One of the questions we get often from faculty and students is “How much does this all cost?”. Not only are they probably wondering about how much it costs to buy a device like this, but whether the software costs money, and more importantly how expensive is the raw material in relation to how much you can print. It’s always hard to answer that last one because the answer is really “it depends” but I was really happy to see the Makerbot Blog do a post on this recently.
The device cost is straightforward: the new Makerbot Replicator is $1,749 completely assembled (an extra $250 if you want to do 2 color prints). At UMW we have a Thing-O-Matic which was Makerbot’s previous model and that was $1,250 as a DIY kit or $2,500 completely assembled. So the cost is dropping significantly. In fact there was a Kickstarter project for a 3D printer called the Printrbot that will be $499 completely assembled. Your own 3D printer for the cost of an iPad! That’s one of the things I see as truly disruptive, where as the price of the device comes down it comes into more hands who tinker with it and find cool applications for the technology.
The spool of plastic sold in the Makerbot store is 1KG of plastic and costs between $40-$50 and as you can see that makes a lot of parts. One thing to keep in mind as well is that you can control the infill on an object. These prints we do are not 100% plastic. Often we can use just 20% infill and the device will be very strong. It prints a honeycomb pattern internally which saves on plastic and provides durability. You could also print a hollow object, although it would be a bit more difficult depending on the shape.
It’s great to see 3D printing become affordable for the common consumer (and budget-wise university department) and I’m excited to see what develops as the cost continues to drop and the technology gets even better.