How To Make Money With A 3D Printer
The invention of 3D printers revolutionized the world of manufacturing. It has created waves of opportunities to budding entrepreneurs – something that steered their design thinking minds. This latest technology does not only enable the production of items with high levels of complexity and customization but have also drastically brought down the cost of manufacturing.
If you’re still new to this industry, you should read on as we will be touching on ways to make money with a 3D printer.
The History Of 3D Printing
3D printing is older than you think. It started in 1984 when Charles Hull made history by inventing the very first stereolithography. Stereolithography allows creators to make their 3D models through the use of digital data. This process then translates to the creation into a tangible object.
So, how does this invention work?
The main component in stereolithography is the photopolymer, a type of acrylic-based material. If you hit a vat of liquid photopolymer using a UV laser beam, the light-exposed portions turn into solid plastic. A UV laser is guided by a computer based on the design that is uploaded. The hardened plastic is extracted from the remaining liquit into the intended 3D-model.
This invention shook the world of inventors and manufacturers.
In 1999, the first 3D-printed organ was used in the field of medicine by implanting it in humans. Some scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine became huge proponents of the invention and realized it’s incredible impact.
They printed synthetic scaffolds of a bladder and coated it with human cells from the patient himself. This was then implanted into the individuals and as expected, the patient’s immune system did not reject the implant because it was made from it’s own tissue.
After a few years, 3D printing took over the world of medicine in various different functions such as prosthetic legs, miniature kidneys, and even blood vessels.
Ways To Make Money With A 3D Printer
Because of the evolution of 3D printers, various ways to earn money popped up. With this in mind, let us take a look at the best strategies you can leverage using this device.
Rapid Prototyping Services
There is a high demand for prototyping services, especially in businesses sectors like design, architecture, construction, and industrial engineering. Professionals now can show their drafted plans, test the viability of a product, and give a more realistic presentation in a matter of minutes using these 3 dimentional models. ‘
Using 3D printing prototyping is better than using traditional methods because of the following reasons:
- Reduces the chances of a fabrication or design error
- 3D printing lowers the cost and time of prototype production
- Has a higher ability to make more complicated and customized end products
- Enables the printing of several product variants of the same design
More and more professionals apply this approach to their work due to the benefits stated above. For example, engineers use a 3D printer for prototyping a bridge that they are planning on building. This move helped the design firm to test their plans properly, created simulations, and refine their designs before finalizing the construction.
Enroll in any of these prototyping online courses to enhance your skills.
Teach 3D Printing
With the rise in demand for 3D printing, you can find students and offer to teach them the basics of the new manufacturing process. Many students are looking for individuals that can assist them in their future careers in 3D design. Your class can include the intricacies of the printers, creating 3D models, what software to use, and steps on how to do the actual printing.
Many professionals in design and architecture are looking for these types of programs so they are no longer reliant on other professionals to do their prototyping for them. This can significantly reduce a professionals expenses especially if manage a small design firm.
At Penn State, for example, the students in their engineering and design courses use 3D printing to design, develop, and produce different products. With rapid prototyping they can quickly see challenges in the manufacturing process of their inventions and make alternations to their design before costly manufacturing runs.
3D teaching jobs are relatively rare outside of large universities so you will need to market yourself by advertising on social media sites or using google adwords or facebook ads. There are also small tutoring sites that would allow you to post your credentials, tutoring services, and fees. These are perfect avenues to start your teaching business.
Sell Your 3D Designs
One of the best ways to earn money with 3D printing does not require you to buy and have your own printer. You may just opt to sell your 3D designs to organizations and businesses that have access to a printer but do not have the time or capability to draft their plans.
A website where customers can purchase your designs is called Shapeways. These people are the Etsy of 3D printing. If you have ready-made models and designs, you can post them on the Shapeways website for free and customers can purchase them or have them printed on-demand and shipped out.
What’s good about Shapeways is that it already has the best features to build your online store. The site also has a built-in tool called CustomMaker, which allows a buyer to customize your designs to make your design more personal or useful for their use case.
Commercial 3D Printing
A lot of individuals out there want to produce objects using 3D printers, but do not have the equipment (software or hardware). There has been an increase in the rise of commercial printing services to help these individuals. In startup mode, you may be able to get assistance from local organizations with 3D printers, community centers or library.
One of the best websites for commercial 3D printing is 3D Hubs. It lets you list your 3D printer on their network and get paid for the products you print. These services are easy to join, and they also offer many resources to guide you with how the process works.
The first step is to create an account using a valid email address. Once you are in the database, you list your printer and provide some technical information about it. And you’re ready to do to take on orders and make money.
Print Your Products
Aside from the consultancy or service-based businesses mentioned above, the best way to maximize your skills and equipment is to sell your printed products. Successful entrepreneurs focus on a single line of product that master (and typically that interests them). Here are some ideas of products that you can use to jumpstart your 3-D Printed e-commerce business:
Customized Shoes (Flip Flops)
People love wearing flip flops since they are practical and comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, cheap ones tend to fall apart quickly. But if hard materials are used to improve the sturdiness of the product, then they it drastically impacts the comfort level of the footwear.
3D printed flip flops are coming on the market now that are made of more durable polymers but are digital tailored to the owners foot. So even though the flipflop is harder, because they are made to measure and perfectly formed to the contour of the individual, they are super pleasant to wear.
With a bit of creativity such as integrating a mobile apps that can scan a foot using your mobile device, you can now create an entire business around custom footwear and sell these $40 to $60 while the material cost is closer to $3 (after the sunk cost of the printer and software).
That is fantastic margins!
Hard-core movie fans are always looking for incredibly realistic props. They want to have these items so that they can recreate the feeling of being in the movie. Private collectors are willing to pay good money to purchase a replica of a prop or even a super hero costume.
This will require quite a bit of work, creativity and investment but if your final product is on point, you can bet the demand will be there. And after the upfront work of designing the prop, printing additional copies on your printer is simple and cost effective which can maximize profit on repeat orders.
You will need to be careful with potential copyrights issue so do your homework first. Check the laws and legalities of selling these products online.
Designer In-home Products
There are various in-home products that are perfect for this manufacturing process. Examples of these include clocks, coasters, toothbrush holders, diffusers, lamps, organizers and vases. With a 3D printer, you do have to balance the functionality of an item with it’s aesthetics. A high-end luxurious looking product will always be the main selling feature.
If you want to be successful, you have to think outside of the box and release all your creative juices. Make sure that your designs will stand out among other in-home products. It will also bring in waves of money if you slowly build more and more product lines.
Jewelry and Ornaments
3D printers are also capable of creating jewelry and ornaments. You can print it using a UV light curing photopolymer wax. Use the wax to cast the mold, and when filled with molten metal, it will burn away. Before you start with this initiative, however, make sure that you will study the art of making jewelry since this is a craft that requires advanced skills.
The key to this type of business is to find the best target niche. Once you find the category that will suit your skill, taste, and creativity, specialize in these and buy the best materials you can. Influencer marketing works great in this segment and is the ideal way to use marketing funds. If your target audience sees that you have famous backers, then they will be persuaded to purchase one of your lines.
Customized Ear Buds
Everyone’s ear size varies. If you wear the ordinary earphones you find in malls, and there is a significant possibility that they are not comfortable. The sound might not be that insulated as well. This concern is something that companies should address. In reality, however, only a handful take this problem seriously. So, how can a 3D printer be used for customized earbuds?
The first requirement is for a 3D scanning app such as Scandypro App or Qlone loaded on your mobile phone. These individual will need to scan their ear canal and a 3D file will be created. You can then use the 3D file to create a rendering and design that will be perfectly compatible. Your printer will generate the final product that fits comfortably in the individual’s ear.
The fast track way to create these is to leverage existing ear buds and only change the plastic bud pieces that fit in the ear. This way you conserve the sound of the product and just improve the comfort and fit.
Start Making Money Now
As seen above, there are many great opportunities to earn money in 3D printing. Your success will very much depend on your creativity and eye for design. You also have to be have a pulse on current trends in design to really maximize the appeal to a large audience.
Check out Fabricated: The New World of 3D by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman to learn more about the art of 3D printing.