This is the most obvious way to make money with your 3D printer. It’s a bespoke, low-cost manufacturing service for people who need components fast.
The workflow goes something like this:
- A prospect contacts you with a ready-made 3D model and asks you to print it.
- You offer a price to have this file printed.
- The customer accepts.
- You print the part in the requested quantities.
- You send them the part (or parts) by post.
Print. Rinse. Repeat.
3D Printing Business Model
This is a simple business model, but there are a few things to bear in mind. As with any business, in order for customers to find you, you have to have visibility. This model relies heavily on effective marketing (which doesn’t have to be scary or even cost much money). It could be starting a Facebook, Reddit, or LinkedIn community and posting regular updates. It could be telling your family and friends at every opportunity that you can print anything their hearts desire. It could even be spending a small amount of money on Facebook, Instagram, or Google advertising, for example. You could even apply to be accepted on, All3DP’s 3D printing and price comparison service (assuming you have a large enough capacity).
The costs to take into account with this business model are going to be the cost of your 3D printer (or printers), marketing, insurance (you are providing a product after all), premises costs – if you set up at home, you’ll need to think about how this affects your insurance and utilities bills – and consumables (e.g. material, nozzles, bed adhesives, and sheets). Depending on the printer you choose, setup costs could be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. You may also need to start small and local.
When providing quotes for clients, your fees will depend on your appetite for risk, as well as certain other factors. We all know 3D printers can be temperamental beasts, so you may want to account for failed builds and wasted material in your cost. The easiest way to calculate a cost is to charge an hourly rate plus the material cost of the component. You’ll also need to account for your own time. For example, a printed part may need significant support removal or bonding if it’s a large multi-part design.
There are also options for added value within this 3D printing business model. For instance, you can charge extra for post-processing, such as smoothing, painting, baking, or assembly.
The beauty of this scheme is that you can put as much or as little time into it as you want to or can afford. It’s easily scalable with demand, as you can just keep adding printers. You can go from one printer to an entire print farm, slowly building your 3D printing empire, layer by layer!
If the idea of sales and marketing makes you shiver, all is not lost. There are plenty of platforms out there that do all the hard work for you. For example, you can join a network like Treatstock. Such outlets connect potential customers with printers, handling most of the customer acquisition and interaction and leaving you to do what you do best: print!
There are a number of companies out there already showing how viable this is. Check them out to know your competition.