Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby? Let’s Break Down the Cost!

Hi everyone, I'm assuming the reason you read this article is that you're considering starting 3D printing for fun and thinking about the cost. Now, let’s break down the cost and consider if it’s the right hobby for you.

Printer Cost

Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby

This will be your biggest cost for you to start 3d printing as a hobby, which is to buy the machine itself, luckily this is a one-time cost. As a beginner, you don’t need a top-of-the-line 3d machine that will cost you an arm and leg, just buy a small one that usually starts from $200.

While a smaller 3d printer has more limitations but it should be good enough for a beginner as I suspect you won’t use its more advanced features any time soon. If you are afraid of the 3d printer quality, you can also try to buy one that ranges from $300-$500.

While it’s more expensive, you are less likely to encounter any problems while using it. Remember that this is a one-time cost, so if you can, don’t be too cheap when buying your new 3d printer.

Filament Cost

Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby - Filament Cost

Filament Cost is a little harder to calculate as different filaments have different pricing. But let's assume as you are a beginner you most probably won't create something complex that needs extensive support for your model.

The cheap filament that you probably will use is PLA or PETG. PLA is a cheaper option, but PETG is more durable. PLA and PETG are both types of filament, but they have different properties. You can get an entire kilogram of PLA for around $15-$30. 

While it's hard to predict how much material you will use as it depends on your models, an entire kilogram usually lasts for around 5-10 models and sometimes even more than that if you are printing smaller models.

Software or Models Cost

Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby - Models Cost

The last cost you need to factoring is the cost of the software. Many software ranges from FREE up to $500 for full access. I would suggest that you use one of the free software options until you find one that works well for you.

Before start designing your own 3d model, you can use the free one from an online repository like Thingiverse. There are also a few 3d modeling services that you can use to purchase models for your project. Some of these services include 123D Catch, Sketchfab, and MyMiniFactory.

Depending on the model complexity, some paid models can cost as little as $1 to as much as $20. It may also cost higher than $20 if you are thinking of a highly complex model.

Alternative: Use 3D Printing Service

3D printers are easy to use and can be fun to experiment with. If you’re just starting and want to try 3D printing, you can start with the software. It’s true. Don’t get the printer. It’s the software and the models that matter the most.

Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby - CraftCloud

After you prepare the models, you can just rent a 3d printer. There are plenty of websites that offer services helping you print your models, for example, website like CraftCloud. With CraftCloud you can print your models without the need to buy a 3d printer, you can even choose your material, they provide you with a whole range of materials.

Websites like 3d hubs, makexyz, shapeways, or Fiverr also offer 3d printing services, you can compare all of them and choose the best one.

Beware though that if just printing something small, light, and cheap, the shipping cost may cost you more than the service fee itself. 

Making Money From 3D Printing

While I think you don't need to always make money from your hobby, it will be a nice bonus if you can make some money down the road. It can be really rewarding to experience as it means your hobby got someone else recognition.

The money will also help to block any negative comments about how expensive 3d printing as a hobby is (usually came from your spouse or partner). I know it helps me ;)

To make money from 3d printing, you can try selling your own products on a website like eBay or renting your 3d printer to help others print their models.

Calculating Total Cost

Total all of your costs if you buy your own 3d printer.

3D Printer: $300 

Filament : $25

Software: $0

Total Cost: $335.

This is the total cost if you are buying a 3d printer yourself. Please note that I expect you won't be buying any complex models and use the free version first. This is what most beginners do.

Total all of your costs if you use a 3d printing service.

3D Printer: $0 

Filament: $0

Software: $0

Printing Service Fee: $15

Total Cost: $15.

As you can see, you will only be paying a service fee. No need to buy a 3D printer or any filament. I'm pretty sure you can spare that much money right? While this cost may go up as you keep printing, it's not bad if you just get started.

3D Printing Case Study: Calculating Cost

3D Printing Cost is very hard to calculate as it really depends on the models and material. Now, I will give you a real-life example to calculate the exact cost to make it.

This case study is conducted by hobby3dprinting.com

Is 3d Printing an Expensive Hobby - case study

1. We will create a 12.5 cm diameter disk – that was 10 mm high at its highest point. For the filament, we will use a 20% infill density with a concentric pattern and printing at 50 mm / second with the extruder @ 180° C and the print bed @ 60° C. 

1 kg spool of 1.75 mm diameter PLA filament is about 330 meters long. The total usage to create the disk is around 18.98 meters or 57 grams. The spool itself cost $28.07 (including shipping cost) and you can buy it from Amazon.

Filament Cost : 5.7% x $28.07 = $1.61

Creating the disk takes around 6.5 hours. We will also include the electricity cost in our calculation. For the electricity cost, we will use NYC cost which is 19.6 cents/kwh 

Electricity Cost : 200 watts x 6.5 hours = 1.3 kwh or 25.48 cents.

Total Cost: $1.61 + $0.25 = $1.86

As you can see, 3d printing is not an expensive hobby as you can start printing for as little as around $2.

So, Is 3D Printing an Expensive Hobby?

No, it's not. It can be very inexpensive if you start from something small. Use the 3D printing service first and print your own model. This will only cost you less than $50. If you like 3D printing, then you can start considering buying your own printer, which starts from around $200.

Special Tips for New 3D Printer Hobbyist

Now, before you go and buy a new 3d printer, you can check our tips checklist you can use to start this hobby:

 1. Get educated. One of the most important things you can do before starting a new hobby is to educate yourself. Whether you’re looking to 3D print with plastic or metal materials, understanding the basic concepts will help you get started faster and make better decisions.

2. Choosing The Right Material. There are three main types of 3D printing materials: plastic, metal, and resin. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to understand them before you start printing. 

3. Buy or Rent. Choose whether you want to buy your own 3d printer or just rent it. If you think you will use it frequently, I would recommend you to buy your own 3d printer. Buying a 3D printer is more affordable in the long run and it will allow you to print objects that you can use immediately.

4. Find Your Community. You can learn from youtube, but it will be limited. Find your own community where you can talk about 3d printers and their models. You can join a forum or maybe find your own local 3d printer community. A community will boost your learning process greatly and make your learning process much more enjoyable.