Buying a 3D printer comes with additional costs, such as operating costs, supplies, tools, and of course, 3D printer material costs. So, how much does 3D printer material cost?
The short simple answer is, anywhere from $10 to $500+ per kilogram, pound, quart or liter. The range reflects:
- The cost of the raw materials to make these materials
- How easy it is to produce the material
Below is an overview of the cost ranges for material supplies for Stratasys' and MakerBot' FDM and PolyJet 3D printers, so you get a sense of budget.
3D Printing Materials
An equally important question to ask before we talk about how much 3D printing material costs is what material does a 3D printer use? Today's 3D printers use thermoplastics and metals.
Popular plastic materials include:
Popular metals include:
- Stainless steel
Other 3D printing materials for some of today's machines include wood, carbon-fiber, ceramics, silicone, graphene and graphite, paper, concrete, yarn -- and even food. Each material has its own characteristics profile, which can include:
- Rigid/flexible/elastic texture
- Temperature and weather tolerances
While the total universe of 3D printing material products is vast, you will only need to contemplate a few. To quickly whittle down your potential choices, ask yourself:
- What type of material you want your object to be made of, such as plastic, metal, or ceramic
- Your target color(s), texture, usability, and other characteristics.
But the biggest consideration to keep in mind is obviously: which 3D printer technology you are using? Some machines require specific materials and supplies.
Filaments and Resins, Spools and Canisters
3D printer material will be provided either as a filament or as a resin.
- Filament means a long thread such as wiring and cables. Filament is used by 3D printers that do Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). All filament materials for Stratasys FDM 3D printers , for example, come on spools and cartridges; here, cartridge refers to an enclosed spool.
- Resins are used by PolyJet 3D printers that "jet" the material out, similar to inkjet printers. Resins, physically, can be anything from gummy stuff and liquids to powder and dust; which is why resins can be packaged in a variety of types of containers such as canisters, cartridges, bottles etc.
Both filament and resin materials are measured and priced by weight. Canisters may also be packaged and priced by volume (milli-liters/liters).
"Packages for materials sold by weight range from one to eighteen kilograms, mostly in the one to five kilogram range,” explains Tony Castillo, Senior Sales Development Rep at Stratasys. “Resin materials sold by metric volume range mostly from 600 milliliters to three liters, and ones measured in US/Imperial units are thirty cubic inches and up."
3D Printer Material Cost
There are lots of 3D printing materials available. Stratasys alone has at least 500 items in its materials library. MakerBot has several dozen -- and several of these items have color choices. As explained above, depending on your 3D printer and what you need it to do, your 3D printer material cost will vary.
For instance, Castillo explains that materials for Stratasys FDM 3D printers can range from low hundreds for ABS to low thousands for high-end performance materials. PolyJet materials also fit that range with support materials being on the low end, and model materials being on the high end.
These prices are per-item, but item amounts (weight and/or volume) are not uniform, notes Castillo. For example, "Cartridges for desktop PolyJet systems are 1.0kg, and for Connex and J-series printers, either 3.6 or 5.0kg."
So you have to know specific product details in order to do any price-per-amount comparisons. (And the cost may be less for larger, bulk or contract purchases.)
MakerBot 3D printer material prices can be found on their website, and range from $18 (for half a pound) to $675 (for MakerBot METHOD X Filament 9 Pack Mixed).
So depending on your printer and what you want to do, the total material costs could be as little as eighteen dollars, up to several thousand dollars. Of course, the more 3D printing you plan to do, the more you'll be spending.
Saving Money on Materials Now and in the Future
With all of that being said, on a professional level, it can be difficult to manage the overall usage and cost of materials when completing a job. Managing all things materials can be a time consuming and a stressful occurrence. Having a work order management software solution that can track material usage, inventory, and overall cost calculation can potently free up your current costs and allow for more money to be allocated to your materials.