Are you looking into a new side hustle or already have a 3D printer around and are looking to make some extra money? 3D printing can be an excellent way to make money and have fun while doing so. A 3D printing business can be a fairly profitable venture if done so correctly.
So if you have a printer laying around and are looking to make some money we have a laid out guide on different ideas and steps you can take to start with your 3D printing business. In this article we will go over many different ways on how to make money with a 3d printer.
We have split the article into two parts, a hobbyist guide and then a guide for people looking to take the next step into a more professional approach into the 3d printing industry. To start off we recommend looking at the hobbyist guide first to see if this is something that sounds interesting to you. Once you feel comfortable and have customers you may want to look into the professional side of things. Here you will have more costs and considerations to think about.
The hobbyist side of things can easily be started for in the sub $500 range. Start out by buying a reputable 3d printer, some brands we can recommend are Creality, Prusa, Ultimaker, lulzbot, and/or Formlabs.
Not all of these printers will be in the sub $500 but the more you spent up front on your machine the easier the process may be. That is because many of the higher tier 3d printers are very reliable and have auto homing functions which allow for not much set up time at all and allow for more trust in your printer while it may be doing a 24 hour print job.
Printers we can recommend for making money
Prusa Mini – FDM 3D printer
The Prusa Mini is a great printer for the price point. This printer starts at around $350 USD, and has a build volume of 18cm x 18cm x 18cm. Having multiple of these in your fleet will allow for lower lead times in your 3d printing business allowing for more orders to be completed and more money made.
The printer is from a well known brand, that has been around in the industry for many years and has built its reputation from its original 3D printer it released to the market, the Prusa i3. The printer is priced well, considering all the technology it comes with. Having multiple of these machines would be a great start to your print farm, where you can turn out numerous parts at a time.
Creality Ender 3 V2 – FDM best 3D printer for making money
The Creality Ender 3 V2 is a common starter printer and is great for beginners looking to get into the field of 3d printing. It has a large build area of 22cm x 22cm x 25cm, packaged in a compact form. The ender 3 has a heated bed which allows for using a wide variety of different types of materials. Having a couple of these machines can make a great start to making money with 3d printing.
The over all print quality of an ender 3 is pretty on par with some of the more expensive machines. One draw back of of the ender 3 v2 is leveling the bed manually can take more time than having an auto leveling bed. With a quick upgrade, buying a Bl touch device and adding it to your printer you can fix this and have more precision with your prints.
Form 3 – SLA Printer
A great way to get into resin 3d printing is with a printer from form labs. Form labs have been in the industry since the start with their form 1 resin 3d printer. Resin 3d printing allows for super detailed and super small prints to be done accurately. Speaking from personal experience, the support behind the form products has been great, whenever something has broken or been off the form labs support team has quickly resolved any problems.
The form 3 is a higher end 3d printer which uses a laser and resin to create your 3d models. This is a great printer to have especially if you are into printing miniatures and the form 3 can go down to 25micron layer heights and has the potential to create extremely small details in your models.
The cons of a the form 3 are that it is a costly machine to operate, where 1 L of resin starts at around $150 USD and can go up. Another con is the cost to get into one of these printers where a low end cheaper FDM printer starts at around $250 USD a machine, the form 3 starts at $3500 USD a machine.
Fuse 1 – SLS machine
Another great printer from form labs, this time a SLS 3d printer. This type of machine should be considered by users getting into professional 3d printing because of the cost of entry can be quite high. The fuse 1 starts at around $18,500 USD and the full package at around $35,000 USD.
A SLS machine is great for end use products that your customers might want. Because of the SLS technology no support structures are required when printing. The powder in the machine and the powder the machine uses to print supports itself.
A con with SLS 3D printing is that it is costly to get into and can take up a lot of space in your facilities for all the equipment required to run a machine efficiently.
Before we get started make money
3D printing can be a challenge to some people, and this is definitely something to consider before starting in this type of business. Having a solid understanding of how 3D printing works is a must and another helpful set of knowledge is to have good problem solving skills.
Before jumping into something like this we recommend having previous experience or a willingness to learn as much as possible. Depending on the printers you start with, having dialed in equipment is a must. Potential customers are looking for fast turn around and not someone with a machine that is always messing up or is not running properly.
Another thing to keep in mind is the type of printer you want to use for your 3d printing business. For this you should have a couple of things in mind, like what type of materials are you looking to print? and how precise of an application are you using it for?
For example if you business is printing miniatures a SLA (Stereolithography)3D printer might be something to consider to get all the details of the prints. If you are a professional you could look into having multiple different types of 3d printing technologies to cover all the bases of any customer. For example a professional 3d printing service could offer SLA, FDM, SLS and others.
Filament choices with FDM 3d printers is endless, having a wide variety could be costly but having different materials and colors could bring in customers. Customers of your printing company will apricate having a wide variety of different materials for their projects.
For example if a customer is looking for a strong material you could have a carbon fiber reinforced filament to fit their exact needs. Next, is having a variety of different colors, because its easier to print in different colors than to paint.
Finding a Niche that works
So you are interesting in starting your first 3d printing business, something to take into consideration is finding a niche that is both interesting and profitable for you. A niche is like a more specific industry within 3d printing. For example a popular niche in 3d printing is printing miniatures, where typically people make money by printing models from characters from video games, movies and tv shows.
Finding something that you are interested is recommended because it is not as fun if you are doing something that you don’t enjoy, what’s the point? Although it is recommended to find something that has a lot of interest in it so you are able to find customers. For example the miniatures niche is huge, there is a lot of different options in terms of variations to each product.
Now to find a niche that interests you. First think of some hobbies you may enjoy, now is there any problems that you encounter that might be able to be solved with a 3d printed part? Or is there something you need customized? All these questions are great to ask yourself if you are trying to find something to print and possibly sell.
Another example of a niche that works is with a popular toy. If you have ever heard of Nerf then you might have an idea about what this niche is about. There is a popular market that deals with printing and modeling of nerf blasters. There is a whole community devoted to modifying and creating new nerf blasters.
Operating costs as an important element of your business
To calculate your running costs first find all expenses your printer will take. Some to keep in mind are how much does filament cost and find a rate that can be calculated in an easy way, for example a price per grams used or mL used.
Finding the deprecation of your printer is a good thing to have added in to, must printers have a minimum life expectancy of around 3000 hours. You should figure out how much an hour your machine costs to pay for itself over the life span of the machine. You can figure this by dividing how many hours your machine will last by the price of the machine. This value will be how much it costs to use the printer per hour.
Another cost you should keep in mind is consumables. This includes but is not limited to: filament, supplies such as gloves, paper towels, and tape. These consumables should also be added in to your bare minimum running price.
This can easily be done by figuring out the quantity of these items and dividing by the cost to purchase. A cost to consider is your time, how much time does it take to step up a printer to start printing and is there any clean up time? Adding some of your time to clean up prints by removing supports and etc… should be considered in the equation too.
There are a lot of great free 3d printer calculators online which you can find by searching 3d print cost calculator on a search engine of your choice. They will ask the same questions we asked above and they may even go further into details. A great website to find your costs is on omni calculator which is linked here: https://www.omnicalculator.com/other/3d-printing
With your 3D printing business / service it is essential to be able to provide accurate quotes for your customers and for yourself. In this article we will go over how to provide a quote to a customer. First, we will look at what type of print type does the customers 3d model require and is it even possible to 3d print?
Once you have found out your running costs you can calculate the price of a users 3d models by using your slicer software. This software, (for example: Cura, Pre-form) will tell you the time and how much material is used either in grams, or mL.
In my experience, I usually charge by the hour when printing with FDM machines and by the mL when printing with SLA machines. I do this because, SLA printers the print time does not matter by how many items are in the build plate, and resin is much more expensive than filament.
Once you figure out how much the 3d print will cost you integrating your running costs and shipping costs, this is when you mark it up by a percentage, usually 25 to 50% as a profit margin, which you can use to pay yourself or reinvest into your business.
A important thing to keep in mind when running a 3d printing service is shipping. Shipping can be a very costly expense when 3d printing, especially if you are shipping internationally. Having a variety of boxes is a good idea to minimize shipping costs. Having a box that will fit a print without much dead space in it is cost effective and more environmental.
Make money with a 3D printer like a hobbyist
Starting out we have our section for where to start if you are a hobbyist looking to make money with your 3D printer.
First step should be finding a printer that works for you. We recommend finding or using a printer that is extremely reliable and has good print quality.
Next we will go over different ways to actually go about making money with your 3d printer and different sites you can use.
Fiverr – the easiest way to make money with 3D printing
Fiverr is a great platform to list your freelance services on. So if you 3D print or design 3D prints this is a great site to find some business on. Signing up does not take long at all and this is a site I personally use to make money from my 3d printer. They allow you to send customer offers to your potential customers and makes it an easy way to get paid for your 3d prints.
Generally with a service like fiverr, customers come to you with a file already chosen and you print and ship their print once it finishes printing. This is known as print on demand, which is a popular way to make money from 3d printing.
The pros to setting up on fiverr is the possibility to build relationships with customers and have a customer base that you have built. Another pro to using fiverr for your 3d printing business is that fiverr does a lot of advertising to its site, so there will always be a healthy amount of traffic to your listing.
A downside to fiverr is that they do take a higher fee percentage from work you have done so keep that in mind when you give out quotes. Another slight downside is that you might have to build your reputation before you start getting orders to come in consistently. It might take awhile before you can find someone willing to pay for your services, patience might be required or you could try reaching out to potential customers on the buyer requests tab.
Over than that Fiverr has been a great platform to get paid for 3d printing services, and it is a great way for you to start your 3d printing business or your design services!
To get started on fiverr click here!
Get paid for your design work
The website MyMiniFactory is a great site to use if you are looking to get paid for your 3d printable designs. Here you can simply list your .stl file and get paid whenever someone purchases and downloads your file.
The best part about this is you get to pick the price of your work. To get started in this sort of business, you should consider learning how to actually design parts, to do this you can register and download with a CAD software (Computer aided Design). We recommend a free one like Fushion 360. From here, you should start learning as much as possible about different tools you can use to start designing.
Once you feel comfortable and have an idea start designing and upload it to MyMiniFactory. And start getting paid for your 3d designs.
The pros of something like this is that the profit protentional is unlimited and there is not much extra time you have to put into your project after you have released it. It is a great way to earn passive income once you have a shop set up.
The cons are that it may be hard to find someone willing to pay for your file if it is not a very complex design, and it will take awhile to learn how to design if you do not have previous experience.
Etsy / Ebay – initial earnings on a 3D printer
Another great way to make money 3d printing, is using your printer to print models and then sell your 3d prints on sites like Etsy or eBay. To get started with selling 3d printed items we have to understand how the process works. First we recommend finding a similar product that works on one of the sites and then comes the tricky part, seeing if the model allows for it to be sold / profited from.
A good way to check is if it is on a site like thingiverse there will either be a dollar sign or a dollar sign with a cross through it, this lets you know if it is available for commercial use.
Stealing someone’s design that is specifically non-commercial is not recommended. It is best to get permission before selling these 3D printed items. You could avoid all of this if you have an original design and print you wanted to sell.
Next is finding a price for your product were it both appeals to the protentional customer and has a good profit margin for yourself. We went over how to quote prints above in the article but this can be slightly different.
The price of your product should be determined by print time, shipping and any extra costs such as if you designed the part, cost for your time of designing. Or if you used a file from someone else they may want royalties on each product sold.
Making money printing and selling on these services is an easy way to start in the 3d printing business, because you can control the models being printing versus running a printing service where users models can be challenging to print.
Using this method you are able to dial in your printers to print the same few products over and over. Selling 3d printed products also has some of the best margins because you set the price of your 3d printed products, and it allows for an unlimited profit potential.
Creating a 3D printing course – If you’re a pro
3D printing courses are a popular way of people getting valuable knowledge on the subject and a easy way to get started in a new hobby or business. Creating a course with your knowledge can be time consuming but can provide yourself with a solid stream of passive income.
To start with something like this, look at what other people are selling and see how you can build on that and provide even more value to your customer. Next define what your course is going to be about, there is thousands of possibilities, such as a course on how to start 3D printing for beginners or how to 3D model models for 3D printing.
Then consider what type of media type you want to offer for your course. Video? text? A video format may take additional skills to be able to finish the course, such as video editing and video capturing.
Creating a course can be a lot more work than people first think it might be. There are a couple factors you should keep in mind. The time it will take to create a course. Another consideration you should think about different ways of advertising your course. A great way to do so is on social media. Social media advertising is a fantastic way to grow your business and get your course in front of a wider audience.
Once you have put in the effort this can be a great way to bring in passive income.
An e-book on how to make money in 3D printing
Similar to a course, creating and selling a book or eBook about 3d printing can be a great idea to take advantage of your 3d printing knowledge. A great way to publish and sell your book is through Amazon, they have a lot of great resources for publishing your book.
To get started with writing an eBook you have to find a good topic you think readers will want to learn about and be willing to spend money to read about. Once you have done your research and found a topic, choosing a catchy title for your eBook is important. This is what will get people to click and even consider your eBook. Then you should start writing as much as you can about your topic, ideally having around one hundred plus pages worth of content is a good start.
Be sure to read over and edit any grammar or wording mistakes before publishing your book. Finding a good price point is important for your book, depending on how much effort you have put into your book should vary the price, a good starting price for a 3d printing eBook could start at around $7.5 USD and go up to $25. Here is the link to the amazon site for publishing: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/
Make money with a 3D printer like a Professional
Becoming a professional in the 3d printing space means you have quite a few machines or you are looking to purchase quite a few machines. Here are our ideas to make money with a 3d printer in the professional setting.
Having a wide variety of machines can be helpful when you are printing professionally, for example you could look into having and offering many different types of printing technologies, such as FDM, SLA, SLS and Polyjet.
Build your own Website for 3D printing of products to order
Building your own 3d printing service website is a great idea for a number of reasons. Number one, you control the prices of everything on it. With a print management service you are able to set up an auto quoting system. Number two, build repeat business easily.
Having built a brand around your 3d printers if you customers are happy and need more printing they are likely to keep coming back to your brand. This is great because you will get orders without having to spend more on advertising.
Maker OS on your website
A great resource for adding an auto quoting and a print management software onto your website is from a company called maker OS. Linked here: https://makeros.com Having this type of software can save time and money. Maker OS even handles the credit card processing part of the website too so you can have secure checkouts and easy flow on your website without having to hire a web developer. This also allows you to add any employees onto your dashboard where you can give them instructions and files to print.
Print on Demand Companies
Craft cloud is a 3D printing service marketplace which allows customers to upload a model and then choose from a variety of different print vendors. Signing up is easy, but you should keep in mind they have certain thresholds your company will have to be at, such as the number of machines and your capabilities. This can be a great way to get traffic and prints onto your printers and have a consistent workflow.
The pros of craft cloud is that they do the advertising and they bring the work to you if you are priced right. Another great thing about this site is that users can rush their items for a higher pay day for you. For example a 2 day lead time can be an extra $150 USD.
The cons of craft cloud is that you are confined by their business and there is other competition on their site. You may have to have competitive pricing to beat other print services. Another con may be that they might take a chunk of your profit for themselves because they provide the work.
The link for craft cloud is here: https://craftcloud3d.com/
3D Hubs – how to make money with a 3d printer
3d Hubs now known just as Hubs is another 3d printing service market place, which works with a lot of fortune 500 companies to manufacture and prototype designs. They not only have 3d printing but also machining if your business is into that sort of industry as well. They are quite strict on the applications on who they allow to join their service so be prepared for that.
Having professional companies jobs for 3d printing can print in a larger budget and larger profits for your printing company, because the bigger companies have more budget set side to prototype their designs. Stricter quality is something to keep in mind, having a print not turn out 100% is something to keep in mind, when dealing with larger companies you want the prints to be quality insured before sending them out.
The link for hubs is here: https://www.hubs.com/