Hi Chupa. Thanks for your interest in this technology.
The price of the parts is really reasonnable, unless you take the print time into account, which is really donwside of it.
I use a cheap consumer printer, a Tevo Tarantula which costed around $200 new. This was a kit, so I had to build it myself, and after that, I have spent the 6 first months to fine tune my print settings and print mod parts to improve the precision and quality.
There are some much more expansive printer available, which are already good out of the box, but my thought is, that you can't use a machine efficiently if you're just pushing the start button and don't try to understand how to make the best parts from it.
Regarding the materials, it depends on the type of parts :
- PLA is the most common material. It's easy to print (205°C). However it's quite brittle and doesn't like UV exposure. It's good for purely aesthetic parts
- PLA with metal particles. I use this type of PLA to make nice parts looking like metal (Brass, Steel, Gold) and which are heavier than a fully plastic part. The counterpart is, that it's weaker than simple plastic.
- PTEG is the same plastic used for soda bottles. It prints at a higher temp (240°C)and is a bit trickier because it has a tendency to make unwanted "dripping" filaments. But it's strong, flexible and food safe.
- ABS. Very strong, heat resistant, but very tricky to print (260°C + heated pint bed). It warps much due to its high thermal elongation coefficient. Used for mechanical part
- ASA. As strong as ABS, UV resistant. It needs a high temp as well (260°C + heated bed), but warps much less than ABS. This is my preferred material to print parts for the motorbike.
All these materials are available in many colors and finishes : dull, metallic, translucent, glowing in night,...
The price of the filament varies from $15 for 2 lbs of basic PLA to prices like 90$ for 2 lbs of carbon reinforced plastic.
Below is an example of part printed with brass filled filament. I have scanned my daughter with a camera, made a 3d model from the pictures with a dedicated software, and printed her :