Which is more cost-effective, 3D printing or purchase?

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For many consumers, the problem that puzzles them is whether to print or buy directly when they want something. Although 3D printing has been developed for a period, it is far from completely replacing the need of purchase. In this article, we will explore when 3D printing is more cost-effective and when it is not. The answers depend on many factors.

Material and quality

The first factor is about the material and quality of the product you need. Although the cost of the filament is almost always lower than the cost of purchasing the finished product, you should consider the effect of printing and whether its expected function can be realized. 3D printed items are usually made of plastic. Is this the right material for you? If not, you may want to buy an online printing service to have them print it on metal or reinforced plastic. After all, metals and other 3D printable materials with high-strength may have better durability and other advantages.

The surface smoothness of printing may usually be unsatisfactory. The appearance details of 3D printing parts may be different from the products purchased in the store, at least without spending a lot of time on post-processing. Other features, such as hardness, may not get so much attention like appearance, and there are always ways to solve this problem.

In fact, all this comes down to a simple question: does the (potential) quality requirements for purchased parts exceed the consideration of cost savings in 3D printing?

Design

The next consideration depends on the part itself, especially the design. 3D printing is ideal for making unique custom parts. For example, if you need home decorations with specific shapes and sizes, 3D printing parts will be cheaper because you may not find personalized parts to buy.

An example to prove 3D printing may be better is that if you need something simple but specific, such as sofa foot, you may easily find the specific design you want on the Internet. In addition, the sofa foot has very simple design, so you can directly apply the model (usually easier than modeling from scratch), and then print it in 3D.

This process undoubtedly takes longer than buying it, but you will save some money. In this case, it depends on which you are more willing to: pay more or take more time (although not necessarily longer than waiting for online purchase and delivery).

Time and money

One of the benefits of purchasing online rather than making it yourself is that it saves time. As the saying goes, time is money. So why spend valuable time designing and 3D printing instead of buying directly from nearby stores?

When deciding whether 3D printed things are worthwhile, you should consider how to cherish your time. When calculating the time investment, don’t forget to include the time spent in designing or modifying the model and post-processing. Also remember that the first print is not always perfect, so changing print settings and reprinting may take another time.

If you care about your expenses, or if you just enjoy the process of design and printing without thinking it’s a waste of time, 3D printing is usually a better choice. As we mentioned, the actual cost of materials is very low, and the benefits of customizability can make you ignore the additional time required.

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Two trees

Two trees

Professional 3D printing and CNC laser engraving equipment manufacturer.

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