How much electricity a 3D printer uses primarily depends on its size, capacity, and temperature of its printing bed and hot end (nozzle). An average 3D printer with a nozzle temperature of around 205-210 degrees centigrade and the heated bed at 90 degrees centigrade will use up to 300 watts. In terms of electricity, if you use this 300-watt 3D machine for a 5-hour printing session, you would use 1.5kWh. In terms of electricity cost, it would cost you 19.78 cents (based on the latest average electricity rate for residential consumers in the US). That’s pretty low cost!
If you want to know more about the electricity usage of 3D printers and how to manage it efficiently, keep reading this article. Here, we will break down all the power consumption details of a 3D printer for you.
How Much Electricity Does A 3D Printer Use:
Be Mindful of the Operating Cost
In the last couple of years, the prices of 3D printers have significantly gone down, making them relatively affordable for hobbyists and small businesses. However, the operating cost of using a 3D printer is something that still concerns many. Apart from expensive printing filaments, the power cost of running a 3D printer also accounts for a significant outlay. Therefore, every new user should know how much electricity does a 3D printer use, ways to find it, and how one can improve the power efficiency of a 3D printer.
Take a Look at the Specs and Calculate
As mentioned earlier, the electricity use of a 3D printer depends on a host of factors. If you want to find out how much electricity your 3D printer consumes, first find out its wattage. For that, you need to look at its spec sheet or the user manual. Find out its voltage and current numbers and multiply them to get the wattage.
Suppose your 3D printer operates at 12V and 30A, its maximum wattage rating would be 360W (12×30). A printer doesn’t run at its maximum wattage rating throughout a printing session. Nonetheless, this number can let you know the maximum electricity that your printer can use. Moreover, you can also calculate the maximum cost of operating a 3D printer based on its power usage.
Let’s find out the electricity use and pertaining cost for the above example. After finding out the wattage of a printer, you need to convert it into kWh to determine its electricity usage. First, divide the wattage figure by 1000. This will give you the kW figure. In this example, we would get 0.36kW. For kWh (kilowatt-hour), you need to multiply the kW figure by the number of hours you use the printer. For instance, if you are running this 360-watt printer for a 10-hour printing session, it would consume 3.6kWh of electricity.
Look at the electricity tariff of your state to determine the operating power cost of a 3D printer. For the national average of 13.19 cents per kWh (latest as of February 2021), your printer will cost 47.48 cents for a 10-hour printing session. Since we have used the maximum wattage rating to calculate kWh, this number also shows the maximum electricity cost.
Use an Electricity Usage Monitor
If you are willing to spend some money on an additional gadget, bring an electricity usage monitor to find the real-time electricity consumption of your 3D printer. This remote-size device makes an interface between the power socket and the 3D printer and calculates the voltage, current, and kilowatt-hour rating of the printer in real-time.
By using an electricity usage monitor during different printing sessions, you can eventually find out the average power cost of the printing machine.
Electricity Consumption Comparison: A Small and a Large 3D Printer
The electricity consumption of a 3D printer is not a constant value. It varies based on many factors. Therefore, every printer model will have different electricity consumption in different operational settings. Here, we will compare two 3D printer models, one small and one large, to give you an insight into how the size of a printer affects its electricity consumption.
Monoprice Mini Delta is a lightweight (over 10 pounds) small 3D printer, primarily designed for budding 3D printing enthusiasts. It features a small printing bed that is perfect for making models that users attempt in the learning phase. Its operating data suggests that the Monoprice Mini Delta printer uses 45 watts during the preheating phase and around 60 watts during the printing.
On the other hand, Flashforge Creator Pro is a high-end professional-grade 3D printer with a sturdy frame, integrated enclosure, and a large printing bed. It uses over 300 watts in the preheating phase and around 250 watts during printing. The lower heat loss due to enclosure plays a key role in keeping its printing wattage value low.
The above comparison shows that you can’t generalize the electricity use of 3D printers because one model might consume five times more power than the other model based on its size and construction.
6 Things that Affect the Power/Electricity Rating of a 3D Printer
The answer to the question “How much electricity does a 3D printer use?” is determined by the operating nature and conditions of its different components. Here, we will list down the six things that collectively decide the power/electricity rating of a 3D printer.
1. The Hot End/Nozzle Temperatures
A 3D printer consumes most of its power at its nozzle. This is the part of the printer that melts the printing filament and manages it with a streamlined flow. The temperature at the hot end plays an integral role in deciding the total power consumption of the printer. The higher the hot end temperature, the higher will be the power consumption. People working with printing filaments that have a high melting point (ABS, nylon, etc) will have to deal with a higher power cost.
2. The Heated Bed/Printing Bed Temperatures
The temperature of the printing bed plays an important role in determining the overall quality of the printed product. The printing bed doesn’t heat up as much as the hot end. Nonetheless, it has to maintain a high temperature in proportion with the nozzle to prevent warping and ensure good adhesion. Working with nylon or ABS filaments means you need to set the printing bed at a higher temperature that also means higher power consumption.
3. The Printing Bed Size
The size of the printing bed also determines the electricity usage of a 3D printer. The power consumption of a printer is in direct proportion to the size of its printing bed. Printers with a large 3D printing bed need more power/electricity to increase the temperature of the large printing platform.
4. Stepper Motors
3D printers have multiple components that need controlled movement during the printing session. These precise movements become possible with the use of stepper motors. Usually, a basic 3D printer contains two stepper motors. One stepper motor controls the movement of the nozzle and the other controls the movement at the extruder. Although these motors are quite small and have low power ratings, they have to continuously work for long sessions because even a small and basic 3D-printed artifact takes hours of printing. Therefore, their power consumption also matters in the overall electricity usage of a printer.
5. Control Panel/Board
The control panel is like the CPU of a 3D printer. It primarily takes care of every function that different printer component performs. The control panel of a 3D printer usually controls and regulates these actions.
- The movement of the nozzle
- The movement of the extruder gears
- The temperature of the printing bed and nozzle
Since the control panel is essentially a circuit board with small components, it doesn’t use too much power. However, its electricity use for hours-long printing sessions certainly adds up to the total power consumption of the printer.
6. General Heat Loss
A 3D printer operates at temperatures that are significantly higher than the ambient temperature. For instance, a regular 3D printing activity is carried out with the nozzle temperature set somewhere around 200 degrees centigrade and the printing bed at 70-90 degrees centigrade. This method of operation creates a high-temperature difference between the printing and the surrounding environment, where heat loss becomes inevitable.
Since the nozzle and printing bed have to maintain those high temperatures to ensure warp-free immaculate 3D modeling, they consume a lot of power and balance out that heat loss.
From the above six points, it is pretty obvious that a 3D printer primarily consumes power to heat up and maintain the temperatures of its nozzle and printing bed.
How to Reduce the Electricity Use of a 3D Printer?
These are some measures you can take to reduce the power consumption of a 3D printer.
Improve the Printing Speed/Reduce the Printing Time
This method is considered a very straightforward measure to reduce the electricity consumption of your 3D printer. When you can wrap up the printing in lesser time, your printer will run for fewer hours and, hence, will consume lesser power. You can consider various things to reduce the printing speed of the printer.
- Adjust the printing speed in the slicing software/application of your 3D printer.
- Use honeycomb-structured infill. Also, reduce the density of a regular infill while ensuring that the ratio between the wall thickness and the infill remains balanced.
- If you are doing 3D printing just for fun and don’t need professional precision, you can use a large nozzle and bigger layer height to reduce the printing time.
Use Filaments with Low Melting Points
As discussed earlier, when you use high-temperature filaments like ABS or nylon, you have to operate the nozzle and printing bed at higher temperatures with increased power consumption. If you don’t have any client requirements to meet, you can opt for PLA, a low-temperature filament. By using PLA filaments for your recreational 3D printing projects, you can lower the hot end temperature of your printer by up to 50 degrees centigrade.
This temperature drop will also decrease the power consumption of your printer. Moreover, PLA is a biodegradable material. This means PLA 3D printing doesn’t just save costs but also keeps your printing activity eco-friendly.
Use a 3D Printer Enclosure
An enclosure is the part of the most top-of-the-line high-end 3D printers. However, budget printers don’t always come with one. If you are using an economically-priced 3D machine that doesn’t feature a factory-fitted enclosure, have a DIY enclosure. You will need a couple of plastic or wooden sheets to make one.
Adding the enclosure around the printing bed allows you to maintain the homogenous temperature on and around it. This temperature homogeneity indicates lower heat losses and more efficient power consumption. An enclosure will also save your printing environment from dust. It also reduces the instances of material warping upon extrusion.
Before wrapping up the article, we would like you to know that despite taking these measures, you won’t be able to significantly cut down the power consumption.
Nonetheless, every kWh counts when it comes to the power cost. Also, reducing the power consumption of a 3D printer means slashing down its greenhouse footprint. In other words, you can make your 3D printing activity relatively sustainable by reducing its electricity consumption.
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From the above in-depth discussion, one can conclude how much electricity a 3D printer use depends on its size and the temperature settings at the printing bed and nozzle. Also, if you want to reduce the electricity usage of your printer, you should opt for printers with integrated enclosures. Picking the printing filaments with low melting points instead of high-temperature nylon or ABS filaments can also cut down the power consumption and electricity usage of a 3D printer.