Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Todd Grimm's June 2010 3D Printer Benchmark Report - Part II: Cost

A few weeks back I posted a blog about Todd Grimm's 3D printer benchmark report. One topic the study covers is cost. It includes the cost of the prototype, cost of acquisition, and cost of operation. I like this topic because there are many variables that impact cost and I assume people place more or less importance on some of these variables. For instance, when considering a 3D printer do you first consider cost per cubic inch or are you more interested in the purchase price of the equipment? Logic says that a savvy buyer will consider the total cost of ownership which includes all costs over the useful life of the printer. Is that really the most important decision when considering cost?

This is an important topic from an R&D perspective because we made design decisions every day that impact these cost variables. Keeping total cost of ownership the same, let's assume that we could decrease the cost per cubic inch of material used to create a model simply by increasing the cost of manufacturing a printer. The total cost of ownership might stay the same but the cost distribution is different. Here's another example. Assume the cost per cubic inch of material used for a prototype can be cut in half simply by increasing the time it takes to produce the prototype by slowing down the printer. Is that a trade-off you would make? Following this a bit further, what cost would you place on the time it takes to print your part if it is entirely hands-off.

In the real world you can't simply add cost in one area to lower cost in another. But you can influence them in one direction or another. So, considering all costs associated with 3DP, which ones are more important to you? If you produce models every day you may be more concerned with the consumable material cost. If you are an infrequent user you might be most concerned with the price of the 3D printer. But, I'm interested in hearing from you and knowing what you consider important.

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