This return on investment is a benefit that sets 3D printing apart from other solutions like outsourcing. But as with any long-term asset, it pays to be aware of all the associated costs that come with owning a 3D printer, and which expenses you need to plan for into the future.
The list below should help you understand the costs involved, how they differ depending on the technology, and which are one-off or repeating. (Prices are indicative and subject to change – so we recommend doing your own research too.)
3D printer price
With products on the market for anyone from a home user to the R&D divisions of blue-chip companies, this varies a lot. Typically, FFF offers the greatest variation in price, from hobbyist machines costing a few hundred dollars to higher-performance desktop printers in the $2,000 to $6,000 range. Desktop SLA printers start from around $2,000 to $3,000, while an SLS printer typically costs $10,000 plus. Larger-scale industrial machines of any technology will cost significantly more.
These can add extra functionality, but also extra expense. Post-processing peripherals are almost essential for SLA and SLS printers. For example, SLA prints will otherwise have to be manually washed in isopropyl alcohol and left in the sun to cure – so in practice, these printers often require purchase of post-processing stations unless that appeals to you! For FFF, peripherals can streamline workflows such as material handling, but are up to you depending on your needs.
Maintenance and service
Typically, this should only be the cost of replacing the odd consumable part over time. Check what support your seller includes as part of the price – they may offer installation and maintenance included. Some products also come with extended warranty options or an annual service plan. These plans can add certainty for some customers, but be sure to read the fine print in detail to understand the terms and exactly what support you get if something goes wrong.
For regular use for an Ultimaker 3D printer, we calculated this to be around $50 per year. But if you want a more precise figure, check the power consumption specs of a 3D printer and make a calculation based on your likely usage and local energy prices.
Think of material costs like gas for your car. While not considerable in isolation, over the long-term it will be one of the biggest running costs. For FFF 3D printing, an everyday filament like PLA or PETG will cost around $20 to $50 per kilogram, or $60 to $120 for specialized engineering or support filaments. Entry-level SLA resins cost around $50 per liter, and most professional options cost around $150 to $400. SLS powder can cost around $100 to $200 per kilogram.
Most professional level 3D printers come with some software included, usually so you can prepare your prints and manage printers. Many cheaper 3D printers don’t come with adequate software, but luckily our Ultimaker Cura software is compatible with hundreds of machines and free to download. And if you really want to scale 3D printing in your business unit or even entire organization, consider an enterprise software plan with added features like direct support, online training courses, and cloud storage for your parts and projects.
You can learn more in our total cost of ownership white paper – available to download for free.