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Remember, you are unique, just like everybody else

I am thinking about buying a 3D printer that I would use for rapid prototyping small parts prior to CNC machining, and also perhaps for making one-off enclosures for little projects and such.

There are so many out there now, and I have no idea where to start. Can someone give some suggestions on what they have and if they like it? This is something I would probably only use every couple or few months, so I dont want something that needs constant maintenance to work reliably. Id like to spend up to maybe $1,000 or so (is that feasible?).

Its not always the most popular person who gets the job done.

I have heard good things about this, 500 bucks will get you the kit and for an extra 200 you get it built.

but there is a good chance Im wrong.

Why shouldnt we question everything?

Designed by the guy that created Makerslide.

You can get a kit oneBayfor about $500 plus whatever electronics you select, single or duel extruder etc.

QU-BD ( has some very aggressively priced machines that are coming on to the market right now – the first units are being shipped out within the next few days/weeks. They have two extrusion printer models under $1,000 which are very solidly built – all precision milled parts, no lasercut plywood or printed components. QU-BD is claiming extremely fast operating speeds with this design, capable of running in excess of 500 mm/s (they actually found that it runs so fast that the USB/PC interface was usually not keeping up, so SD card is pretty much mandatory).

They also offer a printer+CNC combo (the RPM), which I think is unique in the market. But it also costs a bit more – $1,700. Not quite as fast as the Revolution and Revolution XL printers, due to the heavier gantry needed for milling, but still probably faster than most other printers on the market today.

I have one of the smaller Revolutions on order (am in the beta group), so I will know first-hand what the quality is like. My hopes are pretty high though – the example prints that have been shown look extremely good.

ALL the hobby machines are CRAP. you need to babysit them , parts peel off ,curl up , fall apart … they are not turnkey machines.

the real machines are. put in a cartridge of material hit start and you will get a perfect part. every time.

QuoteThis is something I would probably only use every couple or few months, so I dont want something that needs constant maintenance to work reliably. Id like to spend up to maybe $1,000 or so (is that feasible?).No. you need to babysit these things and futze around with them. A no-touch machine begins at an 30k$ …

Also, the printed objects are not a solid as the real deal. they are good for mockups at best.LoggedProfessional Electron Wrangler.

Any comments, or points of view expressed, are my own and not endorsed , induced or compensated by my employer(s).

Quote from: Corporate666 on April 24, 2013, 01:33:30 PM

There are so many out there now, and I have no idea where to start. Can someone give some suggestions on what they have and if they like it? This is something I would probably only use every couple or few months, so I dont want something that needs constant maintenance to work reliably. Id like to spend up to maybe $1,000 or so (is that feasible?).

There are many out there and quality is improving. IMHO you should be willing to spend around $2000 for something reasonable but I expect prices to drop fast. Ive closely inspected an example of what a cheap 3D printer can do but that wasnt very smooth. Many websites feature all kinds of objects printed by their 3D printer but few show close-ups of the results. Therefore I think the best way to see whether a 3D printer is right for you is to see it in action and inspect the objects it creates yourself.

There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.

Remember, you are unique, just like everybody else

Quote from: free_electron on April 25, 2013, 03:32:38 AM

ALL the hobby machines are CRAP. you need to babysit them , parts peel off ,curl up , fall apart … they are not turnkey machines.

the real machines are. put in a cartridge of material hit start and you will get a perfect part. every time.

QuoteThis is something I would probably only use every couple or few months, so I dont want something that needs constant maintenance to work reliably. Id like to spend up to maybe $1,000 or so (is that feasible?).No. you need to babysit these things and futze around with them. A no-touch machine begins at an 30k$ …

Also, the printed objects are not a solid as the real deal. they are good for mockups at best.

Thank you for this feedback – I think you understand what I am looking for. I have a bunch of CNC milling and lathe machines in the shop right now. As professional machines, they just work. Ive tried to save money on stuff before like pick and places or CNC machines, and the babysitting and compromises required are not acceptable in a business environment where time is money. I was hoping there was a real 3D printer available for a thousand or two, but it seems like thats not the case.

Im keeping an eye on Form Labs new SLA unit, but I guess my pipe dream of a business quality printer in a low price range will remain a pipe dream for now.

Its not always the most popular person who gets the job done.

You are far better off outsourcing this kind of work. Goengineer for example. Or protolabs

All thos plywood and plastic machines are junk. They are good to make litlle saltshakers and figurines. Try to make anything with some reasonable tolerance requirements and it wont work.

The techshop here has three different ones. The old makerbot, the new,all metal makerbot , and an UP!.

None can reliably make two identical parts. Its enough they skip a detent and all is off.

The biiiig problem of all these low end machines is that they have absolutely zero feedback from the gantry and ar table. They run blind , assuming that, if you send 5 pulses to the steppermotor, it takes 5 steps. Well guess what… Even with a 1 part per million error rate , on a large object you may go over a million steps of your stepper motors.. You will have a glitch somewher.

This is something professional equipment dosnt do. Those machines, like you cncs and lathes, have positional feedback. Heck even a 50$ inkjet printer uses positional feedback. There is a paperfeed encoder and a linear encoder for head position. So why dont these plastic-squirters dont use that ?

The answer is simple. Because they are all run by underpowered crapduino based hardware that couldnt cope with the flurry of information that needs to be accounted for. It takes a brain with a substantial amount of processing power to deal with that.

A real motion co troller is a complex piece of hardware and software.LoggedProfessional Electron Wrangler.

Any comments, or points of view expressed, are my own and not endorsed , induced or compensated by my employer(s).

Quote from: free_electron on April 25, 2013, 01:42:57 PM

You are far better off outsourcing this kind of work. Goengineer for example. Or protolabs

All thos plywood and plastic machines are junk. They are good to make litlle saltshakers and figurines. Try to make anything with some reasonable tolerance requirements and it wont work.

The techshop here has three different ones. The old makerbot, the new,all metal makerbot , and an UP!.

None can reliably make two identical parts. Its enough they skip a detent and all is off.

The biiiig problem of all these low end machines is that they have absolutely zero feedback from the gantry and ar table. They run blind , assuming that, if you send 5 pulses to the steppermotor, it takes 5 steps. Well guess what… Even with a 1 part per million error rate , on a large object you may go over a million steps of your stepper motors.. You will have a glitch somewher.

This is something professional equipment dosnt do. Those machines, like you cncs and lathes, have positional feedback. Heck even a 50$ inkjet printer uses positional feedback. There is a paperfeed encoder and a linear encoder for head position. So why dont these plastic-squirters dont use that ?

The answer is simple. Because they are all run by underpowered crapduino based hardware that couldnt cope with the flurry of information that needs to be accounted for. It takes a brain with a substantial amount of processing power to deal with that.

A real motion co troller is a complex piece of hardware and software.

Interesting. Ive run my cnc milling machine for hours at a time and I have never experienced a stepper missing a step and as you correctly point out one step lost is obvious over the rest of the run. I have most definitely seen errors creep in due to wear on the screw threads – obvious when you feel the play, and wear in the linear guides – again obvious.

Certainly real cnc machines use servo motors, they are much more nimble than steppers and can achieve greater speeds, but even they are controlled by rotational and not absolute positional feedback?

Do you have any examples of absolute positional feedback on machines with 3 or more axes of motion, a two axis lathe sounds trivial? Id like to see how how they do it

Remember, you are unique, just like everybody else

Quote from: ecat on April 25, 2013, 02:53:35 PM

Quote from: free_electron on April 25, 2013, 01:42:57 PM

You are far better off outsourcing this kind of work. Goengineer for example. Or protolabs

All thos plywood and plastic machines are junk. They are good to make litlle saltshakers and figurines. Try to make anything with some reasonable tolerance requirements and it wont work.

The techshop here has three different ones. The old makerbot, the new,all metal makerbot , and an UP!.

None can reliably make two identical parts. Its enough they skip a detent and all is off.

The biiiig problem of all these low end machines is that they have absolutely zero feedback from the gantry and ar table. They run blind , assuming that, if you send 5 pulses to the steppermotor, it takes 5 steps. Well guess what… Even with a 1 part per million error rate , on a large object you may go over a million steps of your stepper motors.. You will have a glitch somewher.

This is something professional equipment dosnt do. Those machines, like you cncs and lathes, have positional feedback. Heck even a 50$ inkjet printer uses positional feedback. There is a paperfeed encoder and a linear encoder for head position. So why dont these plastic-squirters dont use that ?

The answer is simple. Because they are all run by underpowered crapduino based hardware that couldnt cope with the flurry of information that needs to be accounted for. It takes a brain with a substantial amount of processing power to deal with that.

A real motion co troller is a complex piece of hardware and software.

Interesting. Ive run my cnc milling machine for hours at a time and I have never experienced a stepper missing a step and as you correctly point out one step lost is obvious over the rest of the run. I have most definitely seen errors creep in due to wear on the screw threads – obvious when you feel the play, and wear in the linear guides – again obvious.

Certainly real cnc machines use servo motors, they are much more nimble than steppers and can achieve greater speeds, but even they are controlled by rotational and not absolute positional feedback?

Do you have any examples of absolute positional feedback on machines with 3 or more axes of motion, a two axis lathe sounds trivial? Id like to see how how they do it

On my CNC machines, the servos are connected directly to the ball screws with an optical encoder on the back of the servo shaft. It is not absolute position feedback, but there is not really much chance to lose a step. Since the motor is mechanically connected to the ballscrew directly (no belt or gears), and the ballscrew is essentially zero backlash, if the motor (and encoder) turn, its pretty much a sure thing that the position changed.

Most NC controls are capable of taking absolute feedback using linear glass scales. Its an option on most lower end machines and sometimes standard on high-end machines made for moldmaking.

I think the problem with the hobby 3D printers is that they are using low powered motors and generally cheap components. I was a bit surprised to see thin wood used as a base for a 3D motion system… all of the flexing of components and tolerances add up to create errors. Thats part of what I liked about the Form Labs SLA machine – since it uses laser scanning,if the laser is fixed, there are less moving axes to go wrong. I would not have minded putting up with 0.010 worth of error, but many of the specs they quote seem like total bullshit.

Its not always the most popular person who gets the job done.

I think that failures often come from to feeble construction. Linear guides have to be PERFECTLY parallel, otherwise the carriage will jam in this place or another. And here you have a missed step.

On top of that, in screw-driven applications where I have like 200steps/rev and 4mm pitch trapezoidal leadscrew, this gives me like 50 steps per milimeter without microstepping (and about 800/mm with microstepping). With 1:1 belt drive you get faster movement, but MUCH worse accuracy.

Say you have a 20mm cog wheel on a stepper. That gives you ~26 steps/mm. Now a single missed step is a big problem.

At 800steps/mm I can live with one or two missed steps.

I love the smell of FR4 in the morning!

Quote from: free_electron on April 25, 2013, 01:42:57 PM

This is something professional equipment dosnt do. Those machines, like you cncs and lathes, have positional feedback. Heck even a 50$ inkjet printer uses positional feedback. There is a paperfeed encoder and a linear encoder for head position. So why dont these plastic-squirters dont use that ?

The answer is simple. Because they are all run by underpowered crapduino based hardware that couldnt cope with the flurry of information that needs to be accounted for. It takes a brain with a substantial amount of processing power to deal with that.

Cheap ARM boards could be the solution… although Ive an inkjet printer with encoders and it uses a Renesas H8S which I dont think is particularly powerful. I think the issue has more to do with software (firmware).

Youd be amazed how much horsepower an h8 has..

But, it probably also has some motion control chip.

St has really nice stepper motor comtrollers. You can set acceleration , decelration , torque curves , and much more. Big whoppin tqfp with 80 pins.

And ot has i terface for a quadrature encoder so it will close the loop.

Aal the professional machinery, pick place, lathes , cnc, robots, waferhandlers , uses feedback from encoders. There is a reason for that.

Encoders dont really cost much.LoggedProfessional Electron Wrangler.

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I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

Today at Maker Faire Detroit, the team fromSeeMeCNCunveiled a new printer:DropLit. Resin printers do not extrude material. Rather, these printers use a resin bath such asMakerJuice Labs which is selectively cured by light from a DLP projector.

Traditionally, resin printers are not sold as kits and command prices starting around $2,000 and up. When they said this, they were probably referring to theB9 Creator, which is in that price range. John Oly and his team plan to keep the DropLit kit sub $600, but to do this they are excluding the costly DLP projector necessary for a fully functional resin printer from the kit. This same idea of leaving out the projector has been seen in a couple other DLP resin printer kits, such as theSedgewick. The DropLit has a distinct advantage that it isnt crowdfunded and comes from a group that is already selling and supporting impressive printers.

Oly believes that resin printers are the next big technical approach to 3D printing. He maintains that given higher adoption by the community, costs will fall. Supporting his case, he cites the cost decrease of 3D printers using extrusion and finds that Open Hardware communities such asRepRapthe cause.

DropLit test print of the human form

I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

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Low-Cost 3D Printer a Hit on Kickstarter

Downloadable sneakersmay become reality sooner than later, but for now one of the main barriers stopping 3D printers from gaining widespread appeal is the massive price tag.

The RoBo aims to change that, however and if early reaction onKickstarteris any indication, this 3D printer could become a massive hit with consumers. With 32 days leftin its campaign, the RoBo has already raised a whopping $78,000 after setting an initial goal of just $49,000.

So whats got all those backers so excited? It likely starts with the RoBos super-affordable (relatively speaking) price point. The team behind the RoBo says it will sell for just $520, compared to most 3D printers, which have price tags well into the thousands of dollars. Another big sell for the RoBo is its convenience. Users will essentially be able to plug it in and start printing within minutes after bringing it home.

SEE ALSO:Youll Download Physical Objects Sooner Than You Think, Thanks to Kids Like These

But the RoBo isnt the first 3D printer to become a hit on Kickstarter. Back in October, a device called the Form 1 which similarly looks to expand 3D printing to the masses, but appears aimed at a slightly more advanced market became the websitesmost-funded tech campaign of all time.

To learn more about the RoBo, check out the video above. How much would you pay to have your own 3D printer? Let us know in the comments.

Topics:3D printingkickstarterStartupsTech

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Focus on Poverty 3D revolution in low-income housing?

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Focus on Poverty: 3D revolution in low-income housing?

3D printing could make quality homes more affordable

But construction printers are huge, expensive and largely untested

To assess their worth, they should be used to build a pilot neighbourhood

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The internet has been buzzing this week with news of the ingenious3D-printed ice housethat won aNASA competition to design a habitat for deep space exploration. But 3D-printed homes shouldnt only excite space enthusiasts: back on earth, prototype printers have already dramatically reduced the cost, time and environmental footprint of quality home construction. If thetechnologycan be scaled up in the field, and if costs keep falling, it might revolutionise the housing options of the poor.

Poorly constructed settlements dont just cause domestic hardship and low prestige; they also worsen residentsmental and physical health, cognitive developmentand economic participation. Since low-quality housing often conflicts with building codes and zoning regulations, residents often risk being evicted or having their homes destroyed.

3D printing might make quality, legal housing affordable for people living in poor urban settlements. Printers can use cheaper, novel materials recycled construction waste, or evenclay and plant seeds and also make possible more innovative,less material-intensive designs.3D printing might make quality, legal housing affordable for people living in poor urban settlements.Sally Murray, International Growth Centre (IGC)

Prototypes have already cut material costs, construction waste, labour costs, and carbon emissions by 50-80 per cent. 3D houses are also built more quickly: Chinese firm WinSun wowed the construction world last year by printingten quality homes in just 24 hours, for US$5,000 apiece. Where land prices are prohibitive, 3D printing can respond withmulti-storey apartments.

It sounds like a magic bullet. But things arent quite that simple. First, 3D printers are expensive, meaning the technology is only cost-effective at scale. They are alsolarge and heavy, and so difficult to transport. Third, at current prices, the houses remain out of reach for the poorest families: a household earning US$250 a month could, at a stretch, rent (or with credit, buy) a US$5,000 home but this overlooks the cost of the land and infrastructure that services the house, which may cost as much again.

Indeed, many informal houses fromMumbaitoJohannesburgPhomn PenhtoNairobi are in central locations earmarked for high-end development, with someplots worth more than US$90,000. It makes no sense for developers to build a permanent US$5,000 bungalow on such a plot, so formalisation of housing will often entail either the migration of residents to cheaper, more peripheral areas, or their consolidation in higher-rise apartments.

There are macroeconomic considerations, too. The construction sector is creating jobs and growth in manyurbanisingeconomies: it is directly responsible fortwice as many new, stable jobsas manufacturing in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around ten per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) inChinaandIndia. [1] The question is whether, by bringing costs down, 3D printing could boost demand for new houses and create jobs, or whether, since printing requires farfewer workers per unit, it could result in medium-term job losses.

3D printing can revolutionise emergency healthcare

Building low-cost tools to bridge the digital divide

Solar-powered 3D printer uses sand to make glass

Finally and at this stage, most significantly this is a really new technology. It has yet to be tested at any scale, outside what are effectively building laboratories. The next stage should be construction of a pilot neighbourhood in a developing country city, to discover the full costs and challenges of implementation in the field. If such a pilot is carried out, I believe all eyes will be on it.

SallyMurray is a country economist at theInternational Growth Centre (IGC), a research institution based at the London School of Economics and in partnership with the University of Oxford, both in the United Kingdom. She works in Rwanda, overseeing the IGC Rwandas research on urbanisation, energy, public sector performance and tax. She can be reached via Twitter:@sally_bm

Africa at work: job creation and inclusive growth(McKinsey Global Institute, August 2012)

This article was originally published onSciDev.Net. Read theoriginal article.

The internet has been buzzing this week with news of the ingenious3D-printed ice housethat won aNASA competition to design a habitat for deep space exploration. But 3D-printed homes shouldnt only excite space enthusiasts: back on earth, prototype printers have already dramatically reduced the cost, time and environmental footprint of quality home construction. If thetechnologycan be scaled up in the field, and if costs keep falling, it might revolutionise the housing options of the poor.

Poorly constructed settlements dont just cause domestic hardship and low prestige; they also worsen residentsmental and physical health, cognitive developmentand economic participation. Since low-quality housing often conflicts with building codes and zoning regulations, residents often risk being evicted or having their homes destroyed.

3D printing might make quality, legal housing affordable for people living in poor urban settlements. Printers can use cheaper, novel materials recycled construction waste, or evenclay and plant seeds and also make possible more innovative,less material-intensive designs.3D printing might make quality, legal housing affordable for people living in poor urban settlements.Sally Murray, International Growth Centre (IGC)

Prototypes have already cut material costs, construction waste, labour costs, and carbon emissions by 50-80 per cent. 3D houses are also built more quickly: Chinese firm WinSun wowed the construction world last year by printingten quality homes in just 24 hours, for US$5,000 apiece. Where land prices are prohibitive, 3D printing can respond withmulti-storey apartments.

It sounds like a magic bullet. But things arent quite that simple. First, 3D printers are expensive, meaning the technology is only cost-effective at scale. They are alsolarge and heavy, and so difficult to transport. Third, at current prices, the houses remain out of reach for the poorest families: a household earning US$250 a month could, at a stretch, rent (or with credit, buy) a US$5,000 home but this overlooks the cost of the land and infrastructure that services the house, which may cost as much again.

Indeed, many informal houses fromMumbaitoJohannesburgPhomn PenhtoNairobi are in central locations earmarked for high-end development, with someplots worth more than US$90,000. It makes no sense for developers to build a permanent US$5,000 bungalow on such a plot, so formalisation of housing will often entail either the migration of residents to cheaper, more peripheral areas, or their consolidation in higher-rise apartments.

There are macroeconomic considerations, too. The construction sector is creating jobs and growth in manyurbanisingeconomies: it is directly responsible fortwice as many new, stable jobsas manufacturing in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around ten per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) inChinaandIndia. [1] The question is whether, by bringing costs down, 3D printing could boost demand for new houses and create jobs, or whether, since printing requires farfewer workers per unit, it could result in medium-term job losses.

3D printing can revolutionise emergency healthcare

Building low-cost tools to bridge the digital divide

Solar-powered 3D printer uses sand to make glass

Finally and at this stage, most significantly this is a really new technology. It has yet to be tested at any scale, outside what are effectively building laboratories. The next stage should be construction of a pilot neighbourhood in a developing country city, to discover the full costs and challenges of implementation in the field. If such a pilot is carried out, I believe all eyes will be on it.

SallyMurray is a country economist at theInternational Growth Centre (IGC), a research institution based at the London School of Economics and in partnership with the University of Oxford, both in the United Kingdom. She works in Rwanda, overseeing the IGC Rwandas research on urbanisation, energy, public sector performance and tax. She can be reached via Twitter:@sally_bm

Africa at work: job creation and inclusive growth(McKinsey Global Institute, August 2012)

Mud bricks best for cool, green houses, says study

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The True Cost of Running a Desktop 3D Printer

Whenever I show my latest 3D prints to people, the one question they always ask me is How much did this cost to make?

My answer is usually along the lines of Im not sure and Im not worried because Im going to make it anyway.

This is a good question and my answer is honest and true, but I realised recently that my answer simply isnt good enough. Its at around this time that I received a comment on myBeginners Series Pagerelating to 3D printer running costs. If I may quote part of the comment:

I am researching printers and their various features and functions and have found plenty of suppliers who dont seem to have a clue about printing supply costs relating to quantity on a reel or weight or either and offer little assistance. The one thing you dont mention is how much does it cost you to run your printer and by this I mean electricity used per hour. It is impossible for me as a budding business owner to put a cost on my item if the makers cant tell me how much power it uses. I have a kilowatt hour meter to test it but dont have anything to test it on and I refuse to take anything on faith from these folks since theyve not been overly helpful on all other questions Ive asked to date.

Ive never worked out or tried to find out how much the electricity costs are, because Ive figure that its negligible compared the other resources required, time currently being the biggest resource used in 3D printing. But I should, so maybe Ill write a blog post soon about the true running costs of a 3D printer. Ive not yet seen such information published and I think people will certainly find it interesting.

To address this question I started by purchasing some accurate kitchen scales. Based on the weight of an object and the cost of the filament (plastic) per kg its easy to work out the material costs.

This was a good start, but I then started to think about other costs like electricity, equipment depreciation, software, repairs,3D Printer Upgrades, consumables and of course the cost of all those 3D printing failures.

As you can imagine, working out the true cost of running a desktop 3D printer at home could be tricky, but I like a challenge and as far as I know, this common question remains unanswered. Up until now that is.

As a Software Engineer by trade, Ive always been taught never to make assumptions as theyre often wrong and the answer can usually be found if we ask the right people.

However, for the purposes of answering this complex question of cost, I believe I have to break this rule. There are so many variables involved in 3D printing that I cannot possibly consider every scenario, using every type of printer, with every setup, every type of filament, every electricity tariff, etc, etc.

So, what I intend to do is to use a typical scenario for someone using a common desktop FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) 3D printer at home.

For the purposes of my calculations Ill use a 100 gram object printed in good quality PLA taking 5 hours to print.

I have printed a few real examples of such objects, like theCeltic SkullsandPumpkins. Both are around 100 grams and take about 5 hours to print.

The 100 grams will also include anySupports and Raftswhich were cleaned off during finishing, as these werent free and took time and filament to print.

Ill use a MakerBot Replicator 2 printer.Simply because they are a very typical and common 3D printer for use at home and I have one of these myself.

As many home users already own a computer of some sort, I dont think I should factor that in as an additional cost to 3D printing, so we can assume you already have a computer.

In each section as I describe each cost in detail youll see the other assumptions Im making. Just remember that whatever setup you use, youll be able to use this as a good guide to what those things are really costing you to print, even if you use slightly different equipment, setup or filaments.

Before I delve into specific costs, in the interests of simplicity I wont include all my calculations in this article text.Ill also use UK Sterling as the currency as I live in the UK. Just multiply by 1.56 (at the time of writing this) if you wish to convert to US dollars.

Ok, so lets start with filament

In the old days cheap filaments were abundant and were often of very questionable quality. They sometimes contained impurities (even tiny ball bearings so Ive heard) and their diameter was varied to say the least.

Buying cheap filament isnt such a problem nowadays but I still think cutting costs here is false economy. To be more specific, if you save money on filaments your rate of failed prints will increase and so will your overall costs oh and your stress levels will increase too.

So for my calculations Ive taken the average price of theColorFabband RoboSavvy filaments I use. Both are good quality and I have had no issues with either. With shipping costs Ill add 4 per kg, which takes us to 34.19 per kg for filament. For our 100 gram object I make that

Filament 3.42 (52.48% of total print cost)

This is an easy one to forget, but unless you are very lucky your 3D printer wasnt free and you have to factor in the purchase and depreciation costs into everything you make.

Although its an easy one to forget, its a difficult one to calculate and unfortunately requires more assumptions and variables than any other part of the overall calculation.

I averaged some prices for my MakerBot Replicator 2 from various places in the UK and the US.

I came up with a purchase price of 1576, also similar toWhat My Printer Actually Costin the UK.

Most financial people will calculate depreciation using the assumption that a piece of equipment will be used for five years. I think this is reasonable for a 3D printer.

Even though itll be well out of date in less than that, I dont think many home users will be happy to throw it away any earlier after such a large capital outlay to purchase it.

The next assumption is a big one and will vary wildly between users. Assuming users have a full time job too, but still love 3D printing then Ive used an average of 2 hours a day of printing time.

This gives us a lifetime of 3650 hours before we throw our printer away. I also think this is reasonable, especially if we maintain andRepair our 3D Printerand factor in those costs. Yes, Ive considered all that too as youll see later.

There are other equipment costs (like a toolbox and contents) but most of these will last a very long time making their depreciation costs negligible. I do consider consumables later though.

So if our 3D printer costing 1576 has a 3650 hour lifetime and our print takes 5 hours I make that

3D Printer Depreciation: 2.16 (33.14% of total print cost)

I consider consumables to be things like blue tape, Teflon grease, modelling knife blades and any products used for finishing, like dry brushing, sanding, polishing (iebronzeFill Filament) and painting.

Again these costs per item are very small and very difficult to calculate, so for our purposes Ive use the tiny figure of

Consumables: 0.10 (1.53% of total print costs)

3D printer energy consumption is a very interesting subject. This is partly because so many people are worried about how much a 3D printer costs to run and partly because the cost is actually tiny.

So tiny in fact that I worked out that the power meter I purchased specifically for this blog post cost only a little less than the energy usage of my 3D printer in its entire estimated 5 year lifetime!

Let me elaborate. UK daytime energy costs on my tariff are less than 0.16 per kWh. When I tested my Replicator 2 on some typical (theres that word again) 3D prints it used on average around 50 Watts (0.05 kWh for a 1 hour print).

Remember if you use your printer at night, at least in the UK, electricity costs are significantly less at night. Demand at night is much lower so costs plummet and I guess this is the same in many countries.

Anyway, I have to assume that most people will print in the day and for our 5 hour print I make that a tiny figure of

Electricity Usage: 0.04 (0.6% of total print costs)

Its an unfortunate fact that your beloved printer will at some point break and always during an important 20+ hour print.

Soon after purchasing it youll also become annoyed at theTacky Spool Holderand the manufacturer supplied acrylic build plate that was never flat, even on the day you bought it.

Repairs and upgrades will happen and depending on the luck of the draw costs vary. For my calculations Ive added about 10% of the purchase costs over the lifetime of my printer, which is what I predict for myself. For our 5 hour print job that brings us to a cost of

Repairs and Upgrades: 0.21 (3.15% of total print costs)

This is a very informative sub header, which answers the question of software costs straight away. Yes you can buy some super expensive CAD packages and maybe you have bought Simplify 3D (Ive heard its so good I might buy it myself).

However, the fact of the matter is that Mr Typical loves free and with software you dont have to spend a penny. Your printer will no doubt arrive with free software, you can use 123D Design orTinkercad for Your 3D Designsand 123D Catch for your 3D scans.

What Im trying to say is that if you wish, your software costs can be

Software: 0.00 (0% of total print costs)

Im afraid this one is impossible to calculate. How much we value our time varies so wildly between different people in different situations.

Its only easy if you run a business and you have a specific hourly rate for your time. Its likely that you love 3D printing so much youd do it for nothing, so for home users Ill have to leave this one at zero and let you add it yourself if you wish.

Just add any design time, setup, cleaning and finishing time to the total cost if you wish. Not the 5 hours worth for the print time, unless you plan to sit watching your 3D printer do its thing for the whole time. So, for our purposes we have to add

Your Time: 0.00 (0% of total print costs)

Remember thoseWonderful Failed Prints? There were probably more in the early days before you discovered supports, rafts, good filament and how to level your build plate correctly.

After having my printer for around 6 months at the time of writing this (seems like much longer) I think I have about 10% failure rate. This sounds like a lot, but considering design errors, prototypes and simply not liking what Ive made (as well as the print process itself failing) its pretty realistic.

So based on the total of the costs so far give me one second to consult my calculator ok, 10% of 5.93 brings us to

Failures: 0.59 (9.09% of total print costs)

Lets add all these up (even though I already just added most up to calculate the failure costs).

This is how much it costs Mr Typical to print a 100 gram object that takes 5 hours

6.52 (100% of total print costs, obviously)

Whether thats more or less than you thought Im not sure, but feel free to let me know in the comments below.

I think the fact that were considering pretty much everything, not just material costs, its quite reasonable. If you use a low infill (5% for example) a 100 gram object can be quite a good size (bigger than the average fist) and most items will actually be smaller and cost you a lot less than that.

Also consider how much you could charge someone for a custom object that size, maybe ten times that cost or more?

If you really want toMake Your 3D printer Pay for Itselfstick with printing customised items, because although theres more effort in designing them, you can charge so much more for them.

If the overall cost of printing our 100 gram object really did scare you, there are some ways you can cut costs. As with most things its best to pick the low hanging fruit first (I love that phrase).

Thats why I included all those percentages alongside the individual costs. The biggest percentages are the things you should concentrate on first because theyll give you the most value for your efforts.

For example, on a Replicator 2 you can turn off the sound, turn off the LEDs, turn off Heat Hold and reduce your printing temperatures. These will all cut energy costs.

However, as energy usage is only a tiny 0.6% of the total print costs, you wont be able to see your print and youll have more failures if you drop the temperature too low it really isnt worth it.

So look to address those big percentages, like filament (52.48%), printer depreciation (33.14%) and failures (9.09%):

Use as little infill as you can and dont use supports or rafts unless you really need to. Note: some people are now developing Smart Supports which use less material than traditional supports. These tips alone could slash your overall costs.

Buy a Cheaper Printer Like a Printrbot, which are great little printers. You can alsoBuild Your Own 3D Printer from a Kitwhich will save even more money. Again, these tips will slash your overall costs.

Learning to print well first time will reduce your failed print rate and reduce your costs too. Thats one of the main reasons I created my3D Printing Beginner Series.

These are the areas to concentrate on. They will give you the greatest value if you want to reduce costs sensibly (by sensibly I mean dont buy a poor quality printer or super cheap filament).

Lastly, Ive been meaning to create a 3D printing cost calculator for quite a while now. Well, I finally did it.

I use very similar calculations to what Ive used above but tried to simplify things a little and tweaked some equations. Just a few quick notes about it though.

By default it will use the same values as Ive used above and calculate the same result (give or take a penny or two for rounding and equation tweaks). When you calculate the costs it saves your values so when you re-visit it next time it will re-load your last values automatically.

Resetting all values to default values does just that. It will change all the values back to what Ive used above in my example 3D print and save them when you re-calculate, so use it carefully.

The notes in brackets, e.g. (/kWh) specify UK pounds sterling, but it will work just fine if you use whatever currency you like, US dollars for example.

This cost calculator was originally inline inside this blog post, but due to its popularity I have moved it to a faster and slickerDedicated Cost Calculator Web App. As I intend to improve it based on your feedback it may not always look exactly like this image. Click the above link or the image below to try it now

Note:The reason the calculator total is currently 1p different from the total in the example is as follows In the example I used 150 for lifetime repairs and upgrades. In the calculator I made this more flexible by using a percentage (10% by default) of the 3D printer cost, which works out at 157. As I improve the calculator over time, the total may vary even more from my example. Also, please note thatJavaScript and Cookies should be enabled in your browserfor it to work correctly.

This cost calculator is currently a Beta test version so feel free to have a play around with it and let me know if you have any issues or suggestions for it. If it proves to be popular I plan to improve it dramatically, so let me know whether you like it or not.

Please leave aCommentthenLikeandSharethis post if you found it useful. As you can appreciate it took me a fair amount of time, research and programming effort to produce. If youd like to learn more about 3D printing, pleaseDownload my FREE Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home eBook, its packed full of useful, interesting, free information.

Thanks so much for your time. Whatever you value your time at I sure do appreciate it.

Tagged as:beginnercostsfailuresfinishinggrowthmaterialsreviewsupgrades

55comments read them below oradd one

In the process of building a 3d printing website

and would like to reference your content with your

Feel free to link to or mention our content as long as you dont copy it, as all our content is covered by copyright laws. Thanks for showing an interest, its very much appreciated.

Your calculating method is great. I only have a tricky question

In your form you use 5 h for print 100gr of material and then you calculate the daily usage as 2 hours.

If someone use the daily the printer about 6 hours what must change in the form? I am asking this because i think that the printing time and daily usage time in your example should be the same for 1 time printing !

To answer your question youd simply have to change the Daily Usage value from 2 to 6.

This initial value of 2 is an estimated default value and is user configurable. I hope that helps.

No probs. Printer Life and Daily Usage are only used to calculate printer value depreciation. If you dont want to include this at all in the cost, then just putting big values into both fields (1000 in each for example) will make depreciation costs so negligible they dont affect the final cost. A simpler way is just to set Printer Purchase cost to zero 🙂

If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

I find the whole subject of 3D printing totally fascinating.

I would be very grateful if you would send me a copy of the spreadsheet.

Thanks for the comment and Im really glad youre interested in 3D printing too 🙂

Ive just emailed you a copy of the spreadsheet I used to develop this post and the cost calculator.

Im planning to create a dedicated web app for the cost calculator soon, to make it easier and more intuitive for people to use.

Hello Jason, I wonder if you could send me the spreadsheet, Im trying to work out the costs im facing with a 1000 print contract!

Thanks for your comment, Ive just emailed you the spreadsheet.

Have a good day and good luck with your contract

The spread sheet is a great idea and just for the fun of it I plugged in my numbers and even after the inflation of currency nonsense came up with a number very close to my actual costs that I had figured.

I did a limited production run and played with infill settings until I came up with a product that was durable and finally designed in such a fashion as to almost eliminate supports and rafts and thus waste as well as reducing print times and filament use and on down the line of costs and then just averaged over the run.

Currently I am doing this solo and trying to build a business now that I can actually put a cost per item on my product.

Your incites have helped me a great deal and I thank you.

Id appreciate your sending me a calculator so I can continue to refine my processes.

Im glad you found the cost calculator to be accurate and useful. It doesnt matter what currency you use, as long as you use the same currency for all values it will output the correct total in your currency. Its good to be able to put an accurate cost on items you plan to sell, as too many people just use filament costs and seem to forget everything else.

Anyway, Ive just emailed you the spreadsheet if you wish to use and modify it to suit your needs.

I hope the business goes well and if I can help in any way, please let me know.

nice work with cost calculator. Could you please be so kind and email me your spread sheet so I get better insight in process of calculating prices.

Ive just emailed you the spreadsheet so it should be with you now.

Feel free to customise it as you wish so it suits your requirements.

Great for trying to work out cost for on a business plan:) nice work

Thanks Chris, it seems that a lot of people are finding this blog post useful for starting/running a 3D printing business 🙂

My website is under construction right now as I am in the planning phase for a 3D printing business. What you are doing here encompasses an aspect of this 3D printing world that I love. The concept is open sharing and collaborating. I have an AAS in programming and 1.5 years towards a BS in computer science. If you would like any help developing your app let me know!

If you also please email the spreadsheet that would be absolutely wonderful. I need to construct a very detailed business plan and this would help me out tons. I have bookmarked this post!

God bless you in all your endeavors! && Eric

I should be ok with the web app but thanks for the offer. Im a freelance software engineer by day and also have a BSc Software Engineering degree. Although Im now great with web development I can just about manage it 🙂

Good luck with your business plan and your new business. Ive just emailed you the spreadsheet so I hope this helps a little. Ill let everyone know when the web app is ready for people to use.

A really useful blog post, and great work on the calculator. I couldnt find anything similar on the internet that is uk based.

Would you be willing to share the spread sheet?

Thanks, my dedicated web app version of the calculator is very nearly complete. Itll be similar to this one but it will be minimal, so you wont need to load the whole blog post every time to use it. Itll also allow me to update it regularly with new features based on user feedback.

Ive sent you the spreadsheet by the way and I hope you find it useful.

Ive just made live the first version of my dedicated cost calculator web app. You can find it here:

Ill soon be replacing the inline version above with this one, which is slicker and will load faster, as you wont have to load this entire (large) blog post every time to use it.

Let me know what you think as I plan to evolve it based on user feedback.

Awesome article. Thanks for writing it.

I was curious about power consumption as well, remembering communist-era appliances that heated stuff were dismally power-hungry. So I tried to measure my CEL Robox with a power meter. Heres what I got:

Plugged in, powered off 0.0W

Idle with build chamber LED on 0.0W?!

Making min ~60W max 179W.

The fluctuations are between min and max power draw are pretty rhythmic. A mean of 120W could be assumed.

Thanks for the useful information! I was wondering what the average hourly rate would be with all those variables. I believe it would be carried on how much resin can be used within an hour.

I guess if we take the example default values Ive used, but reduce the print time to 1 hour and reduce the object weight by the same proportion (divide by 5) to 20 grams, that would give an average hourly cost of 1.39.

Thats not an exact calculation but I bet its pretty close to the real average, as I dont think any of the other values would need to change.

Thanks for the comment and I hope you find the cost calculator useful.

Thank you for sharing this , it is very helpful . Since a while now , Im studying the idea of opening a shop for 3D prints to be introduced in Lebanon , where there is a big gap in that industry which can generate a good business return . But after going thru many websites/blogs/readings , Im still confused , can you kindly advise me what are the best machines that I need to purchase in order to conduct the business step by step ? What are your recommendations ?

Im glad youre interested in becoming more involved in 3D printing. Your question is a little tricky to answer though without more information about your requirements, as there are many different models available nowadays.

For home or office use I use a MakerBot Replicator 2, which they dont make any more but many other MakerBot machines are available. The Ultimaker 2 is a good machine too, but both of these are a little expensive. The Printrbot machines are excellent value at a fraction of the MakerBot/Ultimaker prices. You can even save more money by buying a Printrbot kit and building your own.

Another thing you need to consider is the availability of these printers in your country. I know that some countries consider 3D printers to be a threat (Pakistan for example) so you need special permission from the government to import them.

First I want to congratulate you on your post, as many of the people above I am also researching to innovate in 3D printing market. Ive been doing my research and came across your page which will be extremely helpful now that I will run numbers to decide an initial investment. I got a couple of questions to you:

-Do you have a way to forecast demand or you created the demand among your customers?

-Do you recommend analyzing an investment in an industrial printer rather than a desktop one?

Appreciate your response and if you would be willing to share your spreadsheet as well Ill be delighted.

The best way to forecast demand is to build an audience, maybe like the one I have with 3DPrintHQ and then literally just ask them. No guessing required and no wasted time with products that wont sell, just ask your audience what they want.

I wouldnt personally buy an industrial 3D printer yet and Id recommend outsourcing your higher quality work to a company like Shapeways. Prototype your stuff using your desktop 3D printer, then have Shapeways make it in high quality plastic, metal or even precious metals like gold. Ive done this myself and written about it quite a bit.

Hi Jason, This is nice. Im starting up a home base 3d printing service and finally i saw this calculation that you made.

Can i also ask if its okay with you, can i have try the calculator sheet?

Thanks for your interest in my cost calculator. Due to the amount of effort involved in creating this cost calculator and the accompanying spreadsheet I cannot give the spreadsheet away for free.

However, I have just emailed you a 50% discount code, should you wish to use it but my online calculator is (and always will be) free to use any time.

I hope that helps and good luck with your 3D printing business.

Great Job. Maybe adding a support layer cost in the calculation might be helpful. It could be zero now and if someone wants to add in the value, they can.

Is there a rule of thumb for calculating support layer usage?

I know the support layer for makerbot replicator 2 can used a different material which has a different cost per Kg. What is the cost of support layer material?

Lastly, can US dollar conversion be added to the calculator?

The cost calculation uses the weight of the object, so supports and rafts are already considered, assuming you use the same material for rafts.

The calculator uses relative values so as long as you use the same currency throughout your inputs you can use any currency you like.

Of course, the spreadsheet version can be modified as you wish.

Also, for support layers, there is a fluid that you can put the part into for the layers to dissolve.

Do you know what the liquid is that dissolves support layers?

Should this cost be included somewhere (could be zero at start)?

I think some support materials can be dissolved in limonene, which is cheap, commonly available, non-toxic and made from citrus fruits, so it smells nice too 🙂

You can add any extra costs like this in the Other Costs field.

Thanks for this helpful calculator you made. Im working on a new industrial project and Id like to have this calculator and Im willing to pay but cannot use paypal in the company. Please tell me how to make a transfer to you and get the excel file.

Thanks for your interest and comment. Ill email you directly to see if we can arrange something.

Great article, im new to 3d printing but would love to recieve your spreadsheet to work out a comparison compared to standard manufacturing for certain parts.

Thanks for your interest. You can obtain the spreadsheet by visiting this link and then hitting the big green button:

I do ask for a small contribution for my efforts but if you dont want to do this the online cost calculator is always available for free at the same location.

Wonderful research and great heart to make it known to the entire printer community. I am buying a Tiko 3 D printer for use at Goa India. I am mechanical engineer in job for 38 years. I want to use as hobby and I therefore would request you to send me copy of your calculator on my email.

HI Jason, Nice information on 3d printing and about there cost.

3D printing is essentially simple. A thin layer of liquid or melted polymer or powder is deposited by a nozzle onto a substrate where it cools and solidifies or is cured by UV. A part is built up layer by layer by interpreting a 3d CAD design through software. Printers range in size from small desktop models to create small objects to large engineering models to create complex prototypes. As long as the prototype to be created is within the limitations of a printer, there is not much of an issue, though there are several matters that must be taken into consideration.

Recently I have taken the services from Iannone 3D, who provides Rapid Prototyping and a reliable FDM 3D printing service in the New Jersey area.

I know in your article you said that most people have full time jobs and you 3D print for fun, but some, like myself, would look to use 3D printing to generate income. Using your calculator helps tremendously in calculating cost, but there is one element missin.

Low-cost open-source 3D printer looks beyond plastic

The metal 3D printer built by a team from Michigan Technological University for under $1,500

With 3D printers dropping below theUS$200 mark, the home 3D printing revolution appears to be getting into full swing, which is great … if you want to make things out of plastic. Unfortunately, the price of commercial metal 3D printers means the ability to print metal objects has remained out of reach of most people. That could be set to change with a team from Michigan Technical University building a 3D metal printer for under $1,500.

The 3D printer was created by Joshua Pearce, an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and his team from parts including a small commercial MIG welder and an open-source microcontroller. It forms complex geometric shapes by laying down thin layers of steel, but Pearce admits the printer is still a work in progress, with a sprocket the most intricate piece the printer has produced so far. Thats where the open-source nature of the device comes in.

Pearce and his team have made everything required to build the printer, including detailed plans, software and firmware, freely available. They hope that this will see the metal 3D printer quickly evolve to a much more capable device.

Similar to the incredible churn in innovation witnessed with open-sourcing of the first RepRap plastic 3D printers, I anticipate rapid progress when the maker community gets their hands on it, says Pearce. Within a month, somebody will make one thats better than ours, I guarantee it.

Although the sub-$1,500 price tag puts the metal 3D printer within the reach of home users, Pearce warns that it would be better suited to a shop, garage or skilled DIYer due to the requirement for safety gear and fire protection equipment things which arent a concern with a typical plastic 3D printer.

Pearce was also concerned about the potential for homemade firearms, which have already been 3D printed in bothplasticandmetal, but he believes the benefits of distributed manufacturing 3D printing technology brings will far outweigh the potential dangers. He and his team have previously conducted research, which showed that making products at home on a 3D printer ischeaperandgreenerthan buying certain commercial goods.

Small and medium-sized enterprises would be able to build parts and equipment quickly and easily using downloadable, free and open-source designs, which could revolutionize the economy for the benefit of the many, he says. I really dont know if we are mature enough to handle it, but I think that with open-source approach, we are within reach of a Star Trek-like, post-scarcity society, in which replicators can create a vast array of objects on demand, resulting in wealth for everyone at very little cost. Pretty soon, well be able to make almost anything.

The information needed to build your own metal 3D printer can be foundhere.

Source:Michigan Technological University

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Low-cost 3D printers and crowdfunding suicide

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Low-cost 3D printers and crowdfunding suicide

1) Thank you readers and media organisations alike for spreading my works with this article. It has been featured on a number of 3DP news websites includingFabbaloo,Inside3DP,Printing 3D Todayand3D Printing Industry.

2) For reference, my article is not referring to specific companies, it is referring to the industry as a whole. This whole thing started around July 2013, when I started watching these companies. My examples are all based on my experiences and using $AUD.

3) This article is referring to traditional-design cartesian 3D printers, sold as assembled. The costs would change depending on the style of printer, size, print bed and also the country manufactured in.

I am writing this article recently as I have been following the development of many Kickstarter 3D printers for over a year and the market has reached a point this month where I feel like legitimate companies are being damaged by cash-grab start-ups. Businesses with fraudulent financing models are dragging this entire industry down but it seems too many people give these companies the benefit of the doubt for being young and naive. I believe a harsher reality check is needed, the optimistic 3D printing public needs to be warned about these companies which will fail and the companies themselves need to be warned of their own shortcomings before bankrupting themselves. It is a lose-lose situation for everyone, even people who dont back any 3D printers on Kickstarter.

I use the term Kickstarter throughout this article but Indiegogo can be used interchangeably.

This article is a very general overview that doesnt apply to all companies or one in particular, but the chain of events I will describe happens all too often and ends up the exact same way. Some companies might mix things up, do some things right and some wrong but ultimately they all make 2 fatal flaws. First though, I will talk about minimum required goals to be successful. There is a massive amount of money that does not add up in almost every single Kickstarter printer project. I will then look at those companies that earn too much money and sink themselves. The first section about building a printer is critical to understanding the second section about selling it at a proper price.

How cheaply can a 3D printer be built?

I have been working with a colleague of mine for over 6 months now as we experimented with all sorts of printer designs and he builds his own with over 3 years of experience, running his own small business as a second job building his own customised open-source printers. We even looked at printing all sorts of exotic materials however this article is focused on our efforts to make a normal, plastic open-source FDM machine. The strategy was to just make a business selling printers, we didnt want to go overboard however if the price was right, we would delve into the world of mass manufacture and see just what it took if we wanted to make it big.

Here I learned the true costs of building printers as I worked with a venture capitalist wanting to pump money into this business pending my feasibility study. We found out that the cheapest possible cost for a printer 1 off was around $300 or so with a large chunk of this cost being the rigid frame. The costs of this frame could be cut down drastically with larger orders but the other components required gigantic orders to get any reasonable discount. We found that even assuming 10 printers built per week for 6 months, we couldnt get the raw materials cost below $180. This cost is otherwise known as the vitamins of a 3D printer being everything except the frame whether it is a metal box (replicator 2), solid sheet (prusa) or exoskeleton (mendel). The expensive line items though, were mostly non-negotiable. We could source motors cheaply if we bought a lot but the electronics board, hot ends and power supply have few options to reduce costs by much. This is a critical factor. This cost of $180 however, was assuming we 3D printed lots of components when going for the budget exoskeleton model.

I then had detailed talks with an injection molding consultant. I was quoted around 50k for all the molding all up and only a handful of dollars for parts after that. A point to note here was a 2 month lead time, 1 to even start the job and 1 to complete it. This was quite standard and assuming parts were molded in Hong Kong so they  were already quite cheap.My consultant here told me to expect 10% of any sales cost to be lost on replacements but since this was a brand new project, expect closer to 25%. This is related to theBathtub CurveWeibull function in reliability engineering, a widely used function.

It was time to conduct a feasibility study on the businesses of making and selling 3D printers. Our expenditures were injection molds, printer parts, salaries and warranty backup funds. Our income would be Kickstarter orders and outside VC funding.From here on in, the following scenario describes the minimum viable funding for a printer to be successful. Our personal example of $100k VC funding will come into play later.Whether the printer has a selling price of $299 or $9,999 the equation remains the same, this is the minimum.

Injection molds: A 1-off cost of around $50k. There is no room for error here, a heavy lead time meant this must be done right the first time.

Printer parts: $180 per printer, assuming under 5000 printers were sold within 1 year.

Salaries: We needed 4 people working full-time to support this, 1 manager, 1 engineer and 2 people building the machines. If this project was to succeed, it needed a full-time effort. This would be at $50k each for a year, factoring in we are all professionals, not kids.

Warranty funds. 25% of printer costs, therefore $45. This is directly added onto the printer part cost and includes all shipping and extra costs involved in tech support and updating parts.

The feasibility study comes down to the following equation. This equation is simplified for now, it will be expanded later on.

(Printers sold*selling price) + VC funds Injection molds + salaries + (Printer cost*printers sold)

Printers sold at selling price = Kickstarter revenue (P*S = $K), and Kickstarter takes 4%, therefore

0.96*$K + $V $50k + Salaries + ($225*P)

We will give these companies 6 months to fulfil their orders which is a usual timeframe, therefore the salaries cost is halved

0.96*$K + $V $50k + $100k + ($225*P)

The equation now has 3 variables in Kickstarter goal, selling price and number sold with V and S being set independently. We will deal with these later. The issue that countless Kickstarter printer start-ups run into is that they attempt to solve this equation by setting $K first, then the desired selling price and then alter the rest to fit. This strategy is to set a low enough goal to give them a higher chance of being funded however this strategy sets them up for immediate failure. This is what happens when they do that. A common target selling point is $299. Please recall at this point, my function is to determine minimum viability so the function remains applicable with a higher selling point.

Assuming $0 in outside VC funding (ie; most Kickstarter printers)

The company must sell more than 2420 printers to satisfy the incomeexpenditures equation which means they must raise 2420*$299 = $724,000. Yikes.

So what happens when a company of 4 people and a printer that costs $180 worth of parts, raises say 200k? That seems like a lot of money right?

0.96*$200K + $0 $50K + Salaries + ($225*($200K/$299)) [note the 0.96 factor is only applied to the money received, not the money raised]

The company is insolvent before we ourselves are broke.

But wait there is still something missing here. The above example was simplified, now it must be adjusted for the real world with taxes, insurance and marketing etc. The equation must now add in these factors:

0.96*$K + $V $50K + Salaries + Marketing + facility leasing + insurance + taxes + electricity + ($225*P)

Salaries + marketing + facility leasing + insurances + taxes + electricity -$8k +$V ($V=$0)

Now the equation has become downright impossible, even if they got in $100k worth of VC funding (such as our example)

$92K salaries + marketing + facility leasing + insurance + taxes + electricity.

For a four person team, it cant be done realistically!

The problem with so many Kickstarter campaigns is their goal is so low, that there is not enough room for salaries while all other expenditures are ignored and especially Kickstarters commission. So many campaigns set a goal to cover the molding costs alone, but it is so insignificant in the larger scheme of things!

What is the minimum goal for the cheapest printer?

So how about we try and see what sort of goal is actually needed to not go bankrupt immediately. Lets go ultra-conservative to prove a point. We will assume that salaries + marketing + facility + insurance + taxes + electricity costs will amount to around $150k for the 6 month period, the employees will take a hit on their own salary to offset all those extra costs. But they still want that $299 printer. They are now faced with the following equation

X = the intended price point of the printer

S = salaries and all other manufacturing expenditures

0.96*Y S + M + P*C[Y = P*X, P = Y/X]*

0.96*Y (S+M)/(1-C/X) [1/(1-C/X) = X/(X-C]*

For the case of this theoretical company that has built a dirt-cheap printer costing only $180 of parts, using a fund of $150k to cover 4 people full-time employed and all manufacturing costs (assumed $50K)

*EDIT: It appears that my wording was not clear enough. My salary costs is of course referring to the local assembly costs, this does not apply to printers sold as kits or manufactured in Asia! They have their own set of teething issues though.

Therefore this graph determines the required Kickstarter goal for this company to afford their own expenditure, vs the cost of the printer they are selling.

This graph does not lie. Every $ below that line, represents money coming directly out of the fund they use to pay themselves. If they fall below this line, their expenses have exceeded their income, they are insolvent as they can not afford to buy the parts for the printer. Literally the only way to stay afloat is to pay yourself less and less. The company that sells a $299 printer and raises only $250k will have exactly $9,398 to pay 4 people for 6 months and covers marketing, legal, taxes, electricity, tech support That company has a very short future. And again, this is assuming a perfectly smooth operation with a fully-developed printer and no delays or issues.

These companies can not simply choose to operate at a loss, because that will lead to a fraction of customers receiving their product, and it becoming a paperweight as the company folds shortly after. There is only one way to survive this and that is to set your salaries first, then you set your retail price point, then you set a Kickstarter goal. From here, the selling point can be altered to give more realistic goals.

I will be blunt here. The chances of any company making a low-cost 3D printer, that raises below that viability line surviving, is almost zero. The selling point must be high enough. They can fudge the numbers all they want, it doesnt matter. Say this company is in bed with a Chinese manufacturing giant and sources all their parts for only $140 (which is outrageous, C = $140*1.25 = $175)? (Blue line in below graph)

How about a company which only consists of two people, and they are content to live on only $20k per year assembling the printers in a garage? (S=40K,  Facilities=$0) (Red line in below graph)

But a company of 2 people selling these printers at $299 must produce 1290 printers in 6 months Thats a bit of a stretch!

What about that company that raised over a million dollars, but had a team of 10 people? (S=500K)

Feel free to add your own numbers into my equation and investigate what is viable and what is not. Always remember, this is the best case scenario, assuming the printer design is finalised and there are no losses with bad supplier parts etc. The above scenarios highlight that even in a perfect world where everything comes together smoothly, people can assemble 10 printers every day and do so for minimum wage, the required goals are still far higher than most Kickstarter projects set and still higher than what they end up getting anyway.

The worst part about all this is that with so many low cost 3D printers on the market, they all eat away at each others chance to succeed. Having 10 printers all get $200k each is a disaster for our industry because each one of these companies will face insolvency. If 3 companies got $660k each, then we would be alright. They would all be self-sufficient and functioning within one year. But alas, we are stuck with dozens of companies that cant survive.

Never forget, this analysis assumed that the printer was fully developed and ready to go right from the start. Injection molds were ready to go the day the campaign finished.

After all of this analysis, we look at the two successful companies to still exist today after success through Kickstarter, Printrbot and Formlabs. What did these companies do differently to the rest? They target massively different markets, the price difference is huge, one is a kit and one is built. No, it is not a case of comparing what they did different to the rest, it is what did they do the same? The answer is simply a sufficient profit margin.

These two companies set themselves apart from the rest by building a sufficiently large profit margin into their machines. This margin allowed the company to not only survive the Kickstarter death trap, it allowed the companies to grow, hire more people and most importantly, remain relevant after the campaign. Because a company that plans to be in business after Kickstarter, is the only company that will acknowledge why you need a high profit margin once the rush stops.

But of course, how many low cost Kickstarter machines follow in their footsteps? Why are they all racing to the bottom, when success is only found at the top? I think I have explained my reasoning enough at this stage, that low cost 3D printers set themselves up for failure.

Theres something else though, another way out from the pit of bankruptcy that these Kickstarter companies have devised This is what has me so enraged about the 3D printing industry at the moment. What about the campaigns that become very successful? The ones that promise a lot, raise over 200k despite offering a low-cost printer? Whilst bankruptcy can be excused as companies being naive and running out of money, the companies that participate in the schemes I am about to describe are outright fraudulent, taking peoples money with no chance of delivering a product.

As I explained earlier, companies can succeed with a low cost 3D printer if they raise enough money, and good on them. They have the platform to succeed at the expense of other companies, now is their chance to make a real dent in the market. There are companies making printers which are high priced. Their prices will ensure they remain in business at a rate proportional to how many they sell but at the least, they wont bankrupt themselves immediately.

The demon though, of 3D printing on Kickstarter, is companies that have not finalised their design, set a low goal below the viability line (cost of the printer is irrelevant for this) and/or offer stretch goals. In fact, having stretch goals even available is indicative of the design not being finalised. The red flags must be raised, because this is what happens.

The following is a general order of events that a number of 3D printing start-ups have followed. Some companies may have done certain steps differently, however the common factor of deceit runs rampant through every step of the way. Welcome to Kickstarter hell.

A company lists on Kickstarter with a brand new 3D printer.At this stage, they do not have a fully-functional, design-will-not-be-altered prototype. This is a fatal mistake, but not the only one.They may or may not be open to the public about how complete their prototype is, but it doesnt matter later on.

The company sets a strangely low goal purely to cover molds (typically around $50-$100k depending if the printer uses things like an enclosure which is very expensive to mold) and leave no room for after market support. Their salaries are built into the profit of the printer, but with a goal of only 100k, the molding cost and taxes will eat into all of their salaries. These companies have set their goal far below the viability line, they do this because they just want to be funded. By accepting peoples money early on and reaching an insufficient goal, the company has set themselves up for failure. They must exceed the viability line. But this isnt fraudulent, yet.

The company aims to re-coup losses with a higher price after Kickstarter to offset their low initial selling point. This is the second fatal flaw.Combined with the non-ready printer, companies adopting this strategy will likely be forced to enter a Ponzi or pyramid scheme if they are to survive.

These companies have not set any money aside for the development of the printer, their Kickstarter goals prove that. Their solution? Stretch goals. By raising exceedingly high amounts of money (over 250k up to the millions) the companies plan to use this extra profit to fund the future development of the printer and give outrageous rewards for more people backing the printer. Stretch goals however are a fatal flaw because these companies offer extra features for the printer, at no extra cost.

Stretch goals are a quadruple-blow on their bottom line. Kickstarter and taxes take more and more money yet the profit on each printer is the same. The additions themselves cost more money, reducing the profit margin further on each printer and now the printer will take longer to make, using even more funds! If that wasnt enough, the product will now face extra delays which will damage it later, I will explain then.

This is dangerously close to a scheme. Companies attract more investors, claiming that the more people who invest, the better their rewards will be. Whilst that can technically be true, it relies on an extraordinarily large amount of printers sold. In my above example of the $299 printer, if an extra $30 worth of value is added to each printer, the companies minimum required Kickstarter becomes a whopping 1.06 million! Now to ship a staggering 3,500 printers in the space of six months, lets say our salaries and facilities costs have blown up to $700,000 to pay a team of 15 people (halved for 6 months, add $50k manufacturing costs), the equation has changed again now Y = 1.04*$299*[($425000)/($299-$255)] 3 million dollars.

This is what happens when a company adds a mere $30 extra of parts per printer, for free. The required Kickstarter funding has blown up from $630,000 to $3 million. Stretch goals on low cost printers are a death sentence. Stretch goals require gigantic amounts of printers to be built which requires a much larger team of people to assemble, none of these costs were considered in their original goal of 100k.

To save the readers another wall of maths and examples, stretch goals actually become viable on printers with a high profit margin built into them. I have calculated that the cheap printer example selling for around $549 will be able to introduce a stretch goal worth $30 at $1M and stay above the viability line. The downside is, setting a higher price point to cover them in the event of hitting a stretch goal will seriously hurt their ability to sell if they dont reach it! A company that adds say, dual extruders at $1 million must increase the price of every single printer by around $100, even if they get $999,999. Why would customers pay $100 for an upgrade they may never get? Not only that, they must pay for every upgrade on every stretch goal! If the company doesnt do this, they will bankrupt themselves the instant the first stretch goal is hit.

I do not believe this fact is ever considered when people think of stretch goals. If a company ships a product that cost them $200 to build but sells for $400 with stretch goals worth $10, $30 and $50 as they go along, the company cant change the price of the backers orders after the campaign is done! They have locked themselves in at a gigantic loss since their selling point must be the same if they get $100k or $1M, they cant predict this.

You cant recoup losses when you have no backing

The low-cost 3D printing companies of have a strategy though to ignore these numbers whether they have stretch goals or not. This strategy is fraud as far as I am concerned. These companies all plan to secure more and more orders after Kickstarter at a higher profit margin. These profits will offset the gigantic losses incurred early on. But they cant make a loss before the product ships as these start-ups arent backed by larger companies, how can they possibly recoup it if they go bankrupt before given a chance? Its simple; never build the backers printers and enter a scheme.

Companies will use their gigantic wad of cash to continue to develop the printer and engage in crazy marketing schemes to get more customers after the Kickstarter orders are done (which never happens). By now they have realised they are in an impossible situation. Their total cash now is below the costs to build all of the backers printers. They have 3 options, they admit they messed up and refund all backers whatever money they have left, it might be a small fraction of what they originally paid. They could cut functionality down drastically which means not only cutting all stretch goals, the extra money Kickstarter has taken as a result of their higher earnings means cutting original functionality too as now they must bring the functionality of the printer down below what was originally planned. Unfortunately this can also result in the company folding since all of their profit was lost in the preceding months and they will now be faced with a total redesign, verification and validation and another 2 months on injection molds. That time eats more into the money raised and there is even less now to fund the building of each printer.

These two methods are feasible escape routes and can work if managed correctly, although neither of them are good for the backers. Its a waste of money and a waste of time, they could have bought a more capable printer months earlier.

But thats not what these companies do is it No, instead they enter a scheme.

They can not possibly build the backers printers as the losses are too gigantic, so they will spend their efforts working on a retail version of their product. These companies have a strategy to regain profits on these new printers and use this money to fund the development of existing orders. Companies will perfect a few versions of their prototype and give copies to tech bloggers, demonstrate them at trade shows or visit schools with them. They do this to give the illusion of moving production along when in reality, they still can not afford to build the Kickstarter printers and every day that passes puts them more in debt.

Here comes the famous Kickstarter delays. The product is behind schedule because the product was not finished when the campaign started, and now manufacturing simply can not happen without a lot of new orders. The companies will lie through their teeth to investors and gullible markets to secure new orders. A common target is schools. The transfer to a scheme is complete.

The company now alters their product to a new point of difference. Since they cant advertise on cost any more, they now focus their advertising on being easy to use. It is the easiest way to ring in buyers, they have no other option.

By this time, the company has waited far too long and the market has shifted to the next exciting thing. Raising their prices has now made them irrelevant in the market and now the Kickstarter backers demand their refunds. The company still has a lot of money left but they have no intention of even buying parts for their backers printers. They will use this money to stay afloat for as long as possible, never delivering anything on the hope of fixing their mess by perfecting an overpriced, market-ready printer which will never sell.

From this point on, the only thing that can happen is they do not get enough extra orders and eventually run out of money, never fulfilling their Kickstarter orders or they do get cash from investors but it will only ever be enough to fund the development of new, higher priced printers since the longer the scheme goes on, the more in debt they become. The stretch goals have caused this. With an ever-increasing priced, outdated printer and negative social media crushing the company, they are finished.

There is still room for some optimism

There is only one way for companies to avoid this spiral of death which is to perfect your prototype and sell it at your desired selling price. Stretch goals without extra funding taken from each backer to cover the additions cuts right into profit margins and the higher the goal, the more Kickstarter takes. They are viable but require a massive profit margin already built into the printer. Loss-leading is never viable strategy in a market which moves too fast and you cant loss lead on your one and only product.

The only way loss-leading can work is with huge sums of outside investment, these sums must be in the millions and even then, stretch goals must not be included. The 3D printing market moves too fast though.

I see five types of companies in the Kickstarter 3DP market.

There are the companies which want to make it big. These companies are smart and they price themselves at a high enough point to allow them to grow and expand once the Kickstarter rush is over. They are a dying breed, extremely rare.

There are the companies that have basically already made their product and are using Kickstarter as a marketing platform. They might have some larger corporation backing them, they are quite safe. They can afford to set stretch goals since they have a lot of backing behind them. They will usually get their modest goal.

There is the small company that only wants to sell their printer and arent overly ambitious. They set a price point which basically keeps the company small. They dont mess around with stretch goals or loss leading, theyre just normal businesses doing their best to survive. They dont have a high rate of getting funding.

Then finally we have 2 different type of cash grabbers. The first type want to make something extremely popular but will do this by selling for a very low price point. This is extremely risky and can only pay off if they sell a huge amount of printers, well over a million dollars worth. But they are smart about this and their printer is already developed, there are no stretch goals and they might have VC funding. They have a high rate of getting funded.

The second type of cash grabber is the company that promises the world and have a strategy involving make as much money as possible, we will finish the printer later. These companies are the scourge of the industry. You can spot these from a mile away. Stretch goals, short delivery time frames, a lack of information about the actual printer. Everything about them is a cash grab and it is not remotely possible to deliver the backers printers. Much to my disappointment, they have a near 100% funding rate and not only that, they usually get way above their goal.

My analysis made a lot of assumptions but I explained them all and they remain fair. Changing values for salaries, manufacturing and warranty costs will vary the results but I took conservative estimates. Of course, my analysis is entirely in my own opinion and I accept my bias and pessimism however I would not have written this much and spied on so many Kickstarter projects for so long if I wasnt genuinely worried about the lying going on there.

I believe that almost all low-cost 3D printer makers out there on Kickstarter innocently make mistakes by rather severely underestimating the costs in scaling up production and the costs in supporting a 3D printer with full-time tech support which is critical as the market targets new users. These mistakes however, are not excusable by the companies that plan to make it big in the 3D printing world that offer stretch goals and even allow themselves to sell more than a couple hundred printers. These companies are more likely to make a lot of money and they should know better. Their actions regularly lose hundreds of thousands and in some cases, millions of dollars from people wanting to get into 3D printing.

It upsets me that some of the most enthusiastic and excited people out there who want a 3D printer, are the ones who lose all the money. They dont have the time or knowledge to know what is viable and what isn.

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Stratasys F123 Series 3D Printers Bring Low-Cost PLA to the Desktop Lineup

Stratasys F123 Seriesbrings a variety of FDM materials to the desktop lineup.

One of the new materials is a well-known, low-cost plastic known as PLA. This material is widely used in the hobbyist machine community and offers an economic alternative to the more standard ABS plastic.

On the F123 machines, this material runs through a specialized head with a cooling blower in place of a support material head. Since PLA runs at a lower temperature, it has a higher bridging capability. What this means is that PLA can print without support material and still maintain some accuracy to a part.

This material offers a quick and easy alternative to higher grade thermoplastics and is available in a fixed .010 inch slice height.

While this material is not ideal for heavy-duty fixtures or end-use parts, it is great for mockup parts that are quick, inexpensive, and still have the precision that Stratasys machines have to offer.

Download the PLA Data Sheet to learn more.

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