How to Calculate ROI for the Metal X System

In this blog post, we’re going to break down the Metal X printer around the two factors that determine ROI: acquisition costs and value added.

ROI helps predict business value

If you don’t work in an R&D lab, you’re probably uncomfortably familiar with the three letters that stop most purchases in their tracks: ROI. While in an ideal world, employees could speculatively acquire new technology without business risk, the majority of businesses only make investments that return value over time, often measured by return on investment (“ROI”). This rings especially true with capital expenditures — large purchases like CNC mills, robotic arms, and other large fabrication machines — that cost upwards of six or seven figures.

For most large expenditures (think a CNC mill), potential value is well defined and easily calculable. If you have three inhouse CNC mills and you’re considering purchasing a fourth, you can pretty confidently estimate the potential value added based on your past experience. With emerging and disruptive technologies, ROI can be more difficult to confidently predict. These technologies tend to be unproven, and without experience it can be impossible to predict their effect on your business. As a result, many risk-averse companies shy away from adding high-potential capabilities to this business.

A metal 3D printer is a perfect example of a new, difficult-to-quantify piece of capital equipment. In this blog post, we’re going to break down our metal printer, Metal X, around the two factors that determine ROI: Acquisition Costs and Value Added.

Want to learn more about the pros of metal 3D printing? Download our ebook Three Benefits of 3D Printing Metal Parts. DOWNLOAD NOW>

Acquisition Costs for a Metal 3D Printer

The first step in determining ROI is accurately defining acquisition cost: the full cost required to have a functional machine on your shop floor with properly trained operators. For a printing system like the Metal X, that number can vary depending on what bundle you purchase, the state of your facility, and where you live. Getting a full picture of the costs requires analysing each step of the process — our breakdown of costs is listed below:

  • Machine Cost: The MSRP of the machine;
  • Success Plan Cost: Preventative maintenance, warranty, and part replacement;
  • Facility Upgrades: Preparing your facility for the system. The Metal X generally only requires a couple of small changes — power routing and ventilation drops;
  • Shipping and Installation Cost: Getting the machine to your place of work and installing it; and
  • Training Cost: This cost isn’t assessed formally, but represents the labour required to ramp up machine operators in house.

Though the can vary greatly facility to facility, a base Metal X System generally costs between 140,000 – 180,000 euros all in.

Added value in five steps

Determining the overall cost of a new machine, while tedious, is a solvable problem. Quantifying the value of implementing a new technology can be impossible without the right information. For the Metal X, we recommend the following simple, cost-based procedure to roughly estimate savings over time. This process works best when comparing 3D printing against an existing manufacturing process.

  1. Find a benchmark part: Select or design a representative part to evaluate for metal 3D printing. It doesn’t have to be a part you’re planning on making 100 of, but it should represent the “average” part you intend to produce on the machine. If you’re unsure of what parts are advantageous to 3D print in metal, get in touch with us, and we’ll gladly help you out.
  2. Determine all printing costs for the part: Simply upload your file to Markforged’s Eiger software to generate a per-part cost for metal 3D printing the part. A number of factors go into a per part cost, including material cost, labour cost, and sintering cost (electricity, consumables, and gas). Getting a true per-unit cost is critical to the process.
  3. Estimate the cost for producing your part conventionally (without 3D printing). If you send parts out for external manufacturing, a quote should provide all the details you need. If you produce the part internally, make sure to create a complete estimate. This should include material costs, labour costs (including both programming and machining), and any additional consumable/manufacturing costs. To maximize accuracy of the value estimate, make sure that you pick a realistic production volume to and evaluate both methods at the same volume
  4. Use your fabrication time, metal printing cost, and fabrication cost to calculate the value generated per unit time.
  5. Divide the overall machine cost by the cost savings per unit time to determine the time required to achieve ROI. If the time to achieve ROI is short (two years or less), it’s likely that your manager will consider it a good investment. If the ROI is closer to the expected lifespan of the machine, you should think carefully about your expectations for the machine before making an investment.

This method is extremely effective for quantifying monetary benefits of acquiring a new machine, but doesn’t take into account additional benefits that come from 3D printing. 3D printing often decreases part lead times, which can shorten iteration cycles and provide significant value to a company.

Three ways ROI helps you assess 3D printing potential

When evaluating a piece of new technology, many businesses struggle to accurately assess its potential business value. Generating an ROI calculation solves this problem in three distinct ways:

  • It gives you a clear, solid and quantifiable justification for purchasing a piece of disruptive technology
  • It provides an accurate cost estimate of every part of the acquisition and manufacturing process
  • It allows you to set realistic expectations on how much value your new machine will generate before purchasing