A question I get asked from time to time, and occasionally ask myself, is how much power a 3D printer actually consumes. At first glance, you might think that 3D printers have a very high power consumption. To be honest, the result of my test surprised me quite a bit.
How much power does a 3D printer consume? The power consumption of a smaller 3D printer is relatively low. For the test print of a bench over approx. 1 hr. 30 min. an average of 0.12 kWh was measured. This corresponds to a cost of less than € 0.01/hour at an electricity price of € 0.0637/kWh.
I will go into the details of the test and where this result stands in comparison to other household appliances later in the article.
What is the power consumption of a 3D printer?
To get a more meaningful answer to this question, I ran the test with a newer and an older printer. I used the following printers for the test:
- a Prusa Mini (year of manufacture 2020)
- a Flashforge Dreamer (year of manufacture 2017).
|Power supply (Prusa Mini / Flashforge Dreamer)
|160 W / 350 W
|3DEE PLA V80 blue
Apart from the parameters mentioned above, I also made sure that speeds, etc. were as identical as possible. Since the Flashforge Dreamer is a printer with a case, I put the Prusa Mini in a separate case because of its open design.
I performed the measurement with a switch-meter socket of my Homematic IP Smarthome system. Unfortunately, this switch-meter socket does not provide a graphical recording based on a chart or similar, so I analyzed the values and behavior based on a screen recording from my smartphone.
|1 hr. 32 min.
|1 hr. 25 min.
|Power consumption idle
|~ 5,5 W
|<= 170 °C ~153 W
> 170 °C 120 W
|<= 240 – 250 W
|Power consumption heating nozzle
|Bed and nozzle
|<= 120 °C 285 W
> 120 °C 70 W
|5 minutes with pressure bed calibration
|4 min without pressure bed calibration
As expected, the power consumption of the newer Prusa Mini was in total below the consumption of the older Flashforge Dreamer. The Dreamer’s peak values of 285 W part were far above those of the Prusa, but this is also due to the 160 W limitation of the power supply. Interestingly, the lowest value of 55 W was also measured in the Dreamer.
It was noticeable that with the Dreamer, whenever the print bed had to be heated during printing, the measured value was approx. 285 W. If the bed did not need to be heated, the value was usually around 70 – 80 W.
In total, the measured values of the Prusa were mostly in the lower range of about 70 W, whereas the measured values of the Dreamer were relatively often in the upper range due to the regular reheating.
But whether Prusa Mini or Flashforge Dreamer, the very low total consumption of 0.11 and 0.14 kWh respectively was very surprising and far below what I would have expected.
What is the cost of power consumption of a 3D printer?
To determine the cost of the 3D printer’s power consumption, you need the consumption in kWh or the average power consumption in watts over one hour and the price/kWh.
Using these values and the formula below, the power consumption costs for printing can be calculated.
Cost = Consumption(kWh)*Price_per_kWh
Cost = (Watt/1000)*Price_per_kWh
Cost Prusa: 0.11 kWh * € 0.0637 = € 0.007 = < € 0.01
Cost Dreamer: 0.14 kWh * € 0.0637 = € 0.0089 = < € 0.01
In the specific measurement example, the cost of printing with both the Prusa Mini and the Flashforge Dreamer was less than € 0.01 each.
Do 3D printers require more electricity than other household appliances?
3D printers tend to be in the midfield in terms of peak power consumption. There are definitely devices that have a higher power consumption. Furthermore, 3D printers usually only run in idle mode directly before or after printing. When they are not needed, they are usually turned off. From this point of view, this question would have to be answered with a clear no.
|3D Printer (Prusa/Dreamer)
|3 W / 5.5 W
|120 W / 285 W
|TV 46″ LCD
|60 – 90 W
|Printer (Canon TS5150)
|10 – 25 W
|80 – 180 W
From another point of view, it is fair to say that appliances with a higher power consumption, such as the microwave or the fully automatic coffee machine, are not active for a longer period of time. Brewing a coffee normally takes about a minute. Warm up a dish in the microwave about 2-3 minutes. After that, the devices remain in standby mode or switch off completely after a certain time. 3D printers, on the other hand, run for several hours or, in some cases, even days, depending on the print job.
The bottom line is that the actual factor by which a 3D printer affects a household’s power consumption is highly dependent on the user or operator of the device.
Do old 3D printers consume more power than new ones?
In most cases, including the actual test case and the two devices compared here, the answer to this question is definitely yes. The devices and the components installed in them are constantly being developed and optimized, so this is not a big surprise.
However, this is by no means to be understood as a blanket answer. The bottom line is that it always depends on the components installed in the printer and the design of the printer. If a newer printer has a larger heated print area and does not have an enclosure, the power consumption of an old device with a small print area and enclosure can quickly be far lower. Furthermore, it can happen with newer, very cheap 3D printers that lower quality parts are used. This saving is then often reflected later by significantly higher power consumption.
Which parts of the 3D printer need power?
The nozzle, like the print bed if it can be heated, is one of the components with the highest power consumption. The nozzle is heated to over 200 °C at the start of printing, depending on the material to be printed. Thereafter, the temperature is continuously monitored and maintained at this temperature by regular reheating.
If the printer has a heatable print bed and this is also heated for the current print job, then together with the nozzle it is one of the two components that are heated during the entire printing process and accordingly ensure increased power consumption. As described above in the measurement description, a peak in power consumption of ~285 watts was observed repeatedly during intermediate heating of the Flashforge Dreamer’s print bed during printing.
The mainboard is the brain of the printer, so to speak. This is where everything comes together. It interprets the instructions of the GCode files and uses them to control the nozzle and print bed temperature and drives the motors to move the print head or print bed. However, these are only some of the things the motherboard is ultimately responsible for.
Although the mainboard is basically the most important component due to the large number of tasks, it requires relatively little power compared to the nozzle and print bed heater.
The display is basically only for convenience. It allows the user to control the device directly. Nevertheless, many 3D printers can be operated without a display. However, this would need to be connected either to a PC or laptop, or to a print server such as OctoPi on a Raspberry.
Whether monochrome or color, the display, which is directly connected to the motherboard, requires very little power.
A 3D printer has at least four stepper motors. Three of them move the printhead and the print bed along the X, Y and Z axes. At least one motor is responsible for the material feed. Depending on the number of extruders, basically per die, a separate motor is needed.
Although the motors do the essential work during printing, they only require a few watts in total.
Many, especially closed, 3D printers are equipped with LED strips. Partly with RGB LED strips, partly only white. The LED strips require only a few watts, but can often be switched off.
How to reduce the power consumption of the 3D printer?
Use a housing
On the one hand, a case has the advantage of making the printer a bit quieter, and on the other hand, it lowers the necessary heating cycles due to the heat inside.
The interior of a closed 3D printer heats up due to the waste heat from the nozzle and the print bed. Due to the heat inside, these two components cool down more slowly and thus do not need to be reheated as frequently.
Prints with lower temperature
Try to do your print jobs in the lower temperature range of the material you are using. This means that both the nozzle and the print bed do not have to be heated as often or for as long. On the other hand, it will increase the printing time, because you should print slower with lower temperature.
To find the sweet spot between temperature and print speed, you should print a temperature tower for each new filament that you have not used before.
Optimize the printing time
The longer the printing time, the higher the power consumption, the higher the power costs. Basically, quite a simple matter. Therefore, try to keep the printing time as short as possible. The printing time can be optimized by
- Correct design or adherence to design rules for 3D printing,
- Optimize slicer settings (filling level, layer height, etc.) and
- print with a suitable nozzle size.
Do without a display
As already mentioned above, the display only offers comfort functions in most cases. You can also operate many 3D printers without a display via a PC/laptop or a Raspberry Pi.
If you do that and rarely or even never use the display, you can also disassemble it. However, the savings will still be rather limited.
Turn off the lighting
The printer’s interior lighting is quite useful during calibration and while printing the first layers. After that, rather no more or only very sporadically. So if you have the option, turn off the interior lights while ducking. As in the case of the display, you won’t save a huge amount of power, but even several small savings together and over a longer period of time can achieve quite significant savings.