How to Set Up a 3D Printer Farm – Printers, Software, Cost
A “3D Printer Farm” is the name given to any operation that produces 3D prints using several printers. The emphasis is on keeping the machines running and producing as much as possible.
Printer farms are known to produce the same or related components, partially solving the single-volume issue with 3D printing.
How to Set Up a 3D Printer Farm
Here are the main steps to set up your 3D printer farm:
- Find a space for your 3D printer farm
- Choose a main 3D printer to use
- Pick a main filament that you will use
- Choose a niche to specialize in
- Find clients locally or online
Let’s go through each one in detail:
1. Find a Space for your 3D Printer Farm
The first step in setting up your 3D printer farm is to find a space for it. Getting the proper space for your farm is essential, or you may generate more headaches than profits.
Here are some of the things you should consider before you get the space:
- Fire Protection
Once you get the right space, you should start thinking about how to lay out the printers. Depending on your printer’s model, you can choose to set them up on shelves or spread them around on tables.
I recommend using sturdy shelves to maximize the available space, as you can fit more printers into the space.
If you are working in a space with bad ventilation, consider getting an enclosure for each printer. Once you get an enclosure for the printer, you can extract the fumes from it and vent them safely outside.
You can follow this awesome video from Matchstic to learn how to build affordable enclosures.
Once you build the enclosure, you can follow this video from Nerdtronic to learn how to vent the enclosure to the outside.
Users also recommend getting an air purifier for the room, such as the Honeywell HPA200 HEPA Air Purifier. The air purifier will help keep the air fresh and eliminate the nanoparticles released into the air during 3D printing.
Additionally, you should ensure you have proper fire detection and fighting equipment on your farm. This is important as many print farm owners have suffered huge losses from printer fires.
Make sure you have smoke alarms set up on your farm so that you can detect fires early. If you can get smart detectors, do so, as they can alert you even if you are not present in the house.
Next, you should also ensure you have fire extinguishers on hand to put out flames easily. One special product farm owners recommend is the Automatic Fire Extinguisher Ball from Amazon.
Fires activate the ball. When it comes in contact with the flames, it sounds an alarm and explodes. As it explodes, it releases a dry chemical to put out the flames.
You can read more about fire safety in my article – 3D Printing Fire Guide – Detection, Protection & Prevention.
Finally, you should know what you will print on your 3D printer farm. You can choose to manufacture all sorts of products, from mechanical parts to D&D miniatures.
The product you plan on making with your 3D printer farm will dictate a lot of the basic planning you should do. One general piece of advice given across the 3D printing community is to start small and upgrade your farm as the demands start to come.
Users agree that starting small seems to be very important when planning your 3D printer farm.
Check out the video below for more information on how to set up your farm’s space.
2. Choose a Main 3D Printer to Use
The next step to setting up your 3D printer farm is choosing the 3D printer you plan on using.
There are many different printer models you can choose to use in your 3D printer farm. You can set up a farm with multiple printers of the same model or make one with different models that complement each other.
The Elegoo Neptune 2S or Ender 3 Neo is a good starter printer available at an affordable price. Many users also recommend it as a great machine for 3D print farms.
Other users suggest the Prusa I3 MK3S as one of the more premium options for people looking to start a 3D printer farm. It is a very reliable printer that requires little tinkering and maintenance.
This is an important quality to look for when setting up your farm. We’ll cover more of the best 3D printers for a 3D print farm later in this article.
3. Pick a Main Filament That You’ll Be Using
After finding a space for your 3D print farm and getting your equipment, you’ll need to pick a filament. Depending on the product you are printing, you may need a specific filament to achieve the proper result.
The product you want to make will determine the type of filament you use. Some people run 3D print farms that produce PLA, ABS, and PETG prints, among other materials.
Because of its ease of use, PLA is one of the most widely used filaments for 3D print factories. Other common options are ABS and PETG, which are stronger but require more fine-tuning to print properly.
Most users recommend getting the Overture PLA Filament Spool if you plan on setting up a 3D print farm that uses PLA. It is a high-quality filament, and its spools are made of recyclable cardboard.
Note: After picking the main filament for your farm, try and contact a wholesale vendor. This way, you can get a better deal on your filaments by buying them in bulk.
4. Choose a Niche to Specialize in
Finding a niche to specialize in is another important step when setting up your 3D printer farm. That way, you can optimize your 3D printer farm and be really successful within that niche.
There are several different niches that can be the main focus of your 3D printer farm. One of the most popular is printing miniatures, be it for board games or just for decoration.
You can also find a lot of success printing items for decoration, DIY tools, or kitchen utensils. It all depends on your planning and creativity.
Here are some cool niches you can specialize in:
- DIY tools
- Decorative items
- Kitchen utensils
- Mechanical parts
- Sports related objects
- Movie memorabilia
- School supplies
One print farm owner contributed that finding a niche is the most difficult task for most print farms. They recommended finding a niche that is also your actual passion.
They also said it is simple to become successful if you choose a niche market and fully dedicate yourself to it.
5. Find Clients Locally or Online
The last step to setting up your 3D printer farm is ensuring you’ll have potential clients for your 3D printer farm.
That’s important because running a farm will be costly. If you don’t have a set of potential clients before starting your operation, you may run into money problems.
You should consider reaching out to your friends, family, co-workers, and local community first. They could be potential clients that you can get your first orders from.
Branching out online is also important as Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and others provide good platforms for finding clients. You can also consider creating your website as your business grows.
You can also try setting up a print farm if you already have a product that sells well online. You can save costs and increase profits by manufacturing the product yourself.
That’s why one 3D printing hobbyist, who created a product that is selling well at Amazon, wants to set up his own 3D printer farm.
Best 3D Printers for a Print Farm
Here are the best 3D printers for a print farm:
- Ender 3 Neo
- Elegoo Neptune 2S
- Prusa I3 MK3S
Ender 3 Neo
One of the best 3D printers out there to use when setting up a 3D printer farm is the Creality Ender 3 Neo. The printer costs around $239 on Amazon, which makes it one of the cheapest machines to start a 3D print farm with.
They are very reliable printers that you can purchase for a good price. Creality also offers great customer support that 3D printing hobbyists have highly recommended.
The Ender 3 Neo is a quiet machine that can be easily assembled. One user integrated it into his print farm only one hour after unboxing it.
Because they have modern features such as auto-leveling, they require very little tinkering and adjusting. This makes them perfect for print farms.
Users have successfully used the Ender 3 on their 3D printing farms. One user has a farm of only Ender 3s which has been running well for the last two years.
You can check out their setup in the video below.
Elegoo Neptune 2S
Another great option to set up your 3D print farm is the Elegoo Neptune 2S. They are solid low-cost machines that fit well in a print farm.
Many users think they are one of the best options when it comes to budget-friendly FDM printers. They are built with very high-quality materials while still staying at an affordable price point.
The Elegoo Neptune 2S provides fast, silent printing thanks to its 32-bit motherboard and SMT32 chip. This makes it ideal for print farms as its high printing speed guarantees rapid and quiet part production.
Check out the video below that features more information on using the Elegoo Neptune 2 for 3D print farms.
Prusa I3 MK3S
The most popular 3D printer recommended for use in 3D printing farms is the Prusa I3 MK3S. This is quite amusing because Prusa creates parts for their own 3D printers in their print farms.
In their print farm, they have over 600 printers that are making the pieces. You can’t ask for a better vote of confidence than that.
That’s why this ends up being the most recommended printer of all when starting a 3D printer farm. Prusa also provides great customer support and replacement parts, which you will eventually need on your farm.
One user has a farm with three Prusa i3 MK3S and has found great success printing with them. Now, they want to upgrade the farm by building an enclosure to reduce the noise while printing.
The Prusa I3 MK3S is one of the top options for setting up a print farm. Just be aware that they are more expensive than the models listed before.
Check out the video below for more information about using a Prusa for 3D printing farms.
Best 3D Printer Farm Software
Using the proper print farm software can save you both time and money. You can use them to control and manage the different machines on your farm and keep them running smoothly.
Here are some of the best 3D Printer farm software:
Let’s look at them
One of the most recommended options for a print farm is Repetiti. It is software specially made for optimizing the workflow of your 3D printer farm.
It is mostly used by people who own large 3D print farms and big operations.
A user who has a really large 3D print farm with 100 printers recommends using Repetiti. Using the software, he can manage the large print farm alone, working only 8 hours daily.
Repetiti offers a very easy interface allowing you to control all your printers with just a few clicks. All you need to do is to just set up your printer and camera for remote monitoring, and you can access your printers from anywhere.
Repetiti has a free tier, but you will need the $2/month/printer plan for a print farm. It provides more monitoring options that you’ll need for your business.
Another great option for 3D printer farm software products is OctoFarm. It is a free option that can be easily downloaded and set up for your printer.
OctoFarm is a highly recommended software that will help you easily manage your 3D print farm and take care of each printer you have running.
One user using OctoFarm to manage their 3D print farm recommends the software. Using it, they’ve been able to easily control all their printers and monitor them via camera.
The software also features an awesome History feature that allows you to keep a thorough record of everything that occurs on your farm. It logs mistakes, failed prints, and successfully finished prints.
Check out the video below to see more information about OctoFarm.
AstroPrint is another option for 3D printer farm software, which you can find online. This software will help you manage and control all your farm’s printers by connecting them to the cloud.
Users recommend AstroPrint as the perfect software for those who need to monitor their 3D printer farm away from home. Other users say it features great cloud capabilities, which is the main difference between this and OctoFarm.
With AstroPrint, you can slice your models straight from the browser and access your files anywhere due to its incredible cloud library.
However, this is not completely free. You can use their limited, free tier if you run only two machines.
For more than two machines, you’ll have to pay $5/month/machine for the pro version.
Check out the video below to see more information about AstroPrint.
5 3D Print Farm Ideas
There are many types of 3D print farms you can set up, and many users have different ideas of how to do it.
Here are some examples of ways you can set up your 3D print farm.
- Automated 3D Print Farm
- Small 3D Print Farm
- Large 3D Print Farm
- Prusa Print Farm
- Ender 3 Print Farm
Automated 3D Print Farm
One of the most popular ideas regarding 3D print farms is an automated one. This is quite possible, depending on the software and the machines you plan on using.
Having an automated 3D print farm means you won’t have to take care of the machines manually. The 3D print farm software will automate most tasks, with you only monitoring it.
One user with a very successful 3D print farm recommends using the OctoFarm software. You can watch an overnight timelapse in the video below to see how the prints get knocked into the bin once they finish.
Another user has an automated 3D print farm using only Ender 3 machines. He prints Christmas toys on his farm and has found great success with them.
Check out the video below for more information on automated 3D print farms.
Small 3D Print Farm
Having a small 3D print farm is also another good idea for print farms. With a farm like that, you can fit your machines in tight spots and make the most out of the space you have.
Users recommend going with the Ender 3 if you want a machine perfect for a small 3D print farm.
A small 3D print farm is one of the most suggested ideas for print farms, especially if you are starting. You can always upgrade your farm in the future once the business takes off.
Check out the video below for more information on small 3D print farms.
Large 3D Print Farm
Another popular idea of how to set up a 3D print farm is to mount a large operation. That means a lot of printers are working at the same time.
So if you want to start having a large 3D print farm, you should plan and budget really well for it.
One user has a 3D print farm with over one hundred printers and has found great success managing it. He stated that to manage the farm, someone needs to work eight hours a day on it.
He just made the farm automated using Repetiti, which is a 3D Print farm software that can help you deal with numerous printers.
Having good production partners and a reliable team is the main advice that users give to people looking to mount a large 3D print farm.
Check out the video below for more information on large 3D print farms.
Prusa Print Farm
One of the most popular ideas for 3D print farms is having a Prusa-only print farm. That means that you’ll only have Prusa printers running on your farm.
Having a 3D print farm that utilizes the same printer model can help you save a lot of stress. Buying replacement parts and doing maintenance is a lot simpler when you’re doing it for only one model.
One user recommended not to get a printer from the Prusa’s “Mini” series. Instead, they suggest using printers such as the Prusa I3 MK3S, which works well for 3D print farms.
That’s because the “Mini” series printers are not as reliable as the Prusa I3 MK3. They can break down easily, causing a lot of headaches to those running the farm.
Check out the video below for more information on having a Prusa-only 3D print farm.
Ender 3 Print Farm
An Ender 3-only 3D print farm is one of the most suggested ideas by 3D printing hobbyists when setting up a print farm.
That’s because the Ender 3 is a relatively cheap printer with good reliability, allowing it to be used for print farms.
Some print farm owners recommend an Ender 3-based 3D print farm but suggest you upgrade your printers. You can add a few features, such as getting some new extruders, as the stock ones can break easily.
Check out the video below for more information on Ender 3 print farms.
Basic 3D Print Farm Costs
Making a 3D print farm comes with some costs that you should be well aware of. Depending on the type of farm you plan on having, these costs can get quite expensive.
Here are the basic 3D print farm costs:
When calculating the costs of a 3D print farm, you should first consider the printer’s price.
These are the main prices for some of the most used machines in 3D print farms:
- Elegoo Neptune 2S – $150-$250
- Ender 3 Neo – $219-$240
- Prusa i3 MK3S – $950
The Ender 3 Neo costs around $239 at Amazon. This is one of the most recommended models because of its relatively low cost and high reliability.
The top choice printer for 3D print farms, the Prusa I3 MK3S, is available for about $950. It is a lot more expensive than the Ender 3.
With the price of one Prusa I3 MK3S, you can buy about three Ender 3’s. So, it’s good to plan for your 3D print farm to better understand your needs and budget.
Also, you can always buy 3D printers secondhand for much cheaper.
The next after calculating the printer’s cost is to look at the material you plan on using. That means mostly filament, as a print farm will need a lot of it.
These are the main filaments used in 3D print farms and their cost per spool:
- PLA – $20 per spool
- PETG – $22 per spool
- ABS – $23 per spool
The filament you plan on working with will depend on the product you aim to create. You’ll find people with 3D print farms printing all kinds of material from PETG to ABS to Nylon.
One of the most popular filaments for 3D print farms is PLA, as it is one of the easiest materials to work with.
You’ll need to remember that you might be using many filament spools. So, finding the right material to work with is very important before buying large stocks of it.
The Overture PLA Filament Spool, which is available on Amazon, goes for about $20 for one spool. The amount of material you’ll need to buy will be directly linked to how many printers you have working simultaneously.
Be aware that any filament spool will be cheaper when you buy them in bulk. You can always develop partnerships with filament suppliers, which can be great for business.
One user stated that the prices of all raw materials have been gradually increasing over the years. So, be prepared to adjust your budget for inflation as time goes by.
After calculating the costs for printers and materials, you’ll need to calculate how much you plan to spend on maintenance.
Maintenance covers a lot of important factors, such as the electricity bill and eventual repairs to the printers.
These are the main maintenance costs you need to calculate:
- Electricity bills
- Replacement parts
- Software costs
This is also related to where you’re setting up your farm. Some people will rent spaces just for their 3D print farms, especially if they set up a large one that cannot be done at home.
Be aware that all printers will eventually need replacement parts. Even the most reliable ones may experience issues that need to be repaired.
You need to plan for these repairs so that you can always repair any eventual failure quickly. This will reduce any production downtime.
The costs will change drastically depending on where you are in the world. For example, a farm owner from Venezuela said that the electricity bill of his farm is very cheap.
Another owner from Europe stated it to be one of his biggest expenses.
You should also be aware that most 3D print farm software is not free and will require a monthly subscription.
Finally, you’ll need to calculate how much your labor costs. Running a 3D print farm is not easy and requires hours of daily work.
That’s why it is so important to calculate how much your labor costs or the labor of anyone else working on the farm with you.
Automated 3D print farms are a nice way to reduce the amount of labor you’ll need to put into managing a print farm. However, remember that even an automated one will still require constant monitoring.
Check out the video below to see a successful 3D print farm in action.
So, that’s all you need to know about setting up your very own 3D Print Farm! Like any other business, everything else should go smoothly once you do the proper groundwork and research.
Good Luck and Happy Printing!