September 25, 2020
how much does a 3d printer cost guide

How Much Does a 3D Printer Cost To Buy & Maintain?

One of the most asked 3D printing questions is how much does a 3D printer cost? 3D printers are great, but if they cost too much, most people will not be able to afford one.

In fact, 3D printers cost less than they ever have. Just six years ago you would struggle to find a good 3D printer under $1,000, whereas now there are usable 3D printers starting at just under $200.

This article will explain how much a 3D printer should cost in each category, from the cheapest entry level 3D printers to the highest quality industrial 3D printers, and the features you can expect for the price. Additionally, we include other key costs of 3D printing to keep in mind when choosing which 3D printer to buy, including material costs, software costs, post-processing costs and more.

How much does a 3D printer cost?

We have split this into five categories, from the lowest to top end of the market. Within each category we give our three recommended 3D printers, state the expected precision and maximum print size you can expect, along with other key information.

3d printer price categories based on how expensive the 3d printer is

3D Printer Price Guide

Lowest cost usable 3D printer cost

  • 3D printer price: $180 to $400
  • Expected precision: 100 microns
  • Expected print size: small

These are the lowest price 3D printers that are durable and reliable enough to recommend. Though inexpensive, they are perhaps not for beginners as they are often DIY 3D printers you need to assemble yourself, requiring tech know-how, especially if you want to upgrade it more down the line with better extruders, nozzles, and other parts. They are usually RepRap 3D printers.

These 3D printers often have a small build volume if they come assembled, or medium size if a 3D printer kit. They are not usually compatible with many materials, though if you only plan on using 3D printer filaments such as PLA this isn’t a problem.

You cannot expect remarkably high reliability with these 3D printers, which can on occasion cause a headache when parts break. In this price range very few 3D printers will have a dual extruder, and will often require you to calibrate them, which may be too complex for beginners to 3D printing.

NameBuild Volume (mm)PriceBest place to buy (with link)
Anet A8220 x 220 x 240$220Amazon here
Monoprice Mini Delta110 x 110 x 120$175Amazon here
Elegoo Mars120 x 68 x 155$230-260Amazon here
Creality Ender 3 Pro220 x 220 x 250$399Amazon here

Entry level beginner 3D printer cost

  • 3D printer cost: $400 to $1,000
  • Expected precision: 50-100 microns
  • Expected print size: small to medium

These hobbyist desktop 3D printers are small, reasonably inexpensive and far better suited to new beginners, as well as experienced makers seeking a better quality and more reliable 3D printer.

They usually at least partially self-calibrate, are far more user friendly with basic touchscreens and better user interfaces, and less likely to require small adjustments every few prints or break.

These 3D printers often print larger parts, especially those with an open build area, and they usually have heated beds to print materials such as ABS. Though more reliable than very low-cost printers, they are not as reliable as more professional 3D printers priced in the thousands. The lowest cost LCD 3D printers such as the AnyCubic Photon S fall into this bracket.

NameBuild Volume (mm)PriceBest place to buy (with link)
Creality CR-10 V2300 x 300 x 400$599Amazon here
QIDI Tech X-Pro230 x 150 x 150$649Amazon here
Anycubic Photon S115 x 65 x 155$468Amazon here
Flashforge Creator Pro227 x 148 x 150$739Amazon here
Prusa i3 MK3S250 x 210 x 210$999

Reliable desktop 3D printer cost

  • 3D printer price: $1,000 to $3,000
  • Expected precision: 50-100 microns
  • Expected print size: medium

These are the more robust, durable and workhorse 3D printers with key quality of life improvements that automate some of the more technical aspects to save you time and stress. These include filament run-out detectors, automatically powering off when printing has finished, automatic pausing in the event of a power outage to resume where you left off, and all forms of calibration and remote printing via WiFi on a smartphone or laptop.

Another key improvement for 3D printers in this price range is the wider range of filaments and materials you can print, commonly including wood-filled, carbon fiber-filled, Nylon and more. Good desktop 3D printers are capable of 50-micron accuracy, and at the top end of this price range viable resin 3D printers appear for high-quality resin part production.

3D printers in this price range often have good customer service for any problems you may encounter with your 3D printer.

Name Build Volume (mm)3D Printer PriceBest place to buy (with link)
Dremel Digilab 3D45254 x 154 x 170$1,899Amazon here
Lulzbot Mini 2160 x 160 x 180$1,750Amazon here
Makerbot Replicator+295 x 195 x 165$1,999Amazon here
Zmorph VX250 x 235 x 165$2,799 (full set $4,399)Amazon here
BCN3D Sigma210 x 297 x 210$2,995Dynamism Store here

Professional 3D printer cost

  • 3D printer cost: $3,000 to $10,000
  • Expected precision: 25-100 microns
  • Expected print size: medium to large

At this level, your 3D printer should be able to print parts for you all day, all night, and all day again with no issue. And these parts should be good enough quality for real functional prototype and form and shape testing.

FDM 3D printers in this category are normally large 3D printers, such as the Raise3D Pro2 Plus, and almost always come with a dual extruder. These printers can maintain higher print speeds without losing quality, and are often seen in universities and schools for STEM 3D printing education, small businesses for rapid prototyping, and in clubs and societies related to making.

NameBuild Volume (mm)PriceBest place to buy (with link)
Raise3D Pro2305 x 305 x 300$3,999Amazon here
Formlabs Form 3145 × 145 × 185$3,499Dynamism Store here
Makerbot Method190 x 190 x 196$3,499 - $5,499Dynamism Store here
Ultimaker S5330 x 240 x 300$5,499Dynamism Store here
Lulzbot TAZ PRO280 x 280 x 285$4,900Amazon here
Raise3D Pro2 Plus305 x 305 x 605$5,999Amazon here

Industrial 3D printer cost

  • 3D printer cost: $10,000+
  • Expected precision: 25-50 microns
  • Expected print size: large

These industrial beasts are built to last and to be extremely durable. These are often metal 3D printers using DMLS, Binder Jetting or EBM technologies.

Increasingly, FDM and resin 3D printers costing around $5,000 – such as those made by Ultimaker and Formlabs – are able to compete with the quality of industrial 3D printers, and so they are increasingly turning to offering even higher quality and scalability, or lowering prices.

These printers offer extremely fast speeds and multiple part simultaneous printing, entering territory where 3D printing can be considered a viable short to medium volume manufacturing option. They are used in huge factories, for automotive companies like BMW, and in the space and medical sectors.

In addition to the high price, they may require frequent maintenance check-ups by trained company staff, and the materials used to print are almost always expensive – but offer extremely high-quality parts. You are unlikely to find third party materials for these 3D printers.

3D Printing Costs: How much does it cost to run and maintain a 3D printer?

cost of running a 3d printer and maintaining it after buying

3D Printer Material Costs

Once you’ve bought a 3D printer, you need the materials to print with. If you’re using an FDM 3D printer, you need filament such as PLA or ABS; if you’re using a resin 3D printer then you’ll need resin, and if you’re using an SLS 3D printer, you’ll need the polymer powder.

Basic ABS or PLA filament will cost around $20 per kilogram. Other more alternative filaments such as flexible TPU will cost more, starting at around $40. Very high-quality filaments with extremely strong mechanical properties like PEEK can cost significantly more.

You may also want a filament dryer and filament containers to keep your filament in the best condition possible. This is because filaments are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air, worsening print quality by making the filament more brittle, uneven and rough. Some filaments are more hygroscopic than others, with Nylon filaments considered some of the most hygroscopic.

We recommend:

The lowest cost resins for LCD printers like the Elegoo Mars and AnyCubic Photon start at around $20 for 500ml, and around $35 for 1 liter. Third party higher quality resins used for 3D printers such as Formlabs’ Form 3 start at around $85, with Formlabs selling their own resins that start at $149.

For an SLS 3D printer, PA12 Nylon powder can cost around $60 per kilogram, though this can vary.

Depending if you’re printing using FDM, SLA or SLS, you’ll need the correct materials.

So how much does 3D printing cost per print?

This depends on the size of your print, and the percentage infill.

The standard infill percentage is around 20%, though for testing the functionality of stronger parts you can go up to 80% or even higher. This will however use significantly more filament and cost exponentially more.

Based on a filament cost of $20/kilo, and assuming an average print which takes 4-5 hours to print uses up 100g filament, you can make a rough estimate that you’re paying around $2 per print. Of course, this varies wildly – a tiny 3D printed ring mold may cost you $0.10, and a huge vase that takes a day to print could cost $10. A $20 filament spool is enough to print a few hundred standard sized chess pieces, with FDM known for being the cheapest 3D printing technology by quite some distance.

You also need to account for failed prints. Depending on how reliable your 3D printer is, prints could fail up to 10% of the time. Therefore, a conservative estimate would be to add 10% to your printing costs, though this depends on the size of the print and your print settings.

3d printing extra costs of failed prints
Some prints will inevitably fail, which adds to your 3D printing costs.

3D Printer Repairs and Upgrades Costs

When calculating how much a 3D printer costs, you need to also account for any repairs that you’ll need to pay for, as well as any upgrades you may want to improve your 3D printing experience.

Some 3D printer parts need to be replaced more often than others, such as a 3D printer’s nozzle. Depending how much you print, you could get through many nozzles per year – though these are fairly inexpensive.

You also need to think about any potential upgrades you may purchase, such as for your 3D printer’s extruder or hot end. These upgrades can cost between $50 to $150 for high quality E3D or similar brand extruders and hot ends, and more than this if you have a dual extruder.

Some makers say to add 10% on top of the cost of a 3D printer to account for repairs and upgrades. This isn’t applicable for very low-end printers, as upgrading the extruder may cost 30% or more of the printer’s cost already. But if you’re spending $600+ on a 3D printer, this rule can work as a very general formula.

extruder 3d printing costs
An E3D extruder kit, a high-quality extruder upgrade that improves prints, but adds to 3D printing costs.

3D Printer Electricity Cost

3D printers require electricity to print, which adds to your costs. However, these costs aren’t huge. If you used your 3D printer for an average of 2 hours per day, your yearly bill would probably be under $10, depending on where you live. But it isn’t free, so should be considered.

3D Software and 3D Slicer Costs

If you are designing your own models then you may need to purchase a 3D CAD program, though there are some free 3D software tools out there such as Blender.

Additionally, you’ll need a 3D slicer to slice your models for printing. There are free 3D slicers like Cura available as well as paid slicers like Simplify3D which increase your total printing costs.

In some cases you may even scan an object you want to create a 3D printed model of using a 3D scanner. Cheap 3D scanners start at just $100, but professional scanners can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Finishing Cost on Printed Parts

Once you’ve printed your part, you may want to sand, paint or polish it. These all add to your total costs of printing. Be sure to account for the paints, sanding tools and polish.

Opportunity Cost of Your Time

In some cases, you may want to factor in your time as a cost as well. When you choose to spend your time 3D printing, you give up working on another fun project, enjoying other kinds of leisure time, or earning money working. In rare cases one may factor in the value of their time into 3D printing costs.