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How to Make Money With a 3D Printer? 9 Best Ways

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How to Make Money with a 3D Printer? 9 Best Ways

3D printers are among the fascinating inventions of the 21st century. Not only can you make a lot of fun and creative things with it, but you can also monetize 3D printing. Here are some ways you can make money with 3D printing jobs. 

Sell Pre-made 3D Prints on Etsy

Etsy Summary

  • Easy to set up & maintain your store
  • 45+ million active Etsy buyers
  • List your first item for just $0.20
  • Automatic deposits and secure transactions

Etsy is a popular website for those looking to earn money from their handicrafts. Considering how 3D printing takes creativity and artistic knowledge into account, Etsy is an excellent platform to sell your work. 

You can offer premade designs and showcase your unique styles. You can also offer a combination of predesigned 3D prints, and allow customers to add some personal touch. With how huge Etsy’s following is, you’ll never run out of potential customers. Just look out for copyright issues with your designs, and like in other marketplaces, cheap customers.

What can you sell on Etsy?

If you need some ideas on what to sell, here are some:

  • Vases
  • Planters
  • Meme icons, like the Freezing Bernie
  • Dungeons and Dragons miniatures
  • Anime and superhero character models

How do you choose which products to sell? 

When choosing which products you can sell, the best step is to check what actually sells in Etsy. You might find a lot of the same products – for instance, phone cases, and planters. But these items offer significant room for customization. 

While the items can be pretty generic, offering unique designs can entice numerous customers. 

What can you do to stand out?

Since you’ll be competing with many 3D printers in Etsy, it can be challenging to stand out. 

Here are four easy steps you can take to stand out:

  1. Think of what makes your product unique and highlight it. For example, you can offer high-quality prints or custom finishing.
  2. Ask satisfied clients to post a review on your product page.
  3. Market your products with high-quality photos.
  4. Don’t compete for price. You’ll only attract cheapskates, which might not be good for business in the long run. Plus, people might misgauge the kind of service you offer.  
sites like etsy

Sell an Online 3D Printing Course on Skillshare

Skillshare Summary

  • Earn over $100,000 per year as a teacher
  • Large target audience of over 12 million
  • Short class length of 30-40 minutes
  • 2 ways to earn – royalties and referrals

Maybe designing is not for everyone, and if that includes you, what will you do with your 3D printer then? If you have a knack for communicating and teaching people, selling an online 3D printing course is another excellent option. 

Skillshare is among the best platforms to sell your knowledge and skills on 3D printing.

What’s good, your courses don’t have to be exclusive on operating the 3D printer. You can consider other topics such as managing a 3D printing business or making a sizable income with 3D prints. 

You can check out free video tutorials online and go through the viewers’ comment section. From there, you might find some hidden gems on what viewers are looking to learn about 3D printing side jobs. Then, you can make videos about those.

Start 3D Printing Business in Your Area

Starting a local 3D printing business in your area can be the most profitable option. It’s especially good if you manage to be the first business offering such service in your area. However, this option requires a lot of time and effort, as you’ll need to do this full-time. 

You’ll have the opportunity to fill in local demands, compared to before when people had to look for 3D printing services online.

3D printing business example

Suppose there is a high demand in your hometown. In that case, you’ll need to work extra hard, hire more people, and invest in additional equipment. After all, you’ll need to fulfill client orders within deadlines not to lose your customers. 

On the downside, the profits may not be as sufficient as expected if there are fewer demands in your area. It takes careful planning and getting to know the needs of the locals when it comes to 3D printing. 

And assuming that you can meet those needs and 3D printing products in demand still begs another crucial question. How long can your business strive in the local economy? 

In that case, you’ll need to think of making your 3D printing business more of a commodity. It should withstand people’s changing needs and, if possible, be the trendsetter. Make it to a level where people realize they need 3D prints in their homes or businesses. 

Start a Print-On-Demand Business with Shopify

Shopify Summary

  • Free 14 day trial period available
  • Build a new website in under 2 hours
  • Over 100 payment gateways supported
  • Over 6000 apps to improve your store

Suppose you want to make money 3D printing on demand but realize you don’t have local support in your area. You can still do so by offering your services online.

Shopify is one of the best options to set up your online store and sell your 3D prints online.

Start a YouTube Channel

Another plausible 3D printing side hustle is starting your YouTube channel. Through this, you can stick to 3D printing-related niche and create unique content to attract viewers. Although, admittedly, running a YouTube channel is more often easier said than done. Still, you might have an interesting perspective on 3D printing, so it will be worth it to try this out.

By reaching wider viewership, you have the potential to earn more. YouTube will pay you for the ads on your channel, and you can market your services to more people.

how to make money on youtube

Rent Your 3D Printer

Say you want to earn money from your 3D printer, but with minimal effort. In that case, renting might be the ideal option for you. Like how a photo booth works on special occasions, you can rent your 3D printer to parties. Then, print customized souvenirs for the guests. 

However, you might want to print some souvenirs in advance. It can take a long time to print everything from scratch, and guests might complain if they don’t receive theirs.

things you can rent out

Sell Digital 3D Files Online

Besides 3D prints and printing services, you can also sell digital 3D files online. These are designs others can print on their 3D printers. If you have strong design and artistic skills, this can work for you. 

You can cater to companies and businesses looking for unique designs. Specifically, a company commissions a 3D designer to work with them, producing a mutually agreed number of monthly designs.  

While this can be financially promising in the long run, you need to ensure that all your designs are unique. Plus, you’ll lose claims from the designs you make since these technically become the company’s property once you sell these.

In this type of gig, it is crucial for you to know your worth as a designer.

One of the good places to sell your digital 3D files is Etsy.

remote graphic design jobs

Specialize in Rapid Prototyping for Small Design Firms

Some small design firms might need prototypes printed but find purchasing 3D printers not cost-efficient. In this case, you can provide specialized rapid prototyping for them. 

Here’s the list of some industries and companies that might find interest in your services:

  • Architecture firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Toy designers
  • Jewelry designers

Having these companies print their actual products can be costly. Thus, a 3D printer can help them visualize designs for an affordable price. 

Sell Your 3D Printer

Understandably, you might find 3D printing not the ideal business for you. In the end, you can still profit by selling your equipment. This way, you can get some of the money you invested and have funds for your next purchase.

selling apps

What Can I Make With a 3D Printer? Top 10 Ideas

If you’re looking to test the full potential of your 3D printer, you can check out these top 10 ideas:

  1. Fashion jewelry
  2. Boardgame pieces
  3. Glow-in-the-dark decals
  4. Personalized items like phone cases and keychains
  5. Door decor
  6. Lawn ornaments
  7. Equipment custom parts
  8. 3D portraits
  9. Human anatomy 3D models
  10. Cat and Birdhouses

Keep in mind that you can sell any of these items, too. 

How Profitable is 3D Printing?

Considering what you can do with a 3D printer, there’s no doubt that you can earn money from it. But, how profitable is 3D printing, really?

To answer that question, you’ll need to consider your market. Say you’re catering to the general consumer, selling personalized printed stuff. In this case, you can’t expect high returns because people generally will go for the cheapest option. If you offer your products at a high price, you might have difficulties getting customers. 

On the other hand, you might be catering to companies that use your services as part of their business model. To be more specific, a business trusts your 3D printer to solve a costly problem for them. Thus, they are willing to pay you more to do it. 

To put these ideas in perspective, here’s an example:

  • Scenario A: Jim wants to 3D print a bomb he needs to prank his friend, Tom. 
  • Scenario B: Sofia wants a 3D prototype print of jewelry she plans to sell on Etsy. 

In reality, many Jims are looking for cheap options, and many of them find 3D printing expensive. After all, what they have in mind is personal use. In contrast, many Sofias understand the cost of 3D printing and see it as an investment for their business.

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Kate Starr


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