How Do Suppliers Calculate the Cost of My 3D Printed Parts?

Last Updated on March 6, 2024 by assistant

3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, offering endless possibilities for creating complex and customized parts. However, understanding the cost involved in 3D printing is essential when planning your project. In this blog post, we will explore how suppliers calculate the cost of 3D printed parts, considering factors such as volume, weight, and post-processing requirements.


Methods for Calculating 3D Printing Costs

There are several approaches that suppliers use to determine the cost of 3D printing. Let’s examine the three main methods commonly employed in the industry.

1. Calculation by Bounding Box Volume

This method is prevalent in Europe and the US, especially for powder bed 3D printing, SLA, and FDM technologies. Suppliers draw a box around the object, defining the minimum space required to contain it. The volume of this bounding box is then calculated, and a cost per unit volume is applied to determine the overall cost of the part. On average, the cost ranges from $0.30 to $0.70 per cubic centimeter. However, for metal 3D printing, the cost can be significantly higher, ranging from $10 to $100 per cubic centimeter.

2. Cost per gram

In China, the most common method for calculating 3D printing costs is based on the weight of the part. Suppliers determine the weight using the 3D CAD data, multiply it by the material density, and then apply a cost per gram factor. The rates can vary among suppliers. For example, at Ruitai Mould, SLA materials start from $0.3 per gram, while SLS (PA) materials cost $0.6 per gram. Metal printing materials generally have higher costs, starting from $10 per gram.

3. Cost per hour

This method is frequently used for metal printed parts and printing technologies with lower speeds. An experienced estimator evaluates the 3D model, considering factors such as material, complexity, and density, to determine the manufacturing time required. Different materials have varying cost-per-hour rates, often reflecting differences in mechanical properties. Factors like operating costs and profit markup may also influence the hourly rate.

Detailed Explanation of Factors Affecting 3D Printing Costs

1. 3D model

3D models can help us obtain important information for 3D printing. Without a 3D model, even experienced quoting engineers have difficulty providing an accurate quote for 3D printing. That’s why we always recommend to our clients “Send us a 3D model”.

2. Model volume

Typically, the larger the 3D model, the higher the cost. However, there are several solutions to reduce the cost of 3D printing, one of which is to hollow out the model. For example, between two 3D models, one of the 1-foot 3D models is solid inside, while the other is a 3-foot model that is hollow. Then the volume of the 3-foot model can be smaller than the volume of the 1-foot model. That’s why it’s so difficult to estimate the price of 3D printing without a 3D model. Therefore, we often say “It depends on the situation” or “specific analysis of specific issues.”

3. Complexity

Not all 3D models are created equal. We found that even with the most sophisticated algorithms, some human guidance is still required when 3D printing such projects. 3D printing requires preparation and planning. For simple products, it can be solved simply through 3D printers, because all 3D printing service processes are automated.

But when it comes to complex parts and architectural models, simply automated printing is not enough. For example, if a complex 3D printing model is printed according to actual 3D printing, there will be many problems, such as loose joints, too thin walls, etc. If we directly perform simple 3D printing, there is a high probability that it will be an unstable prototype, would you be willing to accept this conceptual model? If we 3D printed it immediately we would be wasting at least thousands of dollars of material!

4. Material type

When it comes to the cost of 3D printing, the materials you choose matter. In this article, we will focus on the currently popular thermoplastic and resin materials.

. Thermoplastics: filaments and powders

ABS” or “PLA” is by far the most widely used 3D printing material. They are popular because they have one factor in common – they are cheap. The filaments cost $20 to $90 per kilogram.

However, even if you’re not new to 3D printing, getting a high-quality 3D print isn’t easy. The vast majority of these printed products require long post-processing times to be completed. It is worth mentioning that this type of material is almost unsuitable for 3D printing complex 3D models.

II. Thermoset material: resin

In our opinion, resin is just about the best material for 3D printing. It can be adapted to any complex project model and can provide you with the highest quality 3D printing. On the other hand, resin materials can become quite expensive due to the specific nature of the material. The approximate price for standard resin is around $50 per liter, and some resin materials can cost up to around $300 per liter. Fortunately, if you need 3D printing services, Ruitai can give you certain preferential prices in this regard.

5. Considering Post-Processing Costs

After 3D printing, the resulting print needs to be cured, cleaned, and polished before it can be used. That is, do 3D printing service companies care about the quality of their products. Post-processing is an important step in 3D printing, as it enhances the quality and functionality of printed parts. Suppliers factor in post-processing costs when calculating the overall cost of a 3D printing job. Labor-intensive tasks such as support removal or excess powder removal contribute to post-processing costs. Suppliers may apply a markup percentage or a fixed rate for each post-processing option, typically around 10% of the 3D printing cost.

6. Getting a 3D Printing Quote

To quickly estimate the cost of your parts or designs, it’s beneficial to establish a base rate with your supplier. This allows you to cost out various options without waiting for an official quote. It’s important to note that the information provided in this article serves as a general guide, and actual costs may vary depending on specific circumstances.


Understanding how suppliers calculate the cost of 3D-printed parts is crucial for budgeting and planning your manufacturing projects. Whether it’s based on bounding box volume, weight, or hourly rates, the cost estimation methods employed by suppliers take into account various factors specific to each project. By considering post-processing costs and establishing a base rate with your supplier, you can better estimate the overall cost of your 3D printing jobs and make informed decisions.

Ready to explore the cost of your next 3D printing project? Feel free to contact us.