3D printing technology is still very much in its infancy and is fast becoming a desirable device for both businesses and personal use. In fact, this has already happened to an extent, with a multitude of 3D printers now available on the market.
Since the technology has spread from its industrial origins into the consumer market, we want to look at the question “how much will it cost to you to purchase and run one in your own home?”
What I have tried to do with this article is give you an idea as to what you can expect from a 3D printer at different price points.
The diversity in design, printing speeds, and compatible materials makes the 3D printing category difficult to briefly summarise and does require some knowledge of what it is you want from the device before you buy, to ensure your purchase is right for you.
So let's dive right in.
Basic 3D printers ($200 – $500)
The term basic is used here to describe pre-assembled 3D printers on the lower end of the cost spectrum, that consist of all the essential components required to carry out the complete 3D printing process from start to finish.
While the printing process isn’t standard across all devices, usually a bioplastic filament is pulled through a tube and into an extruder, which then heats it up and deposits it through a small hole and onto the build plate.
The material is sprayed or squeezed onto the platform, creating layer upon layer until the object is finally formed.
For a device between $200 and $500 you can expect a pre-assembled model to come with an enclosed build plate, a basic LCD screen, USB connector or SD card slot, a single spray extruder and a medium sized build area.
Pre-assembled printers at this price point won’t be fast or incorporate the latest gadgetry but will be capable of creating simple 3D objects and act as an excellent introduction to the world of 3D printing.
Models that represent this category of basic 3D printers include:
3D Printer Assembly Kits
Thanks to a large community of DIY enthusiasts looking to build electronic devices from scratch, there is an abundant online marketplace for 3D printer components. This gives people the chance to purchase components based on their budget and assemble the device themselves.
For those interested in building their own printer with some added assistance, 3D printer assembly kits are also available online and would appeal heavily to those of you looking to gain a thorough understanding of the mechanics of 3D printers without purchasing the individual parts separately.
These kits are designed to give you hands-on experience with the nuts and bolts of the 3D printer and help you understand the purpose of each component, putting you in a better position for repairs that might be required further down the line.
A basic self-assembly kit can cost between $150-$300 and for that price, you can expect a print bed, LCD screen, SD card support, instruction manual (very important!) on top of the essential components mentioned previously.
A few examples of basic assembly kits include the:
More advanced self-assembly kits can be purchased from between $400-$1000 and will usually include larger print beds, compatibility with more material types plus faster printing times.
The main difference is in the quality of the components themselves with the likelihood of a sturdier build on completion with higher precision and a reduced noise output.
The more expensive models usually have a sleeker aesthetic to the basic kits which usually lack an enclosed print area making them look very austere.
Some examples of self-assembly kits on the higher end of the price spectrum include the:
Advanced 3D printers $500 – $2000
More advanced pre-assembled 3D printers suit those with prior experience with 3D object creation and printing. You can expect a larger device, as the extra room for building allows you to print larger objects if required.
For those looking for a 3D printer for their enterprise or studio, this is a category to consider for a reliable device with high layer resolution and excellent precision.
A lot of the more expensive models will allow compatibility with more material types giving you more options when deciding on your final 3D object. Wi-Fi capabilities may be implemented, making the device available over a network for multiple users.
LCD touchscreens are common at this price point, usually with larger screens and high-quality user interfaces than those of the basic models.
Dual extruders, although not present on all devices of at this price point, could be implemented allowing you to have multiple filaments hooked up and ready to be used, saving time during the 3D printing process.
Examples of models at this price point include:
Buying filament used to be very unpredictable with impurities often found in the cheaper options. These days however it is possible to buy decent quality filament around $20 per kilogram from online stores.
Although the cost of filament should be considered, other costs like electricity usage, repairs and depreciation should be taken into consideration as well.
3D printing software is required and can be downloaded for free and other options with more functionality are available to purchase at a price.
If you plan to use your printer regularly it is worth investing in a model that is known to be reliable in order to keep costs down in the future for maintenance and repairs.
Wrapping it up
In summary, the cost of a 3D printer depends hugely on what it is you want from the device. From as little as $200 you are able to buy something that is capable of printing 3D objects but as the price goes up so does the functionality, reliability and layer resolution.
I hope this guide has provided you with some insight as to how much 3D printing devices will cost you and what you can expect at different price points.
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