When it comes to choosing whether to 3D print with resin or filament, there are a few factors at play. They are both very different technologies that both offer a different set of pros and cons to 3D printing.
I won’t cover the difference between resin vs filament too much here, as I intend to focus mainly on the cost difference. If you want to know more about the two technologies, and see a true comparison, read our Ultimate Resin vs Filament 3D Printing Guide.
The Cost of Resin vs Filament 3D Printers
In years past, resin 3D printers have always cost more to purchase than a typical filament printer. However recently this price gap has started to reduce.
As we’ve shown in our Best Budget 3D Printer guide, you can now pick up a budget SLA 3D printer for around the same price as a filament printer. This means the cost for entry to both resin and filament 3D printers is now rather close.
Yes, with a resin printer you do need to invest in some extra equipment, such as a curing station, be it a DIY curing station or a professional one such as the AnyCubic Wash & Cure.
This does increase the entry price somewhat with resin printers. However, when comparing on a strictly printer vs printer basis, resin and filament printers are becoming increasingly close in price.
The Cost of Resin vs Filament
Just like the cost of resin vs filament 3D printers, the cost of the actual print material does differ. Traditionally resin has been more expensive to buy than filament.
How much does it cost to run a filament 3D printer
The main cost of running a filament 3D printer is the filament itself. You will require multiple spools of filament over time, in both different colours if you fancy mixing up your print colours and/or material.
1kg spool of 1.75mm PLA or ABS filament will roughly set you back £15/$20.
Figuring out how much you can print with 1kg of filament is dependant on a few factors such as infill and print size etc. However, you will get pretty much 1kg worth of figures, minatures or 3D prints out of 1kg of filament, with only a small amount of filament loss.
Depending on the amount of infill and size, you could print around 300-400 chess piece or minature board game sized 3D prints with 1kg of filament.
How much does it cost to run a resin 3D printer
In comparison, resin is more expensive than filament to purchase.
1 litre of 3D printer resin will cost you from around £35/$45.
With SLA printing, there is a higher amount of wastage compared to filament printing. You generally require slightly more supports with resin printing, and you also 3D print without an infill.
Generally, you wouldn’t use 1.5-2x more resin when directly compared to filament, however, it would almost certainly be more.
Taking into the account the cost of 1 litre of resin compared to 1kg of filament, plus the extra wastage involved with resin printing, you will be spending upwards of double the amount of money on resin prints compared to filament prints.
Running Costs Compared
Moving forward, it isn’t only the cost of materials that you need to consider, it is also the upkeep of your 3D printer itself that you need to take into account.
Filament 3D Printer Running Costs
With a filament 3D printer, you only really need to consider the upkeep of the nozzle itself. You need to ensure it’s clean on a regular basis, but only ever need to replace the nozzle occassionally.
So how often should you change your 3D printer nozzle? Well, in general and with regular usage, you should look to replace the nozzle around every 4-6 months or 2 or 3 times per year. You will notice that it needs changing when you start to lose quality in your 3D prints.
Luckily, 3D printer nozzles aren’t too pricey. Generally you can find a good nozzle set for under £15/$20. You should also look to invest in a nozzle removal kit which will set you back around £15/$20.
So in total, you should be looking at spending around £30/$50 per year on maintaining your filament 3D printer.
Resin 3D Printer Running Costs
In comparison, resin 3D printers also have some areas of maintenance which require regular replacement. This mainly comes in the form of the resin tank.
As you print with a resin 3D printer, the bottom of the tank will fuse slightly with your model, which over time degrades the bottom of your tank. This will eventually cause for inaccurate 3D prints as the laser requires a perfectly flat surface.
The easy option is to replace your tank. Formlabs, the manufacturer of 3D printers such as the Formlabs 3, recommend replacing your tank after around 1000-3000 printed layers or every 3 months or so of regular use.
A resin tank can be purchased from around £30/$40 depending on the model of your printer. But prices do increase for higher end 3D printers.
Alternatively you can look to refresh your resin tank with a recoat. Companies such as DruckWege offer recoating products from around £25/$30.
So in the grand scheme of things, say your replacing your resin tank 3-4 times per year, your looking at around £100/$140 per year in maintenance costs.
When you break down all of the costs involved with 3D printing, from the printers themselves, to the print materials and the upkeep. There is no escaping the fact that resin 3D printing is more expensive than filament printing.
While the 3D printers themselves are getting closer in terms of cost, resin printers do still generally cost more than their filament counterparts. You also have to account for the cost of more equipment to successfully and safely run a resin printer. You’ll need someway of curing your 3D prints, which involves extra alcohol to do. And then there is the cost of gloves to be able to safely handle resin prints.
I terms of the ongoing maintenance cost, again resin 3D printers do come out more expensive over time.
Finally, the actual cost of materials is vastly higher with SLA 3D printers, meaning your cost per print can be over double with a resin printer.
Is resin more expensive than filament?
While resin prints are more detailed in general, the cost of purchasing resin compared to filament is higher, and can often be over double the cost of filament per print.
Is a resin 3D printer worth it?
This depends heavily on how much you value the quality of your 3D prints. While resin 3D printing is overall more expensive than filament 3D printing, the higher print quality can make up for this.
Which is better, FDM or SLA?
Both FDM and SLA 3D printing have their pros and cons. SLA printing can produce higher quality 3D prints, but at a higher price per 3D print.