Nowadays, there are various 3D printers with different prices in the marketplace. Even though they may use very different hardware, filaments, and technologies to build an object, they have a collective feature; They all use filaments and electricity and possess several moving parts. So, they all need maintenance.
The average maintenance cost for a desktop 3D printer, including filament and electricity charges in the USA, is around 275 US dollars.
The electricity cost for a 3D printer that uses 60 to 80 watts, working 500 hours a year, is less than 8 dollars. If you use regular filaments like PLA and ABS, the average cost of filaments is about 25 dollars per kilogram, and because 500 working hours need 8 kilograms of filament, the total is about 200USD.
However, there are many expensive filaments you can use.
That’s not all; there is more to consider. Nozzles wear out, and rollers deform, and some parts may fail, albeit these are not common issues and don’t cost too much.
Depending on your filament usage, working time, and filament type, 3D printing costs can vary. This article will discuss different aspects of 3d Printer maintenance and their outgo with a case study.
As you print more objects, the nozzle gets dirty and needs to be cleaned regularly. Cleaning prevents nozzle blockage and malfunction. The process requires a wire brush, which is usually less than 10 dollars. It would be best if you could also change the nozzles once in a while.
There isn’t a specific time frame to replace your nozzle though, for a brass nozzle, four to six months is a reasonable period. Brass nozzles cost around 50 cents each. Other types of nozzles like steel or ruby are durable and can last more than a year if you’re not using specific abrasive filaments.
So worst-case scenario, nozzle maintenance will cost you 12 dollars in the first year of usage. (four brass nozzles and a brush)
Light cleaning and lubrication
Dust and oil can increase the chances of part failure, and they can affect printing quality by changing the central axis’s linear motions. So regular cleaning and inspection of moving parts are necessary. This simple task can also increase your printing quality and your device’s life expectancy, but many people entirely ignore it.
It’s a good habit to lubricate the axis and rods. Based on your 3D printer model, they use different moving mechanisms, and they should be lubricated in order to last longer and work properly.
You don’t need to buy lubricants regularly. Although applying it is a part of the maintenance process, it’s cheap.
You will only need a soft cotton cloth to dust off the machine though there are specific tools like tweezers and needles to help you take care of different spaces in your printer. The cost of a 3D printer cleaning tool kit is usually less than 15 dollars. They are not essential, but once you buy one, you can use it for several years.
Overall, you don’t need to worry about cleaning costs, it’s less than 15 dollars, and we won’t add it to the 3D printer maintenance costs.
Printer’s bed and adhesives
You can choose different bed surfaces, sticker, and adhesives. Every bed surface, including polypropylene, BuildTak, and even glass, has a limited lifetime. For example, a BuildTak can last up to 100 hours while using a heated bed and 250 hours when using a non-heated bed.
Each BuildTak sheet costs around 11 dollars. Assuming a lifetime of 100 hours and 500 hours of work per year, using BuildTak will cost you about 55 dollars per year.
If you use other options, the overall expenses may change. For example, you can use a combination of a glass surface, blue painter tape, and glue stick, or other various adhesives. In those cases, the maintenance charges are probably less, but 55 dollars is a reasonable estimation.
As we discussed earlier, 3D printers have several moving parts. So replacement and calibration of old and broken parts is a part of the device’s maintenance. However, I know many people who have used their 3D printers without any failures for years. Here, we won’t count part replacement as part of maintenance charges, But we will discuss it to increase your knowledge about its expenses.
Changing a 3D printer’s belt can cost you 5 to 15 dollars based on material quality, size, etc. However, in most cases, adjusting an old belt’s tension can solve your problems.
The price for a 3D printer axis lead screw and its nut is usually less than 20 dollars. You may never need a lead screw change if you regularly do the lubrication, though changing it won’t be a big problem.
Failure of other parts like the mainboard or micro switches is quite rare, and they can work for years if you use them right.
This article is published on 11/16/2020, and the estimated prices, filament usage, working hours, etc., are based on my current experience and knowledge.
Of course, your expenses may be much higher or lower, depending on many factors. For example, if you use PEEK to print, it costs around 700 dollars per kilogram, and PLA filaments are as cheap as 20 dollars per kilogram.
The 3D printer maintenance cost if you buy a 3D printer for your kids
Three spools of filament are enough for 180 printing hours and the electricity charge for this time is less than five dollars. In this case, the total amount of your 3D printer maintenance is less than 70 dollars.
As you can see, the 3D printer maintenance cost can be less than the average or become much higher when you use high-performance filaments like Ultem. However, the price for other items won’t change too much.