How much does it cost to 3d print metal?

October 08, 2020
2 min read

Additive manufacturing is transforming industrial production. The systems to 3D print metals vary in terms of the principles and raw materials used. Generally, the metal 3D printer makes up most of the costs of 3D printing, and the rest is divided among raw materials, labor costs, preparing and post-processing. Here is a brief look at each.

Prices of metal 3D printers

The price of a laser powder-bed fusion system (10 x 10 x 12 inches) can range from $400,000 to $800,000. Hewlett Packard’s metal 3D printer comes in at $400,000. Last year, Desktop Metals, a company that counts BMW, Ford and Google Ventures among its investors, announced the first office-friendly metal 3D printer at $120,000.

As more companies enter the metal 3D printer market, prices can be expected to become increasingly competitive for businesses that need to 3D print metal. Also consider the licensing costs of generative design, an iterative design process used alongside metal 3D printing.

For people looking into hiring a metal 3d printing service, the price of metal 3d printer should not matter at all as this part of a company's fixed cost.

Labor costs

The metal 3D printers currently available require human intervention for operations. The labor rates to operate and maintain the machines are variable.

Depending on the printing system used, safety aspects should also weigh into the cost equation. For example, powerful lasers and metallic powder require safety measures. But safety is heightened in case of metal binder jetting, a method in which the industrial printhead deposits a liquid binding agent onto a layer of powder particles. It follows that the costs to implement safety measures will be minimal.

Costs of post-processing printed parts

Post -processing involves cleaning, removing support structures, coating or otherwise enhancing the 3D printed parts. Associated costs will depend on the type of process. For instance, the power bed fusion (PFB) method requires support structures, and as they also require more material, the parts can be expensive.  

How much does metal 3d printing really cost?

You're looking somewhere between $15 per piece up to $800 for larger models. Similar to the cost of 3d printing service, metal 3d printing depends on factors such as the volume of your 3d model, complexity and the type of finishing that you use, in this case metal.

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