How Much Does a 3D Printer Cost?
3D steaks. Prefab houses. Organs replacements from your own body tissue. If the hype, excitement, and enormous strides made in 3D technology have finally won you over, you're not alone! It's no longer a concept, it's here, and if you have decided to take the plunge but want to know what you can get for your money, then you've come to the right place!
The good news is that as their popularity has exploded, 3D printer prices are now at a price-point that won't require a second mortgage to buy one, whether you just want to tinker in your back room or whether you have more commercial ideas in mind. How much does a 3D printer cost? "How long is a piece of string" as my Dad used to quite enjoy saying. They vary wildly in price, according to their size, features, and performance. Which one is best for you will depend on two things: what you need it for and what your budget allows. Answered those two questions? Okay then, here are your options:
There are an ever-increasing number of small, inexpensive printers on the market right now. As you'd expect at this price range, they come with their limitations, but they can certainly serve a purpose as a way to experiment and get to grips with the technology (or for DIYers who need cheap and easy custom parts/prints).
The main limitations? They can only print objects 3-4" in each dimension (length, width, height). You will likely have to spend a bit of time assembling, calibrating, and testing them. They are slower, noisier, and less durable than the more expensive models and are limited to printing with one material.
But as a stepping-stone, your 3D apprenticeship, they do the job.
- Cheap way to experiment with the technology
- Come with some severe limitations
Your extra few bucks here can really count, as printers in this category can be surprisingly capable. Again, you will need to spend some time assembling and calibrating, but you can expect higher quality prints, on a more frequent basis and with a wider range of materials.
They can make larger products (about 6") faster and with less noise.
Obviously, these machines have their limitations too, but they are a decent step-up from the entry-level ones, considering there isn't a massive jump in price.
- Surprisingly capable (better quality, more choice of materials, can use more often)
- Still significant limitations
Ready to take your new hobby to the next level? This mid-level market is exploding right now, as many 3D fans do just that.
In this range, you can get yourself a robust printer, a wider choice of materials, and decent quality prints as large as 12" each dimension.
But if you had more day-to-day use in mind, you'll still need a Professional level one; these are great for regular use but not continuous.
- More robust still and up to 12"
- Still not enough for commercial use
Okay, now we're really cooking with gas! If you are spending this kind of money on a printer, then either your numbers came up last week, or you have it making money for you. Either way, congratulations!
At this price point, we start seeing some serious bits of kit. They pretty much plug and play once you get them out of the box, assembled, and pre-calibrated. They are also built more with user experience in mind - not quite an iPod, but often with touchscreen and WiFi capabilities. Print size is bigger still, and the quality is top-drawer. You shouldn't anticipate any issues with the machines, but their growing popularity ensures they have the customer service and maintenance options to cover them.
- Excellent performance, more user-friendly, and pretty much plug-and-play
- Not 'cheap,' even if you are a business
5. Industrial $20,000-$100,000
Now, these are the ones that may require a second mortgage.
These printers are the really top-end machinery, used mostly in making prototypes and parts, though they can be included in the manufacturing process of many commercial items too.
Their speed, durability, and quality are second-to-none, but they come at a cost. And not just that eye-watering price tag.
While producing the highest possible quality, industrial printers are ironically the most limited in function and materials. Manufacturers usually require regular maintenance checks from their engineers, and you will almost always be required to use materials provided by them too. Yep, this is the Microsoft business model here.
While they will always have a market, the gulf in quality between these machines and the professional ones is no longer justifying the price difference. They have seen their popularity wane in recent years.
- Cutting-edge hardware and top-end quality
- Cost more than most cars, and that isn't the end of the expense…
The machine's price isn't the only cost associated with your 3D printer, so it's only right we detail a few things you might need to think about there too.
Like the gas in your car, these won't break the bank, but they add up over time. Their exact costs will depend on which material you are using: for example, an everyday PLA is $20-$50 per kilogram, while entry-level SLA resins are about $50 per liter.
With the better machines (certainly professional-level and upwards), this shouldn't amount to much more than the odd part over time. If you are lucky, your supplier might even include the maintenance with the purchase, though always check the fine print, so you know exactly what that entails!
The cheaper machines often don't come with software, though there is a huge selection out there (much of it open-source). Here is a link to a few of the options: 17-best-3d-printing-open-source-software-of-2021
If you want any extra functionality, invariably, you will have to pay for it! Post-processing peripherals are essential for most SLA and SLS printers - unless you fancy washing them in isopropyl and curing them in the sun yourself!
You can also check our article on the Types of 3D Printing Explained.
We hope this article has given you a better idea of what you can get for your money with 3D printers today. But remember, it's an ever-evolving landscape, with innovations all the time.
If you'd know more about 3D printer prices or what they can do for you (or your business), check out our website 3djunkies.com or get in touch with one of our friendly experts: email@example.com
We're ready to take that next step with you!