How to use your 3D printer to turn some profits or to finance the cost of the machine
So, you’re interested in getting a 3D printer or already own a 3D printer and you are thinking about how you pay for it or how you make it worth it beyond the magic making it allows you to achieve. Since I started Robo 5 years ago, I have encountered all different types of cool, unique ways 3D printing users are actually making MONEY using the tools. I wanted to share a few so you can begin to utilize your new tool as an investment and the start of your next side business.
First things first, if you don’t already have a meetup on 3D printing in your local area or don’t attend one, start a meetup at meetup.com with people interested in 3D printing and begin by showcasing you are the go-to source for 3D printing needs. Become an advocate of the technology and this will allow you to meet like-minded people and build a following around your efforts.
The initial move when you get your 3D printer is to go sign up on 3D hubs and MakeXYZ- build an account and promote yourself on social media, to all your friends and families, and even to local businesses - you offer 3D services now and have a potential revenue stream from it. You will naturally begin to get business as you get reviews on these sites, but you want to be active outside the 3Dhubs and Makexyz communities to leverage it the best you can.
Start a shop on Etsy - build a unique product, start a store, and sell your 3D printed creations. The key here is to create something unique that people actually want to buy. Use 3D printing as an advantage to create design elements that supersede anything already out in the market. Take Meow3D Store for example: They have created a couple of unique 3D printed items like a cool cat faced planter pot for niche audiences and are doing extremely well!
This is the type of thinking you need to have with your Etsy store. Some ideas: Create the coolest 3D printed fins for surfers, create heart inspired pieces for couples- you get the drift.
Create a Shapeways shop. Shapeways.com began as a 3D printing service provider, but has since allowed designers to sell their 3D designs using Shapeways 3D printing services. If you have the chops to create some cool unique pieces, then you have a chance to have a successful little side business. Here is some pendants and necklaces from other designers to check out. And go ahead, browse other categories to see what the community of designers are creating. https://www.shapeways.com/marketplace/jewelry/pendants-and-necklaces/
Go around and offer local product-based companies the opportunity to print prototypes. You would be surprised that even with companies that have expensive 3D printers already. The need is there - to be able to produce quickly and having a local resource for them doing all the work.
Go to a local makerspace and offer to teach a paid 3D printing class there. These makerspaces often charge for these classes and if you can develop a solid course, you most likely have a shot to be the creator of your next local 3D printing course at your local makerspace. And voila, revenue generating from your 3D printing skills!
- Join groups on social media and forums around gaming and gamers and offer up a service to print gaming characters for these users. A lot of the success on Etsy stores are 3D printed objects from games so we know the community is eager to take their digital character and make it into a physical tchotchke.
- If you pair up a 3D printer with a great 3D scanner like the NextEngine 3D Scanner, you can become the go to “scan you and your fiance and make wedding toppers” guy. You can also use this to make bobbleheads of anyone and everyone.
- If you are in college and somehow by the time you read this, fidget spinners are still a thing, you can print and make them with your 3D printer and sell them around campus for $5 a spinner. Total cost to make would be about $1 with materials. Not a bad profit. Keep an eye out for the next crazy trend and use your 3D printer as a mini manufacturing tool.