Whether for work or as a hobby, there is no denying that 3D printing is pretty fun. However, this fun hobby can quickly turn expensive. Several things make having and using a 3D printer out of the reach of the average person. Some of these include plastic filaments and other parts.
Apart from that, recurring cost like the cost of electricity can be another factor that contributes to the total expense of running a 3D printer.
Whether professionally or as a hobby, you must keep an eye on the amount of electricity that your 3D printer uses. In this post, we will see how much electricity the 3D printer uses and what you can do to reduce the cost.
Know the Printer’s Power Rating
The first step to knowing just how much the 3D printer uses is to determine the power rating of the device. This is quite easy to know. For example, if your printer is rated 30 A 12V, it will draw up to 360 Watts of power. How do we know that?
To find out the amount of electricity it draws, simply multiply the Current by the Voltage. In the example above, the 360 W rating is quite high. However, it should be noted that this is the maximum amount of power that the printer can draw.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the printer is, the more the propensity to consume greater power.
Factors that Affect the Amount of Electricity Used
Several factors can affect just how much electricity is used by your printer. In this section, we will consider some of the common factors.
1. Heating at Hot End
Most 3D printers generate a fair amount of heat, and this can cause an increase in the amount of power used. The hot-end of the printer drains plenty of power, especially the nozzle area that will melt the filament.
The amount of heat affects the amount of power that is drawn. The power that is consumed depends on the temperature that you set the hot-end to. The temperature that you set it to is also affected by the type of filament that you are melting.
If the filament requires plenty of heat to be melted, for example, ABS filament, then you should be prepared to use a lot of power just on melting the filament at the hot-end.
2. Heating of Print Bed
Apart from the hot –end, another factor that certainly affects the amount of power that the 3D printer draws is the temperature of the print bed. Setting the bed to the right temperature is quite important because of your work. At the right temperature, you would get the right adhesion and will jettison any form of warping as you create your model.
When assessing the amount of power consumed by this print bed, you have to consider two important factors. First, you must consider the temperature setting. Secondly, you must consider, as with the hot-end, the type of filament that you are working with.
The bed size determines so much about the printer, including how large the models printed would be. The bigger the bed is, the more power it will need to continue working at a set temperature.
3. Heat Losses
When heated, some parts of a 3D printer can get as hot as 200 degrees Celsius! Aside from reaching such temperatures, these parts must also remain at these temperatures. With this design, there would definitely be some heat loss. These losses must be compensated for by the heating element of the printer.
If your 3D printer can go pretty high in terms of temperature, then you must be ready to use more power. A hotter nozzle and the print bed will result in greater heat losses, which in turn will increase the amount of electricity used.
4. Stepper Motors
The stepper motors are an essential part of a 3D printer, and there are two main types. The first type controls the extruder gears while the other controls the nozzle movement.
On their own, these stepper motors do not use plenty of power as they are often small in size. However, the power drain occurs when they are used for a long time. If the steppers are in use for several hours, then you will see an increase in power consumption.
5. Control Board
Without the control board, the printer cannot function. It is to the printer what the CPU is to the computer. As the brain of the printer, this board is composed of several electrical components.
These control everything about the printer, ranging from the temperature to nozzle location, running of the extruders, and more. Despite all of these, the control board doesn’t use plenty of power.
From the foregoing, it is quite clear that although several parts contribute to use power, the heating of the nozzle and bed uses the most amount of power. Knowing this gives an idea of how to reduce the electricity costs of the 3D printer.
There are hundreds of models of 3D printer on the market today, and this diversity results in having different energy costs.
For example, there are small and cheap models that are used by beginners. These usually have a small heating bed and fewer stepper motors. In heating up, these printers might use a very little amount of electricity, and even when the printing begins, the amount of power consumed is also quite small.
On the other hand, there are professional 3D printers that come with a larger print bed and use up more power. Preheating alone can use up a staggering amount of electricity and printing also takes a toll.
Before choosing a 3D printer, consider carefully the specifications to see any indication to the amount of electricity that the model would consume.
How to Reduce Electricity Consumption
Now that we know the things that use up the most power in a 3D printer, let’s now consider how to reduce the cost of electricity.
1. Enclose the Printer
Heat losses contribute to the amount of power drawn by the 3D printer. Some of the best models on the market in terms of power efficiency come with an enclosure. Enclosing the heat bed can drastically reduce the amount of heat loss and the amount of electricity used by the 3D printer.
If you are using filaments that require plenty of heat, having an enclosed printer becomes even more important to reducing power consumption.
What if your model does not come with an enclosure? Well, do not fret as you can create one yourself. Use plastic sheets and wooden frames to create an enclosure and enjoy the reduced energy costs that this would bring.
2. Reduce Printing Time
The longer you print the more electricity that the printer would use – this is just common sense. The length of time certainly affects how much power the printer would consume. Therefore, if you can find a way to reduce the time it takes to print, then you certainly can reduce your energy usage and costs.
There are two main ways to do this. One is by increasing the speed of the printer while the other way is to print with thicker layers.
Check out factors like the filament type, quality level, temperature, and others before implementing either of the two methods of reducing print time.
3. Use High-temperature filaments sparingly
Remember that the higher the temperature needed to melt the filament, the more power you would consume. Therefore, it would be prudent to look for cheaper alternatives to high-temperature filaments.
To that end, check out different types of materials to find those that do not take a lot of temperature to work. Undoubtedly, high heat filaments often give the best performance, however, consistently using them will increase your energy costs.
PLA is an example of a quality filament that doesn’t require plenty of heat. It will not only reduce your energy costs but will also be good for the environment since it is biodegradable.
Other tips that can help include:
- Using a smaller 3D printer
- Print in a warm environment
- Change to a bigger nozzle to save printing time.
Measuring Actual Electricity Use
Since there are so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to find a definite way to get the actual electricity consumption of your 3D printer. Rather than take a guess, you can use a power meter with a power usage monitor to know the exact amount of electricity that your 3D printer consumes.
Some of these power meters even give you the monetary costs of using the 3D printer.
As a responsible consumer, it is not out of place to wonder how much electricity it costs to run a 3D printer. With 3D printing becoming more common and accessible to people, now is the time to note how much energy it costs to run and how much power these devices would consume.
Thankfully, many of the high-quality models on the market are relatively efficient, with several being as efficient as or even better than computers and televisions.