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Friday, April 13, 2012

Counting the cost

As I consider the cost of 3D printing there is a parallel that can be drawn between 2D and 3D printers. Have you ever considered the cost of the pages that come off your 2D printer? Most people don't (probably for the best). But if you were to, how would you calculate it? A decent inkjet printer costs around $200. If you print 1000 pages, 10 reams of paper, over the life of your printer that's $0.20 per page plus the cost of the paper and ink. So maybe $0.35 per page on the high end? A bit more than you'd pay per page for a book or newspaper but it is your custom, chosen print. That's the difference in cost for getting what you want when you want it.

Fair enough.

If you buy a Makerbot 3D printer today you're going to pay no more than $2000. There are those who will tell you that you can get away with about $800 or as little as $500. But let's say at a baseline you'll be spending $1000-$2000 on your 3D printer. If you print 1000 things you're looking at each print costing you $2 plus the cost of the filament. Is that a reasonable price at that point? Absolutely. How likely will it be, tho, that you'll be able to print 1000 things? That's 2-3 things a day for a year. Maybe 200 is a more reasonable goal. But at that point you're only down to $10 a thing. Is $10 a reasonable price to pay for your custom printed toothpaste tube squeezer?

Of course I didn't have to pay that initial investment, thank goodness, so for me discussion is academic. Still can I manage 200 prints? Probably. Will I ever do 1000 prints? Maybe in a few years. I want to keep this thing running as much as I can, but do I have the stamina? I don't know yet but I have "Like"d a bunch of stuff on thingiverse.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. I actually think about that, too.

    Every 3D print costs actual money so you've to think about what is worthy to pint and what is not. That's why it was (and is) such a big deal for me when people at Thingiverse decide that they actually want to print my designs. They decided that they want to have that 'thing' and it's worth their money.

    Some of the gadgets I've liked and plan to print someday are really cool but what it comes down to for me with a 3D printer is the possibility of printing my own 3D models and I'd compare this to the price of a 3D printing service.

    I think I'll see what it comes down to cost wise after the first two rolls though.


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