How to Price 3D Prints

How to Make Money with 3D Printing

3D printing can be a great source of income once you are skilled with your printers. Whether you want to make extra money on the side or start a full-time business, it can be a fun and extremely rewarding venture. The most common area people seem to struggle with is how to price 3D prints. It's important to have a systematic way of approaching each job so that you charge a fair price to your customer and also make enough profit to justify your hard work.

This article is not a step-by-step guide to starting your 3D printing business, however, we will cover the basics of how to price your 3D print projects. Additionally, we will provide you with a 3D print pricing calculator to get you up and running fast. Eventually, you may want to create your own tool customized to fit your needs but if you are just starting ours should be more than enough to get you started.

Labor Rate:

First, you need to determine how much your time is worth. This will depend on your skill level and may vary from $10 to $50 (or more!) per hour. You also should consider supply and demand and see what others are charging in your niche/industry. If many people are willing to accept $20/hour, it may be difficult for you to charge more than that unless you can justify it.

Printer Rate:

Since 3D printing is such a slow process, you will find that even small changes in your printers’ hourly rate will make a big difference in your final quote price. Many people are shocked at how low this number usually is. For example, $3 per hour is not an unusual amount to charge for your printers’ time. Until you know what you can charge in your industry, I recommend filling this item in last and watch how it affects the final piece price as you adjust this number. You can then find a sweet spot that ensures your pricing is in line with what you feel a customer would be willing to pay.

Electricity Rate:

The final rate we must determine is the cost of electricity in your area. This value is usually expressed as kilowatts per hour (kW/hr) and can usually be found on your power suppliers’ website. Our area's current rate is $0.13 kW/hr in the USA but may change frequently.

Design Time:

If your project requires you to do design work you will want to accurately estimate how long it will take you to complete all 3D modeling. If you are just starting this might be difficult, however, over time you will become more confident with design estimates. As your portfolio grows, a great technique is to look at similar jobs you have completed in the past and use actual data to make an educated guess. As you become more proficient with 3D modeling you will have lower design times which will make you pricing more competitive.

Slicing (Programming) Time:

Whether you have designed the model yourself or were sent a file from a potential customer, it is important to consider the time required to import the model into your slicer and tweak settings. Give yourself enough programming time to ensure you produce a quality and successful print that the customer will be happy with. If you have proven profiles for your printers this may take less than 10 minutes. For more complex models, this may take hours of planning and tweaking various settings.

Print Time:

It is vital that you estimate print time accurately for scheduling purposes and letting your customer know your lead times. Nothing makes a customer more unhappy than finding out their items are going to take a week longer than agreed upon. The good news is if your customer sent you a file upfront you can drop it in your slicer and quickly get an accurate estimate. If you do not have access to the file you can make an educated estimate based on similar projects you have done. You can also look on file sharing sites (ex. Thingiverse) for items similar that others have created to help with your estimate.

Post Processing Time:

When your printer is finished often your project is still not finished. Sometimes you may just need to remove a few simple supports, while other times you may have hours of sanding and painting. This will vary project-to-project but it is important to keep this step in mind. It's a common mistake to leave this portion off of a quote and can quickly devalue your time spend on the project.

Filament Usage and Cost:

Just like print time, this task can be very easy if you already have the 3D model. Most slicers will output the length of filament used for a printing project after you have sliced it. If you don’t have the 3D model, find a similar-sized project to reference (previous projects or ones found on Thingiverse). Once you know the filament usage you can then input the cost of your filament. Our tool requires you to enter the price per 1kg spool so make sure to adjust your price accordingly. For example, if your spool costs $20 for a 1/2 kg,  you would then enter $40 into the calculator.

Miscellaneous Cost:

This is the catch-all category for anything that doesn't fit the other categories. This could be anything from fasteners, heat-set inserts, or paint used on the project. For many projects, this might be zero but it is important to keep it in mind so you don't forget the items required for adding finishing touches.

Putting It All Together:

Once we have all of this information, we can accurately estimate a project and ensure we are actually making a profit. The last thing you want is to finish a lengthy project and realize you all your hard work was for nothing! 

The good news is we have developed the CalcPro™ 3D Print Pricing Calculator to allow you to quickly and accurately come up with a quoted price for your customer. No need to mess with manual calculations or confusing spreadsheets. Just enter the required values and we do all of the work for you!

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