3D printers are some of the most heavily used machines. In a 2021 survey of 1,900 users, 26% said they print every day. Considering the average run time for a printer is anywhere between 5 to 15 hours, that is a lot of printing.
How do printers hold up when they are in operation for more than 15 hours at a time? While they suffer from mechanical wear, as does any machine with moving parts, they still provide up to several thousand hours of use.
In this article, we explore the average lifespan of a printer. We look at how a printer is most likely to fail and what you can do to maintain and service one. We also look at 3D printed parts.
If you’re new to 3D printing and you’re wondering how strong 3D printed parts are then you are in for a treat because the answer might surprise you!
On a side note! If you’re looking for a reliable and high-quality 3D printer, we highly recommend the Official Creality Ender 3 V2 Upgraded 3D Printer (Amazon Link).
This printer is an upgraded version of the popular Ender 3 model, with a range of new features and improvements that make it even easier and more convenient to use.
How Long Do 3D Printers Last? (Contributing Factors)
3D printers have an average lifespan of 5 years. Proper care and regular servicing can extend this to 10 years or more. This translates to between 7500 to 15000 hours of run time or a maximum of 4 hours of printing per day for 10 years. Printer brand, frequency of use, and maintenance are the factors that will most determine how long the printer lasts.
For more on this, we recommend that you check out our post How Long Do 3D Printers Last? (Essential Maintenance Tips !)
5 years might not seem like a long time but considering a 3D printer combines both mechanical and electrical components, it’s actually quite impressive. Let’s look at some of the factors that influence lifespan.
Established printer brands are more likely to make good quality printers that give you more years than an unrecognized brand. Be wary of getting a printer that is too cheap! It is highly likely made from poor quality components that will break down due to the stress of using the printer.
This is not to say that all cheap printers are bad. You can get a good deal on a cheap printer and price should not be your only guideline. Check the reviews, forums and maker groups for information on a printer before you buy it. With that being said, some of the most solid 3D printer brands include:
Frequency of use
The more mileage you put on your printer the fewer years it will have. A professional printing 30 to 60 hours a week will see their printer wear out quicker than a hobbyist printing 8 hours or less in a week.
Using 7,500 hours as our baseline, here’s how many years you can expect to get out of your printer depending on how many hours a week you’re printing.
|PRINTING HOURS PER WEEK||LIFESPAN IN YEARS|
How you use a printer is just as if not more important than how often you use it. If you are not as diligent, for example if you do not use the right printer settings or techniques, you will have your printer break down sooner than expected.
How Fragile Are 3D Printers?
With a lifespan of between 5 to 10 years, 3D printers have an improved durability compared to most electronics. Desktop computers and regular paper printers have a lifespan of 4 years. While the printer will last a long time, its components need regular servicing and replacement.
Parts that are likely to need replacement over its lifespan include nozzles, fans, extruders, wiring, print beds, belts, stepper motor and tubing.
As a printer is an electronic machine with moving mechanical parts it will experience more wear and tear. There are more points at which failure can occur.
Nozzles especially need frequent replacement. Hardened steel nozzles need to be replaced at least once every six months while brass or copper nozzles may need changing after only a month.
You can ensure your nozzle lasts as long as possible by pairing the right nozzle to the right filament and working at the correct extrusion temperature for that nozzle. Mismatch is a frequent cause of nozzle damage.
|NOZZLE MATERIAL||MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE ° C||CAN BE USED WITH|
|Brass||300||PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and TPE|
|Stainless steel||500||Nylon, carbon fiber, glow-in-the-dark, metal-filled, wood-filled, and ceramic-filled.|
|Hardened steel||500||All materials.|
Does A 3D Printer Need Breaks?
Printers can run for more than 15 hours uninterrupted. Complex or large prints can require print runs that stretch for longer periods. Printers are designed to safely handle long print runs. The biggest risk is overheating but most printers are equipped with thermal runaway protection to prevent this.
Without thermal runaway protection, printers would very likely overheat and become a potential fire hazard. While this is unlikely to happen you should consider taking a few extra precautions if you’re going to leave your printer running in your absence.
- Use some form of remote monitoring. This might be a camera or installing software like OctoPrint.
- Carry out regular inspections. You want to detect and replace worn components before they compromise your printer. Look to do this once every 2 to 3 months.
- Consider using a print enclosure. This will keep your printer dirt free by providing a better print environment.
- Avoid cheap printers from unrecognized brands. You have a higher chance of printer failure from a cheap printer brand. Source
Printers do eventually break down. Common signs that you might need to replace your printer are filament running out much quicker, components breaking down faster or a general drop in the quality of your prints.
Do 3D Prints Break Easily?
3D printed parts can be as strong as parts made using traditional manufacturing methods. The main factor that determines print strength is the quality and type of filament used. Not all filaments are the same in terms of strength and durability. ABS, for example, produces stronger prints than PLA.
It is also important to match the filament used to the prints intended use. If you know the print will be subjected to variable temperatures, moisture or exposure to direct sunlight then you have to pick the right material.
Here is a post on ” Does ABS Filament Absorb Moisture? How To Deal With It!“
Pick the wrong one, and regardless of its properties, it will fail sooner than it should because it is not suited for those conditions. Source