3-D printing 'ink' is way too expensive


The filament required for 3-D printing have always been costly, but that should start to change soon.

3-D printer prices are steadily dropping in an attempt to woo hobbyists, but there's still a costly barrier to mainstream adoption: 3-D printer "ink."

Plastic filament, the standard material used by 3-D printers typically ranges in price from $25 to $45 for a kilogram depending on the quality and manufacturer.

That's a huge markup over the $2-per-kilogram cost of the plastic pellets used to make the filaments. Manufacturing and research and development account for some of the filament's added cost over the original materials. 

But even when taking those added costs into account, the price of filament is artificially inflated, according to Jon Goitia, an engineer for 3-D printing company BQ Readers.

That's why a handful of companies, including BQ Readers, are trying to drive filament costs down.

Full article here: Filament 

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  • I looked at a lot of these machines with the hope of not just making one-off parts but making short-run production-quality parts.  Specifically, I want to be able to make custom enclosures because, quite frankly, the board companies really need to have a meeting with enclosure companies (Hammond or Bud) and make the things fit compactly.  But I digress.  Speed was an important factor which eliminated most printers.  Most can't print a brick-sized enclosure in less than 8 hours.  Cubify looked good but they're choosing the ink-cartridge business model.  I contacted them and they refused to tell me exactly how much material by volume each cartridge held instead preferring to use that well-known industry standard of numbers of cellphone cases per cartridge.  Then I read about one company starting to offer a shredder that takes your botched prints and turns them back into filament.  That told me that, expense and "being green" aside, there are enough botched prints to justify developing a recycling machine.  In addition are the folks who are buying home fryer machines, filling them with acetone and dipping their prints in to smooth out the strata lines.  Fortunately, lots of patents are expiring over the next two years which should make better machines more available.

  • PLA is made from starch and it's biodegradable:

    Polylactic acid
    Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources. In 2010, PLA had the second highest con…
  • 3D printers are neat, but they're just like any other specialty tool... those that have a use for them will have one, everyone else wont. It won't be as mainstream as some think, with some relating it to the desktop printer, which just isn't an equal comparison. So in the end, the price won't need to get to "mainstream" prices, as those who would buy this stuff in the first place, already are.

    Besides, as long as plastic continues to be petroleum based, you'll never get to ideal pricing. ;-/

  • You can print a lot with 1kg of filament. While the mark up does seem excessive... the cost is still pretty low! e.g. the parts for gimbals would be ~ $1. Time is the real cost with 3D print IMO.

  • My 3D printer (UP Mini) spending 10-12gr plastic per hours.
    need ~80 hours printing job to finish a spool and the spool cost is 26$ only.
    The plastic cost looking acceptable depends the printer life cycle and extras.
    I guess my printer works 1.000-4.000 hours max. And the price was 1000$.
    Of course a DIY extruder works for a 3D print company but not for me.
    I don't have enough space for 50kg plastic pellet packs and color pigments :)
  • Developer

    3D Printing has turned main stream over last year or so. And as usual with businesses now having to please shareholders etc. the focus has moved from pushing new technology, to making money. Meaning the filament will cost as much as the marked is willing to pay for it, regardless of actual production cost. And for the average Joe just printing small necklaces and figures, this will be fine. So there will be little pressure on lowering the prices.

    The hard-core DIY community will probably have to start looking into extruding they own filaments in the long run. I already see a growing number of project for building DIY hot plastic extruders.

  • That cost is a pretty recent thing.  When I got my makerbot cupcake CNC in 2010 the cost was 60 dollars for 5 pounds of filament from makerbot.  The ultimate goal would be a screw extruder small enough to put on one of these machines so we can take raw pellets in bulk packaging. 

  • We complain about our aircraft being called "Drones" and then turn around and call these machines "Printers" when they it fact have little to do with the traditional use of that noun. Sure, they share some very general characteristics with certain very recent (in historical terms) printers, but are of course entirely different devices. Using the logic that names these extrusion machines "3D Printers" we should have named flying machines "3D Auto-mobiles."

    Well, so what? One (probably) unintended consequence is that once the word "Printer" is established, we naturally enough start calling one of the world's cheapest substances by the name of one of the world's most expensive, "Ink." Manufacturers of this new suddenly precious "ink" have fallen on the concept like a pack of hyenas on a fresh carcass, and are now no doubt taking marketing lessons from peak predators such as HP in the global ink scam, a game which makes DeBeers' marketing of worthless sparkly rocks look like a kid's lemonade stand.

    Aside from this "ink" debacle, calling these machines "printers" has surely slowed their acceptance. There is, for good reason, no non-lethal technological device that is more universally despised, hated and even feared, than that dirty, rotten miserable piece of sh*t printer sitting on your desk, right? How many of those pieces of crap have you heaved violently into the bin over the years? How many phone conversations have you had in the middle of the night with nice but clueless folks in Bangladesh or wherever when "your" printer refused to find the computer sitting right next to it?  (Quotes around "your" because you own a printer the way you own a cat - only in your imagination.)  And now someone is trying to sell us the latest greatest thing and it's called a "Printer"??  I'd rather buy something named "Root Canal"!

  • Seems to me like they are following the 2D printer market strategy.  Give the printers away for free, and then make all your money on consumables.

    I work in a wire and cable factory, and we use several tons of plastics every day.  In fact, we scrap several hundred pounds of plastic every day.  This is because we have to leave the extruders bleeding while we change the copper conductor reels.  You can grind it up and put it back into an extruder, but industry quality rules limit this.  Some product is allowed up to 10% regrind in the wire insulation, but much of the time it's not allowed at all.  So we end up throwing out a lot of it.

    I have thought there would be a market if we could turn the regrind into a filament and sell it for 3D printers.  It would be multi-coloured, but that would probably be fine for test prints.

  • Have you checked the Cubify Cube and CubeX proprietary cartridge cost lately?

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