Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 11:49AM
Does anybody have any experience with running costs of a 3D printer? I have a Mendel90 and after showing a few prints around I've been asked to quote to print some parts. Now working out material cost is easy but I'd like to charge out the machine time on an hourly basis but don't really know where to start. The obvious considerations are electricity usage and wear and tear, each of which I have no idea on because this is my first printer and its only been running a few weeks. Can anybody shed some light for me please?

Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 12:01PM
3D Printer Calculator

When you go to print a part it gives you an amount of filament in mm that it is going to use.

Plug that into the program in the link and it will give you a build cost/weight and how many you could print out per roll.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 12:07PM
Figure out how much your time is worth to you per hour. Take a rough estimate at how many hours you are going to soak up pre-processing and post-processing a print job. Add the hourly cost to the material cost, if desired pad with some percentage of "profit", and there you go.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 12:26PM
That calculator only works out material cost from what I can tell.

I will be factoring in my time but it is really a machine cost (electricity and wear and tear) that I'm after. What is the life expectancy of a 3D printer?
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 12:41PM
I don't think it matters, to be honest. It's going to be at least an order of magnitude less than your hourly rate.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 01:28PM
3D printers don't use a whole lot of power. Mine doesn't even come close to maxing out the 450w power supply. So it uses way less power than a computer does.

As for mechanical wear, the parts that do break are cheap enough to replace. Stepper motors, electronics, ect. If you put quality parts in it you will get a lot longer life on those parts also.

So the operating costs are equivalent to that of a computer.

Unless you print on tape, then you have to figure in the cost of replacing the tape every time it rips.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2013 01:41PM by hendo420.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 01:59PM
I'd go with 3x the plastic cost (or some other multiple). Way too much hassle trying to calculate build times/wear and tear, as for most models the larger the part the longer it takes. Plus you want some extra to absorb the cost of failed prints, replacement parts, upgrades etc. Still very cheap for the other person too.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 03:05PM
History is a wonderful thing to have, and most companies waste it, by not keeping good records. Take your best guess and start selling parts even if you are losing money on them. Keep meticulous records, of time, materials, etc. You'll be amazed at all the overhead that it takes to do this kind of thing. Shipping can be killer, when you factor in how much work it is to get boxes, packaging, weighing, etc. How about the cost to model, repair a model, slice a model etc. Administative work can eat up a lot too. You have to order materials, track them, do qoutes, send out invoices, manage a bank account. Then there is the cost of your mistakes, and maybe the customers mistakes that they think you should eat.

On the surface printing parts to make printers looks cheap. The reality is the only thing that really makes something cheap is huge volume. Years ago a customer showed me a switch he bought at Radio Shack for 79 cents, then he showed me a wooden barrel filled with 10,000 of them that he bought for 1/2 cent each! My ex boss and I used to struggle to get samples of switches and things, and paid exorbitant prices for those samples. Then he went to work for a large company. He called a switch company about samples, and casually mentioned his yearly usage. The next morning an engineer from 1000 miles away was standing in his office with a suitcase filled with 100 pcs of each switch he had expressed an interest in!

Gary H. Lucas
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 03:22PM
Companies go out of their way to court high volume customers... What else is new?
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 03:40PM
Good point from garyhlucus about shipping - I sell parts about as frequently as I buy stuff, so I can reuse packaging (at the cost of not looking professional, although for me I don't really care). A really really cheap way to do packaging is find some old cardboard boxes, and get some parcel tape, since provided you don't use stuff with obvious logos it looks reasonably pro for nearly free (bike shops will almost always give you unlimited cardboard for free.) It's tricky working out how well to pack stuff - it can be much cheaper and better to factor in a small percentage of broken parts in the post if it makes delivery much cheaper. eg I sold 20 or so raspberry pi cases for about £15 a go, and just stuffed them in envelopes and posted them. The one broken one I sent a replacement and a refund for was much cheaper than the £1 or so I'd have needed per package to prevent any damage.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 08:16PM
i think kiss slicer has a built in price calculator. otherwise look at the gcode created by repetier host. it will show the lenth in mm extruded

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2013 10:49PM by jamesdanielv.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 09:15PM
We buy filament by weight so I just weigh the end product to find material cost. Right now my average is $1.63 an ounce. So if a part costs say $3 in filament then $3.25-$3.50 would easily cover the costs including electricity, machine wear but not labor.
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 10:49PM
it's also a bit iffy on labour. what labour work are you really doing anyway?
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 11:37PM
Forget about material and power and wear and tear. That's all minor niggly stuff and not the way to price your stuff. That is only important if you are a large company manufacturing a lot of product, it is not needed for a small hobby like this. At the end of the day it boils down to what is a fair price to charge per hour of the machines time. The machine will use an average amount of material and power and will wear an average amount per hour of use, and it won't vary that much. The less material required to build an object, the less time it will take, and the more required, the longer the prints will take - on average. If you decide to charge $10 an hour for the machines time (reasonable),and an object takes 10 hours to print, then you'd charge $100. If someone wants a plate of objects that takes 15 hours, then you'd charge $150. Set a one hour minimum charge of $25 just for handling charges (starting and stopping the prints, and changing filiments for different colors) and encourage customers to come to you when they have more than one small item.

Charge $25 an hour to process files if your clients can't be bothered, or don't know how. Charge the same amount to clean up the parts after they are finished if the clients also can't be bothered to do that. Offer everyone the option to give you STL files that are ready to go and do their own clean up after they're printed, and only charge them the machine time ($10 hour) for that. Charge that amount for any consulting beyond the basics needed to explain what their responsibilities will be.

Some people won't want to figure out how to prep the files, or clean up the parts - they'll just want them printed and won't care about the extra price. Others will want to save buck and will pre-process the files and will be happy to clean them up after ( they just don't own a printer).

At those prices and rates, you'll be making a fair income, and they will be getting a reasonable product for thier buck (don't forget that this is not high precision machining that you're offering).

If you charge less than what I've suggested, you will be underpricing and will either just break even, or you will lose money and your time. Don't be afraid to charge a reasonable amount. If you're worried about the amount, go to the grocery store and check out the price of a pound of bread, or a gallon of milk, or a dozen eggs. It's not out of line. Most people under price themselves and their products and work themselves into the ground. There is no reason to be competitive in this arena at this time, most of your clients will want to try it out without investing in the equipment, and that's fine.

And don't forget to report your income/expenses on your taxes. It's not worth messing around with that stuff because if you forget and get caught, then all the work and joy you've gotten from doing this will be destroyed.

Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 11:43PM
Adding to what Jon said about taxes - does anyone know if you can file a tax return to reclaim money spent on the printer and maintenance costs? I looked here: [] and it seems like you possibly could?
Re: Pricing a print job
March 27, 2013 11:51PM
james glanville Wrote:
> Adding to what Jon said about taxes - does anyone
> know if you can file a tax return to reclaim money
> spent on the printer and maintenance costs? I
> looked here:
> []
> m and it seems like you possibly could?

Yes you can, if you are billing it out the way I've described. In any country, it is the cost of making money with it. However, you have to remember that if you also use it for your own purposes as well, then you have to track that time separately and not claim expenses for whatever percentage of total use that works out to.

Re: Pricing a print job
March 28, 2013 08:33AM
Wow guys thanks for your answers. Just to let you know, I have decided to charge out around £3 per hour plus material for these parts. It still seems too cheap but they are quite high volume so should turn over around £250 per month.

Thanks again, Martin
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