Why Are 3D Printers Still So Expensive?

3D printers are some of the most intriguing machines we have today because they are capable of creating different 3D designs using a bottom-up approach. However, even though 3D printers have been around for quite some time already, you would still notice that a 3D printer costs a lot of money. So, why are 3D printers still so expensive?

The 3D printers we have today are expensive because the manufacturing costs tend to be expensive to make sure that these machines are engineered properly. In the same way, the materials they use can cost quite a lot of money as well. Of course, improvements and changes to the tech allow them to stay expensive.

When you look at 3D printers, you have to look at them as any kind of machine in the sense that producing them and making sure that they are high-quality can be expensive. Of course, because technology keeps on improving, the improvements introduced to 3D printing are also good reasons why these machines are still quite expensive.

Ender 3 3D Printer

Why are 3D printers still so expensive?

When it comes to some of the more intriguing technologies that we have today, 3D printing tends to be one of the things that still amazes plenty of people. However, what you should know is that 3D printers have been around for quite a while already. And because of that, you might think that 3D printers should be more affordable now.

Well, you are wrong in that regard because 3D printers are still pretty much quite expensive even though this tech has been around for a while already. But why is it that 3D printers are still so expensive? Let’s look at a few factors that contribute to this discussion.

Production costs

When it comes to producing certain types of products, the manufacturers behind them have to spend money to produce them. These costs are called production costs or capital costs, which include the equipment used to create the products and the meticulously engineered machines needed to make sure that you have a high-quality product.

In that regard, 3D printers are still expensive because manufacturing companies cannot afford to go cheap when it comes to the production costs of these printers. They need to make sure that the equipment and machine used to manufacture 3D printers are engineered properly and are actually up to par in terms of their quality. And making sure that the production side is of the highest quality possible will require the manufacturer to shell out a lot of money.

On top of that, you also have to factor in the maintenance costs and the expenses incurred by the company when hiring labor to do the work that machines cannot handle. Both of those things can be quite expensive as well.

Material costs

The materials used by 3D printers are actually pretty expensive as well. Commercial-grade 3D printers use filaments that are quite expensive when compared to the materials used by poor-quality or low-cost 3D printers. Of course, filaments are usually processed meticulously to make sure that they can be used by 3D printers.

There is also the fact that the materials of the 3D printer itself need to be able to withstand the regular wear and tear that 3D printers go through whenever they need to run for hours and hours. Cheap materials can easily get damaged or may even melt when exposed to the heat coming from the 3D printer. That is why most 3D printers use carbon composite or even metals that are more likely to withstand heat.

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The tech is improving

Let’s go back to 2007 when the first iPhone was released. By this time, you would think that iPhones should be cheap because they have been around since 2007. However, you are wrong because iPhones are still expensive. The reason is that they constantly go through upgrades and improvements in their technology.

The same can be said when it comes to 3D printers. 3D printers from several years ago are noticeably cheaper than the newer ones today precisely because the newer 3D printers incorporate improved features. The technology is still improving, and that means that 3D printers today are marginally better than their older counterparts.

There are now things that 3D printers can do that the older 3D printers cannot do, and that means that the improvements in the technology allow the 3D printers to stay expensive. Think of the price that you pay for the 3D printers as the fee that you pay for the improvements and upgrades introduced to them by the researchers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that we have the best 3D printing technology possible.

Low competition

The 3D printer market is still a niche industry that doesn’t have a lot of players. If you know your basic economics, when there are only a few players in the industry, the competition tends to be low. So, when competition is low, the players are not incentivized to lower the prices of their products in an attempt to beat their competitors.

Considering that there aren’t a lot of companies that manufacture 3D printers in comparison to the regular inkjet printer market, there is no reason for them to lower their prices. The low level of competition keeps the prices steady because the players know that there is no incentive for them to sell their products at a lower price if they are still making money out of their expensive 3D printers. However, if more players enter the industry, things might change.

Taz 3d Printer

How much do 3D printers usually cost?

Now that you know why 3D printers are still expensive, you might be wondering how much 3D printers usually cost. Well, to tell you the truth, there is no fixed price when it comes to 3D printers because different 3D printers can vary greatly in terms of their prices.

For example, industry-level 3D printers have prices that vary from $20,000 to $100,000. But you might not want to go for something as expensive as that. Meanwhile, professional-grade 3D printers might cost around somewhere between $1,500 and $20,000, depending on the brand and the specs of the 3D printer. In the past, the cheaper 3D printers that are made for hobbyists can be around $400, give or take.

Are there cheap 3D printers?

So, as you can see, 3D printers are quite expensive even if you go with the ones that hobbyists use. That is why, if you want a 3D printer, make sure that you have a good use for it, or else you would only end up spending good money on an expensive machine.

However, because competition is steadily improving in the 3D printer market, all while the manufacturers have been able to find better ways to make 3D printers that are friendly towards the entry-level market, there are now cheaper 3D printers available.

A good entry-level 3D printer can cost as low as $200, which is right about half of what the entry-level 3D printers used to cost. But while the price may have gone down, these cheap 3D printers are a bit restricted in what they can do because they are likely capable of printing small 3D models that are around 3 to 4 inches in their dimensions.

In some cases, $200 may still be quite expensive for some people, even though that price is actually already good enough for a respectable 3D printer. And we don’t necessarily recommend very affordable 3D printers because of how limited they are in what they can do. Still, if you want to try out 3D printing without worrying about the size of what you can print, the smaller and cheaper $200 3D printers should be good enough.

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I'm Rob, the founder of 3dprintscape.com. I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade. I started working with 3D printers because I was fascinated by the technology and wanted a hobby that my kids and I can enjoy together.

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