/hour=0.50

3. Wear and Tear

Wear and tear is a difficult cost to quantify precisely, but you can estimate it based on experience or historical data.


  • Estimated Wear and Tear Cost per Hour: $0.50

4. Labor Cost

If labor is required to operate or monitor the printing process, include the hourly rate.


  • Labor Cost per Hour: $20

5. Amortization of Printer Cost

If you purchased the printer, you can amortize its cost over its expected lifetime.


  • Printer Cost: $2,000
  • Printer Lifetime: 5,000 hours

Amortization Cost per Hour = 2,000/5,000hours=0.40 per hour

6. Indirect Costs

Indirect costs may include maintenance, support materials, equipment upgrades, etc. Estimate these based on historical data.


  • Indirect Costs per Hour: $2

7. Calculate Total Cost

Add up all the costs to get the total hourly cost.

Total Hourly Cost = Electricity Cost + Material Cost + Wear and Tear + Labor Cost + Amortization Cost + Indirect Costs

Total Hourly Cost = 0.02+0.50 + 0.50+20 + 0.40+2 = $23.42

Note: The above examples use hypothetical values. You’ll need to adjust these values based on your specific situation and equipment.

Why Are 3D Printing Services So Expensive?

The cost of 3D printing services often surprises many, and there are several reasons behind this. Firstly, the labor involved, including post-processing and any additional treatments, adds significantly to the final price. Moreover, the industrial-grade 3D printers that are utilized in these services can cost upwards of $150,000, which is then reflected in the service charges.

This begs the question: Is investing in a 3D printer a more economical choice?

When comparing the costs of outsourcing a 3D printing service and purchasing a printer, the initial investment may seem daunting. If you’re a hobbyist or someone who intends to use 3D printing for personal projects, purchasing a printer might be a cost-effective long-term solution. Once you own the printer, you can print as many items as you want without incurring additional per-print charges.

However, if you value your time and require professional-grade prints, outsourcing a 3D printing service might be the better choice. These services offer access to larger printers and advanced functionalities that may not be feasible with DIY printers. Moreover, they handle the entire process from printing to post-processing and delivery, saving you the hassle of maintaining and operating your own printer.

3D Printing Service Price Comparison

The price of 3D printing may vary due to various factors, ranging from $10 to over $5000, and even higher. The price difference mainly depends on the printed items, materials used, and the specific content of the services. The service quality of 3D printing will also have an impact on prices. High quality service often means higher professional level and stricter quality control, which often leads to higher costs. Meanwhile, some value-added services, such as post-processing, coloring, polishing, etc., will also increase overall costs.

How should we compare prices when choosing 3D printing services? Firstly, it is important to clarify one’s own needs and budget. Then, search for multiple 3D printing service providers through search engines or professional platforms, and gain a detailed understanding of their service content, prices, and customer reviews. In this process, we not only need to compare prices, but also consider factors such as service quality, delivery time, and after-sales service comprehensively.

3D Printing Cost Calculator

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Understanding these elements allows for better planning and cost optimization. By selecting the appropriate technology, optimizing designs, get accurate quotes within an hour, businesses and individuals can effectively manage 3D printing costs and leverage this transformative technology to its fullest potential.


What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a technique that creates three-dimensional solids by adding materials layer by layer. It uses digital model files as input, stacks materials (such as plastic, metal, ceramics, etc.) layer by layer through a specific 3D printer, and ultimately constructs the object. 3D printing technology is widely used in various fields such as prototype production, product design, education, healthcare, and architecture.

How accurate is 3D printing?

Different brands and models of printers have different printing accuracy ranges, usually between 0.1mm and 0.5mm. A printer with higher accuracy can print finer and more precise details, but the price may also be correspondingly higher. When choosing a 3D printer, you should choose the appropriate level of accuracy according to your own needs.

What are the material options for 3D printing?

3D printing can use various materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, resins, etc. Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials because of its low cost and ease of processing. Metal 3D printing can create objects with high strength and durability, but the cost is high. Materials such as ceramics and resins are also used for specific applications, such as dental restoration and artwork production.

Catalog: 3D Printing Guide

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