What does the price of 3D printing comprise?
What does the price of 3D printing consist of? It depends on the case. However, the way the price is formed is relatively clear. In this article, we explore the factors that affect the price of 3D printing.
Price of 3D printing divided into parts
3D printing as a manufacturing method differs in many ways from mold casting and machining. One big difference is cost efficiency, which comes from flexibility, speed and low risk production, among other things. It should also be noted that the price structure in 3D printing is slightly different from a traditional production method, where, for example, a considerable amount of cost is involved in the production of a single mold.
The price of 3D printing is largely determined by the material volume and machine capacity. In addition, the price of 3D printing is also influenced by the number of copies to be printed. And let’s not forget the design work, which also comes as a cost to production – although a well-done design will in practice always pay for itself as a cheaper manufacturing phase.
Material volume refers to the size of the piece to be printed and the supporting structures it requires. The bigger the piece, the more material it takes, and the more the material costs are per piece. However, 3D printing has an advantage over traditional production methods when it comes to the size and shape of the piece, as you don’t really need to leave any excess material in the printed part. As 3D printing can produce very complex shapes, it can be used to create parts that contain only the material and shape that is most relevant to the functionality of the part.
Machine capacity refers to the material used to 3D print the part and the time needed to produce it. In practice, you can calculate how many pieces can be produced in a given time if you know the capacity of the machine. Machine capacity is naturally affected by the physical size of the 3D printer, but also by how the available space can be used, i.e. how efficiently the parts to be produced can be packed onto the printing platform.
The number of pieces understandably affects the price of 3D printing: the more pieces printed, the higher the total price. On the other hand, the average price of a single unit is reduced in larger production batches, as, for example, design costs can be spread over more units. When printing multiple units, good design also helps make the best use of machine capacity, which is directly reflected in costs.
Design is, as we have noted above, an extremely important step in 3D printing. In the design phase, the shape of the piece is planned, and a model is made for the actual 3D printing of the piece. At the same time, the part can be optimized in terms of material quantity, stiffness, flowability and other properties. The design is therefore the phase where the unnecessary materials are removed from the piece from a functional point of view. Design is the upfront cost of 3D printing, and it has an impact on the price of 3D printing, regardless of the quantity of the pieces.
Different price for single components and serial production
Comparing 3D printing with more traditional production methods, the advantages of 3D printing are particularly evident in the production of one-off parts, as it is significantly cheaper (and faster) to design and build a 3D model ready for printing than to make a completely new mold for injection molding. However, 3D printing can also be used to produce small batches quite cost-effectively.
At 3D Formtech, we have considered the different 3D printing needs of companies by calculating prices for individual pieces and batch production using slightly different price calculators. Series production considers the cost savings described above, such as the ability to spread the design costs over the entire batch and the ability to pack several 3D printable parts on a single printing platform. When the pieces are packed closely together, the machine volume can be proportionally much smaller than the space required for a single piece, which means in practice that in small batch production the price of a single piece can be quite a bit lower than when manufacturing only a single piece. In general, the smaller the piece, the larger the quantity that can be produced cost-effectively.
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