Need a side gig? 3D printing parts and selling them is an easy way to make money, and all you need is a 3D printer and a design!
While there are many methods of making money in the 3D printing space, few require as little experience or time, and energy as selling 3D printed models.
But, you won’t make money selling just any 3D printed part. No! You need to identify a specific demand for a part that’s not available elsewhere and then design the perfect model or find a model online.
Don’t worry, though, because today, you’ve struck gold. In the sections below, I’ll go over the best 3D models or types of models that you can 3D print and sell today.
And, no, this isn’t a dumb course. It’s just free info! Enjoy, and good luck!
Table of Contents
- Things to 3D Print and Sell
- 1. Trophies
- 2. Cosplay Parts
- 3. Special Adapters and Mounts
- 4. Wall Art
- 5. Vases
- 6. Miniatures & Figurines
- 7. Architectural Models
- 8. Lattice Structures
- 9. Jewelry
- 10. Toys
- 11. Personalized Keychains
- 12. Cord Protector
- 13. Gadget Stands
- 14. Special Holder
- 15. Custom Signs
- 16. Lamps
- 17. Personalized Lithophanes
- 18. Gaming Steering Wheel
- Other Ways to Money with 3D Printing
- Can You Make Money Selling 3D Prints?
- Things You Need to Know Before Selling 3D Prints
- Where to Sell 3D Prints?
Things to 3D Print and Sell
If you’ve got a 3D printer and want to turn it into a literal cash machine, then you might be interested in 3D printing something from the sections below. In each section, I’ve covered what exactly it is and examples of 3D printable models in the category.
First up are trophies. Whether little league sports or office competitions, trophies are used pretty often, and they almost always have custom designs. You can capitalize on this by using your 3D printer to make custom-designed trophies for sports and other competitions.
The best way to sell a 3D printed trophy is to find a buyer before you find your design. Then, meet with the buyer to see what type of trophy they want. Ask them about the dimensions, any features they want, and more!
Once you’ve met with the buyer, you can design the trophy in a CAD program like Onshape. Or you can find an option online, like one from this collection or this standard trophy cup, and modify it to fit your needs. After you 3D print the model, you can make it look even better by sanding, painting, and finishing the trophy.
2. Cosplay Parts
Cosplay is one of the biggest uses of individual 3D printers. And because most cosplay enthusiasts don’t own a 3D printer, you can pretty easily sell 3D printed costume parts, like Star Wars helmets or MCU armor.
Side note: if you’re looking for the best 3D printers for cosplay read here.
There are hundreds, no thousands, of cosplay armor designs online. Some are for purchase, such as those from Do3D, but many are also free online, like this Star Wars Clone Trooper armor set or this Captain America shield. And, if you’ve got a knack for 3D modeling, you can also make your own cosplay parts, like a blaster from a new Star Wars episode or something along those lines.
It’s important to note that, with cosplay parts, post-print processing is very important. A Captain America shield is just a large plastic frisbee until you paint on the American flag colors. Moreover, you’ll need to get good at sanding, painting, and finishing your 3D prints!
3. Special Adapters and Mounts
Another popular use for 3D printers is to make special adapters and mounts. For example, just the other day, I used my 3D printer to make a cassette shim for my bike because the replacement part I bought didn’t fit. Moreover, you can make a lot of money selling 3D printed adapters and mounts, especially when the adapter/mount is for a popular item.
A great example of this is for multi-part assemblies, like bikes, guns, and computers, which have many swappable components. Because of how many different components there are on these assemblies, there will also be a lot of people looking for ways to fit unstandardized parts on, and they’ll need a 3D printed adapter. Take this Quest 2 adaptor or this computer SSD to HDD mount as examples!
4. Wall Art
Decorating your room is a struggle for many, and 3D printed wall art is the perfect solution.
There are tons of wall art designs available online, like this deer outline or this Superman symbol. Or, if you’re the artistic type, you can come up with ideas of your own and design some 3D printable wall art on your own. And 3D printing wall art is usually very easy because these models are usually flat and pre-cut into easily printable segments!
Vases are another decorative item that you can 3D print and sell. Like with the wall art, there are many vase 3D model options available for download online, such as this honeycomb vase and this hexagonal option.
When printing a vase, decide whether you want to use vase mode in your slicer or print the model with multiple walls, which is the better option if you need the model to be sturdy or watertight.
6. Miniatures & Figurines
Miniatures and figurines are easily one of the most popular categories of 3D models that people print.
People love these types of models because they really show off the capabilities of 3D printers when it comes to making small models with tons of detail. Plus, miniatures can be used for tabletop games, such as Dungeons & Dragons or War Hammer.
You can design custom miniatures using platforms like Blender or a website like Hero Forge, which you can use without any CAD experience. You can also find tons of miniature designs on repositories like MyMiniFactory, Cults, Thingiverse, Printables, and CGTrader. Some of my favorite miniatures include this set of mini wolves, these Goblin Clan miniatures, and this Dwarf miniature design.
I suggest printing these types of 3D models on a resin printer (SLA), such as the Elegoo Mars 3, because this printing technology is best for making detailed models. Also, I recommend post-processing any miniature or figurine 3D print by polishing and painting it.
Read our article on the best 3D printers for miniatures and models here for more info.
7. Architectural Models
Architectural models are designs of buildings, statues, and other structures, and they’re great 3D printed models to sell. I personally really love selling this type of 3D printed model because it attracts both individuals and businesses.
Moreover, models of popular buildings or structures, such as this Statue of Liberty design, this Sydney Opera House model, and this Empire State Building model, sell really well with people looking for desk items.
But you can also sell 3D printed architectural models to businesses, such as design firms, who want to prototype a mini version of a building they’re designing. These projects are a lot more professional than selling a desk item to an individual person, so you’ll have to ensure that these models come out with a high print quality. But if you’re selling a 3D printed architectural model to a business, you can also charge a much higher fee!
8. Lattice Structures
Lattice structures are one of the only structures that traditional manufacturing methods, such as rapid casting or injection molding, can’t make, but 3D printers can. As such, 3D printed models with lattice structures are super easy to sell because people have very limited options.
There’s not really a single model that contains a lattice structure that sells well. But you can do some research into parts that typically have this type of structure and then design a similar model, 3D print it, and sell it to a specific audience.
Jewelry is one of the biggest industries in the 3D printing industry, and you can sell 3D printed jewelry, even if your prints are made of a plastic material.
3D printed jewelry is very popular because you can make custom jewelry pieces that aren’t available anywhere else. Even if the 3D printed parts are plastic, they can be used to make a mold, which can then be used to make the jewelry piece in a more jewelry-specific material like silver or gold.
I also suggest designing custom jewelry pieces based on your customers. For example, you could have a base design and then add the initials of your customers to the model to personalize the item.
You should also spend some time post-processing the models to make them look and feel as fine as possible.
Check out our article on the best 3D printers for jewelry for more info.
Toys are one of the largest categories of 3D prints, and there are tons of toy designs that aren’t traditionally-manufactured making it very easy to sell them for a profit. Moreover, I highly suggest trying to sell 3D printed toys if there’s a traditionally-manufactured alternative to the toy, as it will probably sell for less than your 3D printed version.
But, if you find a toy design that’s super fun but not traditionally manufactured, such as this 3D printable DIY helicopter kit, this unique fidget cube toy, and this customizable helical fidget spinner.
Special DIY projects can also be considered toys; selling a kit of 3D printed parts for projects like the OpenRC F1 Car can be very profitable.
Another option is custom LEGO parts. Just be mindful of the copyright laws around this, as it’s very uncharted territory.
11. Personalized Keychains
Any part that requires customization is a great part to 3D print and sell, and I can’t think of a more popular example than keychains. Personalized keychains include keychains that say a name, have a business logo or are customized in another way. There’s a HUGE market for personalized keychains, so if you can attract some customers, you can easily make a profit.
For this type of product, it’s best if you have some experience with 3D modeling, as you’ll need to design the model based on the customer’s specifications (e.g. name, logo). But this isn’t too hard, and learning even a beginner-level CAD platform like TinkerCAD is enough.
As for how to sell the products, the more customization options, the better! As such, I recommend offering different designs, colors, fonts, and other configurable features.
You can also customize existing keychain 3D models, such as this popular multiline text keychain that’s compatible with Thingiverse’s Customizer app.
12. Cord Protector
Cable management is all the rage these days. The cleaner your PC setup, the cooler you are (haha)! Selling 3D printed cord protectors or cable organizers is a pretty lucrative business, despite the low cost of products. That’s because everyone nowadays needs cable management products, and there are many unique designs that you can 3D print and sell.
Some popular 3D printed options include this hinged cable organizer, this honeycomb wire organizer, and this cable chain set meant for the Creality Ender 3.
Plus, you can make custom cord protectors that are specific to the wires a customer is trying to protect or organize. To do this, you’ll need to have some CAD skills to either design the custom cord protector yourself or modify an existing model to fit the customer’s specifications.
13. Gadget Stands
Gadget stands include phone stands, iPad holders, watch nightstand mounts, and similar models. There are tons of 3D printable gadget stands, so it’s naturally a great type of model to 3D print and sell.
Some of my favorite ones include this car headrest iPad holder, this mechanical quick-release phone stand, and this 3D printer camera holder. Phone cases, like this mechanical gear case, also sell very well!
14. Special Holder
Unique or customized pen holders, flash drive holders, and any other type of holder are another type of model that’s perfect for 3D printing and selling.
There are tons of unique holder designs available on 3D model repositories that you can check out, such as this MicroSD card holder, this circular business card holder, and this weird pen holder. You won’t find any similar products online, so you should be able to sell a lot of these types of 3D printed parts!
15. Custom Signs
Signs are used in basically every household and business, and they’re almost always customized to the buyer. This presents the perfect opportunity for 3D printing because you can easily design a custom sign and 3D print it.
Selling custom 3D printed designs will likely require some CAD skills (e.g. to make the sign different shapes), but not always. For example, you can find a customizable sign design online, such as this simple text sign or this caution sign, which you can customize through Thingiverse’s integrated Customizer app.
Another good idea that falls into this categories is special Do Not Disturb signs. For example, you could sell 3D printed Do Not Disturb signs with a BTS band theme to fans, or even sell them in mass quantities to a hotel.
Lamps are actually one of my favorite projects to make with my 3D printers, and you can sell 3D printed lamps for a good buck.
Lamps are more of a project than a standalone 3D print, so you’ll likely need to do a bit more than simply 3D print a part and ship it to a buyer. Instead, you’ll have to 3D print a handful of parts, fit LED strips or bulbs into the parts, and then finish the assembly. But with more work comes exponentially more money, so don’t worry about profit margins!
I recommend designing your own custom lamp project because it’s not that difficult, and your product will be more unique. But some great projects online include this cellular lamp, this Voronoi structure lamp, and this Moon lamp.
17. Personalized Lithophanes
Lithophanes are lamp-type models that have very precise markings and etchings on the outside surface, allowing you to display an image through the light. Lithophanes are super difficult to make with traditional manufacturing methods but are decently easy to 3D print and sell.
You can use a 3D printer to make custom lithophanes for customers, such as a lamp showing a wedding picture. Or, if you don’t want to customize the model, you can sell a generic lithophane, like this Baby Yoda lithophane lamp or this artsy wave design.
Personalized lithophanes are one of my favorite models to 3D print and sell because customers absolutely love them, and people are likely to refer their friends to you, giving you more customers!
However, selling 3D printed lithophanes is a little bit more complex than selling other items. You have to first get the desired photo from the customer, then use a special tool to turn the photo into a lithophane design. I really like lithophanemaker.com, but there are other options out there too!
Then you have to slice the model using very particular settings and then print it using a white or natural-color filament. Finally, you have to turn the model into a lamp by adding a bulb inside, as well as adding a switch to make it easy for the customer to use.
But, with all this work comes a lot of money!
18. Gaming Steering Wheel
There’s a whole hobby around gaming racing setups, and one of the most important parts of any driving simulator is the wheel. While you can’t 3D print a functioning electronics gaming steering wheel, like the Logitech G29, you can 3D print steering wheel bodies and modification parts for existing wheels.
And, because of how popular the racing simulator hobby is, there’s a lot of demand for these custom 3D printed parts. Some popular 3D printable wheels include this DIY F1 wheel, the DimSin R1, and this Porsche 919 steering wheel. But if you want to make the most money, I suggest designing your own custom gaming steering wheel or wheel mod.
Other Ways to Money with 3D Printing
While selling 3D printed models is very profitable, it’s not the only way you can make money with 3D printing. In fact, there are a handful of ways you can make money in the 3D printing space. I’ve gone over a few other great opportunities below:
On-Demand Printing Service
An on-demand 3D printing service is a service where customers can upload a 3D model and order it 3D printed and shipped to their door. These services have become super popular as more and more people (and businesses) are realizing the benefits of 3D printing parts. You can set up your own on-demand 3D printing service to make money, and if you get a good amount of clients, it can be very profitable.
While large on-demand 3D printing services, like Shapeways and Sculpteo, take up most of the market, you can still attract customers if you have personal connections or good marketing skills.
Of course, for this gig, you’ll need some 3D printers and a good mix of materials to give your clients the most options. You’ll also want to make a website with an upload feature where customers can get an instant quote on their orders.
Renting Out 3D Printers
If you’ve got a lot of 3D printers, you can make money by renting them out. Moreover, for certain businesses looking to mass-produce 3D printed parts, renting a print farm (collection of 3D printers) is less expensive than ordering the parts made by someone else. So, if you’ve got a lot of 3D printers and have experience operating many printers at once, you can advertise your hardware to local (or non-local) businesses and allow them to rent it out.
Lastly, there’s tons of contract work up for grabs in the 3D printing space, especially since the demand for 3D printing services, including printing, designing, and post-processing, has soared since COVID-19. You can go on freelance websites and advertise your skills and services and get contracts from businesses and individuals looking for custom work done.
Plus, doing contract work usually comes with very flexible hours and flexible pay!
Can You Make Money Selling 3D Prints?
3D printing is one of the most underrated side gigs, and you can make a ton of money selling 3D prints if you find the right audience.
But you won’t make a lot of money selling just any 3D model. You have to find a model (or design one) that isn’t traditionally manufactured and also is useful for a specific audience.
The examples we went over before should work perfectly as long as your prints are high-quality, you advertise the products to the right audience, and you don’t charge too high a price.
And the fixed costs of selling a 3D printed part are relatively low, consisting of the price of your printer, filament (or resin), and a shipping label. For most people, that’s under $300!
Things You Need to Know Before Selling 3D Prints
While selling 3D prints might sound super simple, it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye. So, before you hop on Etsy or Amazon and start selling items, check out the sections below, where I’ve gone over some helpful tips for this side gig.
How to Design
Perhaps the most important thing you should know before selling 3D prints is how to design a 3D model. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should rack up some experience in a computer-aided design (CAD) software program of your choice, like Fusion 360, Blender, Onshape, or even TinkerCAD.
Being able to design is key to making money with this side gig because it will allow you to make your own custom models to sell. Moreover, certain items, like special mounts and replacement parts, require custom features that aren’t available elsewhere. As such, if you want to sell prints for a profit, you’ll have to be the first to design them!
Where to Get the Files
For 3D models that you don’t design yourself or parts that you modify, you’ll need to know where to get the original model file.
This is super easy, though, because most 3D printable models come from a small list of 3D model repositories, including Thingiverse, Printables, MyMiniFactory, and Cults.
But also familiarize yourself with other 3D model repositories that are less specific to 3D printing, such as GrabCAD and CGTrader. That’s because these non-3D-printing-specific sites might contain some sellable 3D models that aren’t available on the main 3D printing repositories.
Process of Printing
Of course, if you’re going to sell 3D prints, you need to know how a 3D printer works.
Even though 3D printers today are much more reliable and easy to use than 5 years ago, there’s still a good chance your printer is going to need repair at some point. Knowing the general ins and outs of the 3D printing process will make fixing your printer and getting it back up and running much easier.
Who’s Your Target Market
A point I can’t stress enough is finding your target market. 3D printed parts can be super useful, but if you don’t advertise your products to the right audience, no one will buy your 3D prints.
You should identify your target audience before you even print the first model. This will help you make more effective product listings and ads for your product so you can make more money.
Profit, profit, profit! It’s the name of the game when it comes to selling 3D printed parts. I mean, how can you make your bag selling 3D printed parts if you don’t know what profit margin to set?
To arrive at a profit margin, you have to first figure out the true cost of the part you’re selling. Depending on what you’re printing and the cost of your materials, the marginal cost of a model will range from $0.01 to maybe a few bucks. But you also have to consider the fixed costs (e.g. price of 3D printer) and shipping expenses.
Once you’ve established the cost of your good, I’d recommend pricing it at 2 or 3 times that number. This might seem like a very high profit margin, but if you’re advertising the product to the right audience, they’ll think it’s a great deal!
Lastly, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the copyright and intellectual property laws surrounding the sale of 3D printed items.
Moreover, it’s important to know that intellectual property includes public 3D models, such as those on Thingiverse. As such, you can’t legally sell 3D printed parts if they’re not your own models or for your own personal use.
However, there are a few workarounds. First off, it’s okay to sell another person’s model if you can get permission from the original designer. You can do this by contacting them through a repository and maybe even throwing in a small royalty for each sale.
Or, if you modify an existing design enough to reasonably call it your own design, then you have the green light to sell it. You also, of course, are allowed to sell any 3D model you design on your own!
Where to Sell 3D Prints?
There are many places where you can sell 3D prints.
Of course, the best way is to sell the parts in person, as you won’t have to pay any platform fees or shipping costs. But listing parts on online marketplace sites will likely bring you more customers, so check out one of the following platforms in the sections below.
Or, you can also make your own site. Making your own website will give you more control over your product listing and will likely yield more profits directly to you.
First up, Etsy is one of the largest online retailers and E-commerce sites for DIY goods. As such, it’s the perfect place to sell anything 3D printed.
Shoppers on Etsy are likely already familiar with 3D printing, so they’ll probably be more likely to buy a 3D printed part compared to buyers on other platforms. Plus, Etsy offers relatively low platform fees, meaning you’ll keep more of the dough!
If you decide to list your products on Etsy, make sure to take some good pictures and use the proper tags and title as this will boost your sales.
Social Media (Instagram/Facebook)
Social media platforms are becoming a very popular method to sell things, especially 3D printed parts.
Social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook, are notorious for their ability to track a user’s interests. Because of this, they make for the perfect platform to sell 3D printed parts because you can advertise your models to a very specific audience.
Just note that if you do sell your parts on social media, ads are the key to attracting customers.
eBay is also terrific for selling 3D printed parts, especially mounts and adaptors. It’s very easy to list an item on eBay, and while they take a relatively big cut of your sale, you get a lot of control over the selling process.
The one thing to watch out for on eBay, though, is your seller rating. eBay is notorious for being harsh to sellers with low ratings, so make sure to keep your customers happy!
Lastly, Amazon is definitely the biggest online retail platform, and, of course, you can sell your 3D printed parts here! While it’s a bit difficult to list items on Amazon because of how many rules and processes they have, once they’re on Amazon, you have millions of millions of potential customers.
While there are many ways you can make money with 3D printing, easily one of the easiest and most profitable ways is selling 3D printed models.
3D printed parts have very high profit margins, and there’s a ton of demand for custom-made parts, which you can make with a 3D printer and some filament!
The key to making money by selling 3D printed parts is selling the right model to the right audience. While there’s no single 3D printed part that is sure to sell, there are a few types and categories of 3D printable parts that typically sell well.
What I’ve found most popular to sell is customized 3D printing projects, such as personalized lithophanes with pictures from the customer or custom 3D printed LED signs for businesses. 3D printed jewelry also is popular because you can make special designs, such as lattice structures, that can only be made through 3D printing.
Some other popular designs include phone stands, cosplay parts, trophies, and architectural models.
But, whatever model you sell, be sure you’re selling it legally and are targeting the right audience.
And good luck!