If you are printing at home, you have no startup fee and your material cost will be much less. A single spool
of PLA filament, 1kg (2.2lb), will represent about 800 cubic centimeters of printable material and costs
around $21 to $35. More exotic filaments like PET or flexible filament are roughly double the price of PLA
filament, thus in the $70 range.
Resin printing has a similar price per cubic centimeter compared to FDM printing when printing with the
lower cost resins. One liter of resin contains about 900 cubic centimeters of printable material. 1Kg of fil-
ament is about 800 cubic centimeters. Assuming a parity between 1L of resin and one spool of PETG, the
prices are comparable. Resin prints tend to have thicker walls than FDM as there is no time penalty for
printing a thicker wall on mSLA printers. In the FDM world, those thicker walls would take quite a bit more
time to print. The thicker walls on resin prints serve to make the objects more structurally sound, but at a
higher material cost.
TIME NEEDED FOR SETUP/CLEANUP
This is the other critical factor that sways people in one direction or the other. With the online print services, the
base startup fee for an FDM print can be around $5. For resin prints, startup fees can be around $20. Why the
difference? Resin is much harder to work with than FDM. When you run a resin printer, you have to use gloves
to prevent the resin from getting on your hands, as well as pour the unused resin back into containers for long-
term storage. A resin print also needs to be washed off with isopropyl alcohol to remove the uncured resin, and it
needs some time in an ultraviolet curing box (or to be placed in direct sunshine) to finish curing.
For an FDM print, you just pop the print off of the build plate and everything is pretty much done. Of course, if your
workflow requires extreme detail, or you do not mind working with resin, you will enjoy the prints that resin print-
PRODUCTION QUANTITY: LOW-VOLUME MANUFACTURING
If you are looking to create many units of a design, you have three options: 3D print them at home, go through a
service bureau, or use traditional manufacturing. Typically, creating a mold for injection molding (traditional man-
ufacturing) costs anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for a simple mold, and then the prices increase for molds that
are more complex or that are made for producing many thousands of items. Before 3D printing there was a gap
in the market where inventors and product designers had very few inexpensive options if they wanted to produce
a thousand or less copies of an item. The economics for traditional manufacturing (with molds) only made finan-
cial sense when production neared the “several thousands” unit range.
Additive manufacturing has changed all of that. Prototypers can move to smaller production runs at signif-
icant fractions of the cost that previously were commanded by manufacturers. The economics of making
many thousands of items still favor traditional manufacturing, but a new class of “boutique” manufactures
is being created by 3D printing.
Getting Started with 3D Printing 104
103 Chapter 7: Outsourcing Versus Buying Your Own 3D Printer
INTERIOR_3DPrinting_v21.indd 103INTERIOR_3DPrinting_v21.indd 103 4/14/2021 3:00:34 PM4/14/2021 3:00:34 PM