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

Have you ever thought about the actual cost of metal 3D printing? Or are you struggling with how to price 3D printing services reasonably? These issues are not simple number games, but involve complex calculations at multiple levels.

When we have a metal 3D printer, in addition to meeting our own printing needs, many people also consider using it to provide 3D printing services and achieve commercial profits. However, when setting prices, we often only focus on material costs. But is this calculation method comprehensive and accurate?

In fact, the cost of metal 3D printing goes far beyond that. In addition to material costs, we also need to consider multiple aspects such as equipment depreciation, electricity costs, maintenance costs, and labor costs. Although these costs may seem insignificant, they will gradually accumulate over the long term and have a significant impact on the final printing cost.

In this article, we will delve into the factors that affect the cost of metal 3D printing and how to effectively control costs.

Factors affecting the cost of metal 3D printing

Metal 3D printing

There are many factors that affect the cost of metal 3D printing, and they interact and influence each other, together forming a complex cost structure. Here are 6 aspects to consider when calculating costs:

  1. Material cost
  2. Machine depreciation cost
  3. Labor cost
  4. Risk of failure
  5. Maintenance cost
  6. Post processing

Material cost

In metal 3D printing, material cost is usually the primary factor in calculating overall cost. This involves two main aspects: the weight of the printed material and the unit price of the material.

The weight of printed parts not only includes the weight of the final product, but also needs to consider the weight of the supporting structure. The supporting structure plays a role in supporting the suspended part during the printing process, but it is usually removed after printing is completed. Therefore, when calculating material costs, it is necessary to ensure that the weight of the supporting structure is also taken into account. Fortunately, modern 3D printing slicing software such as Cura, PrusaSlicer, and Simplify 3D can automatically calculate the required model weight, providing us with great convenience.

Additionally, we need to determine the price per kilogram of material. The price of metal powder varies depending on the type of material, purity, and supplier. Common metal materials include stainless steel, titanium alloy, aluminum alloy, etc., and the price of each material varies. Therefore, when selecting materials, in addition to considering their applicability and performance, it is also necessary to consider their cost factors.

Machine depreciation cost

Generally speaking, the lifespan of a regular desktop 3D printer is between 3-5 years. To simplify the calculation, we can take the average value, assuming it is 4 years.

Next, we need to consider the actual usage time of the machine. Although theoretically machines can operate around the clock, in practical use, due to maintenance, upkeep, rest, and other reasons, machines are not working 24 hours a day. Therefore, we need to estimate the average usage time of the machine. Assuming a normal 8-hour working time, the number of working hours in a year is 8 hours/day * 250 days/year (taking into account holidays and weekends off).

Now, we can calculate the hourly machine depreciation cost. Assuming the selling price of the machine is $80000, the depreciation cost per hour can be calculated using the following formula:

Hourly depreciation cost=$80000 /(4 years * 250 days/year * 8 hours/day)

This formula distributes the selling price of the machine to each working hour, thus obtaining the depreciation cost per hour.

Labor costs

When calculating the cost of metal 3D printing, labor cost is an undeniable factor. Although modern 3D printers have become highly automated, operators still need to check the equipment status, install printing materials, and adjust printing parameters before starting printing. These tasks not only require operators to have rich experience and skills, but also require them to invest a lot of time.

For example, if an operator’s monthly salary is $5000 (actual salary may vary depending on experience and skill level), calculated based on working 20 days per month and 8 hours per day, their hourly labor cost will be close to $31. This cost is a significant expense for many businesses or individuals. Therefore, labor costs often become the most expensive part of 3D printing production costs.

Risk of failure

The risk of failure is directly related to production efficiency and cost control, which involves multiple considerations, including machine stability, software settings, printing time, and model complexity. These factors are intertwined and together affect the success rate of printing.

For example, if there is 1 failure in 5 prints, the high failure rate depends on the actual situation. For certain high-precision and high demand printing tasks, such a failure rate may be high and require further optimization and improvement. For some ordinary printing tasks, this failure rate may be within an acceptable range.

Maintenance costs

As a mechanical device, 3D printers inevitably face the need for maintenance. Common maintenance items may include replacing nozzles or release membranes, repairing limit switches or temperature controllers, etc. In addition, in order to maintain the stable performance of the printer and extend its service life, it may be necessary to regularly replace some key components.

Generally speaking, if the metal 3D printer does not have serious malfunctions, the maintenance cost usually accounts for about 2% to 3% of the total value of the equipment. Of course, this ratio will be influenced by various factors, including the brand, model, service life, and frequency of maintenance of the equipment.

In addition to maintenance costs, we also need to consider electricity expenses. The calculation of electricity bills is mainly based on the machine’s power and printing time. If the average power consumption per kilowatt hour is between 0.10 and 0.15$, for a common FDM 3D printer with a heated bed, its power consumption per hour is about 0.04 degrees, which means the power cost is about 0.004 to 0.006$ per hour.

Post processing

More complex metal products require more printing time and finer craftsmanship. After the completion of metal 3D printing parts, post-processing is often required to further improve the quality of the printed parts. Post processing may include steps such as polishing, and coloring, all of which incur additional costs. In order to improve surface smoothness or quality, reduce surface roughness, clean internal channels, or remove partially melted particles from parts, more advanced surface finishing may be required, such as chemical treatment, laser polishing, etc. These post-processing steps not only increase operational complexity and time costs, but may also involve high-value equipment and chemicals, significantly increasing overall costs. If outsourced, these costs can reach hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Related: Surface Finish Symbols: Everything You Need to Know

So, how to control costs?

There are several methods to control the cost of metal 3D printing, including:

Optimizing model design

Reducing the scale of the design or utilizing hollow designs effectively decreases the required material, thereby lowering printing costs. However, it’s important to note that the wall thickness of hollow designs should be within the material’s tolerance range, and the hollow area should preferably be larger than 2mm to ensure both printing quality and cost reduction goals. Additionally, a well-structured design can minimize the use of support structures, further saving costs.

Selecting appropriate printing materials

Metal materials vary significantly in price, so it’s essential to choose materials that offer the best value for the intended purpose. Pay attention to the quality and purity of the materials to avoid printing failures or subpar results due to material issues, which could add unnecessary costs.

Improving printing efficiency

Optimizing printing parameters, enhancing equipment stability, and other measures can shorten printing time, reduce power consumption, and thus lower printing costs, especially when printing large batches or voluminous products. Furthermore, scheduling printing tasks effectively to minimize equipment idle time can boost equipment utilization rates, reducing unit costs.

Controlling labor costs

Although human involvement is required in the metal 3D printing process, labor costs can be reduced by improving the skill levels of operators and optimizing production processes. For instance, regular training for operators to enhance their proficiency and accuracy can reduce printing failures and material waste caused by improper operation.

Lowering maintenance costs

Regular equipment maintenance and timely identification and resolution of potential issues can prolong equipment lifespan and reduce maintenance costs. Moreover, selecting reliable equipment and suppliers with comprehensive service can also help reduce maintenance expenses to a certain extent.

Related: 3D Printing vs Injection Molding Cost: Your Definitive Guide

metal 3D printing parts

Advantages of metal 3D printing

After discussing how to effectively control the cost of metal 3D printing, let’s take a look at the advantages of metal 3D printing? How it plays an important role in the manufacturing industry.

Increased design freedom

Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, metal 3D printing technology greatly reduces design limitations in the manufacturing process, allowing designers to unleash their imagination more freely and create more innovative and unique products.

In traditional manufacturing, due to limitations in technology and materials, designers often need to compromise in product design to meet the needs of the production line. However, the emergence of metal 3D printing technology has completely broken this constraint. It allows designers to create products with complex internal structures and fine surface details that are difficult to achieve in traditional manufacturing. This increase in design freedom not only helps to improve product performance and functionality, but also provides designers with more creative space.

Rapid prototyping

Metal 3D printing technology can quickly transform designs into actual metal part prototypes, greatly shortening the product development cycle. For the design verification and small-scale production of new products, this advantage is particularly important. It can help enterprises quickly verify the feasibility of product design and achieve product launch in a short period of time, thereby winning the market competition.

Customized production

Metal 3D printing technology can achieve personalized production according to the specific needs of customers, meeting the specific needs of different users. In the medical field, the application of metal 3D printing technology is particularly prominent, which can manufacture medical devices or implants according to the specific situation of patients, thereby improving treatment effectiveness and patient comfort.


In summary, the cost of metal 3D printing is a complex and multifaceted issue. When calculating the overall cost, we need to consider and weigh from multiple perspectives. Boyi, as a professional 3D printing service provider, is committed to providing customers with professional, efficient, and comprehensive 3D printing solutions. We have advanced 3D printing equipment and technology that can meet various customer needs from prototype design to mass production. If you have any 3D printing needs, please feel free to contact us at any time, and we will be happy to serve you.


What are the disadvantages of 3D metal printing?

The disadvantages of 3D metal printing include high initial investment costs for equipment, limited material selection compared to traditional methods, potential issues with printing resolution and surface finish, as well as post-processing requirements for removing support structures and achieving desired properties.

How much does a metal 3d printer cost?

Metal 3D printers can range from tens of thousands to several million dollars. Entry-level or desktop metal 3D printers designed for small-scale applications might start from around $10,000 to $100,000. Mid-range industrial-grade metal printers typically cost between $100,000 to $500,000. High-end or large-scale metal 3D printers with advanced features and capabilities can exceed $1 million

Tagged: 3D Printing Guide

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