[2014 Edition] 3D Printing Service Cost vs 3D Printer Price | Sculpteo Blog

[2014 Edition] 3D Printing Service Cost vs 3D Printer Price

Posted By Sculpteo on Feb 20, 2014 | 20 comments

To compare the total costs involved with 3D printing at home versus ordering through our printing service, Sculpteo commissioned an independent study conducted by Strate College industrial design graduate Martin Toulemonde.

We’ve created an infographic to illustrate the results of the study.


3D printing infographic

3D printers infographic

(Click to enlarge.)

Designs Used for the Study

Various STL files were printed with Sculpteo and 6 different 3D printers priced under $50,000 USD. Three of these files are represented in the infographic. The STL files are linked below:
• Space Invader ring by Geekrings
• Robot mini-figurine by Emmanuel Eymond
• GoPro grip mount by Fabrice

Materials & Printing Technologies

The materials and printing processes vary depending on which printer was used. Designs printed with Sculpteo were printed in white plastic using an SLS process. Designs printed with the 6 different 3D printers were printed in the standard material and process for that printer. The specific materials and printing process technologies for each printer are outlined in the chart below.

3D printing process chart

A Note on Quality

Because the materials and printing processes vary, the quality of the final prints is variable as well. SLS and PolyJet printing typically results in the highest quality prints. But the focus of this study was to compare the price, not the quality.

Determining the Printing Price for Each Design

The cost of printing with Sculpteo’s online service is based on the instant price given on Sculpteo.com (not including tax or shipping charges).

The costs of printing each item with a printer is broken down into 3 parts:
1) Investment cost of the printer
2) Materials & maintenance
3) Labor & electricity

Investment Cost of Printer

The investment cost of the printer for each item was determined by the retail price of the printer (not including tax or shipping charges) plus installation fees and then divided by the total number of units that could be printed over a 3 year timeframe.

cost of 3D printers

The total number of units that could be printed was estimated by multiplying the number of units that fit in the printer at one time (printer capacity) by the number of times/trays the printer could print in a 3 year timeframe. 3 years was chosen as the average lifetime of a 3D printer.

For personal printers (Replicator, Fomr1) it was estimated that 30 jobs per year are performed, 90 jobs total. For professional printers (Mojo, uPrint, Z250, Objet30Pro), it was estimated that 100 jobs per year were made, 300 jobs in total.

Materials & Mainteance

Materials cost is determined by the retail price of the materials divided by how much material was needed for the print. Maintenance costs were based on the authors experience and included extra parts plus manual labor.

The estimated maintenance cost for each printer is outlined below:
Replicator: 14% of the price of the machine
Form1: 15% of the price of the machine
uPrint: 2% of the price of the machine
Mojo: 4% of the price of the machine
Z250: 50% of the price of the machine
Objet 30 Pro: 25% of the price of the machine

Labor & electricity

For hobbyist printers (ReplicatorX and Form1) no costs were added for manual labor. For professional printers (Mojo, uPrint, Z250, Objet30Pro), a cost of $27 per hour was added. (Time calculated is for manual involvement in printing, not the active printing time of the object.) Nearly all of the cost illustrated by the orange portion of the bars is for labor.

For electricity, a cost of $0.18 kilowatts per hour was added. And for the Objet30 Pro, an additional cost for water of $0.005 per liter was added. These costs were negligible.


The cost of printing with Sculpteo is generally the least expensive option for 3D printing designs with a volume of less than 25cm3. The cost is close but still less expensive than using a consumer, hobbyist printer. (But the hobbyist printers do not account for the manual time spent.)

The cost comparison in Euros and USD, plus three additional larger objects that were printed for the study, is shown in the chart below.


(Click to enlarge.)

Upload a file
Upload a file
Content available in