A 3D printer price tag can range from $100 for DIY projects to over $10,000 for an industrial grade printer. The average cost of a 3D printer is $800 in 2019.
As 3D printing rapidly emerges as a cutting edge form of technology, one might be quick to assume these are “EXPENSIVE”.
A 3D printer’s cost will generally reflect upon the machine’s overall performance (resolution, speed, noise reduction, and reliability). The smaller the resolution, the finer the print is, thus creating a smoother print surface (think of a set of stairs; the smaller each stair ledge becomes, the more it looks like a smooth ramp).
However, the quality of the print is determined by the method in which is used to bind the material together. By the end of this article, you should have a better idea of what type of performance to expect from each cost tier of printers.
We have divided the price ranges into 5 unique categories to help you discover which printer will best suit your needs.
Simple prints, novice users, low budget projects
Cheap, DIY options, potential for modifications, software additions
Lots of calibration, time to assemble, low quality prints, noisy, small print volume
A few prints per week, small size prints, rapid prototyping
Increased reliability, longer lifespan, no assembly needed, One or two filament capability
Slow print speed, large resolution, small print volume
People who have prior experience with 3D printing, recreational printing
More selection of printing material, quieter operation, increased print speeds, better software
Does not provide continuous printing capability
For Researchers, engineering groups or businesses needing high quality prints and printer capabilities
Noise reduction, better customer service, Integrated UI, continuous printing, durable
Expensive maintenance, Overall cost
For large businesses printing mass number of high tolerance parts
Ultra high-quality prints, fast print speeds, metal enclosure, continuous printing
Cost, size/weight of machine
Which 3D printer is best for you?
$100-$200: DIY/Budget Printers
Cost of 3D printer: How much is a Budget 3D Printer?
Budget printers are great for those just starting out in 3D printing or wanting to experiment with building a “quick and dirty” prototype without much upfront cost. Two kinds of budget printers you can purchase are: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and pre-assembled models.
DIY Printers: Most DIY printers are sold in a kit with assembly instructions. The advantage of a DIY printer is the ability to make customizations to your printer and cost savings from building the printer yourself. For example, modification add-ons can be purchased on a specific 3D modeling software can be used on a DIY printer. The downside of DIY 3D printers are that they require more time to set up and calibrate. Many rounds of testing will be needed to attain the desired accuracy and proper alignment as they are unlikely to work straight out of the box. In addition, the functionality of the printer can be limited due to poor component quality. Other cons to DIY machines include high noise pollution, small print volumes, slower print speeds (around 100m/s), and overall decreased quality of prints
Pre-assembled models: Pretty self explanatory. These models are turn-key, ready to use out of the box making higher quality prints. With a slightly higher price tag, gone are the days of excessive tuning, building frustrations, and poor quality prints. Instead of wasting time reprinting models due to improper calibrations, you can just plug-and-play while you watch the machine work its magic producing higher tolerance parts and prints.
Cost of 3D printer: How much is a Beginner Level 3D Printer?
A beginner level 3D printer is for someone who is serious about buying their first machine, but doesn’t want to spend more than $500 on one. The advantages of a beginner/entry level printer are increased reliability, thus can be used more frequently. These printers require little to no modification and has a longer lifespan of functionality compared to the budget/DIY machines. Keep in mind, these models are still limited to slow print speeds, one-or-two filament options, small build volumes (usually not exceeding 500mm3), and larger resolutions.
Recommended Beginner Level 3D printer:[x]
Cost of 3D printer: How much is a Mid-range (Hobbyist) Level 3D Printer?
You’ll have the most choice of 3d printers in this price-range. This tier of 3D printers is for those who already have some experience with 3D printing and don’t mind spending up to $1000 on a machine. Hobbyist level printers give more features such as expanded selection of filament material (PLA, ABS, Wood/metal infills), larger print volumes, higher quality prints, quieter operation (50db), faster print speeds, and increased durability. Aside from all the bells and whistles, keep in mind that these machines are still only capable for recreational printing with size limitations of around 6 inches in each dimension. These machines have better software that can auto-level and clean. While the mid range machines are designed for regular use, continuous use could wear down the machine even faster requiring frequent maintenance and repairs.
Note: Most 3D printers under $700 do not significant increase in value over the budget machines (Just fancier bells and whistles, with slightly improved accuracy and reliability. Those looking for a performance 3D printer should expect to pay upwards of $750 for a decent printer.
Recommended Hobbyist level 3D printer:
Be wary that higher resolution prints may take longer to print since the machine must produce more layers
Cost of 3D printer: How much is a Professional Level 3D Printer?
Professional level printers offer high-precision prototypes made in an enclosed platform. With the professional grade 3D printers, print volumes increase up to 1 cubic foot in volume while having faster print speeds and maintaining print quality. The durable machines can stand the test of time and are often used by universities, researchers, student clubs, and businesses. Higher end machines come with better customer service, improved noise reductions, and more choice of filament materials and colors.
Cost of 3D printer: How much is an Industrial 3D Printer?
These hefty industrial 3D printers cost the same amount as a brand new car. They can print high quality prints with ultra precision and can produce many iterations of prints. These machines are built durable, usually encased in a metal closure and come equipped with user-friendly interfaces.
After many uses, one can expect routine maintenance to be conducted to ensure high quality prints. As quality of print increases, the cost of filament is also expected to increase when using high quality materials.
Large businesses are slowly having access to more high quality printers as technology advances and more of the cheaper, professional machines are starting to compete with the over-the-top industrial machines.
3D Printer Frequently Asked Questions
How much does 3D printer filament cost?
3D Printer filament is dispensed in a coil and sold per kilogram. One kilogram of PLA or ABS start around $15 to $30. Filament that is manufacturer specific ranges from $45 to $60 per kilogram.
Higher grade filaments can cost over $250 per kilogram for specialty nylons and plastics.
Where can I buy a 3D printer ?
- Direct from the Manufacturer
- 3D Printers Online Store
3D Printing Services:
If you do not want to deal with the hassle of buying, setting up, and maintaining your own 3D printer, but just want to print files, you can opt to use a 3D printing service.
Voodoo Manufacturing allows you to upload your CAD file to their website, send payment, and they will ship your printed product to you once it’s ready. Some perks are instant quote pricing, rushed production feature, status tracking, and text support.
Pre-made 3D CAD Models:
Interested in 3D printing things, but don’t have anything to print?
Website like Pinshape has a selection of 3D model ready for you to choose from! Some designs are free while others are for purchase.
Here’s a list of websites with FREE CAD models to download!
- NIH 3D Print Exchange
- STL Hive
- The DM Workshop
The cheapest 3D printer on the market is the $99 iMakr STARTT.
The most expensive 3D printer on the market is the $2.5M Imprimere’s Model 2156 and SonicLayer 7200 (tied).
Overall, 3D Printers come in a vast range of cost, sizes, and capabilities. As technology advances, these printers will get better and cheaper over time. Keep in mind that buying a 3D printer is just a part of 3D printer ownership. Other cost factors to consider are maintenance, power consumption, filament, and software.