3D printing cost comparator: 3D printer or 3D printing service?

Try our 3D Printing Cost Comparator: 3D Printer or 3D Printing Service?

Posted By on Feb 14, 2017 | 0 comments

When 3D printing started gaining popularity, there was a common idea that, in the future, everybody would own their own 3D printer at home or for their company, and that remote production would be a thing of the past.

This hasn’t happened yet, and, we believe, probably won’t happen anytime soon. The three main reasons are:

  1. It takes a high level of expertise to properly design for 3D printing and use a 3D printer
  2. A lot of products can’t be directly and entirely 3D printed
  3. It is often too expensive to buy a 3D printer, especially when you are looking for high-quality, industrial grade 3D prints, and, for most people, it isn’t cost effective.

However, a solution exists to make the most of 3D printing without investing in the machines: online 3D printing services.

With our online service, you get access to a wide range of 3D printing materials and 3D technologies, at a professional level.

To help you define when it is most cost-efficient to buy a 3D printer or to use a 3D printing service, we created a special interactive page: our 3D Printing Price Calculator!

 

What is our 3D Printing Price Comparator?

 

The question we ask here is: when is it more cost-efficient to buy a 3D printer and when is it best to use a 3D printing service?

To help you make this choice, we have created an interactive page: our 3D Printing Price Comparator. It will estimate the price of your 3D print depending on a variety of factors, and tell you whether it will be most expensive if you buy a 3D printer or if you use a 3D printing service.

Price comparator - Sculpteo

 

What info do we need?

In this page, you’ll be asked to upload your 3D file, and to answer some simple questions about:

  • the surface quality you are looking to achieve
  • whether your objects will be monochromatic/bichromatic or full color 3D prints
  • the level of complexity of your 3D design
  • the quality of your 3D print (layer thickness and resolution)
  • and how many 3D prints you will realize per month

 

What info will you get?

We then calculate automatically the cost of both solutions (3D printing service or buying a 3D printer), depending on the following elements:

 

For the ‘use a 3D printing service’ option:

  • online 3D printing price
  • shipping cost

 

For the ‘buying a 3D printer’ option:

  • cost of the 3D printer
  • 3D printing cost: material and maintenance
  • labor and electricity

 

 

Results price comparator - Sculpteo

Try our 3D Printing Price Comparator now!

 

Calculation Mode

 

For the ‘use a 3D printing service’ option

For the ‘use a 3D printing service’ option, we applied the prices indicated on our 3D printing platform when you upload a design, directly on our website. You’ll get an instant and interactive quote for your design. This price includes shipping (depending on the shipping option you choose), which means it is the real total cost of your 3D print. You can find all the info on 3D printing price on the dedicated page. And here’s the list of our 3D printing materials.

3D printing price sculpteo

 

For the ‘buying a 3D printer’ option

We defined a list of 3D printers, both hobbyist and professional. It’s far from being an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to give a wide idea of the different prices. Depending on the volume of your 3D design and the different options you chose for your print (surface quality, color, complexity, layer thickness and resolution and the number of prints/month), we’ll compare the use of a 3D printing service with one of these 3D printers:

  • Ultimaker 3 (FDM): more suited for hobbyists, this is a multi-material FDM 3D printer, for low surface quality, low complexity (supports needed), and monochrome or bichromatic 3D prints. It will print one part at a time. The machine costs around $4000.
  • Stratasys Mojo (FDM): also suited for hobbyists, this is best for low surface quality, low complexity (supports needed), and monochrome 3D prints. It will print one part at a time. The cost of the machine is around $6000.
  • Formlabs Form2 (SLA): also suited for hobbyists, this is for medium surface quality and complexity (supports needed), and monochrome 3D prints. It will print one part at a time. The cost of the machine is around $3000.
  • 3D Systems 260C (MJP): a professional color 3D printer. It can print several parts at a time. It costs around $35000.
  • Stratasys Objet30 Pro (Polyjet): a professional desktop color 3D printer. It can print several parts at a time. It costs around $43000.
  • EOS Formiga P110 (SLS): a professional monochrome 3D printer, which can provide high surface quality, complexity, and resolution. It can print several parts at a time. The machine costs around $250000.

Here’s how we make the calculation for the ‘buying a 3D printer’ option:

 

Prints per month

To build our 3D Printing Price Comparator, we take into account the number of 3D prints you think you will realize per month, over a period of 3 years. In the final price we give you, the cost of the machine we take into account is the cost of the initial machine divided by the number of prints during these 3 years.

 

Cost of the 3D printer

To determine the cost of the printer for one 3D print, we take the retail price of the printer (not including tax or shipping charges) plus installation fees. Then we divide by the total number of units that could be printed over a 3-year timeframe, depending on your answer concerning the number of 3D prints you think you’ll produce per month.

 

To evaluate the printer capacity, we multiply the number of units that can simultaneously fit in the printer, by the number of times/trays the printer can print in a 3-year-timeframe.

For personal printers (Ultimaker 3, Form2), it is estimated that 30 jobs/year are performed, 90 jobs total. For professional 3D printers (Mojo, 260C, Objet30Pro and P110), it is estimated that 100 jobs/year are produced, 300 jobs in total.

 

3D Printing Cost: material and maintenance

3D printing material cost is determined by the retail price of the material multiplicated by how much material is needed for the print.

The estimated 3D printing cost for maintenance is based on user experience. For each printer, we defined a percentage from 5% to 50% of the cost of the printer, and finally divided by the number of objects printed. 

 

Labor and electricity

For hobbyist printers (Ultimaker 3 and Form2), manual labor isn’t taken into account; we take action in that they won’t be used in a professional context. For professional printers (Mojo, 260C, Objet30 Pro and P110), a cost of $27/hour is included (labor represents manual involvement in printing, and not the actual 3D printing time of the object). In this orange section, the largest portion is for labor.
For electricity, a cost of $0.18 kilowatts/hour is included. And for the Objet30 Pro, an additional cost for water of $0.005/liter is added. These 3D printing costs are negligible.

 

Conclusions

With this 3D printing price comparator, it will be easier to make the best investment for your 3D prints.

If you don’t have a 3D file yet, you can also read our two infographics about whether you should Buy a 3D printer or use a 3D printing service: the 2014 edition and the 2015 edition.

And if you’re ready to use a 3D printing service and receive your 3D printed parts directly, without investing in a 3D printer, you can upload a file right here.

 

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