by Jason King on December 7, 2017

3D Printing Cost DollarsWhenever I show my latest 3D prints to people, the one question they always ask me is “How much did this cost to make?”

My answer is usually along the lines of “I’m not sure and I’m not worried because I’m going to make it anyway”.

This is a good question and my answer is honest and true, but I realised recently that my answer simply isn’t good enough. It’s at around this time that I received a comment on my Beginners Series Page relating to 3D printer running costs. If I may quote part of the comment:

“I am researching printers and their various features and functions and have found plenty of suppliers who don’t seem to have a clue about printing supply costs relating to quantity on a reel or weight or either and offer little assistance. The one thing you don’t mention is how much does it cost you to run your printer and by this I mean electricity used per hour. It is impossible for me as a budding business owner to put a cost on my item if the makers can’t tell me how much power it uses. I have a kilowatt hour meter to test it but don’t have anything to test it on and I refuse to take anything on faith from these folks since they’ve not been overly helpful on all other questions I’ve asked to date.”

To quote part of my reply:

“I’ve never worked out or tried to find out how much the electricity costs are, because I’ve figure that it’s negligible compared the other resources required, time currently being the biggest resource used in 3D printing. But I should, so maybe I’ll write a blog post soon about the true running costs of a 3D printer. I’ve not yet seen such information published and I think people will certainly find it interesting.”

To address this question I started by purchasing some accurate kitchen scales. Based on the weight of an object and the cost of the filament (plastic) per kg it’s easy to work out the material costs.

This was a good start, but I then started to think about other costs like electricity, equipment depreciation, software, repairs, 3D Printer Upgrades, consumables and of course the cost of all those 3D printing failures.

As you can imagine, working out the true cost of running a desktop 3D printer at home could be tricky, but I like a challenge and as far as I know, this common question remains unanswered. Up until now that is.

Those Forbidden Assumptions

As a Software Engineer by trade, I’ve always been taught never to make assumptions as they’re often wrong and the answer can usually be found if we ask the right people.

However, for the purposes of answering this complex question of cost, I believe I have to break this rule. There are so many variables involved in 3D printing that I cannot possibly consider every scenario, using every type of printer, with every setup, every type of filament, every electricity tariff, etc, etc.

So, what I intend to do is to use a typical scenario for someone using a common desktop FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) 3D printer at home.

Celtic Skull on ScalesFor the purposes of my calculations I’ll use a 100 gram object printed in good quality PLA taking 5 hours to print.

I have printed a few real examples of such objects, like the Celtic Skulls and Pumpkins. Both are around 100 grams and take about 5 hours to print.

The 100 grams will also include any Supports and Rafts which were cleaned off during finishing, as these weren’t free and took time and filament to print.

I’ll use a MakerBot Replicator 2 printer. Simply because they are a very typical and common 3D printer for use at home and I have one of these myself.

As many home users already own a computer of some sort, I don’t think I should factor that in as an additional cost to 3D printing, so we can assume you already have a computer.

In each section as I describe each cost in detail you’ll see the other assumptions I’m making. Just remember that whatever setup you use, you’ll be able to use this as a good guide to what those ‘things’ are really costing you to print, even if you use slightly different equipment, setup or filaments.

Before I delve into specific costs, in the interests of simplicity I won’t include all my calculations in this article text. I’ll also use UK £ Sterling as the currency as I live in the UK. Just multiply by 1.56 (at the time of writing this) if you wish to convert to US dollars.

Ok, so lets start with filament…

Filament Costs

In the old days cheap filaments were abundant and were often of very questionable quality. They sometimes contained impurities (even tiny ball bearings so I’ve heard) and their diameter was ‘varied’ to say the least.

Buying cheap filament isn’t such a problem nowadays but I still think cutting costs here is false economy. To be more specific, if you save money on filaments your rate of failed prints will increase and so will your overall costs… oh and your stress levels will increase too.

So for my calculations I’ve taken the average price of the ColorFabb and RoboSavvy filaments I use. Both are good quality and I have had no issues with either. With shipping costs I’ll add £4 per kg, which takes us to £34.19 per kg for filament. For our 100 gram object I make that…

Filament £3.42 (52.48% of total print cost)

3D Printer Depreciation

This is an easy one to forget, but unless you are very lucky your 3D printer wasn’t free and you have to factor in the purchase and depreciation costs into everything you make.

MakerBot 3D PrinterAlthough it’s an easy one to forget, it’s a difficult one to calculate and unfortunately requires more assumptions and variables than any other part of the overall calculation.

I averaged some prices for my MakerBot Replicator 2 from various places in the UK and the US.

I came up with a purchase price of £1576, also similar to What My Printer Actually Cost in the UK.

Most financial people will calculate depreciation using the assumption that a piece of equipment will be used for five years. I think this is reasonable for a 3D printer.

Even though it’ll be well out of date in less than that, I don’t think many home users will be happy to throw it away any earlier after such a large capital outlay to purchase it.

The next assumption is a big one and will vary wildly between users. Assuming users have a full time job too, but still love 3D printing then I’ve used an average of 2 hours a day of printing time.

This gives us a lifetime of 3650 hours before we throw our printer away. I also think this is reasonable, especially if we maintain and Repair our 3D Printer and factor in those costs. Yes, I’ve considered all that too as you’ll see later.

There are other equipment costs (like a toolbox and contents) but most of these will last a very long time making their depreciation costs negligible. I do consider consumables later though.

So if our 3D printer costing £1576 has a 3650 hour lifetime and our print takes 5 hours I make that…

3D Printer Depreciation: £2.16 (33.14% of total print cost)

Consumable Items

I consider consumables to be things like blue tape, Teflon grease, modelling knife blades and any products used for finishing, like dry brushing, sanding, polishing (ie bronzeFill Filament) and painting.

Again these costs per item are very small and very difficult to calculate, so for our purposes I’ve use the tiny figure of…

Consumables: £0.10 (1.53% of total print costs)

Electricity Usage

3D printer energy consumption is a very interesting subject. This is partly because so many people are worried about how much a 3D printer costs to run and partly because the cost is actually tiny.

Power MeterSo tiny in fact that I worked out that the power meter I purchased specifically for this blog post cost only a little less than the energy usage of my 3D printer in it’s entire estimated 5 year lifetime!

Let me elaborate. UK daytime energy costs on my tariff are less than £0.16 per kWh. When I tested my Replicator 2 on some typical (there’s that word again) 3D prints it used on average around 50 Watts (0.05 kWh for a 1 hour print).

Remember if you use your printer at night, at least in the UK, electricity costs are significantly less at night. Demand at night is much lower so costs plummet and I guess this is the same in many countries.

Anyway, I have to assume that most people will print in the day and for our 5 hour print I make that a tiny figure of…

Electricity Usage: £0.04 (0.6% of total print costs)

Repairs and Upgrades

It’s an unfortunate fact that your beloved printer will at some point break and always during an important 20+ hour print.

Soon after purchasing it you’ll also become annoyed at the Tacky Spool Holder and the manufacturer supplied acrylic build plate that was never flat, even on the day you bought it.

Repairs and upgrades will happen and depending on the luck of the draw costs vary. For my calculations I’ve added about 10% of the purchase costs over the lifetime of my printer, which is what I predict for myself. For our 5 hour print job that brings us to a cost of…

Repairs and Upgrades: £0.21 (3.15% of total print costs)

Free Software

This is a very informative sub header, which answers the question of software costs straight away. Yes you can buy some super expensive CAD packages and maybe you have bought Simplify 3D (I’ve heard it’s so good I might buy it myself).

However, the fact of the matter is that Mr Typical loves ‘free’ and with software you don’t have to spend a penny. Your printer will no doubt arrive with free software, you can use 123D Design or Tinkercad for Your 3D Designs and 123D Catch for your 3D scans.

What I’m trying to say is that if you wish, your software costs can be…

Software: £0.00 (0% of total print costs)

The Value of Your Time

I’m afraid this one is impossible to calculate. How much we value our time varies so wildly between different people in different situations.

It’s only easy if you run a business and you have a specific hourly rate for your time. It’s likely that you love 3D printing so much you’d do it for nothing, so for home users I’ll have to leave this one at zero and let you add it yourself if you wish.

Just add any design time, setup, cleaning and finishing time to the total cost if you wish. Not the 5 hours worth for the print time, unless you plan to sit watching your 3D printer do it’s thing for the whole time. So, for our purposes we have to add…

Your Time: £0.00 (0% of total print costs)

The Price of Failure

Remember those Wonderful Failed Prints? There were probably more in the early days before you discovered supports, rafts, good filament and how to level your build plate correctly.

After having my printer for around 6 months at the time of writing this (seems like much longer) I think I have about 10% failure rate. This sounds like a lot, but considering design errors, prototypes and simply not liking what I’ve made (as well as the print process itself failing) it’s pretty realistic.

So based on the total of the costs so far… give me one second to consult my calculator… ok, 10% of £5.93 brings us to…

Failures: £0.59 (9.09% of total print costs)

Total 3D Printing Cost

Lets add all these up (even though I already just added most up to calculate the failure costs).

This is how much it costs Mr Typical to print a 100 gram object that takes 5 hours…

£6.52 (100% of total print costs, obviously)

Whether that’s more or less than you thought I’m not sure, but feel free to let me know in the comments below.

I think the fact that we’re considering pretty much everything, not just material costs, it’s quite reasonable. If you use a low infill (5% for example) a 100 gram object can be quite a good size (bigger than the average fist) and most items will actually be smaller and cost you a lot less than that.

Also consider how much you could charge someone for a custom object that size, maybe ten times that cost or more?

If you really want to Make Your 3D printer Pay for Itself stick with printing customised items, because although there’s more effort in designing them, you can charge so much more for them.

Cost Saving Tips

If the overall cost of printing our 100 gram object really did scare you, there are some ways you can cut costs. As with most things it’s best to pick the low hanging fruit first (I love that phrase).

Money BoxThat’s why I included all those percentages alongside the individual costs. The biggest percentages are the things you should concentrate on first because they’ll give you the most value for your efforts.

For example, on a Replicator 2 you can turn off the sound, turn off the LEDs, turn off Heat Hold and reduce your printing temperatures. These will all cut energy costs.

However, as energy usage is only a tiny 0.6% of the total print costs, you won’t be able to see your print and you’ll have more failures if you drop the temperature too low it really isn’t worth it.

So look to address those big percentages, like filament (52.48%), printer depreciation (33.14%) and failures (9.09%):

  • Use as little infill as you can and don’t use supports or rafts unless you really need to. Note: some people are now developing “Smart Supports” which use less material than traditional supports. These tips alone could slash your overall costs.
  • Learning to print well first time will reduce your failed print rate and reduce your costs too. That’s one of the main reasons I created my 3D Printing Beginner Series.

These are the areas to concentrate on. They will give you the greatest value if you want to reduce costs sensibly (by ‘sensibly’ I mean don’t buy a poor quality printer or super cheap filament).

3D Printing Cost Calculator

Lastly, I’ve been meaning to create a 3D printing cost calculator for quite a while now. Well, I finally did it.

I use very similar calculations to what I’ve used above but tried to simplify things a little and tweaked some equations. Just a few quick notes about it though.

  • By default it will use the same values as I’ve used above and calculate the same result (give or take a penny or two for rounding and equation tweaks). When you calculate the costs it saves your values so when you re-visit it next time it will re-load your last values automatically.
  • Resetting all values to default values does just that. It will change all the values back to what I’ve used above in my example 3D print and save them when you re-calculate, so use it carefully.
  • The notes in brackets, e.g. (£/kWh) specify UK pounds sterling, but it will work just fine if you use whatever currency you like, US dollars for example.
  • This cost calculator was originally inline inside this blog post, but due to it’s popularity I have moved it to a faster and slicker Dedicated Cost Calculator Web App. As I intend to improve it based on your feedback it may not always look exactly like this image. Click the above link or the image below to try it now…

3D Printing Cost Calculator Web App

Note: The reason the calculator total is currently 1p different from the total in the example is as follows… In the example I used £150 for lifetime repairs and upgrades. In the calculator I made this more flexible by using a percentage (10% by default) of the 3D printer cost, which works out at £157. As I improve the calculator over time, the total may vary even more from my example. Also, please note that JavaScript and Cookies should be enabled in your browser for it to work correctly.

This cost calculator is currently a Beta test version so feel free to have a play around with it and let me know if you have any issues or suggestions for it. If it proves to be popular I plan to improve it dramatically, so let me know whether you like it or not.

Please leave a Comment then Like and Share this post if you found it useful. As you can appreciate it took me a fair amount of time, research and programming effort to produce. If you’d like to learn more about 3D printing, please Download my FREE Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home eBook, it’s packed full of useful, interesting, free information.

Thanks so much for your time. Whatever you value your time at I sure do appreciate it.

Happy 3D printing.

(Visited 129,436 times, 1 visits today)
john lynston December 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm

In the process of building a 3d printing website
and would like to reference your content with your
permission.Thank you.

Jason King December 13, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Feel free to link to or mention our content as long as you don’t copy it, as all our content is covered by copyright laws. Thanks for showing an interest, it’s very much appreciated.

Thalis January 28, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Hi there
Your calculating method is great. I only have a tricky question
In your form you use 5 h for print 100gr of material and then you calculate the daily usage as 2 hours.
If someone use the daily the printer about 6 hours what must change in the form? I am asking this because i think that the printing time and daily usage time in your example should be the same for 1 time printing !



Jason King January 28, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Hi Thalis,

To answer your question you’d simply have to change the Daily Usage value from 2 to 6.

This initial value of 2 is an estimated default value and is user configurable. I hope that helps.


Thalis January 28, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Thanks Jason

Jason King January 28, 2015 at 6:43 pm

No probs. “Printer Life” and “Daily Usage” are only used to calculate printer value depreciation. If you don’t want to include this at all in the cost, then just putting big values into both fields (1000 in each for example) will make depreciation costs so negligible they don’t affect the final cost. A simpler way is just to set “Printer Purchase” cost to zero 🙂

If you have any other questions feel free to ask.


Richard Mozley March 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Good Evening Jason
I find the whole subject of 3D printing totally fascinating.
I would be very grateful if you would send me a copy of the spreadsheet.
Many thanks

Jason King March 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the comment and I’m really glad you’re interested in 3D printing too 🙂

I’ve just emailed you a copy of the spreadsheet I used to develop this post and the cost calculator.

I’m planning to create a dedicated web app for the cost calculator soon, to make it easier and more intuitive for people to use.

Many thanks for your interest.

Peter Murray March 4, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Hello Jason, I wonder if you could send me the spreadsheet, I’m trying to work out the costs i’m facing with a 1000 print contract!



Jason King March 5, 2015 at 6:31 am

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment, I’ve just emailed you the spreadsheet.

Have a good day and good luck with your contract…

Best regards,

John Powell March 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Hi Jason,
The spread sheet is a great idea and just for the fun of it I plugged in my numbers and even after the inflation of currency nonsense came up with a number very close to my actual costs that I had figured.
I did a limited production run and played with infill settings until I came up with a product that was durable and finally designed in such a fashion as to almost eliminate supports and rafts and thus waste as well as reducing print times and filament use and on down the line of costs and then just averaged over the run.
Currently I am doing this solo and trying to build a business now that I can actually put a cost per item on my product.
Your incites have helped me a great deal and I thank you.
I’d appreciate your sending me a calculator so I can continue to refine my processes.


Jason King March 9, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Hi John,

I’m glad you found the cost calculator to be accurate and useful. It doesn’t matter what currency you use, as long as you use the same currency for all values it will output the correct total in your currency. It’s good to be able to put an accurate cost on items you plan to sell, as too many people just use filament costs and seem to forget everything else.

Anyway, I’ve just emailed you the spreadsheet if you wish to use and modify it to suit your needs.

I hope the business goes well and if I can help in any way, please let me know.


John Walker March 10, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Hi Jason,

nice work with cost calculator. Could you please be so kind and email me your spread sheet so I get better insight in process of calculating prices.


Jason King March 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Hi John,

I’ve just emailed you the spreadsheet so it should be with you now.

Feel free to customise it as you wish so it suits your requirements.

Thanks for your interest,

chris March 12, 2015 at 12:03 am

Great for trying to work out cost for on a business plan:) nice work

Jason King March 12, 2015 at 6:09 am

Thanks Chris, it seems that a lot of people are finding this blog post useful for starting/running a 3D printing business 🙂


Eric Karen March 16, 2015 at 3:30 am

My website is under construction right now as I am in the planning phase for a 3D printing business. What you are doing here encompasses an aspect of this 3D printing world that I love. The concept is open sharing and collaborating. I have an AAS in programming and 1.5 years towards a BS in computer science. If you would like any help developing your app let me know!

If you also please email the spreadsheet that would be absolutely wonderful. I need to construct a very detailed business plan and this would help me out tons. I have bookmarked this post!

God bless you in all your endeavors! ||&& Eric

Jason King March 16, 2015 at 7:01 am

Hi Eric,

I should be ok with the web app but thanks for the offer. I’m a freelance software engineer by day and also have a BSc Software Engineering degree. Although I’m now great with web development I can just about manage it 🙂

Good luck with your business plan and your new business. I’ve just emailed you the spreadsheet so I hope this helps a little. I’ll let everyone know when the web app is ready for people to use.

Many thanks,

James March 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Hi Jason,

A really useful blog post, and great work on the calculator. I couldn’t find anything similar on the internet that is uk based.

Would you be willing to share the spread sheet?

All the best,


Jason King March 17, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Hi James,

Thanks, my dedicated web app version of the calculator is very nearly complete. It’ll be similar to this one but it will be minimal, so you won’t need to load the whole blog post every time to use it. It’ll also allow me to update it regularly with new features based on user feedback.

I’ve sent you the spreadsheet by the way and I hope you find it useful.


Jason King March 18, 2015 at 6:52 am

I’ve just made live the first version of my dedicated cost calculator web app. You can find it here:

I’ll soon be replacing the inline version above with this one, which is slicker and will load faster, as you won’t have to load this entire (large) blog post every time to use it.

Let me know what you think as I plan to evolve it based on user feedback.


Dominique Vienne June 27, 2015 at 12:42 pm

GREAT article! Congrats!

Nick Mabe August 3, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Awesome article. Thanks for writing it.

Leeroy August 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I was curious about power consumption as well, remembering communist-era appliances that heated stuff were dismally power-hungry. So I tried to measure my CEL Robox with a power meter. Here’s what I got:

CEL Robox [3D Printer, FDM style]

Measured 29-06-2015
Plugged in, powered off – 0.0W
Idle with build chamber LED on – 0.0W?!
Nozzle fan on – 6.5W
Making – min ~60W – max 179W.
The fluctuations are between min and max power draw are pretty rhythmic. A mean of 120W could be assumed.

Hunter October 16, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for the useful information! I was wondering what the average hourly rate would be with all those variables. I believe it would be carried on how much resin can be used within an hour.

Jason King October 18, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hi Hunter,

I guess if we take the example default values I’ve used, but reduce the print time to 1 hour and reduce the object weight by the same proportion (divide by 5) to 20 grams, that would give an average hourly cost of £1.39.

That’s not an exact calculation but I bet it’s pretty close to the real average, as I don’t think any of the other values would need to change.

Thanks for the comment and I hope you find the cost calculator useful.

Best regards,

Karim November 18, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Hi Jason ,

Thank you for sharing this , it is very helpful . Since a while now , I’m studying the idea of opening a shop for 3D prints to be introduced in Lebanon , where there is a big gap in that industry which can generate a good business return . But after going thru many websites/blogs/readings , I’m still confused , can you kindly advise me what are the best machines that I need to purchase in order to conduct the business step by step ? What are your recommendations ?

Thanks a lot .

Jason King November 19, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Hi Karim,

I’m glad you’re interested in becoming more involved in 3D printing. Your question is a little tricky to answer though without more information about your requirements, as there are many different models available nowadays.

For home or office use I use a MakerBot Replicator 2, which they don’t make any more but many other MakerBot machines are available. The Ultimaker 2 is a good machine too, but both of these are a little expensive. The Printrbot machines are excellent value at a fraction of the MakerBot/Ultimaker prices. You can even save more money by buying a Printrbot kit and building your own.

Another thing you need to consider is the availability of these printers in your country. I know that some countries consider 3D printers to be a threat (Pakistan for example) so you need special permission from the government to import them.

Best regards,

Mauricio February 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Hi Jason

First I want to congratulate you on your post, as many of the people above I am also researching to innovate in 3D printing market. I’ve been doing my research and came across your page which will be extremely helpful now that I will run numbers to decide an initial investment. I got a couple of questions to you:
-Do you have a way to forecast demand or you created the demand among your customers?
-Do you recommend analyzing an investment in an industrial printer rather than a desktop one?
Appreciate your response and if you would be willing to share your spreadsheet as well I’ll be delighted.

Thanks man!

Jason King February 15, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Hi Mauricio,

The best way to forecast demand is to build an audience, maybe like the one I have with 3DPrintHQ and then literally just ask them. No guessing required and no wasted time with products that won’t sell, just ask your audience what they want.

I wouldn’t personally buy an industrial 3D printer yet and I’d recommend outsourcing your higher quality work to a company like Shapeways. Prototype your stuff using your desktop 3D printer, then have Shapeways make it in high quality plastic, metal or even precious metals like gold. I’ve done this myself and written about it quite a bit.

Best regards,

Xavier Odiamar February 29, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Hi Jason, This is nice. Im starting up a home base 3d printing service and finally i saw this calculation that you made.

Can i also ask if its okay with you, can i have try the calculator sheet?

Jason King March 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your interest in my cost calculator. Due to the amount of effort involved in creating this cost calculator and the accompanying spreadsheet I cannot give the spreadsheet away for free.

However, I have just emailed you a 50% discount code, should you wish to use it… but my online calculator is (and always will be) free to use any time.

I hope that helps and good luck with your 3D printing business.


rob maze March 8, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Great Job. Maybe adding a support layer cost in the calculation might be helpful. It could be zero now and if someone wants to add in the value, they can.

Is there a rule of thumb for calculating support layer usage?

I know the support layer for makerbot replicator 2 can used a different material which has a different cost per Kg. What is the cost of support layer material?

Lastly, can US dollar conversion be added to the calculator?

Thank you,

Jason King March 9, 2016 at 8:51 am

Hi Rob,

The cost calculation uses the weight of the object, so supports and rafts are already considered, assuming you use the same material for rafts.

The calculator uses relative values so as long as you use the same currency throughout your inputs you can use any currency you like.

Of course, the spreadsheet version can be modified as you wish.

Best regards,

rob maze March 8, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Also, for support layers, there is a fluid that you can put the part into for the layers to dissolve.

Do you know what the liquid is that dissolves support layers?

Should this cost be included somewhere (could be zero at start)?


Jason King March 9, 2016 at 8:55 am

Hi Rob,

I think some support materials can be dissolved in limonene, which is cheap, commonly available, non-toxic and made from citrus fruits, so it smells nice too 🙂

You can add any extra costs like this in the “Other Costs” field.

Best regards,

Roger March 28, 2016 at 10:20 am

Dear Jason

Thanks for this helpful calculator you made. I’m working on a new industrial project and I’d like to have this calculator and I’m willing to pay but cannot use paypal in the company. Please tell me how to make a transfer to you and get the excel file.

Looking forward your news


Jason King March 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

Hi Roger,

Thanks for your interest and comment. I’ll email you directly to see if we can arrange something.

Best regards,

Matt May 10, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Hi Jason,

Great article, im new to 3d printing but would love to recieve your spreadsheet to work out a comparison compared to standard manufacturing for certain parts.



Jason King May 10, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for your interest. You can obtain the spreadsheet by visiting this link and then hitting the big green button:

I do ask for a small contribution for my efforts but if you don’t want to do this the online cost calculator is always available for free at the same location.


AVINASH SONAWANE June 17, 2016 at 7:52 am

Hi Jason King,

Wonderful research and great heart to make it known to the entire printer community. I am buying a Tiko 3 D printer for use at Goa India. I am mechanical engineer in job for 38 years. I want to use as hobby and I therefore would request you to send me copy of your calculator on my email.
Best Wishes, Keep Updating.
avinash, Goa

Danniel Gery June 28, 2016 at 8:21 am

HI Jason, Nice information on 3d printing and about there cost.
3D printing is essentially simple. A thin layer of liquid or melted polymer or powder is deposited by a nozzle onto a substrate where it cools and solidifies or is cured by UV. A part is built up layer by layer by interpreting a 3d CAD design through software. Printers range in size from small desktop models to create small objects to large engineering models to create complex prototypes. As long as the prototype to be created is within the limitations of a printer, there is not much of an issue, though there are several matters that must be taken into consideration.

Recently I have taken the services from Iannone 3D, who provides Rapid Prototyping and a reliable FDM 3D printing service in the New Jersey area.

John July 13, 2016 at 12:57 am

I know in your article you said that most people have full time jobs and you 3D print for fun, but some, like myself, would look to use 3D printing to generate income. Using your calculator helps tremendously in calculating cost, but there is one element missing, profit margin. What, in your opinion, would you feel would be an acceptable % profit margin to charge for providing a printing service?
Also, my printer was quite expensive and has resulted in my depreciation value being 2/3rds the total cost (without any profit added in). Should it be this high? and is this acceptable or should I make it smaller?

Jason King July 13, 2016 at 9:16 am

Hi John,

To be honest I have a few bits of advice about pricing. Try not to compete on price with your competition as it drives prices down and isn’t good for your or your competition (only the consumer). Rather than competing on price, offer something unique, either product or service wise which the competition don’t offer. Also, using a percentage is too simple for a business as unusual as 3D printing and is’t really based on any good business sense. What you need to do is find out what people are actually willing to pay and use that as your guide. Survey, ask, experiment, whatever it takes. This is a much better approach than a percentage. If you were selling paperclips then a few percent markup might be good, but if you’re selling coffee then 500% markup might be more realistic. 3D printing is nothing like either of those so using a percentage isn’t a good approach.

That’s just my opinion though. Thanks for your comment and good luck 🙂

Kathy October 31, 2016 at 2:00 am

How can I provide an approximate quote to someone without the weight of the part?

We have a different type of printer and it uses trays that cost approx. $5 each. Can I edit this spreadsheet to include that?

Jason King October 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Hi Kathy,

You’d need to estimate the weight of the part and yes, you can update the spreadsheet to include any additional items.

I hope this helps.

Kathy November 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I just purchased the spreadsheet. How do I convert it to dollars?

Timothy December 21, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Hi Jason, I’m so pleased I stumbled on this blog of yours. I’m in the process of developing a small business aimed at 3D printing for the gaming industry and like so many people who have responded to you, I need to put a business plan together. (PS, my website is in it’s infant stage).
I would be very grateful if I could have a copy of your spreadsheet please to help me with my bsiness plan.
Best regards

Esmée Veefkind August 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

Hi Jason,

Your article is very usefull for my project, thanks for taking the time to write it! I am graduating in Industrial Design and for my project I use 3d printing. Now I have some questions. I’m using the Builder Extreme 2000, it cost much more and is bigger than the printers you are talking about. So I was wondering if this calcutator is still usefull for my printer? And do you know anything about the lifespan? Can I use the same life span of 3650 hours? (It is being used for about 8 hours a day approximatly)
I hope you can help me out!


(Sorry for my English, I’m from The Netherlands)

Jason King August 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

Hi Esmee,

The cost calculator should still be applicable to 3D printers on a much larger scale as the principles are the same, just with bigger numbers. The lifespan is up to you and depends on how long you intend to keep your 3D printer. Remember that you can keep maintaining/repairing it and keep it going for many years if you wish. You might have to increase your maintenance costs though if you intend to keep it for a longer time.

I think my lifespan was based on 2 hours a day for 5 years, which is about 3650 hours, but you can adjust this as you wish to consider your printer depreciation costs in your cost calculations.


Kevin F Quinn August 19, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Just found your site after starting 3d printing a couple of months ago – well thought out articles, good stuff!

Obviously things have moved on quite a lot since your original article (not least the sterling/dollar exchange rate!) but in particular as a pure hobbyist (not home business print shop for example) I’m taking a different approach that I thought you might be interested in.

The initial outlay today is quite a lot lower than a few years ago to get a printer of sufficient capability for my use. Specifically I picked up the Wanhao i3 Plus at around £400 – for hobby use it’s been excellent so far. I suspect a printer in the £1500-£2000 bracket would enable more accurate higher-speed printing, but with the i3 as good as it is, it’s difficult to justify the higher price today, especially starting out.

At £400, it’s not so different to the capital outlay on a current game console.

Energy consumption seems to be around the same as one or two old-style light bulbs – maybe at worst as much as 250W but typically a lot less than that according to my energy meter. It’s not much different to running a PC; quite a bit less than running the gaming PC, that’s for sure! Anyway, it works out as a few pennies per hour. Again the comparison with a games console is apt; power consumption will be in the same order of magnitude.

Then of course there’s the filament. Quality appears to have gone up since your original article and I have had no problems with plain PLA filament in the £20-£25/Kg bracket. However, and this is one reason for writing – my use involves a lot more experimentation than for example a print shop would. The point of the game for me and I would guess a lot of hobbyists, is the exploration – so for a given final print I’ll typically have printed several experimental earlier versions as I try out different approaches to the 3d design – typically a couple but often four or five earlier designs before going for a good quality print of a finalised design. Obviously the rate is limited by the print speed anyway – at a metre or two an hour I’m going to struggle to get through more than two rolls a month! So let’s say that’s £30 per month on filament – and you can perhaps see where I’m going with this – similar to buying one console game a month.

So to sum up; the way I’m looking at it the hobby is about the same cost as being a modest console gamer.

Well at least for now anyway – building a dedicated workshop might change the equation 🙂

Jason King August 25, 2017 at 7:48 am

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your comment and I like the games console price comparison. When I originally wrote this article that comparison wasn’t so realistic but as you state, it certainly is nowadays. Maybe it’s time for me to update this article.


Mechanicos August 23, 2017 at 6:39 am


This is a great post, ive been searching the cost on 3d printing and this seems to be really accurate. Can you do another post regarding the cost of 3d printing for SLA/DLP printers, it would be really interesting to see a cost breakdown for other 3d printing technologies.


Jason King August 25, 2017 at 7:53 am


That’s a good idea, but as I don’t currently use SLA or DLP printers myself I’d need to ask someone else to write it. Maybe in the near future this will change though as I think about upgrading from my MakerBot Replicator 2.


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