How to Quote 3D Printing Jobs

Interested in starting your own 3D printing company or just making some money from your beloved hobby? Then you are going to need to know how to price jobs. In this post, you will learn the basics of pricing your 3D printing jobs. 

1.0 Variables

First we need to list as many variables that affect the price of a 3D printing. Below are some examples of what you may want to consider to include in your pricing model. 

  1. Material cost
  2. Electricity cost
  3. Processing time
  4. Failure cost
  5. Start up cost
  6. Bulk pricing
  7. Printing time cost
  8. Depreciation Cost

In order to keep this post short and sweet, I will select: material cost, start up cost, printing cost, and electricity cost. We will tackle these one by one, but before we start I will present the general model that will be needed to price your 3D printing jobs. 

  • m = material cost coefficient ($ / gram)
  • h = printing cost coefficient ($ / hour)
  • j = electricity cost coefficient ($ / hour)

Price ($) = start up cost ($) + material cost ($ / gram) * (part weight(grams)) + printing cost ($ / time) * (print time (hours)) + electricity cost ($ / time) * (print time (hours))

or more simply,

Price ($) = start up cost ($) + m * (part weight(grams)) + h * (print time (hours)) + j * (print time (hours))

Great! Now we have our 3D printing cost model and we need to figure out our coefficients, m, h, and j

2.0 Material Cost Coefficient (m)

Material cost is really what you expect to make from 3D printing a spool of filament, or a tank of resin. Let us make some assumptions: 

  • A spool of filament costs (a): $20
  • Weight of one spool (b): 1000 grams
  • Desired profit per spool (c): $500
  • or ,in general, the cost per gram is c / b

We can now determine what we price one gram of material for: 1 gram of plastic will cost 50 cents. So our material cost coefficient (m) is 0.5 $ / grams

3.0 Electricity Cost Coefficient

This is a somewhat tedious coefficient to determine. You’d have to monitor your power consumption over some time and average out the consumption of your printer per hour. All printers draw a different amount of power and so does every 3D printing job. You would need to get your electric bill and see what you are charged per unit of power/electricity. Below is an example: 

  • Power company charges (a): 0.25 $ / kilowatt
  • Printer consumes (b): 1 kilowatt / hour
  • Electricity cost for your printer (c): 0.25 $ / hour
  • or, in general, c = a * b

4.0 Start up Cost

Like most things in life, determining this number is not easy either. In general, start up cost includes fixed costs. Meaning, if you make 5 bucks or one million dollars 3D printing this month, you will still have to pay it. This includes things like rent, and salaries. Your finance person will be able to come up with a meaningful number here. However, I don’t have a finance guy so we will do it ourselves. 

I think about this number a bit differently. To me, it is the minimum amount of money I am willing to start my printer for. The way I arrived at this number is by considering the competition in my area. You can assume a very simple formula of: y = mx + b for any 3D printing business. 

  • y = cost of 3D printing
  • m = material cost coefficient (discussed earlier)
  • x = amount of material in 3D print
  • b = start up cost

By sampling some handful of companies we can construct two equations and arrive at a value for m, and b. This is a fairly simple exercise for which you can google: two equations, two unknowns. Once you have five to ten numbers, you can decide where you want to be placed in your market. Let’s say that you chose that 3 dollars is something that satisfies you. 

5.0 Conclusion

There is some additional reading after this section if you are interested but at this point we can finally wrap this up!

So we know everything now (or almost everything…), we combine it all into one beautiful model. Let’s review our 3D printing pricing model and the coefficients.

  • m = material cost coefficient ($ / gram)
  • h = printing cost coefficient ($ / hour) (More reading on this after this section), set to zero in this example. 
  • j = electricity cost coefficient ($ / hour)

Price ($) = start up cost ($) + m * (part weight(grams)) + j * (print time (hours))

Price ($) = $3 +  $0.5 / gram * (part weight(grams)) + $0.25 / hour * (print time (hours))

This formula has two (sort of..) independent variables and it’s not an easy plot to understand. I will cheat a bit and assume that our printer can produce 1 gram of material every 4 minutes or 15 grams per hour. Our model becomes: 

Price ($) = $3 +  $0.5 / gram * (part weight(grams)) + $0.017 / gram * (part weight(grams))

or, 

Price ($) = $3 +  $0.517 / gram * (part weight(grams))

and here is our beautifully simple plot: 

3d printing cost chart
Figure 1: Pricing Model

In this blog post we learned the basic of pricing our 3D printing services! Setting a price for any product is complex and I hope this gives you an idea of where to start. 

6.0 Printing Cost Coefficient

This section is long and wordy, meaning it has more information than practical application. This is why I posted it here: Read it or Skip it

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