Can You Make Money 3D Printing?

When 3D printing was first invented, it revolutionized the manufacturing process and opened doors for many entrepreneurs. It allowed for highly detailed, everyday objects to be customized for production at a faster pace for lower costs. In fact, many items are more likely to be 3D printed now than ever before.

Can you make money 3D Printing? Yes, there are several ways you can make an income using 3D printing. They include: 

  • Lease your printer.
  • Sell 3D printers.
  • Make prototype services.
  • Sell personalized crafts.
  • Provide training and troubleshooting services.

3D printing is considered a booming business, and it has become an important factor when it comes to production. 

There’s been a rise in demand for 3D printing for creating everyday objects, though it’s also used for commercial purposes. Let’s take a closer look at how people can use a 3D printer to make money.

Make Money with 3D Printers

Many people make money by providing products or services that may result in significant improvements in productivity, quality of products, and reduction in costs. Being aware of customer needs and demands for a particular service can lead to big rewards.

Lease Your Printer

Since 3D printing is still considered new technology, not many people have access to a printer. A good printer can cost about $1000, and not everyone can afford that. One way to pay off your printer is to charge other enthusiasts for the use of your 3D printer to print their designs. 

It helps to find a platform where you can list your printing services. One of them is 3D Hubs. You can list your printer there and get paid by filling out orders you receive. It’s rather easy to create an account and join. 

There are other sites such as i.materialise and Shapeways. They’re also easy to join and offer resources for people who want to make money with 3D printing. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram may be useful for advertising your services. 

These platforms offer a community with designers and printers who sell their services. The goal is for shoppers to go there and find experts who can help them print products. You’ll be able to put your machine to work and make money with a 3D printer. 

Sell 3D Printers and Parts

There are various types of 3D printers. The reason there are so many is that the parts can be customized and altered. This opens up a market for custom parts. They can be manufactured and sold as a complete kit, either assembled or unassembled. 

You can also manufacture and list replacement parts that may be needed. Some entrepreneurs take it a step further and use a 3D printer to print parts for other 3D printers. This reduces the cost of production. 

When selling your printer or parts, consider portability and durability. Some clients may want smaller printers to use at home, while others prefer a larger commercial printer. 

Provide Prototype Services

There is a rising demand for rapid prototyping for:

  • Businesses.
  • Designers.
  • Architecture.
  • Engineering.
  • Construction.

Designers tend to use a scale model to make sure the design is suitable, and to showcase the end product.  

This is where 3D printing comes into play. It saves time and money, which means prototypes can be printed with different designs in little time. Professionals will be able to test and showcase multiple versions easily. 

Rapid prototyping using a 3D printer has been an improvement over the traditional methods, because it reduces the possibility of making mistakes and allows for high-quality complex designs. 

A good example would be a bridge. Engineers from a Polish company, YLE, created a prototype of a realistic bridge that allowed them to test their plans against stimulated conditions. This way they could see how it responded to different stressors before moving on to build the actual bridge. 

Art and Crafts

Interior designers can request unique items to be 3D printed quickly instead of waiting months for a craftsman to create them. The possibilities almost seem endless! Products can range anywhere from:

  • Decor.
  • Furniture.
  • Light Fixtures.
  • Plumbing.

You could take advantage of the open market for 3D printed items by creating artistic products for sale. If you want to search for items to produce, check out thingiverse. You could also accept requests for personalized crafts. This can be accomplished by using an online shopping platform. 

Some jewelry companies have been jumping on this opportunity to create custom jewelry or fashion accessories. It cuts the cost of production due to reduced labor. This way the items cost less and can be ready in as little as 3-4 days.

Training and Troubleshooting Services

Since the technology is still fairly new, there’s an opportunity to offer printing lessons to people with growing interests in 3D printers. This can be accomplished by setting up:

  • Tutoring sessions.
  • After-school programs.
  • Classes on campus.

You can also provide troubleshooting lessons and services where you help other people resolve printing issues. After all, machines don’t always perform flawlessly, and there are times when it may malfunction. Drop-off repair services can also be offered. 

It’s useful to become familiar with issues that may arise such as:

  • Not extruding at the start of print – The printer does not extrude melted plastic at the beginning of the print.
  • Messy first layer – The printer extrudes too much plastic and makes it look very messy.
  • Stringing – Hair sized strings are left behind when the printer moves between sections of the prints.
  • Overheating – Small features overheat and become deformed.  
  • Blocked extruder – The extruder is clogged or jammed and will not extrude any plastic from the tip.
  • Leakage – Melted plastic oozes out of the nozzle tip.
  • Gaps – The extruder is not applying enough plastic, leaving gaps between perimeters and the infill.
  • Warping – Parts of the object curl or change shape. 

It’s helpful to have a troubleshooting guide to address the above issues (or any other issue not mentioned). 

How 3D Printers Work

When considering making money with 3D printers, it helps to know how they work. 

First, a design is created in a slicing software using mathematical formulations. Then, the data is transferred to the printer, where individual layers will be applied with either melted plastic or epoxy resin that hardens. These tiny layers stick together to form a solid object. 

3D printing has evolved since it was first created. At first, molten plastic filament strands were used, then a different printing process was invented using resin. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Two Main Methods of 3D Printing: 

Resin printing -The process of printing for resin is different due to the physical makeup of the material. It comes in an epoxy liquid form that is poured into a tray on the printer.

As the image is flashed at the bottom of the tray using a UV light source, solid layers are cured and fused. 

Resin creates high-definition quality products and can be much more detailed than plastic printed items. However, the liquid resin is rather expensive, and the clean-up process can be time-consuming. The LCD screen will need to be replaced after a certain amount of prints.

I wrote an entire article about my experience with resin 3D printing–check it out here!

Filament printing – This is the most common form of 3D printing where the plastic filament is melted down and then extruded through a tip opening in a grid-like manner. A spool of filament is fed through the top of the 3D printer nozzle. Then it is melted and extruded through the tip. 

The plastic filament material is cheap and easily obtained. It creates low-cost items that can be produced quickly, but it is not always high-definition quality. 

There are risks of the items warping, melting, or becoming messy in general. Usually, the issue can be easily fixed with a troubleshooting guide