If you’re intrigued by the world of 3D printing and want to get started, printing something as small and simple as a phone case is an excellent place to start. For hobbyists and professionals, it’s an easy enough design, but is it worth it in terms of cost?
It costs approximately $0.58 to 3D print a phone case, provided the design is simple, and you use standard filament. However, that cost will increase should you choose a top-quality or unique filament. In addition, if you add extra material with a more elaborate design, the price will go up.
The rest of this article details how much it costs to print a phone case and explores how much the materials cost overall. Then we’ll discuss how to find designs on the internet and how the design can change the cost. So, if you’re looking to get into the world of 3D printing, and you want to sport your own print on your phone, then keep reading!
The Cost of Printing a Phone Case
It costs approximately $0.58 to print a phone case with standard 70 x 9 x 140 mm (2.8 x 0.35 x 5.5 in) measurements, assuming that 3D printing costs $0.40 an hour using filament.
However, this calculation is based only on the cost of the printing itself.
You may also need to factor in the original investment of the 3D printer ($400-$100,000) and the cost of materials (see below).
Printing a 3D phone case only takes a few hours using a simple design. However, if you want a phone case with special features, such as a unique texture or structure, printing will take longer and cost more.
The Cost of 3D Printing Materials
One of the biggest costs will be the printer if you’re new to printing. But, assuming you already have a printer, you’ll still need to buy a spool of filament, which could cost anywhere from $20 to $45 per kilo:
- PLA filament costs approximately $20 per kg (2.2 lbs)
- Resin is about $45 per kg (2.2 lbs).
There are many types of filament, and it’s almost always packaged up on a spool so it can turn and unfurl as the print goes on.
I recommend this HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament from Amazon.com. It’s affordable, non-toxic, and low-odor, plus it also doesn’t require a heated bed.
For the higher-quality filament, you can try this OVERTURE Nylon Filament from Amazon. This filament comes in black and gray and is extremely strong and heat-resistant. It also has a self-adaptive control system that makes it more accurate and consistent than other filaments.
If you’re looking for something on the higher end of the quality and price spectrum, you could try resin.
Resin comes in a dark bottle and must be stored away from UV light. However, it cures relatively quickly and has excellent fluidity to print more complicated shapes.
I like ELEGOO Water Washable 3 Printer Resin from Amazon because it comes in many different colors and is designed to reduce volume shrinkage, making the print model smoother and more precise.
Resin is a more expensive material, but it is also more durable, so it may be the best option when printing a phone case. However, you can successfully make a phone case using standard PLA filament; it just may not be as protective as one made with resin.
Additional Costs to Consider
In addition to filament and resin, there are some other costs you’ll need to take into account. As mentioned, one substantial cost is that of the printer itself.
3D printers vary widely in cost, based on size, features, quality, performance, and place of manufacture. That said, the average cost is around $400, but higher-end 3D printers can cost anywhere from $20,000-$100,000.
If you’re in the market for a 3D printer, here are a few great options:
- I like the Creality Ender 3 3D Printer from Amazon.com for an entry-level printer. Its upgraded extruder reduces plugging risk and moves noiselessly and smoothly.
- Another entry-level printer option is the Artillery Sidewinder SW-X1 V4 3D Printer from Amazon.com. This printer comes 95% assembled already, so the installation process is easy, and the printing is stable and quiet. The design is also clean and professional.
- I like the Snapmaker 2.0 A350T from Amazon.com for an enthusiast printer because you can also do laser engraving and cutting with it. It also has a modular design that you can customize for your needs and wants.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. Depending on your design, you may need a few other supplies to finish your new phone case. They might include:
- Disappearing glue – Glue is often used to stick your prints to the hotbed until the print job is complete. I like Elmer’s Jumbo Disappearing Purple School Glue Stick from Amazon because it uses an acid-free formula, so it is highly adhesive while still being non-toxic. One stick of glue is approximately $4.
- Sandpaper – After printing, you’ll need sandpaper to sand and polish 3D models to have the desired finish. Luckily, sandpaper is relatively low-cost, and you can get a six-pack of sheets for around $3. To avoid scratching your work, aim to buy sandpaper with 400 grit or higher.
- Primer – You’ll want to prime your prints before sanding and finishing, so it looks their best. I like the Seymour 20-1674 PBE Professional Primer from Amazon.com because it’s under $15 and has a large spray-head, so the application always looks professional.
- Paint – If you want to add color and personalization to your print, you’ll need to paint it. Acrylic paint works best on 3D prints, and a 2-8 ounce tube will likely cost from $1-$6 depending on the quality and brand.
- Paintbrushes – You’ll need paintbrushes small enough to paint detail, so make sure you get a set with a few size options. Paintbrush sets can cost anywhere from $7 to $40 and above.
- Oils and lubricants – Lubricants reduce friction and protect parts from wear and tear, which is essential when 3D printing. Use the oils and lubricants on the rails and rods on your printer to avoid damage. My favorite lubricant is Permatex 81981 White Lithium Grease, available on Amazon because it’s under $15 and can withstand high heat.
- Cleaning wipes and rubbing alcohol – You’ll want to make sure you keep your 3D printer clean, which means having the right cleaning supplies on hand. Wipes and rubbing alcohol are both inexpensive products, as a 4 pack of cleaning wipes is usually under $15 and rubbing alcohol is typically around $2.
Where to Find Phone Case Designs
You can find designs for 3D printed phone cases on various websites. These websites offer a range of models that vary in quality and customization ability.
In most cases, you can see examples from other hobbyists who have tried the design, and they often also include tips and suggestions for others to follow.
My favorite site is Thingiverse, which is one of the largest model repositories on the internet. There are many models to choose from, and some are customizable, so you can alter the model to get the design you want.
Thingiverse is focused on 3D printing, so all the models should print without error.
Models are free to download, but the printing cost will vary based on the design you choose. There are plenty of eccentric designs with additional features and complexity that will add to the printing time, which will drive up the cost.
My Mini Factory
Another option is MyMiniFactory, another large repository for 3D models. You can search for phone case models by price, popularity, and views.
Additionally, users can leave comments on models, so you can see if others have had success with printing the design.
Most models are free to download, but others are premium models. These can cost between $2 and $8 to download.
Cults offers a variety of 3D models that are optimized for printing. All of the models are free to download, but they aren’t customizable, so if you can’t find exactly what you want, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
That said, there are plenty of designs to choose from. So it shouldn’t be difficult to find something you love.
After you have the initial materials and equipment needed for 3D printing, the cost of printing a simple phone case isn’t high.
It should cost under $1 in terms of materials, and luckily, most printers don’t take up too much energy either.
Just remember that the more elaborate the design, the more material you’ll use, and the more time it will take to print.