By JCAD - Inc.

July 7, 2024 at 2:00 pm

Note: Before you start using the calculator below, you should know that in almost 100% of cases it’s going to be a fraction of the cost to manufacture your part the old-fashioned way through CNC machining rather than 3D printing it. If you’d like a quote on CNC machining, send through part specs here.

Find Out How Much It Will Cost to 3D Print Your Part/s in Metal

Input the dimensions of your part, choose the type of metal you would like to print in and enter the number of units you need.








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Key Takeaways From This Article:

  • Use our cost calculator to get an estimate of 3D metal printing price and to optimize your manufacturing budget.
  • You should choose materials like stainless steel or titanium based on your project’s requirements and budget.
  • Plan production runs to take advantage of manufacturing volume and economies of scale.
  • Start your project with a company using skilled labor and efficient machines to reduce costs.
  • Understand the finishing techniques needed for your parts and budget for post-processing costs.
  • Be aware of the cost implications of parts with intricate designs and complex geometry.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on understanding and calculating the costs associated with metal 3D printing. In this article, we explore the various factors that influence 3D printing costs, including materials, labor, machine time, and post-processing. Our aim is to provide you with detailed information and practical examples to help you make informed decisions about your metal 3D printing projects.

While you can use the interactive cost calculator at the top of the article to offer you quick and accurate cost estimates based on your specific project requirements, these should be considered an estimate only, and it’s best to get in touch to get a more accurate quote, and to find out whether 3D printing in metal is the best approach for your project.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional in the field of 3D printing, this resource is designed to enhance your understanding and improve your project planning and budgeting.

Advantages of Metal 3D Printing

Metal 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been a game-changer for many industries. One major advantage is the ability to produce complex geometries that traditional manufacturing methods like CNC Machining can’t handle. Think about aerospace components that need to be lightweight yet strong, or medical implants customized for individual patients for example. The precision is unbeatable.

Another big positive in the process is reducing material waste. Traditional manufacturing like CNC machining involves cutting away material from a larger block, leading to waste. Metal 3D printing, on the other hand, adds material layer by layer, using only what’s needed. This minimizes waste and reduces material costs.

Plus, there’s the speed factor. Need a prototype ASAP or a once off design? Metal 3D printing can drastically cut down the time from design to final product. This speed is a huge advantage in industries that thrive on quick iterations and rapid time-to-market.

How to Use Our Metal 3D Printing Cost Calculator

The metal 3D printing cost calculator above can help anyone looking to budget a 3D printing project accurately, although as mentioned above, in many previous client projects we’ve found that your project can likely be completed more cost-effectively with traditional manufacturing techniques. This tool lets you input parameters for material type, part dimensions and required quantity and then calculates the total cost.

For example, if you’re working with stainless steel, you enter the volume of the part through its dimensions. The calculator takes into account post-processing needs and applies quantity discounts automatically. The cost calculator will then provide a total cost for your project.

Using a cost calculator helps you make informed decisions by comparing different materials and processes, highlighting cost-saving opportunities, and identifying areas where you might invest more for better quality or faster production.

Factors Influencing Metal 3D Printing Costs

There are a number of factors that can affect the overall cost of metal 3D printing. Understanding these factors will help you optimize your project budget and your project’s cost-effectiveness.

First, material costs play a significant role. Metals like stainless steel, titanium, and nickel alloys have different price points and mechanical properties. Choosing the right material is essential for balancing cost and performance. If you’re not sure what the best material to use is, we can help you understand the options.

Machine time is another crucial factor. The longer your 3D printer runs, the higher the cost. Complex designs take more time, increasing the overall cost, which is why a calculator like the one above can only ever estimate prices roughly. Our partners have invested in efficient printers and we can optimize your designs for faster printing, helping to manage these expenses.

Labor costs are also involved in the process, which include the time and expertise needed to set up the printer, monitor the process, and perform post-processing tasks. Skilled labor makes sure of the quality and reliability of the final product, so it is a worthwhile investment and is included in the cost calculation.

Material Costs: Stainless Steel, Titanium, and More

The choice of material is one of the most significant factors affecting the cost of 3D printing. Stainless steel is a popular choice due to its balance of strength, durability, and cost. It is widely used in various industries, including automotive and healthcare.

Titanium is more expensive, but it is known for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance. This makes it ideal for aerospace and medical applications where these properties are very important.

Aluminium or nickel alloys may also be used depending on the specific requirements of the project. Each material has its advantages and cost implications, so selecting the right one is very important for achieving the desired balance between performance and cost. Again, if you’re not sure, we can help you decide what’s right for your project.

The Impact of Manufacturing Volume on Costs

Manufacturing volume can significantly impact the cost of metal 3D printing. Higher volumes often lead to economies of scale, reducing the cost per part. This is particularly important for industries that require large quantities of parts, although CNC machining is a lot more cost effective for producing in bulk. For example, producing a single prototype with 3D metal printing might be expensive, but scaling up production can decrease the unit cost. Efficient production planning and maximizing batch sizes can result in significant cost savings.

Understanding the relationship between volume and cost allows you to make strategic decisions about batch sizes and production schedules, optimizing both time and expenses.

Prototyping is important however, as if you batch produce a product with mistakes or imperfections, a lot of material will go to waste which can be very costly!

Labor and Machine Time in Metal 3D Printing

Labor and machine time are often overlooked components of the total cost of metal 3D printing. The setup and operation of the 3D printers requires skilled technicians to make sure the process runs smoothly and the prints come out correctly the first time. Monitoring the printing process and addressing any issues that arise is essential for maintaining quality, but is usually done across multiple prints at once for efficiency.

The time it takes for the machine to print a part directly affects costs. As mentioned earlier, more complex designs and larger parts take longer to print, increasing machine time.

Post-processing tasks, such as removing support structures and finishing surfaces, also require labor. Efficient post-processing techniques and skilled technicians can help keep these costs down while ensuring the final product meets quality standards. Post-processing is included in the unit price estimation.

Post-Processing and Finishing Techniques

Post-processing is an important step in metal 3D printing that can affect the overall cost. Techniques such as polishing, coating, and thermal treatments can be necessary to achieve the desired finish and mechanical properties of the printed parts.

For example, polishing can enhance the surface finish and remove any imperfections from the printing process. Coating may be applied to improve corrosion resistance or add aesthetic appeal. Thermal treatments like annealing can improve the mechanical properties of the part.

Each post-processing technique adds to the cost, so understanding the specific requirements of your application is essential. We can help you decide on the correct post-processing technique when we scope out the project for you, and we won’t ever sell you anything you don’t need.

Balancing post-processing requirements with cost considerations like this will will help you achieve the best results within your budget.

How Complex Geometries Affect Printing Costs

Working with complex geometries are one of the main advantages of metal 3D printing, but they also come with higher costs. Designs with intricate details, support structures, and fine features require more time and resources to print.

For instance, parts with complex support structures may take longer to print and require additional post-processing to remove the supports. Fine features and intricate designs can slow down the printing process, increasing machine time and labor costs.

However, the ability to produce complex geometries that traditional manufacturing methods cannot achieve is a real benefit of metal 3D printing that you can’t overlook. While most parts can be created by CNC machining, for parts with complex geometries this can sometimes be impossible, leaving 3D metal printing as the only option.

Real-World Applications and Cost-Benefit Analysis

Examining real-world applications can provide useful insights into the cost of metal 3D printing. For example, in the aerospace industry, companies have used metal 3D printing to produce lightweight, high-strength components that reduce fuel consumption and increase efficiency, with the cost savings vastly outweighing the upfront payment.

In the healthcare sector, metal 3D printing has enabled the production of custom implants and prosthetics with precise geometries tailored to individual patients. The benefit in these cases is in quality of life, which is hard if not impossible to put a price on.

Tips to Minimize Costs Without Sacrificing Quality

To minimize your metal 3D printing costs without sacrificing quality, consider the following tips:

  • Material Selection: Choose materials that offer the best balance of performance and cost for your project.
  • Design Optimization: Simplify designs where possible to reduce machine time and post-processing requirements.
  • Efficient Production: Plan production runs to maximize efficiency and take advantage of economies of scale.
  • Invest in Technology: Use an expert company like us with high-speed, efficient industrial printers that can reduce machine time and labor costs.
  • Skilled Labor: Invest in skilled technicians with years and years of experience like we have to ensure you get quality and efficiency in the printing process and in all post-processing tasks.

Follow these guidelines, and even if you have the most complex metal 3D printing requirements we can help you can manage your costs and achieve high-quality results for your projects.

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Jason Vander Griendt

Jason Vander Griendt is a Mechanical Engineering Technician with years of experience working at major companies such as SNC Lavalin Inc, Hatch Ltd. Siemens and Gerdau Ameristeel. He is the CEO of JCAD – Inc., a company he started in 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for businesses who could assist clients through the entire product design and manufacturing process.

Jason has been featured in Forbes, has had his businesses analyzed and discussed in multiple start-up books, was a previous winner of the Notable8 Digital Innovator of the year award, and is a regular guest on business panels and podcasts. Email Jason at jason@jcadusa.com, or follow him on LinkedIn.

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