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  • Omer Blaier

How to Calculate the Cost of 3D Printing

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

Calculating the cost of 3D printing means asking a multitude of questions


● If our company owns a 3D printer, what is the ROI on the printer itself?

● How does the cost per part change when you load only half of the

printing tray each print?

● How much labor time is required to clean the parts after they’ve been


Providing an accurate cost estimate for 3D printing is tricky. There are

companies like Xometry, Materialize and other service bureaus that do a great

job in providing quotation services, but what happens when you have an in-

house printer and want to get a sense of the cost estimation? What kind

of variables do you need to take into consideration or ignore?

CASTOR can provide an accurate cost estimate for 3D printed parts

Is it really possible to predict cost estimation for 3D printed parts?

One of the hardest tasks an engineer faces these days is to estimate the cost

of manufacturing a part in a machine. In traditional manufacturing methods,

such CNC and injection molding, it might be difficult to predict the price of a

part ahead of production, whereas in 3D printing, similar geometries using

similar printing techniques, might have a similar cost.

Managers strive to choose manufacturing methods that both fit the design

functionality of parts of a machine they want to produce, and on the other

hand also make economical sense. Their ability to accurately estimate (and

reduce) the cost of a full machine Bill of Material (BOM) during the New

Product Introduction (NPI) phase, is critical for their product to be

competitively priced. However, some of the more traditional manufacturing

techniques (molding/casting), require huge CAPEX investments in the early

stages of the project resulting in many costly iterations.

When dealing with low volume/high complex products the problem only gets

worse and the need for accurate cost estimation is higher, since high costs of

production can cause delays in launching the product even if it passes the

R&D phase and in many cases can even eliminate a project completely.

What are the main parameters to consider when estimating cost?

As mentioned earlier, when analyzing the 3D printability of a part, it is

important to have at least a rough estimate of the costs involved to assure this

production method is as cost-effective as possible. This calculation should

include elements such as: cost of material, printing time, cost of labor involved

preparing the print and cleaning it afterwards, as well as less straightforward

elements like: the depreciation of the printer, the post processing time and

more. All those elements vary significantly between different 3D printing

technologies, different materials and of course different geographies.

To calculate the cost here are some of the main guidelines:

1. Material cost - calculate the amount of material needed for the part, rigid

material and support material.

2. Printing time - calculate the building rate of each technology to print a

single layer and multiply it by the number of layers needed for the part.

3. Labor cost - to prepare the print, taking into consideration the hours spent

on sending a file for print using the OEM’s software (sometimes files require

additional procedures prior to their print). One should also take into

consideration the cost of labor needed to perform period maintenance tasks

for each printer, and the amount of time needed to take the part off the

printing tray and clean it from its support material. Specifically here, there are

even larger variations between different technologies. (For example, HP Multi-

Jet Fusion has its own cooling and cleaning device, whereas cleaning some

materials out of FDM printers might require a caustic soda stirring in different


4. Depreciation of the 3D printer cost - those who own a 3D printer should

make sure they include this variable and also that they have taken into

consideration the timeframe they estimated to return their investment. The

initial price of the printer determines the starting point, but the depreciation

period is sometimes determined by the technological life of the printing

technology in the market (as opposed to the economic life). Desktop printers

are obviously quite different than the high-end industrial printers.

5. Post process - calculation might include polishing, painting, heat treatment

processes and extra machining (mostly with respect to metals). All of those

are usually derived from a part’s surface finish and accuracy requirements. In

many cases, such post-process can double or triple the part's initial 3D

printing cost. It is important to note that one of the biggest advantages of

service bureaus, is the fact that they aggregate all these services in one

place, and thus enjoy greater cost efficiency.

An basic example for the elements to consider when estimating the cost of a 3D printed part


While specialized quotation services and service bureaus might be able to

provide a price per part, the mission of manufacturers using in-house printers

to estimate the cost of 3D printing is challenging. Some basic elements need

to be considered, but a more detailed calculation of additional elements can

prevent unexpected surprises and assure that the project's BOM is correctly



CASTOR exists to combine intelligence with 3D printing. We connect

manufacturers to 3D printing capabilities enhancing their business and

providing CASTORs technological expertise. CASTOR’s technology allows

manufacturers to avoid costly spending on limited quantity batches and

reduce lead time.

CASTOR automatically runs analysis to determine 3D printability for end-use

parts design and then chooses the suitable technology for print while

maintaining functionality. In addition, CASTOR can turn multiple parts into one

to maximize manufacturing possibilities for unique designs.

Ready to evaluate additive manufacturing for one of your projects?

Schedule a Demo Today

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