Industrial 3D Printer vs. Desktop 3D Printer: What Are the Differences?


  1. What Is an Industrial 3D Printer?
  2. What Is a Desktop 3D Printer?
  3. How Industrial 3D Printers Compare to Desktop 3D Printers
  4. Final Words
Feature Industrial 3D Printer Desktop 3D Printer
Intended Use Heavy-duty, professional applications Personal use, education, small business
Technologies SLS, DMLS (metals, complex geometries) FDM, SLA (plastics, simpler designs)
Material Options Metals, high-performance thermoplastics, ceramics PLA, ABS, PETG (less durable materials)
Accuracy and Resolution Up to 16 microns 50 to 300 microns
Size and Speed Large build volume, over 100 mm/s Smaller build volume, 40 to 80 mm/s
Application Areas Aerospace, automotive, medical Education, hobbyist projects, art
Cost $20,000 to over $1 million $200 to $4,000
Maintenance and Durability Continuous use, 5+ years lifespan Lighter use, 1-3 years lifespan

In present-day additive manufacturing, 3D printing has played an indispensable role, transitioning from a niche technology to a mainstream industrial tool. The market differentiates primarily between two types of 3D printers: industrial and desktop. In this blog, you’ll get to know the key differences between industrial and desktop 3D printers.

What Is an Industrial 3D Printer?

An industrial 3D printer is a cornerstone in manufacturing, engineering, and large-scale prototyping environments. These machines are designed for heavy-duty use, offering high-end features that support extensive production runs and intricate designs. Industrial 3D printers are known for their robustness, efficiency, and ability to print with a variety of materials, ranging from metals to advanced polymers and composites.

Industrial 3D printing equipment

What Is a Desktop 3D Printer?

A desktop 3D printer represents the more accessible side of 3D printing. These machines are smaller, more affordable, and are primarily intended for personal use, educational purposes, or small business projects. Despite their compact size, desktop 3D printers can produce high-quality items with a reasonable level of detail, catering to the needs of hobbyists, designers, and students alike.

How Industrial 3D Printers Compare to Desktop 3D Printers

Technological Differences

Industrial 3D printers are equipped with state-of-the-art technologies like Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). These sophisticated methods enable the production of components directly from metal powders. For instance, DMLS can produce items with complex geometries that would be impossible to create using traditional manufacturing techniques, utilizing lasers that can melt metal powders to a precision of up to 20 micrometers.

Conversely, desktop 3D printers primarily employ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Stereolithography (SLA). FDM works by extruding thermoplastic filaments through a heated nozzle, layer by layer, to construct an object. SLA technology, however, uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to solidify liquid resin into the desired shapes. While these methods are effective for a range of applications, they are generally more suited to working with plastic or resin materials and cannot match the complexity or durability of metal parts produced by industrial printers.

Material Options

Industrial 3D printers showcase their versatility by handling an extensive array of materials. Beyond just plastics, these machines can work with high-performance thermoplastics, metals such as titanium and stainless steel, and even ceramics. This material flexibility opens up a broad spectrum of applications, from automotive parts that can withstand high temperatures to customized medical devices tailored to individual patients.

In contrast, the material scope for desktop 3D printers is more narrow, predominantly focusing on less durable materials like PLA (Polylactic Acid), ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), and PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol). While these materials are sufficient for educational purposes, hobbyist projects, and non-functional prototypes, they do not possess the strength, temperature resistance, or durability required for more demanding industrial applications. This limitation confines the use of desktop 3D-printed objects to environments where lower stress and less stringent material properties are acceptable.

Accuracy and Resolution

Industrial 3D printers stand out with their superior precision, offering resolutions as fine as 16 microns, which is thinner than a human hair. This level of detail is indispensable for producing parts with intricate designs, such as the complex internal channels in aerospace components or the precise dimensions needed for medical implants.

Desktop 3D printers, though continuously improving, typically offer resolutions between 50 to 300 microns. While this range is adequate for creating detailed prototypes and models, the lower precision can result in visible layer lines and less detailed finishes, which may not be suitable for all applications. Therefore, while desktop printers provide an accessible entry point into 3D printing, their output is generally more appropriate for visual or non-functional prototypes rather than the production of end-use parts that require exacting specifications.

Size and Speed

Industrial 3D printers showcase significant advantages in build volume, often reaching up to 1000 x 1000 x 1000 millimeters, which facilitates the production of large-scale components or simultaneous manufacturing of multiple parts. Their speed is equally impressive, with some models capable of printing at speeds exceeding 100 millimeters per second, greatly surpassing the typical desktop printer speeds of 40 to 80 millimeters per second. This disparity underscores the industrial machines’ capability to meet the demands of high-volume production cycles, making them indispensable in sectors where time and size are critical factors.

Comparatively, desktop 3D printers generally offer a more modest build volume, typically around 200 x 200 x 200 millimeters, which caters well to smaller, personalized projects or prototypes. Their slower print speeds reflect their use in less time-sensitive environments, aligning with the needs of educational settings or personal use, where the emphasis is on precision and learning rather than rapid production.

Application Areas

Industrial 3D printers are integral to the manufacturing processes within the automotive, aerospace, and medical sectors. They are used for fabricating end-use parts, complex prototypes, and bespoke tools that must meet exacting standards of strength, durability, and precision. In these fields, the ability to produce lightweight, strong, and complex geometries offers a significant advantage.

On the other hand, desktop 3D printers find their niche primarily in education, where they serve as valuable tools for learning about design, engineering, and manufacturing principles. They are also popular among hobbyists and makers for DIY projects and in the arts for creating sculptures, jewelry, and decorative items. The accessibility and ease of use of desktop printers have democratized 3D printing, bringing it into classrooms and homes where they serve as a springboard for innovation and creativity.


The cost disparity between industrial and desktop 3D printers is stark. Industrial models typically start at around $20,000 and can exceed $1 million for high-end machines equipped with the latest technologies. This price range reflects their targeted use in high-stakes industrial applications where precision, speed, and material versatility are paramount.

Conversely, desktop 3D printers have become increasingly affordable, with entry-level models available for as little as $200, and more advanced versions ranging up to $4,000. This pricing strategy has made 3D printing accessible to a vast audience, promoting its adoption across a wide array of users, from professional designers to hobbyists and educators.

Maintenance and Durability

Industrial 3D printers are designed for continuous use, with lifespans extending beyond 5 years under proper maintenance. However, this durability comes with associated costs; annual maintenance contracts can range from 2% to 8% of the original purchase price, reflecting the level of professional service required to keep these machines operating efficiently.

In comparison, desktop 3D printers, which are designed for lighter use, typically have a shorter lifespan of around 1 to 3 years. While users can often perform maintenance and repairs themselves, the frequency of these interventions and the potential need for part replacements can add up over time. Despite these ongoing costs, the lower initial investment makes desktop models an appealing option for users with more limited printing needs or those just starting with 3D printing technology.

Final Words

Understanding the differences between industrial and desktop 3D printers is essential for making an informed decision based on your specific needs, whether they be for high-end professional use or personal creative projects.However, whether you lean towards the industrial scale operations or the more personal desktop ventures, the world of 3D printing might seem daunting due its technical aspects, diverse materials and technology involved.

That’s where a trusted and dedicated service provider like QSYrapid comes in. Our 30 years of experience and commitment to delivering rapid, high-quality 3D printing services, caters to every aspect of this technologies, from industrial to personal production. Our consistent investment in advanced 3D printing technologies, diverse array of materials and dedicated customer-service approach has made us a preferred partner for leading companies across various industries.

QSYrapid not only delivers lightning-fast production with exceptional precision, but we also simplify the process for our clients with a proprietary online quoting system. With QSYrapid, you can take a backseat and watch your designs come to life while we handle the complex work. Catering to diverse needs and offering unparalleled expertise, QSYrapid is an excellent choice for stepping into the world of 3D printing.