How Expensive is 3D Printing Material?
Have you ever asked yourself how expensive 3D materials are? As in any production, the material you use in 3D printing is crucial for creating a durable product and ensuring a smooth fabrication process. Also, the price of the printing material determines how much the final product will cost.
3D printing offers an endless array of printing possibilities, which becomes possible due to the variety of materials used. However, sometimes this comes at a price, depending on the material used.
Below, we'll look at common materials in 3D printing and give you an overview of how much you should pay for them.
Types of Materials Used in 3D Printing
In this era of cutting-edge technology, most 3D printers use metals and thermoplastics.
Popular thermoplastics used include:
- Carbon fiber
Popular metals include:
- Stainless steel
- Cobalt, among others
However, since 3D printing comes with various technologies, every process requires different materials. That's why you'll find other materials such as filaments, resins, paper, and powders, among others, being used.
Therefore, this article will look at three common 3D printing technologies and the materials used.
- Material Extrusion (FDM)
- Vat photopolymerization
- Powder bed fusion
- Material Extrusion (FDM)
FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) ranks among the commonest and most popular processes in 3D printing. It typically uses thermoplastics, and the cost of FDM material is determined by the kind of polymer used. Other factors that influence the price include the quality of the material, dimensional stability, and color.
PLA, or Polylactic acid, is available in various colors and blends. It is a biodegradable polymer produced from sugar cane or corn starch. It is undoubtedly the most preferred filament material as far as FDM 3D printers go, it's easy to use, and its aesthetic appeal is out of this world.
PLA is easily pigmented, comes in an impressive array of colors, and has decent hardness and strength. However, while PLA is available in distinctive grades and blends, standard filaments range from Є15 to Є28,99 per kg. Still, there are special filaments, for instance, silk PLA, that go for about Є30, and PLA that changes color that range from around Є40.
ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene ranks among commonly used plastics. It is derived from petroleum and experiences considerable thermal shrinking as it cools, meaning a heated build plate comes in handy. However, the cooling can lead to warping, therefore the need to use enclosed printers.
Nevertheless, ABS parts printed by 3D printing technology boast superior mechanical properties, including heat resistance, durability, and strength. Moreover, in terms of cost, ABS is a pretty inexpensive material for FDM printing. For example, a 1kg spool of ABS can go for as little as Є20 to Є35.
Widely loved due to its food-safe properties, PETG is closely similar to PET plastics in water and soda bottles.
PETG is a great alternative to ABS as far as ease of use, temperature resistance, and strength go. In addition, you can print with PETG without a heated bed, unlike ABS.
It is also a highly chemically resistant option, hence the food safety aspect. With all these superior characteristics, you would be forgiven for thinking that PETG is very expensive, but that's not the case. The current price of 1kg PLA for EU stations is €28,99, and superior high-end ones go for up to Є55.
- HIPS and PVA
HIPS boasts the same properties as ABS, especially the printing temperature. This creates a perfect match- ABS as the primary printing material and HIPS as the support material. A spool of HIPS goes for around Є20 to Є60, while the liquid used for dissolving it ranges from Є20 to Є60 per 500ml bottle.
On the other hand, you can pair PVA with PLA since they have the same temperature melting point. However, it is water soluble and doesn’t need chemicals to dissolve, which is excellent, considering PVA can be expensive. A 1kg spool of PVA goes for around Є60 to Є130.
- Flexible Materials
These are rubber-like polymers that bring elasticity rather than rigidity to the table. These materials are known as thermoplastic elastomers and encompass polymers like TPA, TPC, TPU, and soft PLA.
You can use these flexible materials to print many objects, ranging from RC car tires to shoes. Flexible filament goes from Є65 and can go up to Є180 for a single kilo.
- VAT POLYMERIZATION
Vat polymerization is known in 3D printing as resin 3D printing. This process involves curing layers of printing material (known as thermosets) using a light source. While thermosets are polymers, unlike thermoplastics, they do not melt but turn to solid after light curing. Therefore, their cost mainly depends on their composition, quality, and washability.
- Standard Resin
Standard resin is the best for producing stunning and appealing objects. Vat polymerization creates superior high-resolution prints, but the disadvantage is how expensive they can be, on average going for Є50 per kg.
- Tough Resin
Tough resin can create parts with the strength of FDM prints. Generally, resin 3D printing is mainly associated with artistic and aesthetic purposes instead of functional ones. Still, some resins are specially designed to produce durable and hardy parts, commonly known as tough resins. A kg of tough resin costs Є60 to Є175 per kg.
- Flexible Resin
Flexible resin offers the flexibility and elasticity of rubber in resin 3D printing. You can also mix it with standard resin for improved mechanical performance and reduced brittleness. As pricing goes, a one kg bottle can go for Є65, although prices hitting Є200 are not strange.
- Specialty Resins
Specialty resins are mainly used in professional applications, particularly jewelry and dentistry. For example, you use investment casting to create tiny precious jewelry parts using 3D printing. Castable resin goes from Є75 to Є250. Dental resins, on the other hand, can hit Є500 a liter.
- POWDER BED FUSION
The 3D printing technology known as powder bed fusion is one of the most used by industry sectors to create end-use parts. It works by selectively fusing or melting powder material into several layers with a laser or other heat sources like electron beams in desktop metal 3D printers.
Powder bed fusion is a 3D printing technology in various industries to produce end-use parts. These technologies are identified by their commercial names.
Selective laser sintering (SLS) is used when working with polymers. On the other hand, electron beam melting (EBM), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), and selective laser melting (SLM), are used when processing metallic parts.
The most common polymer powder for Selective Laser Sintering is polyamide or PA. The best example of this material is nylon. The commonest PA powder for the SLS process is PA 12 Nylon, which costs around Є150 per kg. Also, more costly powders can reach up to Є225 per kg.
The metallic powder used in 3D printing is expensive to produce and use. Metal powders are created through atomization, a pretty costly process. In addition, most metals used in metal 3D printers are high-end, like nickel-based alloys and titanium, which are very expensive.
You should be ready to part with about Є150 per kg of standard stainless steel and between Є350 and Є600 per kg of the superior metallic powders.
Now, depending on your 3D printer and what you plan to print, you have a good idea of how much you'll have to spend on 3D printing material.