How We Calculate 3D Printing Costs

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How Much Does 3D Printing Cost? 

How we Price 3D Printed Parts

How Much Does 3D Printing Cost?

We often get asked "How do you price parts?” The answer is more complex than most people think, as there are a number of different factors that go into generating an accurate quote for 3D Printed parts. 

On, you can find our instant quoting tool that provides instant and accurate pricing for any CAD file uploaded there. Our system measures the part volume, surface area, number of bodies, and bounding box size. Using this information, it calculates the costs associated with manufacturing your part in whichever material-technology combination you choose and serves you a price within seconds.

For the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) & MJF (Multi Jet Fusion) technologies, it also calculates the inherent efficiency of running multiples of the same part and passes the savings along to you. Parts requiring special attention are flagged for Forge Labs staff to ensure that you receive the most accurate and competitive pricing that we can provide.

There are three major factors that affect how much 3D Printing costs and drives the price:

  • material costs,
  • run-time costs,
  • and labour costs.

Below we break down how these prices affect our various 3D printing technologies.

Material Costs in 3D Printing

The primary driving factor for any 3D print is the material cost. For technologies such as SLA ( Stereolithography), PolyJet and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) price is primarily determined by the volume of model & support material used. Therefore, optimizing the part volume and support costs can be crucial to ensuring the lowest cost part possible. Additionally, printing parts with honeycomb features or lattices can reduce material costs by up to 50% for some denser geometries.

For technologies such as Selective Laser Sintering and Multi-Jet Fusion, the pricing is driven by a combination of bounding box size and material volume. These technologies do not require support structures, as the unsintered powder parts are nested within and act as a support. However, pricing for these technologies does take into account additional material waste from parts with large surface areas as powder can become stuck to parts when removed from the build chamber.

To keep material costs low, your design should avoid overly thick cross sections or solid volumes.

Run-Time Costs

The cost of our machines range from $140,000 - $380,000, which means that we have to recoup the costs of running these machines all day, along with the electricity that they consume. These costs are amortized over the expected life of the machine, divided by the number of operating hours of the machine per year to provide an hourly run-time cost. This run-time cost can be negligible for small parts in production technologies such as SLS & MJF, but also quite significant when printing tall parts in FDM or SLA technologies.

To ensure the lowest run-time cost as possible we orient designs to minimize the z-height of the part whenever possible. To further reduce run-time costs, your design should avoid solid volume or overly thick cross sections that require much more time to manufacture.

Labour Costs

Setup Time

The majority of CAD file pre-processing is done automatically, but a technician is always required to create, analyze and plan daily builds. This labor includes the analysis of CAD files for printability, nesting of parts as efficiently as possible as well as the optimization of print orientation. To minimize setup times on your parts, ensure that parts are free of errors, and adhere to the design guidelines listed for each 3D printing technology.

Post Processing 

It's a common misnomer that there is no charge for complexity with 3D Printed parts - this is not strictly true. While the cost for complexity is far less than traditional manufacturing methods, there is still a small increase in labor for the post processing of highly complex features in certain technologies. For SLS, MJF, and FDM, the post processing stage is heavily automated. However, SLA, PolyJet, DMLS can require anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes per part. As such, we charge a higher start up costs for small parts in these three technologies when compared to others.

Quality Review

The majority of the parts we sell are used in function, end-use or high demand applications where part quality is paramount. To ensure the highest quality parts, all orders with Forge Labs go through an ISO 9001:2015 quality inspection process which includes both a visual sampling plan and as well as more rigorous inspection depending on the project requirements.

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