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3D printers have been all the rage in recent years and you’ve probably seen some of the seriously impressive items that come out of these things.

But did you ever think of looking into how to make money with a 3D printer instead of just looking on with awe at what it can produce?

There are actually several ways to monetize a 3D printer, whether you make money selling 3D models, offer 3D printed products on demand or a bunch of other items.

So if you think you have the skills to profit off your 3D printer – or are willing to learn how – then keep reading to find out some options you may want to consider.

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How to make money with a 3D printer

1. Print items to sell online

Many people make money with a 3D printer by designing and selling items online. There are many ways to make this work, but the most common way to do so is to sell through Etsy.

With Etsy, you can create your own store where you list your products for sale. It’s easy to set up and take orders from customers on the site, and Etsy takes a small cut of your revenue.

man on laptop learning how to make money with a 3D printer

Another option is to make items for other sellers on Etsy. You could make products for them, or you could provide a service like printing designs onto fabric that they will then sell themselves.

Both of these options are great if you’re looking to make money with your printer in the long-term – but it can also be an effective way to make quick money in the short-term, too.

What can I make and sell with a 3D printer?

You can make anything with a printer. If you want to make money, think about what 3D printed products are in demand and that people are willing to spend their hard-earned cash on – and make them! Here are some ideas:

  • Jewelry – This is an especially popular choice for crafters who have paper cutters or other tools that work well in small-scale manufacturing.
  • Pet accessories – Dog and cat owners will be willing to spend money on products that make their pet’s life more comfortable! Just make sure you follow safety guidelines when producing things like collars and leashes.
  • Etchings – Customized etchings make a great gift for creative people who are looking to commission someone (or just buy one) to make their own artwork.
  • Mugs – These make for really personal gifts that will be well-received by many recipients. Add your logo, or give it as a funny gag gift with some hilarious artwork.

2. Launch a local 3D printing business

If you live in a major city, it might make sense to open up your own storefront for local manufacturing. You’ll need access to customers and lots of capital (you won’t make much money at first!), but if there is demand for this service locally then you could make quite the success story out of your business!

Alternatively, you can make your services available to local businesses as a work from home side hustle. You work with them on a case-by-case basis to make money 3D printing on demand, allowing you to offer customers the convenience of printing what they need.

This option is perfect for those who want an easier way to make some extra cash from time to time – you can be as involved or uninvolved as you like purely based on how many orders you’re willing to accept!

How do I start a 3D printing business online?

The first thing you should do is to launch a website for your new 3D printing business, as this will allow local customers to find you, see the services you offer and submit orders through your site. You should also consider speaking with a professional regarding the various financial and legal aspects to consider when starting a business.

If this all sounds a bit hard, take a look at this service offered by BetterLegal. For a flat fee, they’ll have your business up and running in two business days. All you have to do is spend five minutes filling in some forms and they’ll take care of the rest.

That is, you don’t necessarily need to wait until all the financial and legal points are taken care of before locking in your domain name and launching your site. In fact, it’s best to do this as soon as you can if you have a particular business name in mind, to make sure that no one else takes it.

And you can actually do both at once! In fact, creating your website is way easier than you probably think – and likely much cheaper if you choose to host your site through our top choice, Bluehost.

Not only does Bluehost cost less than $3 per month, but you’ll get a free domain name just for signing up through them!

Find out more about Bluehost here.

FYI: Even without any tech background at all, you can easily launch your site in less than 20 minutes. 

Check out our step-by-step guide on starting a website to see just how to do it!

How much does it cost to start a 3D printing business?

The main cost involved in starting a 3D printing business will be buying the printer itself. This means that costs can vary up to around $10,000 depending on which printer you choose and other aspects, like whether you plan for your business to be online or brick and mortar, which can cost more with store-related expenses.

That said, depending on how you do this, there are ways to keep costs down at first. As mentioned, hosting your site can easily cost less than $3 per month. You can also consider buying a more reasonably priced 3D printer, just to see whether you can actually make money with a 3D printer before you invest in something more high tech.

For instance, the Elegoo 3D Printer is one of the highest rated on Amazon and is extremely well priced. A number of customer reviews say that it’s excellent for beginners to 3D printing, so this could be just what your new printing business needs to get off the ground.

3. Sell personalized printed items

Personalized items make for fantastic gifts and are some of the best things to sell on Etsy. And now you can make them on demand with your own 3D printer!

You might think that this isn’t the best way of making money with a printer because of how personal these are – but if you’re not running large scale operations then personalized prints will make for a nice little side hustle.

wedding cake topper that you can make and sell with a 3D printer

One of the most popular is custom wedding items, like pieces that have the names of the bride and groom or the date of the wedding, but this isn’t just restricted to weddings – target things like this for any event!

You could also make personalized Christmas crafts to sell, like ornaments with designs like names, words, handprints or footprints on your 3D printer, making these something that you can make money with online, too.

4. Offer 3D printer designs

There are plenty of software programs out there which make it easy to make designs that you can then sell to others to use with their own 3D printers. These could be targeted at people wanting something for their own personal use or for a business venture.

For example,  you could make spaceship and rocket designs which people might want to use for their kids. Or, you could make more generic items such as animal models, toys or even phone cases, suitable for both adults and children alike.

Models of characters from popular movie franchises make for an excellent way to make money with a 3D printer as well, so keep this in mind when creating designs.

5. Start a blog on 3D printing

If you’ve got something to say on the subject of 3D printers, then this is one great way to do it.

For instance, your blog could be targeted at beginners who want to make their first steps into the world of making things on demand with a 3D printer. Alternatively, you could target a specific niche by helping people make a certain type of item more easily or with more variety.

Thinking about starting a blog to make money?

Great choice! After all, it’s one of the cheapest online businesses to start at under $3 per month – less than a cup of coffee! In fact, that’s the price you’ll get if you launch your site with Bluehost, which is easily my top pick for the best website host for beginners to use. Not only will you get a free domain name, but you definitely don’t need any tech experience to get started.

To find out more, check out my simple step-by-step guide on how to start a blog as I show you the exact steps I took to start on the path to earning thousands of dollars every month – on the side of my full-time job!

Bloggers make money through a number of different avenues, including being paid by companies to write blog posts on their behalf and running display ads from sponsorships. You can make even more when your readers purchase products that they see advertised on your site – including, say, different types of 3D printers or even your own 3D prints that you’re selling.

6. Create an online course teaching others how to do 3D printing

It’s not just blogging that can make you money through your website – online courses are a lucrative way of doing business too. As with any course, it needs to be well designed and offer students value for their time and investment in order to make the most amount of money possible.

One great example is an online course teaching people how to make money with a 3D printer. You could make money by selling it on your website or through platforms like Teachable, showing people how to make their own products and sell them for profit.

It might be worth considering partnering with other experts in the field to create something that’s more varied – such as potential courses on how to make dollhouses from scratch using a printer, or make your own jewelry.

7. Launch a YouTube channel or TikTok account about 3D printing

There are plenty of online platforms which make it easy to make money from your hobbies and interests, with two of the most popular examples being YouTube and TikTok.

Given you’re here learning about how to make money with a 3D printer, then the chances are that others will be interested in watching videos about the subject too – which is where you come in!

woman working on laptop to monetize a 3D printer

That is, you could make videos to teach others this same topic. Alternatively, you could focus on hobbyists and show them how to get started with this as a beginner or how to improve their 3D printing skills, with different ideas on what they could create.

You might also make money through your channel by running ads from sponsors, or even make a living as an influencer.

Related: 6 Proven Ways to Make Money on Snapchat

8. Sell specific 3D printed items at conventions etc.

If you make a few items and want to make money with them, then head on down to your local convention.

You’ll find plenty of people selling their own designs at these events, so all you need is the right product – such as space-themed models for kids or something like that. You can also make money by having someone make a bespoke item for you for you to then resell, such as customized phone cases or custom figurines.

You could also make extra cash by selling prints of your bespoke designs, which make it easy to show people what your wares look like before they buy. Just be aware that this may mean that they can copy you – which could be perfectly fine, as long as you don’t care about any potential competitors in your niche.

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Can you make money selling 3D models?

You can certainly make money selling 3D models, not only by selling the models themselves, but also by selling the files for people to make models with their own 3D printers. Make sure though that if you plan to sell your files, you make a note of their license to make sure that you’re allowed to sell them.

For most people, especially if you don’t have something like an in-person convention for your item where you can set up a stand, the easiest way to sell the models themselves is through sites like Etsy. Just make sure that your printer material is strong enough for this purpose and that it’s possible to ship these items without damaging them in transit.

9. Freelance with your 3D printing skills

Another way that you can make money with a 3D printer is by offering your skills for freelance work. It’s already a pretty niche market, but you’ll often find the best opportunities in fields where there are not many people who have your expertise, such as if you’re able to specialize in a certain item.

You should start by offering your services on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. That way, you can start to build your portfolio as a way to attract more customers going forward.

woman working on laptop figuring out start a 3D printing business online

Keep in mind that the way you make money with a freelance job is by charging per hour or project, so make sure that your rates are competitive – especially if it’s in an area where there aren’t many people who have the skills.

It’s also worth considering the possibility of hiring assistants for freelance work – such as if you’re looking at a project with many small jobs which could be completed simultaneously by someone else, or if you make bespoke items which could be completed by someone else. This can be a great strategy for allowing you to scale up your 3D printing business.

Is 3D printing a good business?

Launching a 3D printing business can certainly be lucrative, given it’s still a growing sector so competition may be less than in other fields. The one issue is that there are higher start up costs than you’ll see in other side hustles, particularly relating to the need to buy and maintain the 3D printer as well as related materials.

That said, it can really be fun, especially if your focus is on products that you’re passionate about, like from a particular fandom or making beautiful items for people’s weddings. There’s no point in making something which is difficult to make a profit on, so make sure it’s something that you enjoy and can see yourself doing for a while.

Is 3D printing expensive?

You’ll find that the expenses for starting a side hustle with a 3D printer can be slightly high at first, particularly in relation to buying and maintaining the hardware. You’ve also got to make sure you’re storing your materials somewhere safe so they’re not damaged between uses.

One thing which people often overlook is the cost of printing in terms of materials. It’s true that you can make money by selling prints but there needs to be a balance between the cost and the standard of the materials to ensure you’re able to profit off your 3D printer without sacrificing quality. At the same time, don’t worry if this takes some trial and error at first as that’s completely normal.

What skills are needed for 3D printing?

The skills you’ll need to make money 3D printing depend on the type of work you’re planning to do. In general, though, you should aim to have at least the following:

  • Knowledge of how to use a 3D printer. Clearly, you can’t make money with a 3D printer if you don’t know how to use the machine in the first place, so get up to speed with how this works so you can start producing your pieces.
  • Understanding of licensing laws. This is especially the case if you plan to sell pieces based on other people’s designs or even if you intend to sell your own 3D prints. Either way, understanding how licensing works and what you (and others) are able to do with these items will be critical to avoid legal difficulties down the line.
  • Experience with 3D printer software. It’s not enough to know how to use the actual printer, as you also need to be able to use the software that works alongside it. That said, this is certainly something that you can play around with to learn by doing.
  • Marketing skills. You don’t necessarily need to be an amazing salesperson to make money with a 3D printer, but some understanding of how marketing works will help to promote your products.
  • SEO. Whether you plan to sell your pieces through sites like Etsy or to have an in-person business where people can find you through Google, knowledge of SEO is going to be critical. This includes things like knowing which keywords to use based on what people are searching as well as how to use them, to make sure that you’re one of the first results that people see when looking for 3D printing services.
  • Creativity. While you can do 3D printing with other people’s prints, some creativity is going to need to be involved. This could be as simple as understanding which items customers often want printed for their weddings and other events, so you can focus your product line on these or expand when you see a gap in the market.

Can a 3D printer pay for itself?

Studies have found that a 3D printer may be able to not only pay for itself but even save money for households in only one year. This was based on the printer making just 20 household items, such as safety razors or shower curtain rings, in a 12-month period. This would thus also apply for 3D printers used commercially.

These findings are based on this study from 2013, meaning the technology has definitely improved (and printer prices dropped) since this was released. It suggests that even when aiming to make money with a 3D printer, it’s more than possible for the device to pay for itself with very few sales.

person watching an item print to make money with a 3D printer

This means that when looking for how to profit off a 3D printer, you have a lot of options, meaning you should be able to get in the black relatively quickly. Of course, as with anything, there needs to be enough supply and demand for what you’re offering in order for this to work. For example, if you’re only making items that appeal to niche markets or which are difficult to make profit on then don’t expect your printer will see any benefits from its use.

On the other hand, if you make items which appeal to a wider range of customers and can be made cheaply then there’s a good chance your printer will make back its costs in no time at all. This is especially true for those who are looking to start their own business with these machines and thus may be able to build up their customer list quickly.

Can you sell 3D prints on Amazon?

For those who make their own designs then Amazon is a great place to start selling these. However, if you are looking to sell someone else’s 3D prints, you’ll need to make sure that your design is not protected by copyright and that the relevant license applying to the print allows you to do this.

If it does have this protection or the license does not allow for commercial resale, then you should contact the original designer and see if they’re interested in providing you with permission to sell their designs through Amazon.

Alternatively, you could focus exclusively on what’s called private label selling.  This is where you find a product that someone else is offering for this purpose and then resell it under your own brand name. This means there won’t be any copyright issues and the license should allow for commercial resale.

A lot of people design items specifically for Amazon and then print these out to earn a profit, so there’s no reason why you should hesitate when considering doing the same.

Do you need a license to 3D print?

You need to make sure that you are not violating any copyright laws when considering how to make money with a 3D printer. This can be done by ensuring the license allows for the relevant products to be sold, including the license applicable to the underlying designs which may well be under these protections.

The ideal option is to find prints that are subject to one of the more flexible Creative Commons licenses. This is when the license is available for anyone to use subject to certain light conditions (like acknowledging the original author), allowing you to make your own products from this and share the results of this work with others.

You should also look for any item that’s under private label rights. PLR is when the rights to make the product are sold by a third party so that you as the buyer can resell this under your own brand name. In this case, there’s no problem with copyright protection (subject to some conditions occasionally, like you can only sell up to a certain amount of the item) and you’re able to make a profit from these prints without any issues.

How long does it take to learn 3D printing?

Learning how to use a 3D printer will take at least six months for those who are beginners in this field, including learning how to use some of the major 3D modeling tools. However, this process is much quicker for people who are already familiar with CAD software and have some measure of technical know-how.

This means if you want the device to make a profit for you then it’s critical that you take the time to learn how they work and what can be done with them.

The basic skills needed are more straightforward than most people think: You’ll need to know your way around CAD software, which is used to make designs in this field; how to model objects using these programs; how to make designs which can be used with a printer; and finally, the basics of using any printing software. With some time and practice, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to master each of these.

How hard is it to learn 3D printing?

It isn’t excessively hard to learn 3D printing, but you do have to make sure you’re investing the time and effort into learning what’s required. In particular, close attention is needed to learning the finer points of how each machine works, including what to do if they fail or produce something different from what you expected.

There are a number of 3D printing courses with Udemy that you could consider taking. For instance, depending on where you’re at in terms of your current level of experience, take a look at some of the top-rated ones like:

Final thoughts on making money with a 3D printer?

As you can see, making money with a 3D printer can be done in any number of ways, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re prepared and have the right skills before taking this on.

In particular, sites like Etsy make it easy to make money with a 3D printer by allowing you to sell the products you make there to a huge pool of potential customers. Alternatively, you could try offering prints through sites such as Shapeways that allow anyone in the world to submit their designs. The site takes care of customer service and delivery, so it can turn into a really effective form of passive income.

While there is a learning curve, make sure you make it your goal to learn the skills needed to produce really quality work with your 3D printer and there’s no reason why you can’t turn this into a fun side hustle – or your entire business.

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About the author

Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been seen in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio. Find out more.