I’ve been 3D printing for a long time, and before I got into it I tossed up whether it was worth it or not. Now that I have a lot more experience with 3D printing I thought I’d share whether 3D printing is worth it.
Generally, 3D printing is worth it. The start-up cost and ongoing costs are quite low, and you can have a lot of fun with a 3D printer. It can also be used to make useful things around the home, and it’s fairly easy to learn and use.
Below, I’ll summarise the key points such as whether a 3D printer is a waste of money, how expensive it is to get into, the pros and cons.
Are 3D printers a waste of money?
Like me you might have bought some expensive equipment to start a new hobby, only to find within a month or two that you don’t really want to do it anymore. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time whether buying a 3D printer will be a waste of money. Here’s what I found…
Overall, 3D printing is not a waste of money. 3D printing is a fun hobby much like computer games, surfing, or birdwatching. However, you may grow out of it. A 3D printer though can always be used to print practical things around the home.
You can also use a 3D printer to print things like model airplane kits, and lego type objects which can make great gifts or toys. A 3D printer can virtually print anything, and there are online libraries of user-submitted 3D print designs such as Thingiverse.
They can be downloaded for free and used instantly. So, it’s really easy to print virtually anything you want. Once you get a bit more experienced you can make something yourself from scratch using one of the free 3D printing software.
Is 3D printing an expensive hobby?
Buying a 3D printer has an upfront cost, and there are also additional costs such as buying extra filament. But, all things considered, is 3D printing an expensive hobby?
Overall, 3D printing is a fairly cheap hobby. The average cost to use your 3d printer is about $125 to $200 per year. A good hobbyist 3D printer like the Ender 3 typically goes for under $300. So the overall costs is considerably less than other hobbies.
The main ongoing cost is filament. As you may know, filament is the thin plastic that’s melted to create a 3D print design. Each print requires a different amount of plastic. For example, if something is hollow it will use much less filament compared to a 3D print design that is completely solid. But, even then it’s still fairly cheap to buy extra filament. I did a more detailed analysis with a table in [this, link: Is 3D printing worth it] article about the lifespan of 3D printers. Definitely check it out to see a cost breakdown. But, this is a benefit of 3D printing.
From time to time you’ll need to get a new nozzle as well. However, they cost around $10 each. Additional minor costs involved with making 3D prints are a glue stick or hair spray.
Glue stick/hairspray for the print bed
It became well known after 3D printers that prints don’t stick to glass or metal print beds. And was identified as a major issue with 3D printers. But, through experimentation people found that a regular glue stick that you would use in school for scrapbooking works very well to solve the problem with prints sticking to the print bed.
Hairspray was also found to work very well. Therefore, you can expect to spend $10 to $20 a year on glue sticks or hairspray.
What are the pros and cons of 3D printing?
So, 3D printing is an inexpensive hobby but like most things, I assumed there would be some drawback to 3D printing. There are also other advantages to 3D printing so I’ll summarise the main pros and cons of 3D printing below.
The pros of 3D printing are:
- It can be fun
- It’s a fairly inexpensive hobby
- You can make useful things
The cons of 3D printing are:
- Can be a bit frustrating solving issues
- You need to supervise the 3D printer while it’s printing
- Can only be done indoors, the machine is quite bulky
I’ll explain a bit about each of the pros and cons below so you can see what I mean…
It can be fun
As you may be aware, there are widely considered to be 2 broad types of personalities. There are introverts and extroverts. Introverts tend to like technical topics like engineering, mathematics, and science. Extroverts by comparison tend to like socializing and spending time with people.
In my opinion, introverted people are more likely to enjoy 3D printing because it involves using geometry, and maths. As well as, it can be a solo activity which introverts tend to prefer.
Therefore, if you have an introverted personality you’ll likely find 3D printing really fun.
It’s a fairly inexpensive hobby
I covered this above under the heading ‘is 3D printing expensive’.
You can make useful things
There are a range of things around the home that can be made out of plastic using your 3D printer. For example, clothes pegs, coat hangers, plates, cups, utensils. Therefore, having a 3D printer can save you a bit of time. There’s also the potential to make things to sell.
Can be a bit frustrating solving issues
3D printing is fairly new, and when a technical issue happens it can be a bit time-consuming and frustrating to find a solution. As time passes better and better info is available and the info to solve major problems is readily available. But, less common issues can be very frustrating to fix.
When it does happen though, there is a range of forums like Reddit where you can ask questions, and you’ll usually get a really good idea of what the issue is with a bit of back and forth.
You need to supervise the 3D printer while it’s printing
3D prints do take a while to print, especially big designs. While it’s printing you need to supervise it. Because it runs by heating the filament there is a risk that something could catch fire.
This can be a bit of pain because you need to be around for a few hours while it prints something.
Can only be done indoors, the machine is quite bulky
Dust and debris shouldn’t get on the 3D print as it’s printing as it will create imperfections in the print. Because of that, your 3D printer needs to be kept inside. A 3D printer itself is quite bulky and is about the size of a bar fridge. Therefore, you need some dedicated space to keep it.
- Do 3D Printers Use a Lot of Power? (The Numbers Inside)
- 3D Printing vs. CNC Machining: What’s the Difference?
- What Is 3D Printer Engraving?
- Can You Drill Into and Cut 3D Printed Plastic?
- How to Print a File from Thingiverse (The Easy Way!)
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