Is it better to buy a 3D printer or outsource parts? This is the question many companies ask themselves when they want to print their first parts. We help you to know how much it costs to print in 3D, decide if you need a printer in your office and which 3D printer to buy for a company. And if you are not convinced, you can always make your pieces with a 3D printing service like Bitfab.
Having a 3D printer in the office
Buying a 3D printer and putting it in our office or workshop is always the first option that comes to mind when we want to implement 3D printing in our company.
For some cases, buying a 3D printer is the right choice. The main advantages are:
- You have the 3D printer 100% available all day.
- The manufacturing costs are paid by you, therefore, you reduce the margin that the 3D printing service can have.
- You can extend materials beyond the 3D printing service catalogue.
- If you work well you can have the prototype in the same day.
All these reasons are real and you might think about them, but are we really taking everything into account?
As we have been saying throughout the article, 3D printing has many hidden costs that are not taken into account in the purchase decision. If you’re only going to use the printer occasionally or want to do a few tests, you may find it worthwhile to order parts from an outside service.
Why use an online printing service instead of your own printer?
There are advantages to using an external service that cannot be obtained with your own 3D printer. Do you know the hidden costs, both time and money, of having a printer in the office?
- What will be the personnel expenses of having the printer 100% ready all day?
- How much do you think it will cost to maintain the machine if you take care of it?
- Will the printer you buy really be optimized for all the materials you want to use?
- Do you have someone specialized in your company to assure you the prototype in one day? Do you want to assume the cost of training him or her?
As you can see, 3D printers consume a company’s time and resources. This does not mean that having a printer is not a profitable investment, but you have to evaluate these costs and make sure that the printer will have a minimum workload to be able to amortize it. It would not be the first or the last printer that ends up being part of the company’s furniture without having made more than a couple of parts. Or it breaks down after two weeks and nobody takes charge of repairing it.
How much does it cost to print in 3D? The costs of having a 3D printer in your company
We’ve already covered this topic on the Bitfab blog. You can know exactly how much it costs to print a part on your own printer if you do the math. The costs generated by printing each part are:
- Print preparation costs
- Post-processing costs of the part
- Costs per hour of printing
- Amortization cost of the machine
- Electricity cost
- Machine operator cost
- Printing material cost
- Maintenance cost
- Troubleshooting cost
- Training of the machine operator cost
If you don’t know what each one refers to, don’t worry: go to our article about how much it costs to print in 3D in which we detail how each one is calculated. You’ll also find an Excel table to calculate the price of your parts.
¿Comprar una impresora o utilizar un servicio de impresión externo?
Buying a 3D printer and putting it in our office or workshop is always the first option that comes to mind when we want to implement 3D printing in our company. As we have said, you have to be careful with this decision if you don’t consider the hidden costs it has.
At Bitfab we bet on having a printer in the office to make prototypes for customers who use it frequently enough and use an external service like ours to support them when the printer cannot cope with the workload; for example, for short series or large or complicated prototypes.
Every case is different. When is it worth or not worth buying a 3D printer for our office?
- If we want to streamline the product development process. The time saving of having your own printer is very useful in this case. We can set up a part in and have it in our hands the next day. With the development speed that we will obtain with the printer we will be able to have the products ready for the market much faster. Recommended for engineering companies, product development, architecture…
- If we print few pieces. If the amount of work of the machine is going to be very little, the investment of time and money in it can be very high and then not use it. In those specific cases you can count on an external service.
- If we print large, complicated prototypes on new materials. In these cases it may be more convenient to use a 3D printing service instead of having our employees busy testing, modifying and repeating very complicated parts.
- If we want feedback from a 3D printing expert. One of the advantages of using a 3D printing service is being able to count on the opinion of a team that has already printed many parts like yours. Moreover, a service such as Bitfab will not mind modifying or repeating your part as many times as necessary to obtain the desired result.
- If we want very detailed pieces. 3D SLA resin printing is often used to print detailed parts. Although it is a technology that allows to obtain very intricate models and with a lot of detail, it is still very dirty, it emits toxic vapors and therefore the environment of an office may not be suitable for it.
- If we want short series. This is the case where we are experts at Bitfab. The challenges of printing short series with 3D printing are not negligible, printers always start to fail when we want to print dozens of pieces on them and we have to deliver them to the customer with a deadline. We have optimized our system to help you in these cases, so do not hesitate to send us a message and we will help you with it.
In short, a 3D printer is a very useful tool for your office if you want to speed up the development of your product and if you have enough workload for it, but do not forget to consider all the costs involved. If you want to buy a professional machine, opt for one to avoid reliability problems and make the most of your employees’ time. When you need short runs or special pieces, you can count on Bitfab to take them forward.
Buy a Professional 3D Printer
A very important point to have a 3D printer in the company is to buy a professional solution with a powerful support so that we do not have to take care of its maintenance or that it fails us when we need it most.
We at Bitfab, in addition to our own design equipment optimised for production, have printers from the Spanish manufacturer Printersys. The model 325 we work with has a complete aluminium chassis, an E3D v6 fuser to melt all the materials in our catalogue and a flexible base to remove parts quickly and print again.
There are many other brands of professional printers: Formlabs (for resin and SLS), BCN3D, Ultimaker, Markforged… In our experience absolutely all printers, professional or not, end up having some technical problem throughout their lives. That’s why the most important reason to choose a professional and productive 3D printer is to choose a brand that provides good training when buying the printer to minimize operating errors and has the best technical service throughout the machine’s lifespan. Consider these two factors when buying a professional printer.
That’s it, now you have all the tools to decide for yourself if you should buy a 3D printer for your company. If you think that you can make it profitable and that it is not going to stay unused in a corner of your office, go ahead, buy a professional one and take advantage of it to introduce 3D printing in your company.
If you don’t want to buy it or if the printer you have is falling short for some jobs, you can always count on our help to make any part for you. Do not hesitate to contact us for a 3D printing quote: