3D Printing Price Comparison, uhg Expensive!

Posted January 30th, 2018 by Bailey Jones

SLS prototype is on top, and the polyjet prototype is on bottom.

Processes: Polyjet, SLS, and SLA

I designed an adapter for a small home appliance. The production part will be injection molded, and we needed some prototypes to test the function and appearance before going to tooling. We sent the CAD out for quote with several different 3D printing processes in mind. An SLS part would provide the most durable prototype and for that reason was the best stand-in for an actual production part. So, we made one by SLS. However, we also needed an appearance model. SLS parts always tend to retain their rough sandy look and paint does nothing to improve the matter. So, we quoted SLA and polyjet. Both of these can be sanded and painted to a very nice surface finish, but in this particular case, I was concerned that the screw bosses would crack (and they did.)

We ended up going with polyjet because we were able to print it in a grey color that closely matched the rest of the product. A sanded and painted finish in either polyjet or SLA would have looked better, but would have also cost more. 3D print build prices are usually related to the material volume. This part was basically a hollow shape, 13.5 x .75 x 4 inches and with .079 thick walls (342 x 19 x 100 mm, 2mm thick.) The quotes varied considerably, by both vendor and process:

  • Polyjet $572
  • SLS $220
  • SLA, vendor 1 $420
  • SLA, vendor 2 $189

News reporting these days makes it seem like 3D printing is inexpensive. It can be, especially if you do it yourself on your own machine. And prices will probably drop more as the industry becomes commoditized. But for now, high quality prints from professional service bureaus do not come cheap.

Find this and more in the book, The $39 Mustache Comb: The Start-Up Guide To Manufacturing.

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