One of the selling points of domestic 3D sla printing was the potential to save me a lot of money on model kits. So nearly a year on, how has this worked out for me?
Well, lets first lay some ground rules:
- I may have lost count of everything that I have printed thus far, but I’m 90% certain I’ve accounted for everything.
- I’m not taking into account supplies like the FEP films, filters, or other ‘minor’ ancillaries, including electric.
- No sales have been made – I’ve not yet delved into the weeds of legalese.
- The time taken to setting up sla prints isn’t factored in.
One of my aims with 3D printing was to print successful models that I’m happy with, and at a volume which the value exceeds not only the initial startup and running costs but also the valued amount of the test and failed prints.
The first thing I did was to catalog everything; the setup and models printed. After that, I researched what each item’s equivalent or approximate value would be would from a commercial retailer. Some relatively simple maths later and you have the below spreadsheet…
So what does it tell me? I’m a looong way off hitting even!
To give some context to how much money I’m saving, I worked out the material cost of each model I was printing so I could compare it to a commercially bought model. With about 4 pence per 1ml of resin (based on £20 for 500ml of resin), a Challenger 1 tank, with an estimated volume of 60ml, would cost about £2.40. Far cheaper than the £7 from the shop… in theory…. if everything goes well… and the planets align…
So let’s look at a case study.
First, an assumption
- All prints are successful first time
Let’s say you want to create a British list for Team Yankee of about 150 points. One such list might have 7 Challenger 1s, 5 Warrior IFVs, 4 Abbot SPA, 8 Scimitar Light Tanks, 2 Spartan APCs, 1 FV432 FOO, 3 Chieftan Marksman SPAAG, 4 Rapier SAM systems, and 4 Lynx HELARMs. I won’t count the infantry in this list as I’ve yet to find any for 15mm Brits to print. All told, this force would cost you £297 in vehicles from the retailer, before postage.
Obviously, this force alone wouldn’t justify the expense of a domestic printer, but it’s getting close. The approximate total amount of resin needed for this force is 1,215ml, which would be about £48.60. For quick maths, that’s a saving of about £250!… But the printer setup was £550 and we haven’t accounted for purchasing resources or failed and test prints!
Hopefully, this one brief case study should make it clear that buying a 3D printer for saving money is definitely a long-term investment. Printing 3 such armies with minimal wastage should get you past breaking even. There’s also the economics of time with 3D printing; it is simply far quicker purchasing models than printing them.
However, with practice and patience, and a fair bit of time, domestic 3D printing is a viable method to save you a lot of money, even more so if you have a plan. And that plan doesn’t just have to be models for an army. Argueably, FDM 3D printers for terrain would probably be the best money saver, again, if you have a plan. Also, printing armies and terrain aside, the one thing 3D printing is great for is special prints… 28mm battlemechs anyone?