What factors influence the costs of 3D printed parts?

1. Technology and Material

The costs of 3D printed parts vary significantly depending on the technology and materials used. Here is a simplified overview, noting that not all materials and technologies are included:

  • Least Expensive: FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) with materials like PLA, PETG, and TPU.
  • Midrange: SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and MJF (Multi Jet Fusion) with materials such as Nylon and TPU.
  • More Expensive: SLA (Stereolithography) with various types of resin.
  • Most Expensive: Metals printed using SLM (Selective Laser Melting), including Aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium.


2. Weight and print Volume

Simply put, the larger the part and the more space it occupies in the printer, the higher the costs. If you double the size of a 3D object, the volume increases by a factor of eight, not just double. For example, a 40 cm model is nearly eight times more expensive than a 20 cm model.


3. Complexity

The complexity of the part affects costs in only a few technologies. For example, in SLA or SLM, supports must always be removed, which can be more challenging for certain designs. In contrast, technologies like SLS or MJF do not require supports, so complexity has less impact on costs.


4. Quantity

In 3D printing, single parts can be very cost-effective, but the costs decrease with higher quantities because production can be optimized for larger batches and the preparation costs remain constant regardless of the quantity.


5. Finish / Post processing

Every additional finish to the standard 3d printed parts raises the costs.

Nearly every 3d printed part can be sanded and painted if a higher surface finish is need, but it’s a manual work and will significantly increase the costs.

For example, SLS or MJF nylon parts can be dyed in various colors. This is an automated process that doesn’t significantly impact the cost. It’s worth noting that black dye is considerably the least expensive option.

SLM metal parts can be machined for tighter tolerances or improved surface finish. However, the manual clamping and alignment of machining will significantly increase the costs.


6. Lead time

Express production, typically completed within a week or less, increases costs since these orders must be manually added to the main production queue. However, with a lead time of 2-3 weeks (depending on quantity), better prices can be offered. This is because such orders can be planned in advance and combined cost-effectively with other orders.