Is 3D Printing an Expensive Hobby?

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Having a 3D printer at home is like having a genie granting all your plastic-making wishes. Will you need to sell your arm, leg, and maybe a kidney to afford to have a genie at home? Is 3D printing an expensive hobby?

3D printing is an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. If you buy yourself a smaller model and don’t buy a top-of-the-line 3D printer, you can keep your costs down around $300. You can even sell items you design, or become a 3D printer for hire to make back some of your initial costs! 

Check out the full 3D printing guide for beginners for more information on how to start your new hobby!

Printer Cost

The biggest cost for 3D printing as a hobby is the machine itself. Thankfully there is a wide variety of 3D printers in all different price ranges. 

As a beginner, you might find yourself only needing a very basic 3D printer. If you go with a small base model, you’re probably going to spend about $200. These 3D printers have fewer features and often less customer support when you need help though. 

FAMILY PRINTING AS A HOBBY

If you think you might need a little more support, and a little bit of a better printer, you should check out 3D printers in the $500 price range. These ones will print slightly more consistently, and you are less likely to encounter any problems. 

If you want the full experience with all the bells and whistles, a large printing area, multiple tutorials and plenty of customer support, you can purchase a 3D printer for upwards of $6000. 

If you are just wanting to have a small 3D printing hobby, there is no reason to spend $6000 on a 3D printer right away. A $200-$500 printer will be more than sufficient for what you are trying to make. 

Material Cost

The other cost to consider is the material cost. The material cost depends on a few things including what material you are using, how big the item is, and the infill of the item you’re making. 

The cheapest material you can buy for your 3D printer are thermoplastic filaments. The most popular are PLA and ABS. You can get an entire kilogram for about $15-$30. You can also use nylon which is a higher-end material. 

3d printing materials

The infill is the wall thickness of the product you are trying to print. You will use less material printing a hollow item with 10% infill, than a solid item with 100% infill. 

 It’s impossible to tell you how much something will cost without seeing your 3D print design, but to give you an idea, a case to hold a deck of cards might cost $1, but a solid model of Mount Rushmore the size of a football might cost $100. 

3D Designs

Another factor you have to consider in the costs are your 3D print files. In order to make your own, you’ll need a 3D design program.

There are many different softwares ranging from $10 per month subscription fees, to $500 for full access programs.

There are a couple free programs you can use, but you won’t have as many features as a paid program. 

If you don’t want to invest the time learning how to use a 3D program, you can purchase files to download. Each file will cost anywhere from $1 to over $20 depending on the complexity of the design.

This is the more cost effective way to print if you’re only printing a couple items to try out your machine. If you want to make many different items, it might be more worth your time to learn a new design skill. 

Make Money Back By Selling Products

If you’re worried about the cost of getting into 3D printing as a hobby, you can always make some money back by selling your 3D printed items. 

There are many people who are looking to have an item or two printed, but can’t justify buying a 3D printer to do it themselves. The great news is you don’t have to go find these people, there are sites you can sign up for that bring them to you! 

Here’s a list of places where you can find people who will pay you to print something for them on your 3D printer.

3D Hubs

MakeXYZ

Shapeways

Fiverr

Each one of these websites has a demand for people who own a 3D printer and can print and ship items for customers.

Wrapping It Up

There are many hobbies that don’t require start up costs; 3D printing isn’t one of them. Compared to hobbies like hiking, yoga, drawing, or any other hobbies you can do with things you already have around your house, yes, 3D printing is an expensive hobby. 

3D printing doesn’t need to be the most expensive hobby, however. By purchasing a machine within your budget, and by selling items you make with a 3D printer, you can keep your start up costs down, and maybe even make your money back.