3D Printing vs. Purchasing – A Cost-Comparison

 In 30 days of education

Interested in 3D printing, but not convinced it’s the right decision for your school? Well, we’ve provided a breakdown of how much it costs to print things rather purchase comparable items.

Let’s start with a breakdown of 3D printing costs:

The 3D Printer – By far the largest up-front expense, 3D printers currently compatible with our system cost between $269.00 and $9309.37. That’s quite the range! See our earlier post on Choosing the Right 3D Printer to determine what’s best for your school. We do, however, suggest getting a printer at the $800.00 range or higher if possible to have a good build volume, quality product, and reliable brand. As a sample, we’ll suggest the Dremel Idea Builder 3D20, which is currently available for $750.

Filament – This will depend on your particular printer. Some printers require you to use their proprietary filament while others are open designs which allow for any filament to be used. You will save money in the long run if you use non-proprietary filament. A spool of generic filament can be purchased as low as $30.00/1 Kg spool.

Accessing Models – The cost for this will depend on the resources you have available. If you or one of the teachers at your school has experience 3D modeling or is comfortable teaching students to create their own designs, you may be able to create your own 3D models. This will take time and you’ll only get the quality of models as you have quality of designers. Another way to access models is to download free ones from one of the various sites available online. See our blog post on that topic here. But the easiest way to access quality models that are vetted, tested, and standards-aligned is to use our system. The cost of this will depend on the model you purchase. If you have multiple printers or users, we suggest our Enterprise Subscription, which is completely unlimited access to everything in our website for a year. If you’ll be printing a lot, this is the way to go. If you only have one printer or plan to use it sparingly, look at our Consumer Subscriptions.

For the sake of our example, we’ll demonstrate with our largest consumer subscription, the Premium Teacher Subscription, which allows for up to 28 kits to be printed/month. As of the publishing of this article, this subscription costs $1500.00/year. If you purchase only standard kits without curriculum it comes to $4.46/kit. Figure on purchasing some kits with curriculum, some without, and premier kits as well as standard. We’ve provided a sample table with a few of our kits to showcase how you can save by 3D printing them rather than purchasing comparable products.

MyStemKits.com Comparable Product Difference
Hominid Species and Tools Kit

Kit cost* – $13.38
Filament cost** – $10.00
Hominid Skull Set of Six

MyStemKits (MSK) includes 7 species, all males, all with jaws, and four tool replicas. Printing cost based on 1/3 scale replicas, but MSK program allows interactive scaling.
MSK includes curriculum!
Total cost***- $23.38
Purchase costǂ – $1435.00
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 2% of the comparable product.
New York Balance Kit

Kit cost – $13.38
Filament cost – $1.75
New York Demonstration Balance
MSK can address proportional reasoning as well as simple machines and force.
MSK includes curriculum!
Total Cost – $15.13
Purchase cost – $61.40
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 25% of the comparable product.
Wide Meter Stick Ramp Kit

Kit cost – $13.38
Filament cost – $10.00
PAStracks & Curved PAStrack

MSK has pre-designated distances along the length of the track and includes adjustable ramp feature with multiple angle transitions for a smooth transition along the ground without needing to purchase a second track. Price for comparison item includes two PAStracks & one Curved PAStrack to achieve the same usability.
MSK includes curriculum!
Total Cost – $23.38
Purchase cost – $237.00
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 10% of the comparable product.

Kit cost – $13.38
Filament cost – $11.00
DNA 3D Activity Model
MSK can create RNA as well as DNA, and the snap-together pieces allow for explorations of replication, transcription, and mRNA transformation. MSK also includes pieces for protein synthesis and graphic indications of the molecular structure of each component.
MSK includes 8 unique pieces of curriculum!
Total Cost – $24.38
Purchase cost – $81.35
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 30% of the comparable product.
Capillary Action Kit

Kit cost – $4.46
Filament cost – $0.75

Capillary Equilibrium Tube

MSK designed for use at each student’s station rather than as a demonstration piece. Tubes must be placed in a liquid rather than have it poured into the device.


Total Cost – $5.21
Purchase cost – $53.20
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 10% of the comparable product.
Sliced Geometric Primitives: Cones Kit

Kit cost – $8.92
Filament cost – $6.00

Dissectible Wood Cone

MSK includes every possible type of conic section, including triangles and a complete rather than partial hyperbola.
Total Cost – $14.92
Purchase cost – $94.95
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 3% of the comparable product.
Rocket Kit

Kit cost – $8.92
Filament cost – $3.00
Air-Powered Projectile Classroom Set

MSK utilizes launcher adaptable to every possible launch angle and adjustable rocket bodies to create more variables, if desired. Also includes two different rocket designs, rather than one.


Total Cost – $11.92
Purchase cost – $575.00
MyStemKits.com product costs approximately 2% of the comparable product.

* based on Premium Teacher Subscription at yearly rate as of Nov. 22, 2016.
** approximate – based on filament cost of $0.06/g.
*** after printer price
ǂ before taxes, shipping, etc.
As you can see, 3D printing can save huge amounts of money over time, and it won’t be long before you’ve paid for the machine in savings. A single print of our Hominid Species and Tools Kit costs over $1400.00 less than purchasing a comparable set. And even then, our kit has been optimized for a K-12 learning environment and comes with standards-aligned curriculum. So you’re not only saving money, you’re also supplementing your hands-on learning tools with vetted curriculum. You can download a PDF outlining the print costs vs. purchasing costs for these kits as well as providing complete product descriptions here. (This document doesn’t not highlight kit cost, since that is based upon your choice of subscription model.)

And this is not to mention that you can gain access to kits that are otherwise unavailable on the market. As two examples, our Cell Membrane Kit uses the unique capabilities of 3D printing to create a self-orienting phospholipid bi-layer that students can actually interact with and our Darwin’s Finches Kit offers students access to specimens they would otherwise be unable to access.

So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

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