Photo by Xiaole Tao on Unsplash

How to Make Money With 3D Printers

Some of the links may be from a sponsor. Advertising Disclosure

Whether you’re thinking about buying a 3D printer or maybe you’re dreaming about the many ways to make money with one.  Well, let it be known that there are ways, however, it’s going to take some work, but this can be said about any business adventure, right?

And, if you don’t have a 3D printer yet, be sure to set aside some money as these printers can start at $150 and greatly increase from there.  Generally, your hobby-like printers will cost less than $250, but if you get more into the industrial-sized printers, you’re looking at $5,000+.

In today’s guide, I want to talk about the many ways you can make money with 3D printing.  It’s not easy, but it can work with some effort.

As always, I’m 100% honest, so let’s jump in and begin.

Is 3D Printing Profitable?

This question greatly depends on what you plan on doing with your 3D printer.  Do you plan on helping people fix a problem?  Do you want to create some sort of art?   Depending on what you do, this can dictate how profitable you may be.  This can be said about anything.  Of course, you will want to turn your time into money and not just focus on supplies.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you want to create some art.  Right now, it’s almost Christmas as I write this and you could create trendy 3D ornaments.  In this case, you could create a design and then print it any time you make a sale.  Creating that design could take you some time, however, but once that’s done, you can continue to print.  This simply means you don’t have to hold inventory in a way.

In other cases, you may want to consult with businesses and help them fit a need.  Whether you find a niche or market yourself to have businesses find you, there are so many possibilities.

What I would recommend is to check out the ideas I’m about to mention and then check out the most common marketplaces.  See what people are selling their items for and if it makes sense to you.  Again, since there are so many options, it’s hard for me to say if it will be profitable or not.  I hope that makes sense.

In theory, 3D printing is definitely profitable, but you have to be on the right path.

With that being said, this brings me to the next part.

In the next sub-section, I want to talk about the different ways you can make money with 3D printing.  Hopefully, it can give you an idea as to what’s out there and if it makes sense to you.

Offer Specialized Items and Start a Business

I don’t know how talented you are with your 3D printer, but you may want to consider offering 3D printing services.  You can either focus on a particular niche or be open to any ideas if someone were to need your help.

For example, you could consider making tabletop miniatures, which is a very hot commodity in the 3D printing world, or you could design jewelry.  This list goes on, but you may want to research this and find something that you’re comfortable with.

Now, you may be wondering how you could offer these specialized items?

Well, you could start a full-fledged business and advertise it online via SEO, PPC and/or social media.  You could also use Etsy, a platform I’m going to mention next.  You can always create a listing, where you can let people know you’re open to customized orders.  There are a lot of ways to market your business, of course, but I will leave that up for another guide because there’s not much involved in marketing.

Let it be known that it’s tough at first in the 3D printing world.  In fact, it can be hard to turn a profit in the first few years, and it’s the main reason so many new 3D printing companies close up shop.  There’s a lot of work to be had, especially when working with companies.  The number of alterations alone can kill your business.  As long as you attempt to automate your systems and work with the right people, then maybe you could see some success.

If you need some help brainstorming, here are a few ideas I found online that you may want to research more in depth.   Remember, I’m just here to guide you and don’t consider myself an expert by any means.

What can you make?

  • Architect modeling
  • Birdhouse
  • Board games
  • Figurines
  • Game pieces
  • Home decorations
  • Lawn ornaments
  • Office accessories (business cardholders or paper trays)
  • Ornaments
  • Jewelry
  • Customized parts
  • Personalized items (key chains, etc)
  • PC cases
  • Phone accessories
  • Portraits
  • Robotics kits
  • Customized shoes
  • Tools
  • Vases

These are just a few of the things I can think of off the top of my head, but the next tip can help you gather thousands of ideas.

Sell Your 3D Items on Etsy

Etsy has a ton of sellers who often sell 3D prints or designs/blueprints.  Just type in 3D prints and see what pops up.  This should give you some ideas as well as what you could expect to make.

I’m not saying you should steal the ideas, but it should give you some inspiration.  There are a lot of them.

And, what I recommend is to see what a lot of people are selling, and if you see a lot of listings, it often means that item is selling.  For instance, when I was writing this, I saw a ton of phone holders, and the funny thing is that there were a lot of copycats.  That’s okay as long as you’re not violating any copyrights.  In the online world, competitors will always copy, especially if it works.  As long as you stand out among your competitors, such as offering something unique and having a competitive price, you shouldn’t have a problem seeing success.  It’s okay to copy in way, but just make sure it’s unique that it sets you apart.

Etsy is one of the biggest marketplaces for these types of prints and many people have success using it.  Even if you just want to start out as a hobby, that’s okay because the platform is designed for everyone, hobbyists and professionals alike.  Since Etsy is catered toward those who are looking for handcrafted items, this is a great way to reach out to that particular demographic.

NOTE:  Etsy isn’t the only game in town.  Check out these 23+ websites that work just like Etsy.  Of course, you can start your own website as well and try to rank in search engines for what you’re selling.

Sell 3D Printing Designs

Aside from printing models at your home, as seen in the Etsy example, you could sell your printing designs as well.  Again, you can use the Etsy platform or you could consider another platform such as Fiverr.  Even if you don’t have the best design skills, you can consider hiring someone on Upwork or Fiverr to help you with the design work.

This one is a pinch different since you won’t have to run your printer, however, you may have to, of course, run it at least once to ensure your design is spot on.

This is a great way to make a passive income as all you have to do is send the design over any time you make a sale.

Market Yourself Online via These Platforms w/ On Demand Services

On demand services are just like they sound.  You can offer your 3D printer to print what’s needed.

Acquiring the first customer can be a challenge if you’re offering a service, but there are a number of marketplaces where people are seeking the services you may be providing.

In this case, all that’s expected of you is creating a user name and then naming your business.  Best of all, the following marketplaces are free to use, but you just pay out a small commission for every sale you make.

The following are websites that can help market your print on demand service:

Consider Selling a Course

If you feel you’re confident enough to teach others how to use a 3D printer, consider creating and selling a course on platforms such as Udemy.

Whether you want to help people new to the industry or even help experienced users, there are more than enough courses out there that you could create.  What I recommend is that you check out Udemy to see which courses are hot.  Like the Etsy plan, don’t steal the idea but use it as a way of inspiration.

Start a Website

It can be hard to make money with the Udemy platform since there are a lot of websites that give away information for free.

If you want to provide insight and give it away for free, you can still earn money through advertisements and affiliate marketing.  For example, if you recommended a 3D printer or even accessories, you could work with a retailer, such as Amazon, who will give you a certain percent of the sale.

As your blog traffic grows, so does your income.  Just learn the basics of SEO and keyword research, and you’re on your way to a successful blog as long as you put in the work.

Start a YouTube Channel

Sometimes, viewers just want to see a 3D printer in action.  If you like the idea of recording your 3D printing adventures and earning income from ads/affiliate marketing, then it’s an idea to consider.

It’s not exactly printing items for others, but you can teach people, show people what you do or even take requests on social media to attempt to make something.  It’s up to you to be creative here, but there’s always room for another YouTuber.

Worst Case, Rent it Out

It’s not the greatest option, but if you don’t mind lending your printer out to someone else, consider renting it out for the day.

From a child’s birthday party to a company needing it for a day, this is a quick way to recoup your costs.

How much you can rent your 3D printer out will depend on the type, model, etc.

Final Thoughts

Sure, you can make money with your 3D printer, as you can see, but it’s going to take some work.

Whether you want to be creative on Etsy or record yourself on YouTube, there are a variety of options to consider right now.

Remember, the adventure won’t be easy, but this can be said about any startup online.  Just work hard, try your best, and hopefully, success will follow.

That’s going to wrap it up for now.

As always, if you want to add to this or comment on what I did, you’re more than welcome to do so in the comments below.

Want $5 free?

Try out Swagbucks, the most popular reward program I make the most money with. Simply answer survey questions and get paid!

Join Now to Get $5!

Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. You won't find gimmicks here. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I graduated from Arizona State University, and I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

Add comment