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11 Tips To Help You Cut Your 3D Printing Costs

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It’s no secret that 3D printing costs & prices can be expensive compared to other manufacturing processes, however the advantage of 3D printing with additive manufacturing services such as SGD is there’s no upfront fixed costs such as tooling, low volume requirements (yes we accept single part orders!) and flexible production for just in time delivery if required. 

3D printing is expensive due to the lead-times taken to produce parts. Compared to processes such as injection moulding, 3D printed parts can take hours even days to print! This in turn has a number of running costs that have to be factored in such as size, complexity, support requirements, etc. In this guide we’ll go through 11 simple ways you can keep your 3D printing price low and get the best cost for your budget!

1) Optimise Your Print Settings

This sounds basic, however is an important tip when trying to cut part costs is to look at your printer settings and see how they can be optimised. For instance using the variable settings feature in Simplify 3D you can adjust layer heights, speeds and other settings once a height threshold has been achieved. 

2) Hollow Your 3D Model

This tip is great for printing models using SLA & DLP, as resin can be a costly material to print with. With a correctly placed drain hole, parts require less material which is a lot easier on the supports as the overall part mass is reduced helping to combat suction forces

3) Reduce Infill Percentage

We usually recommend for non-structural aesthetic parts (30-40%), functional parts (60-70%) and for translucent parts (100%). 

4) Reduce The Size of Your Print

This tip sounds like an obvious one, however is there really a requirement for a 10mm wall thickness? This will really help to reduce your 3D printing price drastically. 

5) Reducing Your Layer Height / Resolution

At SGD, we charge 50% more for higher quality prints because it takes almost double the amount of time to print. Does that engineering part really need to be printed in an ultra-fine quality or will a layer height of 0.3mm do? 

6) Selecting The Right Materials

This tip is our most important, over specification can be just as costly as under specifying material for 3D printing. We recommend speaking directly to us when choosing materials or referring to our materials guide before placing an order. 

7) Using The Correct Nozzle Diameter

Using the standard nozzle size of 0.4mm for 1000 x 1000 x 1000mm parts wouldn’t be as cost effective as using a 0.8mm nozzle. You’re delivering 50% of the material that could be achieved with the 0.8mm which will increase your print times and running costs. If you machines heating element can cope, go with a bigger nozzle diameter to help increase your material flow rate.

8) Support Structures and Rafts

Avoid unnecessary waste by reducing the amount of support material used, this should be considered in the design stages to make the part as cost effective as possible. Try to avoid rafts / brims if possible as well, as this is wasted material instead research and invest in a more suitable build platform for this material type. 

9) Use or Modify a Free Design

Don’t spend unnecessary time & money on creating a design or part that is already on the marketplace for free. Approach the licence owner about purchasing / leasing the licence if you wish to use it for commercial purposes. 

10) Mix 3D Printed Components With Standard Parts

Don’t waste unnecessary time on printing parts that are cheap, off the shelf. Instead incorporate these parts into your design to create a more robust, cost efficient product.

11) Select An Appropriate Finish

With extra finishes / post-processing this can be an unnecessary cost for parts. 

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Sam Gribben

Managing Director at SGD 3D Limited

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