3D printers don’t just last forever, but some last longer than others. I was sitting here thinking how long my 3D printer will last before I have to buy another one. If you’ve been wondering how your Ender 3, Ultimaker or Prusa 3D printer will last, you’re in the right place. In this article I’m going to do my best to research and answer how long a 3D printer lasts.
How long does a 3D printer last? With proper use and maintenance, an Ender 3 should last you at least 5 years of printing, up to 10+ years. Your 3D printer lifespan will depend on how well you maintain it and how often you use it. Regular cleaning, replacements and careful use of your 3D printer will maximize lifespan and 3D printing hours.
There are many factors that can positively or negatively affect how long your 3D printer lasts. Keep on reading to find out these key details and how to maximize your 3D printer’s lifespan.
How Many Printing Hours Does a 3D Printer Last For?
It’s difficult to give a specific value for lifetime hours for a 3D printer but based on my research from reading user experiences, I’d give a range of 7,500 printing hours to 15,000 printing hours (printing for 4 hours everyday for 10 years).
A lot of tuning, repair and replacements will be needed over this time period to ensure a long lifetime.
A good thing to remember is the development and transition of 3D printers that have come about. A five year span of 3D printer developments can create machines that go above and beyond in their printing capabilities, quality, speed, durability and even cost-wise.
Simple iterations of 3D printers have made huge strides in printer quality, performance and durability such as the Prusa and extrusion systems that we see today. I made a post recently about the difference between MK6, MK8, MK10 & V6 extruders which begins to explain how the changes over time affect our 3D printing experience.
Older models of 3D printers are quite known to break often, so the more modern your 3D printer is, the more likely it is to be better designed and more reliable. On the other side of this argument, you could say that 3D printers are getting more complicated, so less serviceable and reliable. This was true for a period of time with the Makerbot brand.
Although this is the general rule, many older 3D printers have stood the test of time and are still going today. Another general rule is the cheaper the 3D printer, the cheaper the components so the faster they will wear out.
Many users of Flashforge, Makerbot & Creality 3D printers still have their first ever printer to this day so it’s difficult to put a value on it but we can give out some pretty good estimates.
3D printers have been them when they first came out and are still printing to this day without many issues. It’s not only because of the amazing machine design but because of the regular, efficient maintenance and repairs they applied to their printers.
What Makes 3D Printers Breakdown?
Most 3D printer parts are designed to last several years with solid maintenance.
A 3D printer is made of several parts, some which are long-lasting and other that are known as consumables. Any 3D printer has parts that will rust so if you don’t maintain it properly, it will fail you quickly.
A good estimate of how much you can expect to spend in consumables and parts is roughly $20-$50 per year. Because of repeated movements and bending, wires can be known to break, especially the some Prusa models as they don’t use flex cables.
Some people don’t just do simple 3D printing, but love the element of experimentation, regular upgrading and pushing their printer to it’s limits. This can reduce your 3D printer’s lifespan if taken over the top, but in other instances it can actually extend the lifespan if things are done carefully.
If you are part of this crowd you can expect to spend a good amount of money on upgrades and consumables, as well as tools!
- Your printing techniques
- 3D printer environment and surroundings
- General carelessness
- Pets, kids bumping into the 3D printer
- Not enough regular maintenance
- Not fixing an underlying issue which gets worse
- Not following printer guidelines
How Do I Make My 3D Printer Last Longer (Maintenance)?
The first thing you want to do is buy a 3D printer with a proven track record of being durable, reliable and not breaking down at the first sign of an issue.
You need to basically be your own service engineer and have a good knowledge about the basic ins and outs of your printer. Being mechanically inclined can give your 3D printer thousands of extra hours of printing time and life span.
Things may will have to replace over time:
- Linear bearings
- PTFE tubing
- Print bed surface/sheets
- RAMPS boards
- Heatbreak tubes
- Stepper motors (unlikely)
The great thing about most hobby-grade 3D printers is the spare parts, upgrades and replacements are very cheap and readily available.
The main culprit for part replacement has to be nozzles because filament can easily chew through them, especially composite filament like carbon or wood-fill.
The average cheap brass nozzle should be able to print for 1,000-1,500 hours before it gets worn out if you’re printing lighter materials such as PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, PC etc.
Next would be the bearings for the linear rod. If you are careful with your levelling and don’t heat your nozzle too high for certain materials, you can save your bed surface from possible damage.
Simple Maintenance Steps to Take
- Check and clean things regularly and if a part is worn or wearing out, replace it before it fails.
- Check for belt tension from time to time, but you should be able to identify a problem in prints if your belt isn’t in order.
- Move your axes all around to see if they move easily, if they don’t use some lubricant to get them flowing.
- Lubricate bearings and rails, regularly inspect for loose nuts/bolts and good cable management.
Belts and bearings are likely to need replacing over time as belts are due to lengthen and bearings due to disintegrate.
A stepper motor should easily last the lifetime of a printer without needing repairs or replacement. Realistically, if you keep on replacing the parts that are worn out, you could make your 3D printer last several years or even over a decade!
Taking your 3D printer away from a dusty environment can save the fans from needing to be replaced every 3 months.
Upgrades to Make Your 3D Printer Last Longer
You can choose to upgrade your:
- Extruder to an All-Metal one to reduce jams.
- Power Supply Unit to a more efficient, durable one
- Belts to more durable fibreglass ones
- Bearings to higher quality ones
- Fans to powerful, quiet ones
- Nozzle to Hardened Steel if printing abrasive material
Make sure you take notice of your 3D printer’s ‘useful lifespan’ rather than keeping it for over it’s due date. You’ll know when it gets to that stage, but in the meantime, print away!
There’s gonna be a huge difference between someone that continually has their 3D printer running and someone that has projects pop up every week or so. You won’t have to go through so many consumables and you also decrease the amount of wear and tear on your machine.
Which 3D Printers Last the Longest?
- Creality Enders
- Makerbot Replicators
- RepRap Prusas
- Solidscape T76+
- Tevo Tarantula
Users have vouched for these 3D printers lasting over 5 years with minimal problems!
When Should My 3D Printer Be Retired?
Most 3D printers have a guarantee between one and two years so you have that safety net at minimum.
Honestly speaking, most people upgrade their 3D printers before they even have to retire or sell it.
After several years of 3D printing there will come a time where you see large amounts of deterioration in parts of your 3D printer. Whether it’s a battered frame where vibrations are a lot more prevalent, you’ll soon want to retire your 3D printer and purchase a new one.
If you seem to be running through consumables at a much faster rate and your printing quality takes a lot more to get right than it used to, then your printer is giving a sign that it may have to be retired.
Similar to other electronics in your household, they are not built to last forever so wear and tear will finally get to it one day. I understand wanting to keep your 3D printer past it’s due date with constant replacements and repairs but if it’s happening consistently, then it’s just not worth the hassle.
You can always take your 3D printer to a specialist if you are getting to this stage if there is one close by. At some point, you’ll just be replacing the 3D printer altogether with the amount of new parts you install.
Another factor is what things you are actually printing. Printing simple, non-functional and aesthetic objects means having precision isn’t too important, but say you are doing something which serves a vital function or a prototype, accuracy would be important so you need everything to be up to par.