Unveiling the True Cost of 3D Printing: 7 Factors & Cost Saving Strategies [2024] 💰

Video: The Cost Of A 3D Print – How to calculate + FREE TEMPLATE!

Ever wondered how much it would cost to 3D print your dream gadget? We’ve all been there—staring at a captivating 3D model online, imagining it in our hands. But then, the dreaded question pops up: how much will it cost? 😩 It’s not as simple as checking the price of a filament spool. There’s a whole world of factors dictating the final cost! We’re here to dissect those hidden costs, uncover the truth behind the numbers, and equip you with cost-saving strategies. Think of it as your ultimate 3D printing budgeting guide—we’re spilling all the secrets! 😉

Quick Answer

  • The cost of 3D printing varies drastically depending on the material, size, complexity, print time, and post-processing. It can be as low as a few cents for a simple keychain or as high as hundreds of dollars for a large, intricate model.
  • Key factors influencing 3D print costs include filament type, print settings, energy consumption, and even labor costs and design complexity.
  • Strategic choices like optimizing print settings, minimizing waste, and considering alternative materials like budget-friendly PLA can drastically reduce costs.
  • You can leverage free, open-source 3D models online to save money on design costs.
  • Explore cost-estimation tools and calculate your printing costs using our step-by-step guide.

Table of Contents

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Printing a smartphone case yourself can be cheaper than buying a mass-produced one! 🤯 This is especially true for unique or personalized designs.
  • The cost of 3D printing can be as low as a few cents for a small, simple object. Think keychains or earrings! However, larger, more intricate designs using advanced materials can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars.
  • Think outside the box! 🤔 3D printing can be used for much more than just creating finished products. It’s a valuable tool for prototyping, creating molds, and even educational purposes.
  • Free is your friend! Tons of free 3D model designs are available online. Websites like Thingiverse and Cults3D are treasure troves for makers on a budget.

The Evolution of 3D Printing Costs

Video: The REAL PRICE of 3D Printing – Filament Electricity Printers & Upcycling!!!

Remember the first clunky mobile phones? 🧱 They cost a small fortune! Over time, technology advanced, manufacturing scaled, and prices plummeted. We’re witnessing a similar trajectory with 3D printing.

Early 3D printers were expensive behemoths, and materials were limited and pricey. Fast forward to today, and you have affordable desktop printers like the Creality Ender 3 (👉 CHECK PRICE on:) and a vast selection of filaments like eco-friendly PLA (👉 CHECK PRICE on:) and tough-as-nails ABS (👉 CHECK PRICE on:) .

This democratization of technology is driving down costs, making 3D printing accessible to hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and educators alike.

Factors Influencing 3D Print Costs

Video: 3D Printing Cost BreakDown: How to Calculate & What Affect 3D Printing Cost.

Estimating the cost of your 3D print isn’t as simple as glancing at the price of a spool of filament. It’s like baking a cake – the final cost depends on the ingredients, the baking time, and even the decorations! 🎂

Let’s break down the key factors:

Material Costs

  • Filament Type: Your choice of “ingredients” matters! PLA is your budget-friendly option, while specialized filaments like conductive PLA or wood-filled PLA will bump up the cost.
  • Filament Quantity: This seems obvious, but a large, solid model will naturally require more filament (and cost) than a small, hollow one.

Printing Time

Time is money, right? ⏳ This applies to 3D printing as well.

  • Print Settings: A higher resolution (more detailed print) will take longer than a lower resolution print.
  • Model Complexity: A complex model with intricate details will naturally take longer to print than a simple geometric shape.

Printer Maintenance

Just like your car needs an oil change, your 3D printer needs some TLC to keep running smoothly.

  • Nozzle Replacements: Worn-out nozzles can affect print quality and might need replacement.
  • General Upkeep: Cleaning, calibration, and occasional part replacements factor into the overall cost.

Energy Consumption

While not a major cost factor for occasional printing, it’s worth considering if you’re printing frequently or running a 3D printing farm! 🔌

  • Printer Power Consumption: Different printers have different power requirements.
  • Printing Duration: Obviously, a longer print job will consume more energy.

Labor Costs

If you’re printing for profit or including 3D printing in a business model, you need to factor in labor costs. This includes:

  • Design Time: If you’re creating your own 3D models, the design time is a significant investment.
  • Print Preparation: This involves converting your design file, choosing the right print settings, and prepping the printer.
  • Post-Processing: Removing supports, sanding, painting – finishing touches take time!

Design Complexity

  • Intricate Designs: Fine details, intricate geometries, and complex shapes often require more supports during printing, which consume extra material and increase printing time.
  • Software Expertise: Complex designs might require advanced 3D modeling skills and specialized software.


The journey isn’t over when the printer stops buzzing! Post-processing can be a significant cost factor, depending on the desired finish.

  • Support Removal: Removing support structures can be time-consuming, especially for intricate designs.
  • Smoothing and Finishing: Sanding, priming, painting – the more elaborate the finish, the higher the cost.

Estimating 3D Print Costs: A Practical Guide

Video: How I Price My 3D Prints.

Okay, that was a lot of information! 🤯 Let’s simplify things and look at practical ways to estimate your 3D printing costs:

Online 3D Printing Cost Calculators

The easiest way to get a quick estimate is by using an online 3D printing cost calculator. These handy tools usually require you to upload your 3D model (STL file), choose your material, and specify your desired print settings.

Here are a few popular options:

DIY Cost Estimation

Want a more hands-on approach? Here’s a simple formula you can use:

Total Cost = (Material Cost per gram * Filament Used in grams) + (Electricity Cost per hour * Printing Time in hours) + (Additional Costs)

Let’s break it down:

  • Material Cost per gram: This information is usually available on the filament spool or the seller’s website.
  • Filament Used in grams: Your slicing software (like Cura or PrusaSlicer) will estimate the amount of filament your model requires.
  • Electricity Cost per hour: You can find your electricity rate on your utility bill. Multiply that rate by your printer’s wattage and divide by 1000 to get the cost per hour.
  • Printing Time in hours: Your slicing software will provide an estimated printing time.
  • Additional Costs: This includes things like printer maintenance, support material, and post-processing expenses.


Let’s say you want to print a phone case that requires 30 grams of PLA filament. Your PLA costs $20 per kilogram (which translates to $0.02 per gram). Your printer has a wattage of 100 watts, and your electricity rate is $0.12 per kilowatt-hour. The estimated printing time is 5 hours.

  • Material Cost: 0.02 * 30 = $0.60
  • Electricity Cost: (0.12 * 100 / 1000) * 5 = $0.06
  • Total Cost (without additional costs): $0.60 + $0.06 = $0.66

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add a markup if you’re selling your prints!

Cost Comparison: 3D Printing vs. Traditional Manufacturing

Video: 3D Printing vs Injection Molding: From Design to Price.

Now, the big question: When does 3D printing make sense financially, and when is it better to stick with traditional manufacturing methods? 🤔

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Here’s a simple comparison to guide you:

Feature 3D Printing Traditional Manufacturing
Cost per unit Higher for mass production, lower for single units or small batches Lower for mass production, higher for prototypes or small batches
Setup costs Generally lower, no need for expensive molds Often higher, requires tooling and mold creation
Customization Highly customizable, ideal for personalized or unique designs Limited customization, typically suited for mass production
Lead time Faster for prototypes and small batches Can be slower, especially for complex designs
Materials Limited material options compared to traditional manufacturing Wider range of material choices
Scalability Not as easily scalable to mass production Highly scalable for mass production

In a nutshell:

  • ✅ 3D printing wins if you need:

    • Prototypes
    • One-off designs
    • Highly customized products
    • Small batch production
  • ✅ Traditional Manufacturing wins if you need:

    • Mass production
    • Lower cost per unit for large quantities
    • Wider material choices

3D Printing Cost Optimization Strategies

Video: Why I charge $55 for this 3D printed part (how to price).

Alright, ready to save some money? 💰 Here are some tried-and-tested strategies to optimize your 3D printing costs:

Choosing the Right Filament

  • Don’t overspend when you don’t have to! For many projects, budget-friendly PLA is more than sufficient. Explore our guide to 3D Printable Objects for inspiration!
  • Buy in bulk! If you’re a frequent printer, buying filament in bulk can significantly reduce costs.
  • Experiment with brands! Just like generic medicines, there are often more affordable filament brands that offer comparable quality to premium options.

Optimizing Print Settings

  • Lower the resolution: You don’t always need the highest resolution setting. Experiment to find the sweet spot between quality and speed.
  • Reduce infill: Printing a fully solid object usually isn’t necessary. Experiment with lower infill percentages to save material and time.
  • Enable “Print Cooling” if your printer has it: This can improve the quality of overhangs and bridges, reducing the need for supports (and saving material!). Explore our helpful tips in 3D Printing Techniques.

Minimizing Waste

  • Print in batches, if possible: This reduces the number of times you have to heat up the print bed, saving energy.
  • Save those failed prints! Don’t throw them away! Many filaments can be recycled or used for experimental projects.
  • **Embrace the power of “Print Preview” ** Your slicing software’s print preview is your best friend. Use it to identify potential issues or areas where you can optimize your design before hitting “Print.”

Leveraging Open Source Designs

Let’s be honest, we all love seeing that “Print Complete” message, but wouldn’t it be even sweeter knowing you printed it efficiently and affordably? 🏆

Ready to dive into the fascinating world of 3D printing? Check out our latest article on the remarkable innovations in the field: 3D Printing Innovations. And if you’re looking for the perfect 3D design software to bring your ideas to life, explore our recommendations here: 3D Design Software.


a purple and yellow scarf is hanging from a hook

So, there you have it: a deep dive into the world of 3D printing costs. Remember, just like any other creative endeavor, there are ways to manage your budget and make the most of your materials and time. We’ve covered the key factors, discussed cost optimization strategies, and even explored the advantages and limitations compared to traditional manufacturing. Now, you’re equipped to make informed decisions about your 3D printing projects and keep those costs under control.

Ready to start printing? Be sure to explore the fascinating world of 3D printing in education! Check out our comprehensive guide on 3D Printing in Education for ideas and inspiration.

Popular 3D Printers:



  • “3D Printing, Maker Edition” by Michael Weinberg: 👉 Shop on:
  • “The Art of 3D Printing” by Michael Weinberg: 👉 Shop on:


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How expensive is it to 3D print something?

This is a tough question to answer directly! Think of it like asking “How much does it cost to build a house?” It depends on a ton of factors like:

  • Material: PLA? Resin? Titanium? The material will heavily influence the cost.
  • Size: A keychain will be far less expensive than a large statue.
  • Complexity: A detailed model will take more time and filament.
  • Printing time: A longer print time means more energy consumption.
  • Post-processing: Removing supports, sanding, painting all add up.

General rule of thumb:

  • Simple, small prints using PLA can cost a few cents or a few dollars.
  • Larger, more complex prints using specialized materials can cost hundreds of dollars.

How much does it cost to 3D print a simple keychain?

You can easily print a simple keychain for under $1 in material cost, using PLA filament. The key is going for a small model and considering a lower print resolution if possible.

Read more about “Is 3D Printed Stuff Plastic? The Surprising Truth About 3D Printing Materials … 🤯”

How to calculate the price of a 3D print?

We covered several ways to estimate costs in the article, but here’s a simple formula to get you started:

Total Cost = (Material Cost per gram * Filament Used in grams) + (Electricity Cost per hour * Printing Time in hours) + (Additional Costs) 

Don’t forget that your slicing software, like Cura or PrusaSlicer, provides helpful estimates for filament usage and print time. Additional costs can include things like printer maintenance, support material, and post-processing expenses.

Read more about “💰 Can You Make Money with a 3D Printer in 2024? 🤯 [The Ultimate Guide]”

How much does a 3D printer cost per hour?

This is more about the cost of running your 3D printer rather than the cost of printing itself.

Factors to consider:

  • Electricity cost per hour: You’ll need to find your local electricity rate, the printer wattage, and translate it to cost per hour.
  • Maintenance: Nozzle replacements, cleaning, and calibration all factor into the cost.

It’s challenging to give you a firm number, as electricity rates and printer models vary. For a rough estimate, the cost of running a 3D printer for one hour could be between $0.05 and $0.20.

How much does it cost to run a Fused Deposition Modelling printer for 1 hour?

An Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) printer like the Creality Ender 3 typically consumes around 100 watts. Based on a US electricity rate of $0.12 per kWh, the cost of running an FDM printer for one hour would be approximately $0.012. It’s important to note that this is a rough estimate, and actual costs can vary depending on your specific electricity rate and the power consumption of the printer.

Read more about “How much does it cost to make a 3D print? … 🖨️💰”

How much would it cost to 3D print a car?

Woah! This is a big question! 😳

First, let’s clarify: we’re not talking about printing a fully functional car in one go. Currently, the technology doesn’t exist for that. Instead, it’s more about printing parts or components of a car.

The cost to 3D print parts for a car depends heavily on:

  • Material: You’d likely need strong, durable materials like nylon or even metal.
  • Size: Car parts are large, meaning more material and longer printing times.
  • Complexity: Cars have many intricate pieces – think engine components, suspension parts, or even body panels.

Think about it this way: Printing a car part might be cost-effective for prototyping or small-scale production runs, but it’s unlikely to be cost-competitive with large-scale manufacturing for now.

What is the cost of 3D printing a car body?

Printing a car body would involve a significant amount of material and printing time. Even with a large-scale 3D printer, the cost would be significant. Current cost estimations for printing a car body using FDM printers are estimated to be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Read more about “How much would it cost to 3D print a car?”

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