3D printers material costs can rack up fairly quickly. Review this list of materials and learn just how much money you should set aside for feeding your machine.
Fused deposition modeling (FDM) requires thermoplastic filament to fabricate models, while stereolithography (SLA) takes photosensitive resin. So, what does 3D printer material cost? Well, it depends on the following factors:
3D printer filament can vary, with suspiciously cheap PLA costing under $10 per kilogram and specialty filament over $600! In the following, we’ll discuss some example prices for various materials and note important factors affecting their prices.
PLA is the most common filament used with FDM 3D printers. It is easy to print and is the least expensive filament option in this list.
Average price range for PLA: $15–$20 per kg
ABS is another standard plastic filament that many makers print with. Although ABS requires a heated build plate, it is another inexpensive filament that is useful for models where strength and temperature resistance is important.
Average price range for ABS: $15–$20 per kg
Example product: Average prices for ABS mirror PLA. Currently, a popular mid-range option is Hatchbox ABS, with a ±0.03-mm tolerance for around $20 per kilogram at Amazon.
PETG filament is a great alternative to ABS where strength, temperature resistance, and ease of use are considered. One might think that PETG would be more expensive given the improved characteristics, however, that is no longer the case.
Average price range for PETG: $16–$19 per kg
Nylon is a somewhat flexible, highly chemically resistant material that can be used for 3D printing. Outside of 3D printing, this material is commonly used to make cable ties. It’s useful to model functional parts like gears, nuts, and bolts in 3D printing.
Average price range for nylon: $50–$73 per kg
TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is a flexible filament that can be used to make RC car tires, shoes, and other rubber-like models. TPU is not the only type of flexible filament, and the category generally covers a wide price range.
Average price range for TPU, TPE, and soft PLA: $87–$110 per kg
As you can see, prices for flexible filaments are generally above $75 per kilogram. However, less-expensive alternatives that are nearly as inexpensiveas PLA, ABS, and PETG are available. The main difference in price comes down to filament tolerance, hardness, and strength, and this can vary by brand and type.
Polycarbonate (PC) is a very strong, optically transparent material that is used for parts that require high strength and durability. Additionally, the material has good electrical insulation properties for specialty projects where this is needed.
As with most filaments, more information about the quality and makeup of the filament is generally available the more expensive it is. Since most 3D printers use 1.75-mm filament, you’re more likely to be paying closer to $30 per kilogram, which is about 50% more than standard PLA.
Average price range for polycarbonate: $30–$93 per kg
Average price range for ASA: $30–$50 per kg
Specialty filaments are an entirely different animal altogether. Given the highly diverse number of additives such as wood, glitter, glow-in-the-dark compounds, carbon fiber, stainless steel, magnetic iron powder, and even kilnable metal filament, the average cost for these types of filaments ranges from about $20 per kilogram to well over $600 per kilogram! Here, the difference in price comes down to the uniqueness of the additive and the overall quality of the filament.
3D printing resin for DLP and SLA printers can vary quite widely. While resin printers can produce very high resolution prints, one big drawback is the cost of the resin that is used with these devices. Overall, the price differences in resin are caused by differences in quality of the resin and the printing resolution the resin is compatible with.
Average price range for resin: $40–$300 per liter
Feature image source: Thomas Sanladerer / YouTube
License: The text of "3D Printer Material Cost – The Real Cost of 3D Printing Materials" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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