Because of direct and hidden costs, it is advisable to maintain two budgets when shopping for a 3D printer. The first budget is for the actual 3D printer. The second budget is the yearly budget for the function and maintenance of the printer. A common mistake businesses make when purchasing their first 3D printer is to spend the whole budget on the actual printer, leaving no room for maintenance or consumable costs. Consumables include replacing the filament used in 3D printing and the cost of replacing machine parts due to wear and tear during the 3D printing process. Examples of machine parts that receive a lot of wear and tear including nozzles, hotends and, Buildtak or other printing surfaces.
Depending how often a business is printing consumables can cost $1,500 a year, and this needs to be considered when budgeting for a machine.
For general purposes, a 5K-10K budget is enough for purchasing a high quality 3D printer. However, when the task is too demanding, i.e. big parts, metal parts, etc, a larger budget is necessary to accommodate the demand.
At times businesses may have different 3D printing options that fit their application needs. For example, a business may require a metal part and may initially look into SLM for direct metal 3D printing. SLM is an high cost system that uses a high powered laser that melts and fuses an expensive metal powder to build a metal part. However, indirect metal 3D printing is also capable of producing a metal part that fits the business’ needs, and a business can choose indirect metal 3D printing over CNC and SLM. For example, Metalfuse from Raise3D is a metal 3D printing system that can operate at 10% or 20% of the cost of SLM because it does not use a high powered laser or metal powder as a material. This option may not work for every business because the final 3D printed part from an indirect metal 3D printer will have less density than that of an SLM printer. Less density results in a loss of mechanical strength, but not all applications require such high mechanical strength. For example, SLM printed parts can have a density of 99% and above, and the Metalfuse achieves 97% density. 97% density can meet the requirements of most applications. Another factor to consider is the maximum size that can be built with indirect metal 3D printing. Generally, because of the debinding and sintering process, the part can not be too large. Make sure an indirect metal 3D printing option like Metalfuse can produce metal parts in the size required by the business application. Contact Raise3D to discuss if Metalfuse indirect metal 3D printer can suit your needs.
When choosing a 3D printer for an application, selecting the most cost-effective option gives the business flexibility to invest in more 3D printers. In general, investing in creating an in-house printing farm of several different 3D printers is advantageous to a business. The types of 3D printers included in the farm can range across the most cost-effective and the most capable. Therefore, a single printer does not need to be used for all the applications a business requires. It is possible to have several types of printers for different applications. In addition, a 3D printer may not be able to fulfill all the requirements of an application. If a business needs to invest in additional manufacturing equipment beyond a 3D printer, then choosing the most cost-effective printer will leave flexibility in the budget for other manufacturing equipment.
Printing metal parts can be used as an example to help explain this point further. If a business requires metal parts for an application, then SLM or an indirect metal 3D printing process OR CNC, like Raise3D’s Metalfuse, is necessary to produce those parts. If the business chooses Metalfuse is a much lower cost system than SLM, but a relatively higher cost by the dollar amount. However, it may not be necessary to produce the part in metal before deciding and achieving the final design of the metal parts. A business can use another 3D printer, like the Pro3 Series, to prototype the part in plastic to finalize the design before producing the part in metal. By prototyping the prototype using a more cost-effective printer for the task, like the Pro3 Series, the more cost-effective printer will lower the business’ overall expense and get to the final part quicker. Therefore, a single printer does not need to be used for all applications, and a single printer is not necessary for the same application, because different printers may be more cost-effective for different stages of production.
3D printing is not an instant process. Depending on the type of project, it can take over 10 hours to finish a print job. Some materials, such as resin, require post-processing, adding to a project’s timeline. Purchasing multiple 3D printers gives engineers on the team more access to a printer, meaning no one has to wait for a machine to be ready to use. This maximizes workflow and increases production, resulting in an advantage over competitors.
Investing in multiple printers saves time, and shortens a business’ production cycle. Shortening production cycles gives a business the ability to react to clients and new situations quicker. Having a slow response to urgent matters and clients can result in a loss of revenue and a loss of confidence in a company. For example, a business might be prototyping with a client who constantly updates its needs. Since the client’s needs change frequently, a business could lose the client’s confidence if it can not accommodate the new changes efficiently.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the supply chain for most businesses was impacted. It prompted many businesses to look for ways to have more control over their operations. Owning a 3D printer allows businesses to produce what they need in-house, removing the dependency and time spent waiting on a third party and shipping. During this time, businesses that owned a 3D printer had more control over their operations. However, businesses that invested in multiple 3D printers saved more time and were able to serve customers better because they eliminated the time spent waiting for a project to finish printing before beginning a new print job.
For example, a business with a $10,000 budget can purchase one Pro3 Plus professional 3D printer, priced at $7,249 with a build volume of 10 × 11.8 × 23.8 inch/ 255 × 300 × 605 mm. If a business does not need a printer with a larger build volume, like the Pro3 Plus, then it should leave room in the budget for operational costs, filament, and consumables like hotends.
A business can purchase:
- Pro3 priced at $5,249
With a Pro3, a business can have a printer with features to improve the overall 3D printing experience.
- E2 priced at $3,499
If the business is producing batches of smaller parts, then it could consider purchasing several E2IDEX 3D printers to boost productivity.
- E2CF, priced at $4,499.
A business also has the option to purchase the E2CF for high strength parts in a carbon fiber enhanced composite filament.