A lot of people are wondering about how to reduce 3d printing costs. The answer becomes challenging and technical if the user is unwilling to sacrifice the print quality.
After 8 days of extensive research and interview with 11 3d print experts, these are the proven ways of minimizing 3d print costs.
Play with the slicer settings
You probably have already the knowledge of how a slicer affects the 3d print. One of the popular ways of reducing 3d print costs is to reduce the use of filaments while making any 3d prints.
For example, Reducing the infill percentage and increasing the layer height reduces the amount of material and directly affects the overall 3d printing costs.
Let me explain further, if you reduce the infill percentage, there will be more vacant space underneath the 3d prints ultimately signaling fewer usage of filaments. Also, it helps with faster 3d printing works compared to other job orders with larger infill percentages.
Similarly, working with layer height can also help you bring the costs down. For instance, if you enlarge the layer height with additional micro millimeters, there will lesser layers required to finish the print. As a result, the ultimate use of filaments will be lower.
Other slicer settings tricks could be using a smaller size of prints. Theoretically, the lesser your print size is, the faster it will do the job with the least material and costs. Again, there might be some limitations due to the use and the appearance of the 3d prints. If there are no restrictions of height, we strongly suggest making it to an optimal size for better cost efficiency.
However, if you are not a pro designer, we strongly recommend you use the default slicer settings for better results.
Choose the right 3d printing material
Choosing the right material directly affects the 3d printing costs. There are plenty of choices with a lot of usages. You need to know, which material is best for what kind of 3d prints.
Here’s a quick comparison of different 3d print materials.
|easily pigmented with decent strength
|Post Processing is tough, Longevity is lower
|$15-$20 per kg
|petroleum based plastic
|Durable, strong, versatile
|Can cause warping without a heated build plate
|$20-$35 per kg
|Heat resistant & Durable
|$20-$25 per kg
|HIPS & PVA
|HIPS pairs with ABS and PVA with the PLA as a support structure
|Its expensive & dissolves after printing
|HIPS - $20-$60 per kg & PVA - $60-$130 per kg
|Best for making action figure / miniatres
|$50-$70 per kg
Why the choice of material directly affects the 3d printing costs?
Let me clear the fact. PLA is the only renewable 3d print filament that comes from sugar cane or corn starch. It comes in so many colors and is popular for its sturdiness. PLA is good except exposing directly to the sun.
let’s assume that you are going to make five 3d prints and within them, only one will be kept inside the car. You can easily use PLA for the 4 3d prints and use any other material such as ABS / PETG for the one that will be kept inside the car.
By this method, you will be able to reduce the 3d printing cost by approximately 40%.
The research we have done confirms that ABS costs between $20-$35 per kg, which is lower than PETG and slightly higher than PLA.
let’s imagine, you need to make something strong but you do not want anything food grade. For such circumstances, you can choose ABS and avoid PETG since you are not in need of food-grade material.
Again, for making action figures or miniatures, liquid resin is the best choice even if it costs higher. The main thing here is that you need a great finish, especially from 3d printed action figures.
However, you can also use FDM printers and filaments to make action figures but it would require heavy post-processing time & money to get that accurate finish.
One thing you need to keep in mind is that, if you are using any cloud solution / 3d print workflow automation solution such as Makerbot Cloudprint, there might be some limitations while switching between different print materials.
Make 3d prints Hollow & Complex
Making a 3d model complex and hollowing it reduces the material usage by either eliminating the support material or the design itself requiring fewer filaments.
Let us first discuss how hollowing a 3d model reduces the cost.
Hollowing refers to leaving more air space within the 3d prints. if there are fewer infill percentages with hollow, there would be fewer filaments in use that reduce 3d printing expenditure.
Similarly, a complex 3d model would help in higher appearance with the least filaments. For example, in the above image, the border o the lamp looks great due to its design. If you look closely, the sides of the borders are placed haphazardly with a frequent angle shape.
It not only helped in appearance but also reduced the material by controlling the width & infill percentage. Also, a simple attribute in designing complex 3d models would eliminate the need for support material that directly impacts the printing costs.
For this, you need to either learn to work with CAD so nicely or take help from an expert who is a CAD expert with the ability to redesign the 3d model with 25% lesser material.
Besides the slicer settings optimization and redesigning 3d prints with complexity, there are other ways of minimizing 3d print costs. Here are some examples,
- Making use of gradual transitions within the surface and border may also help you bring the costs down
- Try avoiding sharp corners as it requires more time
- Make sure to use a heated build plate to avoid warping and other wastage
- You can easily get rid of stair-stepping by flattening out the shallow angles
- Avoid the need of a support structure through an excellent design
Choose a 3d printer that can print multiple models at the same time
Bringing the 3d printing cost down is a difficult matter if your 3d printer cannot print many 3d models at the same time. Because of its electricity consumption and other depreciation, the costs become untrollable often.
We have experienced that the overall printing costs get lower if a 3d printer like this can print up to 20 3d models at the same time of its operation. The cost-cutting happens due to the followings:
- printing many models at a time saves electricity
- Time savings happen from avoiding 3d printer operation multiple times
- There are significant savings of machine depreciation by avoiding multiple printing operations
- Personal time savings from avoiding the 3c model conversion into slicers
Hire a professional CAD designer or outsource
Hiring a professional CAD designer may allow you to save costs significantly. Let’s assume that you are not a CAD professional but you can design the 3d models with basic knowledge.
Here’s how a professional CAD expert will save your money:
- CAD experts may offer you a 3d model with less material
- CAD designers are very good at controlling infill percentage
- They can design 3d models that do not need any support raft
- Their designs may be easy to assemble
- CAD designers may add value by saving your time in post-processing with slicer settings & innovative printing designs
Use the economy mode of your printer
Using economy mood is always a better option to bring your 3d printing costs down. Almost every 3d printers come with its native economy mood that ensures minimum consumables.
The economy mood makes sure that infill percentage and layer height is at the threshold along with other slicer parameters.
However, choosing the economic mood may bother you with some other problems such as warping. We have seen some printers control temperature while printing on the economy mood that creates warping if you do not have a heated glass build plate.
So, be careful about that.
Maintain your 3d printer regularly
Maintaining the 3d printer is another indirect way of saving 3d printing costs. But how? Let me explain:
- The printing nozzle may get clogged if you do not clean it even after each use. Such a situation may cost you a nozzle replacement or filament wastage.
- Due to irregular maintenance, there might be problems in your stepper motor that ultimately costs you a replacement along with a stepper driver.
- Irregular maintenance can also cause you a replacement of the built plate or the cooling fan due to its lost capacity.
Upgrade 3d printer rather than replacing
Many of the 3d printer enthusiasts prefer changing a 3d printer without considering the possibility to upgrade. It happens due to not identifying the need and not assessing the probable upgradation. Here is some example by which you can save your 3d printing costs from upgradation and avoiding any replacements.
- You may replace the cooling fan with a high RPM to make it noiseless. Do not replace the entire 3d printer setup.
- You can replace the build plate and extruder for better quality.
- In case of extrusion failure, you can always replace the nozzle or even the stepper driver.
Make 3d prints durable to avoid extra prints
Knowing what makes a 3d print durable can also save your money. Here’s how!
- Use stronger material or increase the wall thickness of filament to make it strong. It will save you money by making the prints durable.
- Sometimes changing the extrusion direction helps in faster printing and that makes it cost-efficient.
- Work with the flow rate accuracy to make 3d prints more durable.
- Try increasing the nozzle size to make the printing faster. It also helps make the prints stronger.
- Annealing, Electroplating & Epoxy solution can give you durable 3d prints that save money by increasing the prints’ life.
These were the probable ways of minimizing the 3d printing costs. Don’t forget to leave a comment!