A spool of PLA (the plastic) can cost anywhere from ~$13-35 and is usually around 2.2lbs of plastic material. I typically buy from Amazon and usually pay around $20 per spool. The print time for 1 coaster is likely around 3 hours, so it may cost about $0.25-0.50 (guesstimate) to print. Not including the electricity used to run the printer (motors and heating element).
I purchased a Flash Forge Creator Pro from Amazon 2 years ago. I think it's about $800 for the printer itself. It does include software called FlashPrint which is great for loading the model, sizing it to the printer, rotating, duplicating the models, cutting, etc. However, it's not used for designing new models, just layout out models that have already been designed. Check out www.thingiverse.com for a slew of models that have already been created and ready to print.
For designing new models, there are a large number of applications available and some are free yet others can cost more than what I paid for my printer. I think Flash Forge also has some free software called Happy 3D for creating some simple models but I only used it once and it was too simplistic for me but it may have improved since last I looked. You can download it here and play around with it if you want to give it a try even without having the printer. I've also used AutoDesk Inventor and SketchUp, both have a bit of a learning curve (and I'm still not efficient with either) but lately use SketchUp. There is a powerful (and free) package called Blender that can be used for creating new 3D models (+3D animation and more) and exporting them to a .stl (common import file format).
I hope this answer helps. It's pretty amazing to watch these machines take a spool of plastic and turn it into something useful. Not that the coaster is super-useful, but it's only limited by your imagination!
I have a few questions regarding the 3D printers.
For something like the coaster, what kind of cost is it to make something like that? I have debated the idea of a 3D printer for the past year, and I am trying to get a handle on the economics for the materials.
Secondly, do the 3D printers include software for designing objects? Or, is it limited to an application that prints the file and you need other software to design objects?
Thanks for any feedback.
Edited by jonecool, Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:54 PM.