How to Make Money with 3D Printing (2023 Update)

Do you have a 3D printer? Do you want to make some extra cash?

Well, there are many ways you can use your 3D printer and knowledge about space to make money! The need for custom part manufacturing has never been higher, and there are also some other methods of selling your services to generate some extra dough!

The most obvious way to make money with 3D printing is to offer an on-demand 3D printing service, where you 3D print models that clients give you. Selling already-made 3D prints is another good idea if you have a design for a part that people need. And, if you don’t have a 3D printer, you can still make money by selling 3D modeling services or consulting for businesses’ 3D printing needs.

Want to hear about other ways you can make money with 3D printing? Just keep reading!

How to Make Money with 3D Printing?

Source: Youtube engineericly

There are many ways you can make money with 3D printing, whether you have a printer or not. Moreover, the 3D printing industry is growing fast and there’s still an opportunity to capitalize on the demand in the space.

Many businesses and individuals need ways to get custom-designed parts, and 3D printing makes this possible.

But, even if you don’t have a 3D printer, you can make money in the space if you have knowledge about 3D printers or a special skill, like 3D modeling (CAD). You can sell your expertise or service and make a nice chunk of change!

Check out some of the best ways to make money with 3D printing in the sections below!

On-Demand 3D Printing Service

Perhaps the most obvious way you can make money with 3D printing is by offering an on-demand 3D printing service. On-demand 3D printing services are services where a customer gives you a 3D model and you 3D print the part and deliver it to them.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

There are tons of different on-demand 3D printing services around, such as Hubs and Xometry. However, these services still don’t meet all the customer demand out there, giving you an opportunity to cater your 3D printing service to a particular population to get their business.

For example, current on-demand 3D printing services still don’t make super economic sense for individual consumers who need maybe a single part 3D printed. If you have clients nearby you, you can offer your services, 3D printing models they want and hand-delivering it to reduce costs.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

Or, you can build a website that has a place where people can upload 3D models remotely and order them 3D printed by you. Then, you can advertise your site to get more customers!

Selling 3D Prints

Besides 3D printing as a service, you can also make money selling actual 3D prints that are already-made. Of course, you’ll need a 3D printer for this, but that’s basically it!

The first thing you’ll need to do is identify a part or design that people need. Ask yourself “What can I 3D print that people would buy and isn’t available in other places?”. 

Usually, the answer to this question is some sort of special mount or adaptor as these usually aren’t mass-manufactured, especially if the mount is for a niche group.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

For example, I’ve sold bike cassette shims that are for very specific products. The reason people bought them is that there weren’t any other options for the product online. There are other types of models besides mounts and adaptors, though, that you can sell, like miniature figurines (e.g. D&D dice), wall art, and toys.

Legally, it’s best if you design the model yourself because then the rights for the design are yours. However, you can also sell other people’s designs if they give you permission.

Once you’ve got your design, 3D print it, take some nice pictures, and start a listing online. The best places to sell 3D prints online include Etsy, eBay, and Amazon; you can also sell them in person or build your own online store. My favorite method is selling 3D prints to friends and family (but make sure your prints are high-quality!).

Check out our more in-depth article on things to 3D print and sell here.

Depending on what you’re selling, I also suggest offering multiple color options to appeal to the most customers!

3D Printing Consulting

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

Another way you can make money is in 3D printing consulting.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, consulting basically is just giving advice on a topic, which, in this case, is 3D printing. You should only consider 3D printing consulting if you’ve worked with 3D printers for a few years and are pretty experienced.

There are a few different routes you could go with 3D printing consulting. For example, you could offer advice as to how to 3D print an object, such as what printing technology, materials, and post-processing techniques to use. Another thing you could do is provide suggestions for when to use 3D printing and when to use other manufacturing technologies.

As for your customers, you can expect most businesses and professional organizations as these are the main groups who use consulting services. But you might also have some individual clients, such as people working on professional personal projects.

While having a 3D printer as a consultant would be nice, it’s not a requirement. But having a website for your consulting services, with some case studies, might be helpful.

3D Modeling Contracting

If you want to 3D print something, you have to first get a 3D model. And, while there are many free designs online, usually, custom-designed parts are needed. You can capitalize on this demand by offering your 3D modeling skills to businesses and individuals who need a custom-designed 3D model for manufacturing.

Of course, for this method, you’ll need to be pretty good at computer-aided design (CAD) and fluent in CAD software, like Onshape, Fusion 360, Solidworks, or Blender. But, if you’ve got this sought-after skill, then you’re golden!

Source: Jackson O’Connell

Your clients might range from dads looking to make a special part for their vinyl player to big companies who need a design for a special shelf mount. Whatever the case, there’s lots of demand for designers and, if you can show your skills to people, getting clients and making money will be a breeze!

I suggest setting up a website to display your portfolio of designs and then sharing it with family, friends, and prospective customers!

Post-Processing Service

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

If you’ve ever used an FDM 3D printer, then you probably know how the parts feel: porous, rough, and coarse. Post-processing is a set of techniques that you can use to make 3D-printed parts look and feel more well-made. You can make money by offering post-processing services to people who want to take their 3D prints to the next level.

Post-processing services usually include sanding, painting, polishing, and other finishing techniques. Basically, anything to turn a regular, old 3D print into a part that makes you say “wow, I didn’t even know it was 3D printed”.

A 3D printer isn’t necessary for selling post-processing services but having some personal experience is definitely preferred. But, as for hardware, you’ll probably want a sander, sandpaper, paint, brushes, and a rotary tool, like a dremel.

When it comes to finding customers, it may be a bit difficult because not that many people require post-processing services. However, once you find customers, they’ll likely require your services frequently, especially if they’re passionate about the parts they make, like cosplay enthusiasts and D&D players.

Other Ways to Make Money

Besides the five main methods of making money within the 3D printing space, there are a few other ways, which I’ve briefly covered in the sections below.

Selling or Renting Out 3D Printers Directly

Our first alternative method for making money with 3D printing is to sell or rent out 3D printers.

For the former, you would be buying 3D printers and selling them for a little more to secure a profit. It’s best if you have a deal with a supplier that can sell you 3D printers for less than their market price, so you can sell them for a small profit.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

You can probably make a lot more money renting out 3D printers, though. To do this, you’ll need a 3D printer farm or at least a few machines. You can rent them out by advertising the use of your print farm online to businesses or individuals looking to mass-produce custom-designed parts.

When deciding on a price or rate for renting out your 3D printer, make sure to consider material usage, power bill, your equipment cost, and your time (e.g. repairing machines).

Buying and Selling 3D Printing Supplies

Supplies, including filament, nozzles, and PTFE tubing, are all super important for 3D printing. You can’t use a 3D printer without them! Another way you can make money is by buying and selling these supplies for profit.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

As I mentioned with selling 3D printers, you’ll want a deal with a supplier of 3D printing supplies to get the most profit with this method. But, if you can’t, buying supplies in bulk and selling them directly to people can also help increase your profits.

3D Printing Content Creation

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

Content creation for 3D printing is another great way to make money, especially if you have a knack for video making, writing, or another form of content creation. While this method requires quite a bit of time and effort to get things going, it can really pay out in the end and it’s fun if you enjoy 3D printing!

A few examples of 3D printing content creation include starting a YouTube channel about 3D printers, 3D printing blog, or making social media posts.

3D Printing Training

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

As I’ve said before, the 3D printing industry is growing rapidly. And, with this, many people also want to learn about technology. If you’re knowledgeable about 3D printing, then selling training about 3D printing can be a very easy and fun way to make money.

In today’s day and age, people learn things online- so creating a course on a platform like Coursera or Udemy is probably the best way to get your product out there. However, you can also sell training in-person if you find a place to host it.

Repairing/Upgrading 3D Printers

If you have a 3D printer, then you know how annoying it is to fix it. And, for people who don’t want to deal with fixing your 3D printer, you can come in and help…for a profit.

There isn’t a big market for repairing 3D printers, but, if you can find the right people, you can definitely make some decent money. The price of a repair should depend on how complex the repair is and if any replacement parts are necessary.  The customer also might want you to upgrade their 3D printer, another service you can do for money.

I’ve personally hired a technician to fix my Ender 3 when I’m low on time.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

3D Scanning

Lastly, you can offer 3D scanning services to people who want to design a copy of something they already have or need an environment scanned for designing another part. Whatever the case, there’s definitely a market for 3D scanning services.

Source: Jackson O’Connell

All you need is a 3D scanner, which can be a pretty hefty up-front cost. But there’s no other costs associated with using the scanner, so the more customers you get, the more money you’ll make. You can literally make your own business by doing this and many have been successful doing so!

What is the most Profitable 3D Print to Sell?

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

If you want to sell 3D printed items, you’re probably wondering what items to sell. Finding the right item can be difficult and it’s best if you can target a specific customer need or audience, like a special mount or a BTS door hanger/sign respectively.

There’s no one “most profitable” item and, technically, I can’t provide you with any as that would cause some legal issues. Moreover, you can’t legally sell a 3D printed version of someone else’s design because that’s their intellectual property.

However, I will give a short list of specific types of models that are poised to sell well online:

  • Dungeons & Dragons characters, dice, or other related parts
  • War Hammer figurines
  • Tabletop game pieces
  • Spiral vases and vases with special designs
  • Marvel Movie Wall Art (e.g. Spiderman outline)
  • Custom-designed trophies
  • Birthday/cake toppers
  • Door hangers/signs
Source: Jackson O’Connell

Is it Legal to Sell 3D Prints?

Source: Youtube Marc3DP

Yes!

You can legally sell things you 3D print. And, anything you design, you can 3D print, and sell because they’re your own products. However, problems arise when it comes to selling 3D printed models that you didn’t design.

Moreover, copyright laws prevent you from selling 3D printed models if someone else designed the 3D model. For example, if I found a really cool vase design, made by Joe Shmow, I’m not allowed to sell it without Mr. Shmow’s permission.

But, if the design is freely available and I modify the design enough to reasonably make it of my own work, then I can sell it. Or, if I ask Joe Shmow “hey, can I sell your design and give you $1 per sale?” and he says yes, then I can also sell it that way.

Hope this clears up any confusion!

Conclusion

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that 3D printing is on the rise. More people than ever need custom parts made and it presents the perfect opportunity to use your hardware and design skills to make money.

The most popular way to make money with 3D printing is to offer an on-demand 3D printing service, where you 3D print parts that people want. But there are many other ways you can make money with 3D printing too!

For example, selling pre-made 3D prints is very easy to do and profitable if you know the right items to sell and can research well. Or you could offer services, like consulting, designing, or post-processing. These services require knowledge in a niche within 3D printing, but they can make you a lot of money too!

Some other ways you can make money with 3D printing include renting out 3D printers, selling 3D printing supplies, offering training for printers, and providing 3D scanning services.

Good luck!

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