How Much Does a 3D Printer Cost? Still Expensive, But Becoming More Affordable


With all the attention that the issue of 3D printed guns has been getting lately, it makes sense to consider how much 3D printing technology actually costs.

According to Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, an American information technology research and advisory firm, "3D printing is a technology accelerating to mainstream adoption." And he goes on to argue that it is already "affordable to most enterprises."

Affordable to enterprises, however, does not mean affordable to everyone. Yet while 3D printing technology is currently out of the price range of most people, this will quickly change as the technology becomes more widespread. And it already is becoming more affordable and accessible.

In an article for Tech Crunch in March, Matt Burns argued that the "current cost of 3D printing relegates it to the well-off hobbyist or successful small businesses." According to the report by Gartner, enterprise-class 3D printers will cost less than $2,000 by 2016. For enterprise printers, Burns says, "read: 3D printers not made by hipsters in Brooklyn." 

But while 3D printers are still out of reach for most people, this is changing. Jonathan Fincher of Gizmag writes that until now 3D printers were limited to purchase through "specialist stores and online shops" and that you couldn't just "waltz into your local office supply store and pick one up along with a pack of manila folders and paperclips." But soon you will be able to. Office supply chain Staples recently announced that it is now selling 3D printers, specifically the Cube 3D Printer from 3D Systems (see below), through its website and that they will be available in selected stores by the end of the month. The Cube 3D "comes fully assembled right out of the box, takes up relatively little space on a desktop, and installs easily on Mac and Windows computers. It's capable of printing items up to 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches (14 x 14 x 14 cm) in 16 different colors" and currently costs $1299.99.

Image credit: 3D Systems

Other options at the cheap end of the scale for 3D printers include the Afinia 3D Printer H-Series which is available on Amazon and costs $1,599.00.

Image credit: Afinia

Both Staples and Amazon also sell the accompanying accessories. 

Obviously even printers costing $1,299.99 or $1599, let alone closer to $2000, are out of the price range of most people and will likely continue to be so for a while. Having said that, however, they are here to stay and they will continue to get cheaper and more accessible. And while this doesn't mean that everyone is going to, or can, rush out and buy a 3D printer and start printing guns, it pays to start thinking about how this technology might impact our society sooner rather than later. As the author and scientist Isaac Asimov famously lamented, "science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."