The 3D EntrepreneurConstantly evolving technology has enabled the price point of 3D printers to become affordable to the average person. Since many of our customers use 3D printing to generate income, we wanted to discuss 3 different ways you can profit from 3D printing.
1. The CAD Designer
Every 3D printed part needs to be based off of a 3D model from a CAD (computer aided design) file. You can think of this CAD file as a 3D blueprint. This first method of generating revenue from 3D printing involves creating and selling these CAD files. Arguably, this is one of the most affordable and easiest ways to profit with 3D printing since it only requires a computer, CAD software, and time to learn.
If you are curious of the possibilities using 3D modeling, check out sites such as Thingiverse, GrabCAD, or Pinshape to view multiple CAD catalogs to draw inspiration to create or improve models.
No matter your price point, there are a variety of CAD options to help you get started. If you like free stuff, check out Blender or Tinkercad. If you have a budget to invest into CAD software, look into Sculptris or Cubify. If money is no issue and you are looking for the best software, try Solidworks or Rhino3d. Just remember, there is a vast number of CAD software options out there -- there is bound to be one that fits your style and needs. If you aren’t an expert yet, there are tutorials and communities online that can help you learn through every step of the process to guide you on your way to becoming a CAD professional.
3D scanners now add another dimension into the versatile world of CAD design. With the ability to scan and digitally recreate real-life objects, 3D modeling becomes faster and more detailed. As a 3D modeler, 3D scanners are another tool you can use to improve the quality and efficiency of your work.
Once you have learned how to design CAD files and produce printable 3D models, it is time to use your skills to make a little money. At this point, there are two basic marketing methods to use. The first is advertising your abilities to design new objects based on a client’s requirement. Clients are looking for 3D modelers to create anything from trinkets to antique car parts to prototypes. This will most often involve customized work and gives you the ability to really show what you know.
The second method involves advertising your portfolio of work. There are multiple digital marketplace sites that allow users to buy and sell 3D model files. Some of the most popular of these types of marketplaces include CGtrader and Shapeways.
2. The 3D Printer
There is huge demand for 3D printed objects by consumers who can’t justify buying the entire 3D printer and all the related materials. Startups might need a prototype to get investments. Christmas might be coming up and someone needs a unique printed gift for their loved ones. The second method of starting a part-time job with 3D printing involves printing and selling the physically printed objects. Starting off, this part-time business will require investment into both a 3D printer and time to learn how to create quality prints. If you are brand new to 3D printing, we offer a variety of information to help you start off on the right path to printing success.
The type of 3D printer you buy will depend on your intended purpose of use. Printers vary in areas such as size, print quality, print versatility (ie. materials you are able to print with), reliability, support, ease of use, and, of course, cost. A little bit of online research and talking with experts at any retail location that sells 3D printers will help you decide what printer is best for you.
Along with understanding how physical factors (such as extrusion temperature, layer height, and filament quality) affect the quality of your prints, you will also have to learn how to use slicer software (also known as G-code) to convert your 3D model into printing instructions for your 3D printer. The cool part about this software is that it cuts the model into horizontal layers and then generates the toolpaths and amount of material needed to be extruded in order to create a physical object.
With 3D printing knowledge in the palm of your hand, you are ready to test the waters of your own 3D printing business. Just as described above as a CAD designer, there are two basic marketing methods to promote your knowledge, skills, and equipment. The first is advertising yourself as a 3D printer for hire. Here you take clients that have customized CAD models, but do not have the means to print them. You fulfill their needs by printing out professionally looking models. In order to gain clients, you can set up your own website, but there is a much easier way. There already currently exists multiple 3D printer network sites where customers go to look for 3D printers to hire for whatever job they may have. If you are interested, check out 3D Hubs or MakeXYZ. Once you know what you are doing, this process is easy!
The second method to make money as a 3D printer is to print designs and sell the physical objects online. Using this method, you can sell your products through traditional product-based websites like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy.
3. The Ultimate 3D Printer Entrepreneur
You may be thinking to yourself, what if you offer both customizable CAD designs and use that to print customizable products. Not only do you get the best of both worlds using the same techniques discussed above, but you are also on the same business model of many companies today.
Just as above, we are going to talk about two main marketing methods in this space. The first is the pure combination of a CAD designer and 3D printer for hire where you advertise your abilities and equipment to complete a variety of independent custom work to those individuals looking for someone to help them both with 3D modeling and then 3D printing (you are an inventor’s dream). This will give you experience in a variety of industries and who know what your next project will be.
The second marketing methods involves specifying your talents and skills to focus on one target niche that is in need of a custom designs and prints. Using this method, you typically focus on one product area and offer custom solutions for it. Check out Feetz who let you create custom shoes to fit your feet perfectly from 3D printing, or Ownphones who let you create custom earbuds to fit your ears perfectly from 3D printing.
Methods of Success
No matter the skill set or marketing method you use to generate revenue in the 3D printing industry, success often revolves around similar principals. First and foremost, the quality of your work (whether it is designing, printing, or both) must be considered outstanding to your client base. This generates positive reviews both online and word-of-mouth, which is a free and highly effective strategy for self-promotion. Secondly, differentiation is the name of the game when it comes to having an online presence. Chances are if you don’t differentiate your products or services, then you may become lost in the crowd of others. If you can differentiate then you can reach a target audience. And if you can figure out how to reach this target audience effectively (whether it is through established selling platforms like the ones we have mentioned in this article, social media platforms, or your own website), then you will end up creating a business you can be proud of.
Let’s get the ball rolling on a little brainstorming for differentiation…
As a designer, you can differentiate yourself by specializing in a certain product category, product style, or offering customizable options for any of your design (like letting your customers incorporate their name or a phrase into a design so that it is visible when finally printed). Design differentiation can be as simple as including both a 3D printed part picture and CAD design picture when trying to sell your CAD design online.
As a printer, you can differentiate yourself by using high quality filament to improve surface finish (we can help you here), improve the surface of a part through post-processing (ex. using acetone with ABS), partnering up with a painter to further improve the aesthetics of a part, or simply providing professional looking photos when selling online.
As you can see, the possibilities for what you can do with 3D printing are endless. We at ProMolt 3D are here to support our valuable customers in every way that we can.