How much electricity does a 3D printer use?

3D printers need 50 watts to 1900 watts, generally depend on its size to work between 30° to 300°C. 3D printer can use electricity for operating as per the requirement of manufacturing design, complex shape, the material being used for casting, filament energy consumption to heat the material, threshold temperature for filament and print bed, etc. It also depends upon the type of methods used to heat filaments, material for fusing like Stereolithographic (SLA), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Digital Light Process (DLP), EBM, MJF, etc.

3D printing is the process of manufacturing 3-D solid objects from digital files using a three-dimensional 3D printer. It is rapidly gaining popularity in all fields especially in manufacturing and artificial intelligence due to its versatility. You can make any type of shape of 3D objects like eccentric, oval, concentric & irregular simple shapes, etc, as you desire, with the only restrictions being your printer size and your level of imagination. 

3D printers are one of the most interesting innovation technologies for manufacturing rapid prototypes in today’s era. It is interesting to study the wide applications of 3D printers. Nowadays its use has been increasing drastically and its dependence on electricity is inevitable with increasing demand.

Power energy consumption is very important for 3D printers. Let us see how much electricity is needed by a 3D printer.

Why electricity is essential for 3D printers

3D printers consist of various parts like filament, print bed, print material, integrated circuit, etc which depend on electricity for their functionality. The filament used for heating material to execute print operation requires a large amount of electricity to maintain the temperature as per requirement. Print bed size also influences the consumption of electricity. Specific parts need different amounts of electricity to function and process the system.

Energy Consumption by 3D printers

Energy consumed by a 3D printer variable with its application and functioning. Generally, it can be consuming 50 watts to 1900 watts of electricity per hour (as per time required for the process, temperature maintenance, and type of method used). Different materials like PLA Metal, Polycarbonate, TPE, TPU, Nylon, ABS, ASA, etc. take different amounts of energy for heating.

Some of the main parts of 3D printer and their energy consumption:-

  • 3D Printer Frame:  Holds the machine together. It required no electricity consumption
  • 3D Printer Head movement mechanics: It needs the power supply for movement relative to the print bed in all directions. It can consume about 20 to 30 % of the total power supply
  • Printer Head: Nozzle that deposits filament or applies colors and liquid binder required power for heating operation at variant temperature. It can consume 50 to 65 watts of power in different types of 3 D printers.
  • Build Platform or Build Bed: The part of the printer where the object is printed. It requires no power supply unless it is facilitated with a movement mechanism.
  • Stepper Motors (at least 4): Power supply used for precise positioning and speed control of printing operation. It consumes 35 to 40 % of the total power supply.
  • Printer Electronics: It required a large part of the total supply of electricity to drive motors, heat the extruder, and much more. It needed about half the total power supply.
  • Printer Firmware: It is the permanent software used to control every aspect of a 3D printer that requires a power supply to function.
  • Printer Software: It is not a part of the actual printer hardware but is still needed for the printing process and input data.
Image Source: Wikimedia

What affects power consumption by 3D printers?

Almost all parts of 3D printers use electric power, but other factors like heat losses, time for heating, the layer thickness of the material, the efficiency of stepper motors, nozzle heating, casting material, etc. also need to be examined closely to avoid power losses. Let’s discuss some of the points in detail:-

  • The heating efficiency of a print bed or hot end, especially the nozzle should be good. Its heating conductivity should be good in order to constantly keep the temperature hot as much as possible. If you use Nylon, ABA, or ABS, it requires high temperature and results in high power consumption. 
  • The heating of the print bed depends on two factors: the setting of temperature and the size of the bed. Higher temperature requires more power supply. The larger the print bed consumes more electricity. Smaller the size of the print bed requires less electricity. 
  • The layer thickness of the material should be large so that print takes place in a short period & consumes overall less power.
  • Type of Material being used for print bed, filament, nozzle, printer body material and ambient temperature surrounding area can influence the heat losses. With more heat transfer in the surrounding, more heat losses take place, thus resulting in more power supply consumptions.
  • The efficiency of stepper motors should be good and sustain for long periodic working hours. Otherwise, they consume more electricity and require frequent maintenance and replacement.
  • Components being used in the control board should have less power consumption. The Control board should be small and less complex.

How Do I Lower Electricity Costs With a 3D Printer?

  • 3D printers should be smaller in size.
  • A 3D printer should have an enclosure made up of good material and designed such that the thermal losses and other external effects can be minimized.
  • High-temperature filaments and nozzles should be used only if necessary and requirements of casting material.
  • Shorten the printing time period by using large layer filament material, quick 3D printing setting, small print bed whenever required.
  • It is important that your 3D printer should be working in a warm environment and the ambient temperature should not be very less than the operating temperature of the 3D printer.

Safety precautions while using electricity for 3 D printer

  • It should never leave unattended while in operation. It can cause a fire hazard.
  • It should be kept away from children.
  • Its door or shield should never be opened while in operation.
  • It should take care of proper switch circuit use for power supply.
  • Since it needs a continuous power supply, its electric appliance should be periodically checked and repaired.
  • Voltage fluctuation should be avoided. Optimum load should be maintained.
  • Proper cleanliness should be maintained after every operation.

Nowadays more efficient, large, and more complex embedded 3D printers come on the market which can use either direct power supply or storage power supply. Numbers of projects going on to implement 3D printers to cast and design more larger and complex parts in less time. In the future, spacecraft building, space exploration, infrastructure, artificial intelligence, etc. can use 3D printers.

Professor Atom

View posts by Professor Atom
Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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