The assumption that 3D Printing speed is not fast enough for mass production requires some analysis and investigation. Clearly, Invisalign is making money with a huge farm of mass production 3D printers, so their 3D printing time is not too slow. Their production is a staggering number too – around 80,000 prints per day. Their prints reportedly take 60-90 minutes. And it’s a relatively small object, so that helps. But perhaps the real question remains…is 3D Printing fast enough for me to make money selling 3D print designs?
When we first started 3D printing, we did a full financial analysis of everything that we used and did. We amortized the cost of the printer over a number of prints. We thought about how many hours we might use it per week or month. We spent time researching and thinking about how reasonable or realistic the purchase of a 3D Printed version of a particular product might be.
In addition to the 3D Print cost, we looked at the cost of materials and the cost of power. Originally we thought the cost of material was going to be a big factor, and it ended up being so insignificant in the scope of all the numbers. It was pennies. And the power was, too. We haven’t noticed our electricity bill go up enough to worry about it, plus we have solar. It’s on all the 3D Printing time.
Analyzing how much you want to charge per hour for your machine printing involves looking at your business structure. If it is taking away time from a client you could be doing a prototype for, then how much is dictated by that rate. But, maybe your 3D Print time is worth more in an hourly rate than your current services. If the market can bear that cost. You either need to be making a 3D Printing speed comparison to other 3D printed products or comparing it to something that is injection molded and sold on Amazon.
A full analysis is important to dial for return on investment because some designs take quite a while to print. The Invisalign design is optimized to print quickly, so part of it is solved by the design. You can optimize your designs for best print time as well, but unless you are in large mass production and must make parts fast, we discovered was that the hourly calculation is not as important as market cost.
Let’s say you have this printer in a home office. You can send a print off before you go to sleep at night and let it run all night. Does it really matter to you that it’s running all night? It’s not time you were going to use, so if that’s not a big deal for you. 3D Print cost then comes back to what it is you are printing, what it is you’re going to sell against, and whether or not you really care about the actual hour during which the printer is running.
3D Printing Speed Cost Analysis Tips
So here are a few tips on how go about evaluating the market viability and cost effectiveness of your 3D Print design:
- Figure out what you want to make and test that. Go to a service bureau and upload the file to see how much they charge for it. If you’re loading up a design, and it says it will cost $100 to print it and the item is so tiny that you can’t imagine charging $100 for it, that tells you something right there.
- Different 3D Printers (even from the same manufacturer) have different print speeds and 3D printing speed settings matter. Local businesses and 3D Hubs members have different kinds of printers. Try before you buy to get the one with the best 3D Print time for your design type.
- Change the material used. Some materials need the 3D Printer speed to be dialed to get good adhesion layer upon layer. Changing to a higher quality material changes the cost by pennies, but speed improvements can change it by dollars.
There will be some cases where selling your 3D print designs work well, and in other cases, it may not be a good fit. You must evaluate your “what” in order to figure that out if 3D printing speed limitations are a constraint on your business growth.