How Much Does It Cost To Run A 3d Printer At Home?

Running a 3d printer at home does cost you some money. There is the cost of electricity to run the machine, and there’s the cost of the material being used to produce the model. For some printers, there’s other consumables, like paper towels, isopropyl alcohol or other cleaners and rubber gloves. Plus, there’s a bunch of up-front costs, like the printer itself and any accessories and tools that you use.

All in, a 3d printer can cost as much as $12.00USD per day in consumable materials (that’s including the plastic or resin to make the model you’re printing). If you aren’t printing 100% of the time during a day, then the price falls below that. Operating a printer for 8 hours may only cost $4.00 to $5.00USD for the working day.

DLP resin printers have different operating costs to FDM filament printers. Let’s have a look at the differences so that you can understand the costs of printing objects at home.

Cost of Electricity For Your 3d Printer

Many 3d prints that you do are going to be running for eight hours or more. It’s even common with FDM filament printers to have a print that will take two or even three days to complete. That means that on some of your printing days, you’re actually running the printer for the entire 24 hour period with no break.

Most 3d printers consume around 50 watts per hour, even with a heated bed. Others, to get the bed to heat up quickly, use 120 volt power to heat the bed (the Artillery Sidewinder X1 is an example) and at peak, it can consume 600 watts per hour, but it won’t sustain that, and should drop to 50 to 80 watts per hour once it’s up to temperature.

50 watts per hour is around 1¢ per hour. So estimating double that, and running 24 hours a day, will get you a cost of under 50¢ per day in electricity. For a DLP resin printer, the only thing drawing power is the low wattage UV light source, the tiny control computer and the small amount of power that the z-axis motor requires. For an FDM filament printer, you’re powering the control computer, and the x-, y- and z-axes motors. They really are rather efficient in their electrical use.

Consumable Materials Cost For Your 3d Printer

The obvious cost of a 3d printer is the stuff that you’re making the 3d printed part out of. That’s either filament or liquid resin, depending on the type of printer that you have. The examples below are for PLA filament or standard UV resin. If you use other materials, then likely your costs will be higher. Instead of $50.00USD for standard resin, you may decide to go with AnyCubic’s ECO resin that is safer, lower odor and made from plants. It goes for roughly $75.00USD for a liter, and you can find other resins, depending on your need, for even more money. Filament is the same. Generic PLA can be quite cheap, but different material properties will likely cost a lot more.

Cost of Filament for An FDM Printer

Cura Slicer (when printing with an FDM filament printer) will provide you with a rather good estimate of the length of filament a model will use when it slices a model.  For example, this model building will take XX.XX meters of filament. Your 1kg spool of PLA will have around 330 meters of filament on it. At $25.00 for a spool from Amazon.Com, your cost is 7.6¢ per meter.

A typical “benchy” model (a fairly standard test print) takes about 25 cubic centimeters, or 10 meters of filament. At  7.6¢ per meter, your cost would be around 76¢ for the model in filament cost. If you printed a larger model, your amount of filament used would, of course, go up as well. If a print took longer than 24 hours, using PLA, with a layer height of 0.2mm, you would use somewhere around 120 meters per day, at a cost of around $9.12USD. So, rounding up, if you estimated $10.00USD per day for a full day (24 hours) of printing using PLA, you’d be pretty close.

Cost of Resin for a DLP Printer

As with the Cura Slicer, the ChiTuBox Slicer I use for DLP resin printing will calculate the volume of the resin used and, if you enter the price of the resin in the settings, will calculate the price for the entire print run. I use a price of $50.00 in the settings (and my resin is usually cheaper than that!) I have printed a pair of large tanks for a resin cost of $2.35 for the print run.

Remember, just like with the FDM printer, changing the layer height of the print will increase the time, but not the volume of material used. It may look better and have great detail, but it won’t be any more volume (and thus material cost) to one done with less detail.

Other Consumables and Their Costs

For a FDM filament printer, you’ll want some isopropyl alcohol to clean off the build plate (to remove finger oils and other residues). Other than that, repair or replacement parts are the only thing you’ll potentially need. Replacement Bowden tubes and connectors, replacement hot end nozzles and replacement hot end insulating sleeves are generally under $10.00USD each for a set of replacements (enough for several replacements, not just one). 

For a DLP resin printer, you’ll need a little more. Any time you interact with liquid resin, you’ll need to wear Nitrile rubber gloves. This specific type of rubber glove will keep your hands safe from the caustic chemicals of UV resin. You’ll also need a cleaner to clean off your prints. Many recommend isopropyl alcohol to clean the prints, but I use Mean Green cleaner at full strength. It’s cheaper, smells better and isn’t flammable! Water is the second step of the cleaning process, but it’s at least free from the tap.

For any one print, you’ll need a pair of Nitrile rubber gloves. A box of 100 is less than $10.00USD, so a pair is 20¢ and you’re likely doing no more than two prints per day. You’ll go through 3 sheets of paper towel per print (likely) so that adds another 10¢ per print  (348 sheets for $11.00USD comes out to 3.2¢ per sheet, or 10¢ for three). So, with two sets of gloves and 6 paper towel sheets, you’re at a whopping 50¢ for a hard day’s printing.

Non-Consumables For 3d Printers

When you start out, you’ll run into all sorts of one-time purchases that will make your life easier with a 3d printer. Check out the Recommended 3d Printer Gear page here on Home3dPrints.Com: FDM filament printers have less to add, but there are some good recommendations for DLP resin printers: pickle jars to clean the finished prints, parts for a UV curing station and some good side cutters come to mind).

A Model For Charging Others For 3d Printing

If you’re going to start a 3d printing business with your printer, then understanding your costs is a must. The more it costs, the more you’ll want to charge for your service or product. But don’t forget time. It’s our most precious resource, and don’t sell yourself short. 3d printing is an advanced technical skill, and should be paid for accordingly. Not everyone is up to the challenge of 3d printing. You are, and that’s worth something.

Time pricing is much more viable than materials pricing. If you were to print at 0.4mm layer height, you could finish a print far faster than printing at 0.1mm layer height. But the material amount would be the same. So an estimate by time is far more useful than an estimate by just how much material is used. Multiply this by the your rate, and you have a good estimate for your product or service price.

Related Questions

Can you make money with a 3d printer?

To make money with a 3d printer, you have two main options. You can charge a service fee to print models for customers and ship it to them, or you can produce items for sale in an online or physical shop. Either way will work, but one printer does not have enough capacity to make a full-time living from. It may be a great way, however, to supplement an existing income.

What can I make with a 3d printer at home?

Anything that you can think of that’s plastic and as small as the print bed on your printer can be printed at home. For home-sized DLP resin printers, the items are quite small. The AnyCubic Photon, for example, can produce items to a maximum dimension of 115mm x 65mm x 155mm. FDM filament printers tend to have larger print volumes. For example, the Ender 3 can make objects to a maximum dimension of 220mm x 220mm x 250mm. 

You could print specialty kitchen utensils or tools, models for gaming or displaying, holders, replacement knobs for drawers or phone cases. There are so many things that can be made. Have a look at Thingiverse.Com to see the literally hundreds of thousands of downloadable files for 3d printing. Download and print something today!

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