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  • Writer's pictureOmer Blaier

Is 3D Printing Cost Effective Compared to Manufacturing?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

To 3D print or Not to 3D print? That is the million-dollar question, and sometimes even the MULTIi-million-dollar question!

Should companies move from using 3D printing only for rapid prototyping, to actually manufacturing parts with that technology?

Can 3D printing possibly save time and reduce the cost of manufacturing low-volume, complicated products?

Here is an example of how CASTOR is helping companies answer this question cheaply, quickly, and effectively.

Is there a better, cost effective way to accelerate time to market with New Product Introduction in complex machinery?

New Product Engineers are continuously looking for ways to reduce production costs on large machines that have high complexity and low volume.

Current CNC and mold injection manufacturing take a long time and minimum quantities are still huge in comparison to use-up rates. A recent client of CASTORs wanted to explore if 3D printing could solve this issue and if it would be significantly cheaper.

Specifically, they wanted to confirm if 3D printing on demand (using FDM printing or other 3d printing technologies) would provide acceptable production quality for complex, unique designs, without the high costs of small quantity batches.

The in-house engineers had vast traditional manufacturing process and product development expertise, however, lacked additive manufacturing expertise.

CASTOR’s decision support system was an easy, immediate, and affordable solution to read thousands of CAD files at once and determine the exact parts that are suitable for exploring 3D printing viability compared to conventional manufacturing methods.

How CASTOR Evaluates 3D Printing cost and viability, compared to Traditional Manufacturing?

Here are a few indicators that CASTOR's software analyses, in order to determine if a 3D printed part is cost-effective and viable:

Wall thickness

Is the minimal wall of the part thicker than the limitation of a 3D printer?

Material strength

Can the part have the same functionality as if it was traditionally manufactured?

Cost per part

Is the final cost of 3d printing a part lower than CNC? The software takes into consideration the material cost, the amount of material needed, the labor cost (or 3d printing service cost in you don't print in-house), the post-processing cost, and more.

Lead time

How much time will it take to provide the part and allow the production line to be fully efficient? 3d printing can reduce production time when manufacturing in low volume, and CASTOR's software can recognize the right threshold.

The engineers received a report that showed the different 3D printing materials, printing process, and part manufacturing costs. This report also gave immediate feedback on design issues that would be impacted both positively or negatively during the industrial 3d printing process, thus giving the production engineers comprehensive data on whether to proceed with 3D printing exploration or to remain in the current CNC process.

Example of a report:

This example applies to each one of the components evaluated and provides both technical analyses and cost-saving advice. In addition, CASTOR recommends a specific printing technology, material, price, and a service bureau that can print it.

In this specific case, CASTOR’s report showed both nylon and metal printing options. Nylon was determined by the Production Engineers to be of unacceptable production quality and the Metal printing option was too expensive compared to Metal CNC manufacturing.

The benefit of CASTOR’s report is that the Production Engineers could evaluate the opportunity for AM, to solve their lead time and cost issues, without having to actually try it and fail. The solution isn’t always “YES”. Sometimes, the best answer is, “No. Not this time.”

Summing Up - the cost-effectiveness of Additive Manufacturing

CASTOR enabled its client production engineers to consider 3D printing as a legitimate method for parts manufacturing. CASTOR’s proprietary software identified that there were no parts in this product that had both technical characteristics in order to be 3D printed, and parts that would be cheaper to 3D print than conventional manufacturing technologies.

CASTOR enables its clients to leverage additive manufacturing in their consideration set, without having to actually print anything.

Ready to evaluate AM for one of your projects?


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?

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