How Much Does 3D Printing Cost Per Hour? — A Guide to Pricing

Many industries have by now realized additive manufacturing’s ability to cut costs. 3D printing can reduce expenses through — for example — material substitution, faster turnaround times, and lower workforce needs. In fact, according to latest industry reports, 30% of …

Ile Kauppila

July 29, 2021

Many industries have by now realized additive manufacturing’s ability to cut costs. 3D printing can reduce expenses through — for example — material substitution, faster turnaround times, and lower workforce needs.

In fact, according to latest industry reports, 30% of professional 3D printer users say cost savings are the technology’s main advantage. But what doesn’t get as much as attention is the way these savings are realized.

If your use your own in-house 3D printers, you probably have a pretty good idea of how much a specific print job will end up costing you. After all, your firm is the one paying for the material, electricity, and operators.

However, if you rely on 3D printing services, the way the hourly rate is determined might be less obvious. Whether you’re planning to order a part from a printing service, or have just purchased your first 3D printer, you need to know how the printing price is calculated.

In this article, we’ll explore the factors that will and can affect the hourly cost of 3D printing. We’ll also look at the various options of you have for anticipating what the hourly rate for your print job will be.

Factors Affecting 3D Printing Hourly Cost

Let’s be clear of one thing — you will not come out of reading this blog with a solid idea of what the average hourly rate for 3D printing is. It’s simply not possible to make such wild generalizations when it comes to 3D printing.

There are multiple factors that all have an impact on the hourly rate you can expect for your print job. The final cost becomes apparent after doing some math exercises and crunching the numbers from all these factors together.

To begin with, you will need a CAD model to print. It will cost money to create a model, but since the focus of this article is the hourly cost of the actual printing itself, we’ll assume you already have a print-ready model.

Despite this great variability, there are factors that every 3D printer operator will consider. These include:

Material Costs

Every print job consumes material, and that material has to be paid for. 3D printing materials are not all equal, and therefore the material’s impact on the final hourly cost will depend on the material itself.

Material costs are potentially the easiest of all factors to calculate. For example, let’s assume your printing service company purchased a one-kilogram spool of nylon filament for £40. If your print job consumes 100 grams of filament, the material cost for your print job will be £4.

To get the true hourly material cost, simply divide the total material cost by the number of print hours.

Printer Operation

The operation of the printer itself will also cost you. Like all machines, 3D printers will eventually wear down, and an operator will have to make up for the purchasing costs.

It’s difficult to give estimates of how much the operating time of a printer will cost, as each firm will determine that price tag individually. To give you a (wildly unrealistic) example, let’s assume a £5,000 3D printer comes with an expected operating lifespan of 2,500 printing hours.

Some simple math will tell us that the printing service will have to charge £2 per printing hour to break even on the investment.

Post-Processing

No 3D printed part is ready for use when it comes out of the printer. It will invariably need some degree of post-processing before the manufacturer can be deliver it to the customer.

In the least work-intensive scenario, this could just include sanding. Depending on the printing technology and intended application, the part may also need de-powdering, furnacing, or other work steps.

Extensive post-processing can add a significant sum to the final hourly cost of the print. Finally, printing services usually add packaging and shipping expenses to post-processing costs.

Additional Costs

The three factors described above will give you the base hourly cost of your 3D printed part. However, 3D printers don’t operate on their own and there are multiple additional variables that can increase the hourly price. These can include, among others:

  • Labour Costs: Automatic 3D printers are not automatic, someone needs to operate and supervise the process. Post-processing is also manual labour. These workers need their salaries, and they will most likely be included in the final hourly cost.
  • Electricity: Power isn’t free. Although the printer’s electricity consumption will most likely be factored into its operating costs, your printing service could also consider it as a separate parameter.
  • Additional Profit Margin: Unless you’re operating a charity, you’ll want to turn a profit on every job you do. Many 3D printing companies will mark up their final quote by a certain percentage. The exact calculation (and whether it’s included at all) will vary from service to service.

A Sample Hourly Calculation

To give you an idea of how a 3D printing service might calculate its hourly cost, consider the following imaginary project using some of the pricing examples we gave earlier. Note that this is purely a thought exercise and will not reflect actual pricing standards.

  • Total Printing Time: 4 hours
  • Material costs: £4
  • Printer Operation (Electricity Included): £2/hour
  • Post-Processing (Sanding & Shipping): £10
  • Additional Profit Markup: 10%

In total, this printing job would end up costing £24.20.

3D Printing Cost Calculators

There are many 3D printing cost calculator services available online that help you estimate how much your print will cost. They may not account for all the factors that your printing service will consider, but they will give you a good starting point to start evaluating the price.

Some popular 3D printing cost calculators include:

Omni

Omni operates 825 different calculators, including a 3D printing cost calculator. The platform is simple and easy to use, and give you a rough cost estimates in seconds. It’s somewhat limited in terms of materials options and advanced parameters, but is a good starting point.

3DAddict

3DAddict is a dedicated 3D printing cost calculator that allows you to upload your CAD model for calculation purposes. It has a wide selection of cost factors, including electricity, printer maintenance, and shipping, and the website says new features are upcoming.

3DPrintingPro

3DPrintingPro is a comprehensive intended primarily for 3D printing services to calculate their prices. As such, it includes factors that some other services don’t provide, such as tax rate. The website also offers further tools, courses, and information on 3D printing.

Shatter Box

Shatter Box is a knowledge base for game developers that also offers a downloadable 3D printing cost calculator. The calculator doesn’t work online and can be a bit confusing to use, but it offers plenty of functionality, including live 3D preview of your model and multiple service integrations.

If you want to learn more about 3D printing hourly cost calculation, SolidPrint3D is happy to help you. For more information, please call SolidPrint3D on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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