3D printer costs are one of the most common considerations when selecting a printer that’s right for you. Pricing is an important metric but it can be difficult to understand considering the range and type of 3D printers available on the market.
While there are many types of 3D printers on the market, we’ll focus on FDM technology in this article.
So really, how much does a 3D printer cost? 3D printer cost can vary depending on a number of factors like the type, build, material compatibility, size, features, etc. 3D printers are available for as low as $149 and as high as $1,000,000. While this is an incredibly wide range, it can help to first look at your applications, and your wants and needs when picking the class of printer that’s best suited to you. We have simplified the classification of the 3D printers into five categories and have identified the ideal audience and applications for each category.
Let’s get down to business and understand how much a 3D printer costs.
|TYPE||REMARK||IDEAL FOR||PRICE RANGE|
|Budget||Cheapest, Reliability Issues, DIY||Explorers||Up to $499|
|Competitive category||Ideal for schools, hobbyists, etc.||$500 to $2,499|
|Professional||Premium quality printers||Office users, designers,
|$2,500 to $4,499|
|Professional+||Increased level of proprietary features,
additional materials, larger build volume
|Factory or shop floors,
|$4,500 to $9,999|
|Industrial||Costliest, very large build volumes,
specialized industry certifications
|Large corporations in automotive,
aerospace, etc., sectors
This is the cheapest range of 3D printers that are available in the market. These 3D printers cost anywhere between a hundred dollars to five hundred dollars. As the name suggests, the budget 3D printers are the lowest priced printers and are most often available in DIY kits. A lot of new or lesser known brands operate in this section as they try to penetrate the 3D printer market through low pricing.
They are generally defined by very basic functionality, minimal features & minimalistic design, with average after-sales, reliability issues and low-quality output. These 3D printers are considered more as toys rather than a manufacturing technology. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t any good brands operating in this space. Companies like Anet3D are popular brands that offer decent value-for-money 3D printers in this range.
Users of these printers are often first-timers or hobbyists who generally don’t have demanding requirements for part quality or accuracy. The low cost also balances out with the need for knowledge of self-assembly, maintenance, and highly-manual calibration / tinkering for optimal results.
These are one of the most popular varieties of 3D printers. These are a bit higher on the quality ladder and have a large variety of features packed in different sub ranges. The Education / Hobbyist category of 3D Printers Cost in the range of $500 to $2,499.
The ideal users of these categories of 3D printers are expert tinkerers, hobbyists, and educators who are teaching about the technology as well as the basics of design and engineering. Users who have some amount of experience on 3D printers tend to buy 3D printers from this category as an upgrade to their previous entry-level 3D printer. But these 3D printers too have a lot of limitations in terms of the size, material usage, features to enhance the 3D printing experience, etc.
There is a lot of competition in this category and so brands tend to fight for competitive pricing with new premium features constantly being added to enhance printing experience and bringing the 3D printer prices down with them.
These are professional desktop 3D printers that offer the best possible capabilities at a disruptive price point for a wider range of industries. Industries looking to integrate 3D printing into their manufacturing workflow and want to start with basic polymer products choose these types of 3D printers. These professional quality 3D printers cost in the range of $2,500 to $4,499.
MakerBot METHOD is one such example in this category, offering a range of professional features like heated chamber, proprietary software support with material profiles and access to a wider material libraries for a range of materials from basic PLA to advanced composites like nylon carbon fiber. Premium features like filament run-out sensor, auto-bed levelling, blackout response system, etc. may also be present in such 3D printers by default.
These 3D printers are sized from medium to large but are not too large. These are ideal for desktop use at homes and offices.
The Professional+ 3D printers are ideal for heavy-use in offices or in factory shop floors. The Professional+ 3D printers can cost upwards of $4,500 but less than $9,999. These may be the same size or larger than desktop 3D printers and that makes them ideal for use in factories where they get more freedom to manufacture all sorts of products.
These 3D printers also come with a large set of features that are mostly proprietary to the manufacturer. The features are generally not common to 3D printers of all brands as they are often patented features and are difficult to replicate. Features of the MakerBot METHOD X allow for dimensionally accurate printing of challenging, high-temp materials like ABS, ASA, PC-ABS, and SR-30, that are generally not easily printable on printers in the lower categories. In other cases, large build volume may be the main draw to printers in this range such as with the MakerBot Replicator Z18.
These are generally the large scale 3D printers that are used by larger corporations. These consist of the costliest FDM 3D printers available in the market and, therefore, are used by large corporations to build high-quality automotive, aerospace, or other critical large-scale parts. There is much variability in this 3D printer category, which ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000 with build volumes from a cubic foot to a cubic meter.
These 3D printers not only print large parts, but they can print them very well with measurable dimensional accuracy. The printing speeds are considerably high compared to other printers like the desktop printers. Material availability in this category of 3D printers is generally more limited because companies often focus on producing proprietary materials that meet very targeted applications that then get certified for use in highly demanding industries, such as aerospace and medical. Stratasys makes the Fortus series which can print in Ultem 9085 - a material that prints at over 380°C and is certified for use on commercial aircrafts.