How Instant Quote & Price Estimating Software Helps 3D Printing Service Businesses Compete

 For 3D businesses, now is the perfect time to attract new customers and maintain the efficiency of operations. Your customers will appreciate the ability to order online from you as a key solution. With an embedded ordering portal that uses 3D printing instant quotes, your quoting process can be simpler, faster, and cheaper. This allows you to convert more leads, increase customer satisfaction, and stay ahead of the competition – so you can focus on the more fundamental task of growing your business.

Typical challenges in 3D printing quoting


Manual pricing consumes most of your team’s time

In order to produce an accurate price estimate, a considerable amount of information must be collected from a potential customer. Gathering all of the necessary information can sometimes take a series of phone calls or email exchanges. In the next step, you will need to collect additional information, such as payment and shipping methods, when a customer is ready to place an order. A lot of this is done manually with spreadsheets and other disparate software. There could be a lot of duplicate work and confusion as project managers try to move work through the facility and maintain contact with customers.

Manual pricing is inaccurate 

Even though spreadsheets offer many benefits when calculating 3D printing costs, there is a risk of over-typing numbers or formulae, or incorrectly factoring in numbers. Although these errors are easily made and solved, they are often discovered after the quote has been submitted to the client. A spreadsheet mistake can cost your company thousands of dollars, impacting overall profitability.  Therefore, it’s crucial to find solutions that can reduce the need for manual entry during quotes and reduce the chance of human error.

The process of acquiring new customers

Attracting new customers and ensuring repeat business is among the top priorities of most 3D printing service providers. The outbreak of the pandemic has made it difficult to find new clients or even stay afloat. Although 3D printing has been widely used during the pandemic times, many businesses have reported revenue declines or have even closed. How you reach out to a potential customers is one of the most important aspects of acquiring them. Your website remains the key to enhancing your online presence, even with the help of social media, email marketing, and paid ads. Is your website optimized to make it easier for people to order from you online? You can increase revenue by using your website to generate more leads.

Enhancing service pricing

Price structures for 3D printing services can be tricky to develop. In some cases, companies copy their competitors’ pricing strategies or simply undercut their competitors. However, these approaches are often risky because they don’t take into account your business’s unique processes. Pricing formulas for 3D-printed parts and projects must consider various aspects of the business (human and machine time, machine depreciation, software, facility costs), the size of the job, and the specific requirements of the part. Your pricing strategy should also align with your business goals, whether these are to maximize profitability, ensure your business’s longevity, or grow your customer base.

Low-value orders are not processed efficiently

Many 3D printing service providers face the challenge of efficiently processing orders with different values. Many service bureaus spend a significant amount of time processing 3D printing orders and educating customers. Those costs are easier to absorb with larger jobs. Smaller orders require similar attention but provide less revenue. Sometimes, they cost more than they’re worth. However, service providers should consider how they can handle these lower volume jobs more efficiently despite their importance.

Increasing sales by converting missed opportunities

Take the following example: after a long discussion with a client, he or she requests a quote from you, so you spend some time putting it together and sending it to them. You thought the conversation went well, but it’s been a week and the client still hasn’t responded. There is always the option to send a follow-up email, but when you have multiple clients to follow up with, it is easy for those emails to slip through the cracks, especially if you didn’t track the process.

How instant quotation software can help you grow your 3D printing business


Automate processes to increase value

Using the ordering portal, you can easily configure the software for your pricing model and include information about your supported file types, machines, materials, and finishing options. You embed the portal into your website to enable customers to instantly quote and order their 3D printing projects, automating much of the process that was previously handled manually. Providing quotes instantly and automatically rather than manually saves your team countless hours of time in the process and allows them to devote more time to pursuing new leads and growing the business.

Increase conversions and reach new customers

A customer-facing 3D printing ordering portal with instant quotation capabilities makes all the difference when it comes to reaching new customers. Your potential customers will not only prefer to shop online, but they will also demand it. As customers search for the best prices on 3D printing services online, your business can use the search engine to locate new visitors to your ordering portal and convert them into customers.

Provide accurate quotes to customers

There is no room for error when it comes to quoting a price for 3D-printed parts. 3D printing instant quote software not only eliminates errors in price quoting but also offers integrated STL file repair tools, which automatically fix models for successful printing. This helps to ensure that you provide customers with better, more accurate quotes and verify their models for 3D printing faster.

Provide a better customer experience

The benefits of digital are now widely accepted – 24/7 availability, simplified purchasing, up-to-date product information, and transparent pricing. These benefits, as well as others, are provided by ordering portals for 3D printing. A web ordering portal, powered by instant pricing, can reduce quote turnaround time from hours to minutes, allowing you to build stronger customer relationships. Through their personalized dashboard, customers can also access their order history, tracking data, and reordering options. They will have more control over the entire ordering process, which not only enhances efficiency and transparency but eliminates the need to call someone in order to ask for an update on an order. They can also request a manual quote if they need personal assistance.

Put your brand on a professional level

Finally, offering your customers the ability to order parts online and receive 3D printing quotes instantly makes your brand appear more professional.


Regardless of how large or small, your operation is, there is specific information that you need to know in order to calculate the costs. These are the things you need to know:


Let’s start by calculating your total cost per gram. What is your purchase unit? If you have a desktop machine, you’re likely to purchase it by kilogram. The item may be sold by the gram, the pound, or by the cubic inch, so make sure you double-check and have that information handy. How much does your material cost per unit? A 1-kilogram spool of PLA usually costs between $15 and $45 if you purchase it from Amazon or another reputable reseller. In grams per cubic centimeter, what is your material density? PLA typically has a density of 1.24 grams per cubic centimeter. Refer to the manufacturer’s material data sheet for details. With those values, you can calculate the total cost per gram.


Next, let’s examine a few aspects of your machine. How many does your machine cost? Using a mid-grade, prosumer level machine, you will probably spend between $5K and $6K, but it may be as high as $10K. What are your machine’s lifetime hours? You will want to know the usage time for your machine. It may seem difficult to determine, but in reality, it’s not so hard. You should be able to access some life testing data depending on the manufacturer. You may find that in the manual or you may need to contact the manufacturer. Alternatively, you can estimate this number based on your experience or when you expect to replace it. How much does your machine cost to maintain and service each year? With a desktop prosumer computer, you’re likely to spend at least 40 hours a year just maintaining the machine and buying consumables – how many does that cost you? You may have purchased a service package from a reseller, which for the example machine mentioned above can range between $500 and $1,000 per year.

Rate of fabrication and deposition of material

How long does it take you to fabricate one cubic centimeter of material? In our calculations, this factor is also referred to as the “material deposition rate”. How long does it take to produce one cubic centimeter of material? You can calculate this in several ways. Slice a 10x10x10mm cube at 100% density with your typical settings and refer to the output values. If you want to be even more accurate, you can use your phone or stopwatch to time the print from the moment the machine starts laying down the material to the moment it finishes. Material deposition rates vary depending on geometry, firmware, and other factors. The goal here is to establish an acceptable baseline average. To be even more precise, I recommend timing 10 prints with varying geometries and weighing the final prints. Divide the time in minutes by the weight of the prints in grams to determine how fast you can deposit a cubic centimeter of material. With this information, and with what we already know, you can calculate how much material you use in an hour, and therefore how much it costs you.

Facility, Human Time, and Software/Services

Now, let’s figure out your costs by incorporating the remaining ancillary points. What is your monthly rent and what are your utilities? These are your facility costs. Approximately how many people are required to operate the machine, and what is their hourly wage? When it comes to setting up and tearing down a machine after a print job, how long does that take you? That is your human cost per print job. How much does your CAD software, slicer, CAM, or ERP system cost? How about your accounting software, your email and internet providers, or any other software you use daily? Combining those costs with the number of working hours in a year, you get a comprehensive hourly cost for every job you print on your machine. Take a moment to think about how long it takes to print your average job. Is it maybe 12 to 18 hours? Can it take up to 48 hours? By calculating your cost, you can get an idea of how much it will cost you.

What is the true cost of 3D printing?

Let us now calculate how much it would cost to manufacture the entire kilo of PLA. Calculate how many print jobs you can get from all that material, then multiply that by your human costs. You will be shocked at how large this number is if you add your other calculated costs together. Using an average deposition rate of 12.5 grams per hour, we can estimate that the entire spool will take around 80 hours to construct. If on average your prints are 100g per print job, then on average you can fit roughly 10 print jobs within a spool. Multiply your total hourly costs by the number of hours that spool will last along with the human cost on the average of 10 print jobs per spool. If fabricating a spool costs more than $500, don’t get discouraged. This is totally normal and can exceed $1,000 depending on your machine and rent. How much should you charge? How much margin should you have? The answer depends on who your clients are and what you are working on. For example, if your clients are in the consumer electronics industry, you probably should charge a markup of 80-200%. But don’t be afraid to go even higher. Time and work are more valuable than you think. Once you have all these inputs, you can calculate the minimum hourly price for each hour of printing time. Add your total hourly cost, human time, and markup to get your price.


Layers instant quoting service

Our instant quotation service was designed with speed and accuracy in mind. The Layers software lets you start with a 3D model, quickly create an estimate, and create visually appealing quotes that are easy to track. Having access to critical information is now simple and accessible to your entire team.

Layers’ quoting and estimation software streamline the quoting process so you can focus on other aspects of your business. Layers can unlock the true potential of your team.‘s instant quotation service features allow customers to upload their files, select their preferred printing options, and receive price estimates within minutes.