Fused deposition printers, such as the RepRap, UP! and PrintrBot are comprised of four main components:

  • Cooling fans and electronics for running the show.
  • Stepper motors for moving everything around.
  • A hotend for melting the plasting.
  • Heated build platform for preventing curling and lifting.

So how much electricity do each of these main components use? And what sort of power will get eaten up during a typical 3D printing session?

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To test, I grabbed my electricity usage monitor and plugged my printer directly into it. Specially I tested the following components, but the results should give you a ballpark idea of what kind of power you are going to use while 3D printing:

Cooling fans and electronics power usage

I flicked the on switch and took my first reading:

15.7 watts

This is a bit higher than I was expecting for a printer that was on, yet idle. While on par with a laptop computer in sleep mode.

Stepper motor power usage

Every stepper motor consumes a bit of power to maintain their holding torque. The holding torque is what resists anything that might be trying to turn its shaft. When you first turn on my printer, non of the steppers are on at all, and you can freely move the printer manually (the motors don’t resist you). So first up I homed the printer to turn all the steppers on so I could measure the power used to maintain the holding torque:

5 watts

Now, I subtracted the idle / background power usage to work out the power used by only the stepper motors:

5 - 15.7 => 10.7 watts

So if the stepper motors are always using a bit of power just holding things in place, how much extra do they use when moving around? To test, I used pronterface to move along each of the axis and measured the result.

X-axis: 26.5 - 26.8 => 0.3 watts

Y-axis: 26.5 - 26.9 => 0.4 watts

Z-axis: 26.5 - 28.5 => 2.0 watts

This was on par with what I was expecting, everything on my printer rides on LM8UU linear bearings and has a very smooth and quiet action. So I wasn’t expecting excessive power consumption due to friction.

PCB Heatbed power usage

Now the big ticket item, judging by the power requirements of the RAMPS 1.4 I was expecting the heatbed to be the real power hog of my 3D printer. I wasn’t disappointed. I used pronterface to set the temperature of the heated build platform to 88°C and measured the result:

156.0 - 26.5 => 129.5 watts

Buddaschnozzle hotend power usage

The last component to measure was the hotend, I turned off the heated build platform and set the temperature of the hotend to 189°C and measured the result:

54.8 - 26.5 => 28.3 watts

Overall print power usage

Finally to test overall printer power usage, I queued up a simple 40x60x20mm Box and hit the print button. Since the power my printer consumes varies over time (as things heats up), I measured the power consumption every minute for 30 minutes.

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So we use a ton of power at the start to get everything up to temperature. First heating the build platform, and then spiking when the hotend comes on as well. Then as the print starts power usage fluctuates depending on if the heated build platform is currently on to maintain the bed temperature.

For the first 30 minutes of the print, the power usage was:

Average: 105 watts

Min: 37.7 watts

Max: 169.6 watts

For giggles – yeah I have a weird sense of humour – I compared this with the power usage of a typical run of the mill paper printer, an Epson Stylus R310 Inkjet printer:

on / idle: 6.0 watts

Printing a 4x9” colour photo: 10.9 watts

So my home built 3D printer pulls about 3x the power when idle of a mass produced 2D printer, and about 10x the power when printing. I think that is really impressive for an open hardware project, assembled myself that can print everything from replacement lamp parts and toy robots to itself.

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