How to calculate 3D printing costs?

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We often see online discussions about the price of 3D prints, or more specifically: how to calculate the price for having something 3D printed. Since there are many myths floating around, we figured out that many people will be interested in a deep dive into various aspects of this field. So, how do you set the right price for a 3D print? We’ll take you through the main aspects of 3D printing pricing that affect the price, however, if you’re not really keen on learning every single detail, feel free to scroll down to the end – we have a small surprise for you there.

Let’s imagine a purely hypothetical example of a certain Josef from Prague (any similarities to actual persons or places are purely coincidental), who bought three 3D printers to make some profit: he has the Original Prusa i3 MK3S, Original Prusa MINI, and the Original Prusa SL1.

A customer ordered this test object from Josef and wishes to know the price of the object printed on the printers mentioned above. It should be printed with Prusament PLA Orange (MK3s and MINI) and with Prusa Orange Tough resin (SL1).

Material costs

Josef already knows that the most expensive aspects are manpower and filament (or resin). Filament and resin prices depend on the manufacturer’s pricing, which makes counting the material costs very simple. 1kg of Prusament PLA Orange costs 24.99 USD (without tax and shipping) and according to PrusaSlicer, one tree frog model consumes 6.27 g of filament (basic settings – 0.15mm layer height, 15% gyroid infill).

Josef simply calculated (24.99 / 1000 * 6,27) that material for one tree frog on the MK3s or MINI will cost him 0.15 USD. Printing a tree frog without supports on the SL1 (0.05mm layer height) will consume 10.43 ml resin – this costs 0.6 USD. If the customer wants to print it with other materials, the price could rise a lot. There are filaments with a price exceeding 90 USD/kg and resins more expensive than 315 USD/kg.

The bottom line here is pretty simple: Material cost = filament price / filament weight (g) * model weight (g)

Manpower costs

Josef values his work at 9.50 USD/hour (calculated from average wage in the Czech Republic for the year 2020). He already knows that print preparation (including slicing) takes him approximately 5 minutes (10 minutes in case the resin in the SL1 needs to be changed). Therefore, he calculated the work on one treefrog to 0.8 USD for MK3s/MINI and 1.6 USD for SL1. It’s not too expensive to prepare small models downloaded from the internet. However, it’s important to know that plenty of models require more difficult print preparations. Even slicing alone can take even 30 minutes or more – e.g. preparing supports for SLA printing using manual supports can take a long time.

The price for human labor can, in many cases, reach dozens of USD, especially in cases when something completely new has to be designed. Even a relatively simple technical part can take several hours to draw, which increases the price dramatically.

3D printer operation costs

Another thing that Josef calculated was 3D printer operation costs. He started with electricity: according to the local electricity distributor’s rates, 1 kWh costs from 0.07 USD to 0.09 USD. Let’s

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