A 3D printer can be considered a versatile tool: it’s actively used in medicine, electronic, automotive and food manufacturing and even house building. Home-use 3D printers can also help to make money. In this article, we will talk about the real opportunities this side job provides.
There are many ways to make money using your 3D printer at home. Even though it will require some investments, it will pay off in the end. It’s important for an entrepreneur to recognize their own capabilities and the demand for 3D printed products. Let’s examine just 5 ways to use a desktop 3D printer.
Production of Personalized and Customized Things
The most popular way to make money using a 3D printer is to produce personalized things. For example, fashion accessories — bags, belt buckles, and even full costumes. The Halloween, costume contest and even cosplay would be a good use-case for 3D printed clothes and accessories. The solution will be relatively expensive, but it’s still the only way to produce such things. A 3D printer owner would need to research the market, find the customers and put a lower price for their service .
Customer searching who would need thematic costumes for parties and events one would need to search over the online forums and communities. The same should be done for finding cosplayers and movie and video games fans, which might not only want clothes but also related accessories: such as decoration and weapons of the characters.
The number of personalized things that can be 3D printed includes:
- smartphone cases;
- exclusive headphone stickers;
- cup holders;
- plastic tools — monkey wrenches and even hammers;
- smartphone holders, cutlery, and bottle holders.
Before starting to make money with a 3D printer, it’s better to choose a model fit for producing personalized exclusive parts. An FDM 3D printer with a large build volume would be a good choice. It will make it possible to print chest plates and helmets of a costume. Moreover, a 3D printer like this can be used for producing small objects as well.
One of the models that fit the description is the Picaso Designer X Pro with a build volume of 200 x 200 x 210 mm. The machine can print at a speed of 100 cm3.
Souvenir Production and Museum Replication
Souvenirs are among the most popular 3D printed products. As an example, the keychains and cups with the logo or name of a client company. Another interesting solution would be replicating museum artifacts, scale models of architectural landmarks, and sculpture models. It would be easier to work with the art objects that are located in the same place where the business is. It would simplify customer search.
The Ultimaker 3 Extended would be a good choice for souvenir production and scale model printing. The model stands out with its dual-extrusion system that allows for simultaneous printing with two materials, a low level of noise, and a printing speed of 300 mm/s.
This 3D printer can use different types of plastic and scan the objects before replication.
3D Printing Real People
The next way to make money with a 3D printer is a rather original one: producing small-sized copies of customers. The first thing to do would be to scan a person. It would require using a handheld 3D scanner and would take around 10 minutes. The main thing is that the person should be standing still during the process. After that, the model will be corrected by a 3D designer. The final step would be 3D printing people. It would require special software and a 3D printer for these tasks.
Producing 3D models like these can be done on a mid-range 3D printer. But the majority of companies that do this kind of job use more multi-functional and expensive high-end models. For example, the ProJet 860Pro or a less expensive option named ProJet 660Pro. The devices can use 5 materials at once and the cost of materials is low.
Another way to make money for a 3D printer owner is food production. A fitting solution would be the Chocola3D model. It can print using different materials: from chocolate and sugar to hummus, fruit spread, and paste-like substances.
The list of food 3D printers is rather short but it keeps growing. Apart from chocolate, there are other products that can be made using these machines: sugar figurines, lollipop candies, dough figures, and even pasta. The more unique the product looks, the more demand there will be. One can print customized and personalized products in the shapes of names or logos. It’s better to use cheaper 3D printers for printing with plastic.
An even more profitable way to make money with 3D printers is parts production. It can be the parts of household appliances and electronic devices that are nearly impossible to find for sale. Such parts can be 3D printed and will be desired by owners that can finally repair their devices instead of throwing them away. The work will be done essentially on the ‘printing-on-demand’ basis since it’s impossible to predict what part will be needed.
An owner of a 3D printer can also make money producing car parts. For example, gears made of plastic, engraved names and logos, headlamp washers, sound system cases and dashboard parts. To sell such parts one would need to go through online automotive communities and offer the services.
The XYZPRINTING da Vinci 1.0 would be a good choice for printing parts. The features of the device include an enclosed build chamber with a volume of 200x190x200 mm, a high level of detail, and simultaneous dual-material printing. The model perfectly deals with scanning, engraving, and producing mid-sized 3D printed parts.
When considering the area of work, one should know the cost of the machines and how much money it will be possible to make. The prices of the devices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The latter usually means that the machine is a professional solution. An inexpensive machine would be enough for producing small 3D printed figurines. For high-speed and high-quality work with demanding high-temperature plastics, it’s better to go for a professional machine.
The payback period depends on a variety of factors:
- customer base
- the skill of a maker
- material costs
- the ability to finish the models: for example, the plastic costume models will be connected to the base made of cloth
Judging by owners’ experiences, the average payback period is around 1 year. The devices for food production using chocolate and similar ones can have a shorter payback period. In this case, the finished products might cost a hundred times more than the materials.
Things to Consider
Before using a 3D printer for building a business, one should know about possible difficulties:
- Some models can’t be printed even using the most modern devices. One should consider geometry, sizes of the model and printing resolution.
- The majority of 3D printers available at moderate cost support only single-color printing. Dual-extrusion models can work with two colors, but aren’t able to produce a seamless transition between the tones: it will be noticeable.
- Post-processing often includes using an abrasive paper, a hacksaw and solvents. The prints often need to be painted.
- When calculating the production costs, one should consider the price of consumables, including paint and solvents, apart from the cost of the materials themselves. It will also help to find at which price it would be better to sell the products in order to make the business both profitable and competitive.
Working with 3D printers and scanners requires using special software and possessing the certain skills. There’s a possibility that an entrepreneur will need to ask some experts for help. If an entrepreneur is planning to work alone, it would be wise to spend some time learning 3D modeling — the information and courses are available online on the specialized websites.