It’s easy to see the up-front cost of 3D printing by just looking at the price of printers. Here you can decide what features and specifications you want and how much you’re willing to pay for them. If you’re wanting to turn 3D printing into a hobby, however, it’s also a good idea to be aware of the consistent running costs of materials.
Material costs strongly depend on the type of printer and the materials with which you are printing. Generally, FDM filaments are cheaper than SLA resins, but this can vary dramatically. This is primarily because they’re intended more for industrial use cases and are more specialized. Materials for other – more exotic – printing technologies also tend to be more expensive.
If you’re working with standard materials such as PLA, ABS, and PETG, you can generally expect to pay between $15 and $30 per kilogram. Filaments on the cheaper end are less likely to have any coloring. They may not have the same width tolerances as slightly more expensive filaments.
ASA filaments, intended for outdoor use thanks to their high UV, moisture, and temperature resistance, are a bit more expensive. You can generally expect to pay between $30 and $50 per kilogram.
Nylon filaments tend to cost between $50 and $75 per kilogram. Nylon is very hard-wearing, chemically resistant, and somewhat flexible. It’s also very hygroscopic, so proper storage in a dry box is essential.
Polycarbonate filaments are strong and optically transparent; however, they are also somewhat difficult to print. The price range is quite variable. Some cheap options are available as low as $30, and high-end options reaching $100 per kilogram.
Flexibility and durability are key selling points. Common use cases are RC car tires, shoe soles, and other rubber-like applications. Flexible filaments such as TPE and TPU offer unique mechanical properties. Unfortunately, the uniqueness makes this a little expensive, around $80 to $110 per kilogram.
Finally, the specialty materials. This includes composite materials such as carbon-fiber-infused and metal-infused filaments, as well as fun options such as filaments that glow in the dark. In some cases, you can even get high metal content filaments. Prices range dramatically based on the materials in question. Some can be as cheap as $20 per kilogram, but others can range into thousands of dollars. For example, Virtual Foundry’s Titanium 64-5 filament costs the equivalent of $1664 per kilogram.
Resins generally cost a bit more than basic FDM filaments, but advanced materials also don’t cost as much. The price range is typical $40 to $300 per liter. Resins around the $40 mark are typically low-end options, while high-end options are around $150. Specialist resins cost more but top out around $300 per liter for medical-grade options.
Colors and special mechanical properties will push the price up somewhat, as you might expect. It’s also useful to remember that you can reclaim any unused resin by carefully pouring it back into the bottle. However, you should make sure to filter it when doing so to prevent any debris from contaminating it.
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