FDM 3D printing has absolutely no setup costs, which is what makes it perfect for low – medium volume production. However, when is FDM the right manufacturing choice for you, and how much will it cost? At Prodpoint, the main factor that we use to determine the price per part is the time it takes to print each one. For single orders and prototypes, we have a pricing tool built into our website, however if your looking to get a larger number of parts printed please get in contact via email (email@example.com) or phone (01394 822025).
In order to give our customers a better idea of what prices to expect from FDM 3D printing, we’ve combined a few different examples in this article. Some factors such as the overall dimensions, the surface finish and the supported geometry of the part can all change how it much it costs, and hopefully this article will explain approximately how they do.
As expected, the larger the part is the longer it will take to print. It is possible to reduce the print time (and therefore cost) by tweaking certain design features or printer settings. However, to give you a rough idea of how much parts cost the three examples given here should help. These are all printed with 0.2mm layer height, 30% infill and no support structure.
Layer Height and Quality
FDM 3D printed parts are built up in layers, and by making this layer height smaller, the parts become more detailed. However, as each extra layer printed means the printer head has to do another pass across the model, smaller layer height has a massive impact on the total print time; in general, halving the layer height will double the print time.
When deciding what layer height you need for your design, have a look at the chess pieces below. They’ve been printed at a three different layer heights (0.15, 0.2 and 0.3mm) and you can see how much of an impact it can have on the surface finish of the part. The strengths of each of the parts are relatively similar, so the finest layer heights are best used when there are visible faces. At Prodpoint we tend to use 0.2mm layer heights by default, but often reduce to 0.15mm for customers who need better surface finishes.
Support structure is used when there are overhanging sections on the design. In order to print these components, material needs to be printed alongside them so the layers don’t droop. It’s an annoying way to add time and cost to your prints as all the support structure gets removed and the material is essentially wasted.
You can see in the image below how much support structure can be added for quite a small part. Even though support structure is printed at much lower infills than normal parts, it can really increase the print time, and hence the cost. For example, printing this part with support structure adds an extra £4.40 to the price, more than doubling it! Whilst support structure is sometimes difficult to avoid, finding ways to design without it can really bring your cost down.
As the print time for different parts can vary on so many different factors, it is very difficult for us to make a rigid pricing structure. All our large orders do get discounted, but as these are often applied on a case by case basis its difficult to say by exactly how much. Hopefully these examples give a rough outline of how much parts (individually and in bulk) should cost to be manufactured by FDM.