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Create Your 3D Printing Business on a Low Budget

Hello Machine Bros!
In this article, we will give you some ideas to create your own 3D printing business with a low budget!

3D printer Creality Ender 3
Creality Ender 3

It is important that you know that there are various 3D printing technologies, but in this article, we will focus on FDM printing, as this is the most commercial and accessible technology available today.

This technology is based on printing layer by layer from the plastic filament casting using an extruder.

If you want to know more about other 3D printing technologies, we recommend you to check out the article What is 3D Printing?

Price of Some FDM 3D Printers

Below, you will find a table that compares and sorts from lowest to highest, various 3D printers based on their prices.

Note: Depending of your location and the shop, prices of the 3D printers may vary.

3D PrinterImagePrinting volume (millimeters)Price (USD)Link
NantFun MiniThe da Vinci mini150(L)x150(W)x150(H)$129.99Amazon
Creality Ender 3Creality Ender 3220(L)x220(W)x250(H)$259.00Amazon
Monoprice Voxel 3DMonoprice Voxel 3D150(L)X150(W)X150(H)$389.99Amazon
FlashForge 3D Creator ProFlashForge 3D Creator Pro226(L)X147(W)X150(H)$499.00Amazon
Qidi Tech X-PlusQidi Tech X-Plus270(L)X200(W)X200(H)$699.00Amazon

Price of Some 3D Printing Filaments

It is important to know that there are various types of filaments for 3D printing.

It should be noted that not all printers 3D are capable of printing all filaments. Some filaments will require specific printing conditions, which only some printers with better features have.

We should also mention that the most common diameters for filaments are 1.75mm and 3mm. Therefore, 3D printers are designed to use filaments of one of these diameters.

Also, regardless of the filament material (PLA, PETg, TPU, ABS, etc.), we can find all types of different colors.

Below, you will find a table that compares the prices of the most common filaments that are found in the market:

If you want to know more about the different filaments for 3D printing check out these articles.

It is Profitable to 3D Print an Everyday Object?

To analyze this, we will give you an example with a very common object: a glass of water.

In order to help you understand whether or not it is profitable to print a glass, we made a replica of one that we had at home, which is capable of containing a volume of water of 2 glasses, or what would be 16 fluid ounces.

We designed the replica of the glass in Solidworks, to later analyze it in the Simplify3D slicer.

We invite you to see the following results, where we compare the cost of 3D printing this glass or simply buying one on Amazon.

Next, we will present a series of images where we show the taking of measurements and design in Solidworks CAD of the glass of water.


Measurement of the bottom of the glass

Bottom of the glass in the CAD

Zoom of the bottom of the glass
3D printing
Zoom of the top of the glass

Glass length measurement

Side view of the glass
Glass side view

In order to know what volume of liquid the glass could contain, we use a calibrated container.

First, we fill the glass completely with water, then deposit that water in the calibrated container and thus obtain the corresponding volumetric measurement.

This process is necessary to search on Amazon for a glass with similar characteristics to compare the costs and profitability of printing the glass.

The image of this process is presented below.

Volume of the water glass. The resulting value was 2 glasss, which is equivalent to 16 fluid ounces (fl. Oz)

With all this in mind, we proceed to analyze the STL generated by the CAD using the Simplify3D slicer.

Thus obtaining the approximate cost of printing the glass, the amount of filament and the printing time.

Simplify 3D Slicer

The Slicer Simplify3D gives us the following values:

  • Printing time: 4 hours and 26 minutes.
  • Filament required: 20.1 meters of filament.
  • Weight: 60.44 grams.
  • Material Cost: 1.69 USD.

NOTE: This was calculated assuming a 1kg, 1.75mm diameter PLA filament coil would be used. On Amazon, this filament is priced at $28. It is also important to note that we chose PLA as the material, as this is the most used, but in real practice, it would not make sense to use PLA to make a glass since PLA is biodegradable, so it would not behave in an ideal way when constantly be in contact with water. For such an application, it is better to choose a different impression material.

Now, we can already answer the question: Is it profitable to print an everyday object? The reality is that it normally won’t be in most cases.

In our example, it would take us almost 4 and a half hours of printing to obtain a single glass, and the material would cost $1.69USD.

All this without counting that, the 3D printing could go wrong and would have to be repeated.

We are also not taking into account the labor involved in the design, the time invested, the energy consumption and, the operating costs of the 3D printer are not included.

When you find a glass of similar characteristics on Amazon, where it costs $15 USD for 12 glasses of 20 fluid ounces, that is, $ 1.25 for each glass, and also, the glasses that they sell on Amazon are 4 more fluid ounces compared to that we planned to print.

Type of glassVolumetric capacity (fl. Oz)Price (USD)Link
3D Printed161,69 
Bought on Amazon201,25Amazon
NOTE: Assuming that it is printed making using a 1kg, 1.75mm diameter PLA filament coil, which has an approximate cost of 28 USD

It is Profitable to Repair Machines or Equipment Using 3D Printing?

Yes! Although it will depend on the machine to be repaired.

To clarify this point better, I will talk about my experience designing gears for equipment that is hard to find spare parts.

When the equipment is damaged, it must necessarily be entirely replaced.

To give you an example, this accelerator usually gets damaged for some engine-generators of the brand Generac, and this machine costs approximately $77 USD on Amazon.

Usually, a couple of gears get damaged, and printing them on PLA could cost in material approximately $ 0.5 USD. In this case, it is very profitable to repair the equipment using 3D printing.

Part repaired (Accelerator)
Repairing spare parts using 3D printing
Repairing spare parts using 3D printing
Repairing spare parts using 3D printing
Repairing spare parts using 3D printing

Another example where 3D printing of spare parts is cheaper it’s in drones since their parts can be easily replaced.

In summary, to be profitable or cheaper to repair machines using 3D printing, it is necessary that the replacement is not available or is more expensive than 3D printing it.

Is it profitable to make prototypes in 3D Printing?

If we compare it with plastic injection, Yes! But first, we must clarify a few things.

3D printing is more profitable when producing prototypes because we save the enormous costs involved in injection molds, and we also lower prices by not having to buy a plastic injection machine.

Imagine that every time the prototype needs to be improved, a new mold has to be manufactured or changed, this greatly increases the costs of prototyping in plastic injection.

Now, once you have the complete prototype, plastic injection has the advantage in series production. This is due to the fact that the 3D printing times are still very slow compared to the parts manufactured through the injection of plastic into molds.

Therefore, when producing objects in series, plastic injection is more profitable.

If you want to know more about plastic injection, click here.

Plastic Injection Moulding
Plastic Injection Moulding

Is 3D Printing profitable in art?

It depends on your creativity! But 3D printing in the art industry could also be profitable.

I say “it depends” because the art will always be very subjective, it will depend on the talent of the artist, what price he/she will put on his/her work, as in turn, it is the client’s decision how much is willing to pay for the art offered.

We have heard a lot about portraits and paintings that sell for thousands and even millions of US dollars.

We are aware that the value calculated on materials spent or used in said paintings, will never reach the high values ​​that these paintings end up selling (just to mention some kind of art).

With 3D printing the same will happen, if you manage to sell your 3D printed models, as a piece of art whose value exceeds the printing costs, your time invested in the design and manufacturing, and operating costs of the 3D printer, among other expenses. Then, the 3D print will become profitable.

Here is a famous modern 3D printed work of art by artist Sophie Kahn.

"Figure of a Young Woman, Sleeping" by Sophie Kahn
“Figure of a Young Woman, Sleeping” by Sophie Kahn

Low Budget 3D Printing Business Examples (Less than $ 5000 USD)

Here are some examples of 3D printing businesses using low-budget and low-end 3D printers.

Design 3D Models and Sell them on 3D model websites

This business idea consists of generating 3D models from your own designs, uploading them to a website of 3D model libraries such as MyMiniFacytory and finally selling it at the price you consider appropriate.

Although it is not mandatory for this business to have a 3D printer, having one would be the best. Since, if you offer a “design to 3D print”, the ideal would be to prove that your design can be printed.

Take photos of the 3D printed model, videos and give 3D print configuration recommendations to print your model. In this way, you can have a greater chance of success in selling your 3D model.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $1000 and $2000.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • CAD modeling software.
  • 3D printer.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Low electricity consumption.

Disadvantages

  • High competition within the website itself.
  • Difficulty attracting and engaging the public.
  • Some users may not be able to print your model well because of themselves and may want to blame you or your design.

Recommendations

Print your own 3D models, so you can put yourself in the shoes of the person who will buy your design.

Take photos of the printed part, explain and give recommendations on how to print your model. Be as original as possible, remember that there will be a lot of competition!

3D Model Printing Service

The 3D model printing service is one of the most popular 3D printing business models that can be found in the industry.

This business model covers a large number of sectors that require this service, such as the vehicle industry, medicine, aerospace, dental, decoration, and many more.

This business model is based on satisfying the possible needs of materializing in plastic, and digitized designs of potential clients. So, if someone needs to 3D print a model, but does not have a 3D printer, then you would be there, to offer to print their model on your 3D printer.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $1000 and $2000, if you plan to start with low-mid range 3D printers with a not so large volumetric printing capacity, for example, a Creality Ender 3.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • Personal website or be associated with 3D Hubs or similar websites.
  • A 3D printer.
  • Filaments of different types and colors.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Low electricity consumption.

Disadvantages

  • Lots of competition! There are currently quite a few people and companies offering 3D printing services.
  • Slow model production. Depending on the type of model, the 3D printer may require hours or even days for its production. So, if you only have one printer, the monthly model output will be pretty low.
  • Possibilities of production stoppage. It may happen that, due to the model design or parameterization of the 3D printer, printing errors occur and the printing needs to be initialized again, generating delays and material losses.

Recommendations

Try not to focus only on offering to print 3D models. Also, help and advice on possible improvements to the original design, allowing you to optimize the printing of the part or improve its performance and function.

This will give added value to your business, which can be used to obtain better economic benefits, making your venture more successful.

3D model printing service
Website (shapeways) that offers the 3D printing service

Selling Products to a Niche Market

This business consists of selling a 3D printed product that falls into a niche category and can be manufactured using this technology.

That is, you must sell a product that has low levels of competition, focused on a highly segmented audience, and must provide a solution to a specific demand. The product must be somewhat specialized.

An example of a niche market is the creation and sale of 3D models of garden products such as flower pots or tools.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $ 1000 and $ 2000, only if the product to be sold does not need to be manufactured in a high-end printer.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • Personal website with shopping cart or profile on Etsy, Amazon or similar pages.
  • A 3D printer.
  • Filaments.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours, although it will depend on the demand for your product.
  • Low electricity consumption. But if the demand for your product is high and you have several printers working most of the day, electricity consumption will be higher than in previous businesses.
  • When choosing a good niche product, in the beginning, you will have almost no competition.

Disadvantages

  • Regarding the schedule, if the numbers are growing and the demand for your product is on the rise, the schedule easily ceases to be flexible. Since although 3D printers work on their own, you will need to supervise the production to prevent and anticipate possible production failures. It is also important to remember that once printing is complete, it takes the manual work of an operator to restart a new print.
  • If you get to have several printers working a good part of the day, the consumption of electrical energy will be higher.
  • It is possible that, if your niche product is very successful and becomes famous or popular, other people will try to copy your idea with lower production costs and better production speeds through plastic injection. It will be very difficult for you to compete with 3D printers if this were to happen, so you will probably also have to use plastic injection to continue competing with the same product.

Check out this link in case you want to know more about niche markets.

Using a 3D Printer: Creating and Selling Your Own 3D Printers

The business of “printing printers”, its name explains it clearly. It is based on building 3D printers by manufacturing some of its parts in plastic, with another 3D printer that is already assembled and operational.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $ 2000 and $ 4000, it will depend a lot on the quality of the printers you want to manufacture.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • A 3D printer.
  • CAD design software.
  • Knowledge in electronics and microprocessors (Raspberry pi or Arduino).
  • Suppliers of metal profiles and electronic equipment (microprocessors, power sources, LCD)
  • Filaments that more durable and resistant than PLA.
  • Tools.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Low electricity consumption.
  • Lots of information on the internet about how to create your own 3D printer. As for example the RepRap project.

Disadvantages

  • The budget can be increased in this business since for this you will need tools, electrical, electronic, and mechanical devices to manufacture the printers. Also, remember that with the 3D printer you can only manufacture certain parts of the next printer to be built.
  • More knowledge is needed apart from just handling the topic of printing software and design software. You need knowledge on electronics, electrical, mechanical and programming (just to name the main ones).
  • You will be competing against large companies that manufacture printers with years of experience in the market.

Recommendations

You must be able to offer a 3D printer that has some feature that makes it able to compete in the market, either because it is cheaper or with better features.

It must have something that makes it attractive in the market, remember that you will compete with companies that have years in this sector, with more experience, with a large portfolio of clients, among other added values.

That is why entering this sector and creating a prosperous business will not be so easy.

3D Printing for Crafts and Decorations

For this 3D printing business, we would have to be able to produce 3D printed pieces, which must have certain artistic characteristics, so that they are attractive to the clientele, and thus, be able to sell them at the price you consider appropriate.

An example of a craft business using a low-budget 3D printer is jewelry making.

Even in the market for the sale of 3D printers, there are specialized 3D printers for printing jewels and even metal-infused plastic filaments that allow models with a metallic finish.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $1000 and $2000, if for the product to be manufactured you do not require high-end 3D printers.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • A 3D printer.
  • CAD design software.
  • In some cases, specialized filaments (Wood, metal infused).
  • Tools.
  • Personal website with shopping cart or profile on Etsy, Amazon or similar pages.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Low electricity consumption.

Disadvantages

  • There are many artists, therefore, the competition in this branch is high.
  • Good artistic skills are required. It will depend that your creations are sold at the price you want.
  • Decorations and crafts are usually subjective, there will be customers who like them and who do not, and the demand and sale price of your products will depend on this.

Recommendations

I recommend that you do a lot of research on different post-processes that can be applied to printed models, depending on the materials used.

"Thallus" created by Zaha Hadid Architects
Image of a 3D printed sculpture, “Thallus” created by Zaha Hadid Architects

Creation of Online Courses of 3D Printing

3D Printing online courses: How to print your first 3D model, How does a 3D printer work…These are just a few of many course titles that you can find on the internet about 3D printing.

Due to a large amount of information that can be found about 3D printing courses and guides, we recommend that, if you decide to take this business idea, you should use your creativity and create more specific and attractive courses so that you achieve sufficient popularity and thus generate income.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Around $ 1,000 USD. It is one of the cheapest business models since it does not require high levels of production.

Requirements

  • A computer with good specifications.
  • A 3D printer.
  • Filaments.
  • Tools.
  • Be a specialist in 3D printing.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Low electricity consumption.
  • There is a wide variety of means to divulge your content. It can be through videos on YouTube, Blogs, teaching platforms such as Skill Share, your own website and much more.
  • It does not depend on high production of models.

Disadvantages

  • High competition! On the internet, you can find all kinds of courses and guides. So, we recommend that you create specific courses that are more difficult to find on the internet.
  • Slow growth. No revenue will be generated until the content you’ve created has become popular.
  • It is necessary to be in the continuous creation of new guides or courses to have a constant flow of visits.

Recommendations

Create different guides and courses.

Analyze how the market responds to these.

See which is the most popular guide and adjust your future creations to achieve enough popularity to generate income … In some cases, the key to success is not the content, but the way it is displayed.

Rent of 3D Printers

Buy a group of low-end 3D printers and offer the rental service for days. You can also offer the service of technical support, supply of materials and tools.

Approximate Budget (USD), not including the business premises

Between $3000 and $4000 USD. For example, you can buy 10 low-end 3D printers for $250 USD.

Requirements

  • 3D Printer storage space.
  • A good quantity of filaments in stock.
  • Tools.
  • Be a specialist in 3D printing to give technical support.

Advantages

  • The possibility of working from home.
  • In addition to generating income from the rental of printers, it can be generated from the supply of filaments.
  • It does not depend on the production of printed models.
  • It can be complemented with other business ideas such as providing the 3D printing service.

Disadvantages

  • Medium competence. Unlike other business ideas, this model is not as popular as the ones mentioned above. But nevertheless, there is always competition.
  • Space is required for the storage of printers and supplies.
  • You should keep spare parts for different parts of the printer, in case they get broken and need replacement.

Recommendations

This is a good idea to offer this service to educational institutions and small or medium-sized companies.

But it is essential to carry out a commercial job to make yourself known and attract new customers.

If apart from this business idea, you decide to also include others such as offering the 3D printing service, you must be very organized and keep in mind the printing times, model delivery dates and rental times.

You don’t want it when you have to 3D print certain models for a company and suddenly you don’t have 3D printers available as they are all rented!

Conclusions About Creating a Business Using 3D Printing

I really hope I have been able to give you a clearer idea of what a low-budget business involving 3D printing would be like.

Obviously, not all businesses end up being successful, some are more successful than others, therefore, profits and profitability will vary depending on the venture or business proposed, your work, and your own dedication, among other factors.

It is important to note that a great advantage of having a 3D printing business is that it can be complemented with different ideas from those we give in this article.

For example, if you buy 10 printers to rent, you can also offer in parallel the 3D printing service, face-to-face 3D printing courses, manufacture and sale of your own products and whatever comes to your mind!

Therefore, we can already give answers to the questions that we asked at the beginning of the article, the first one: Is 3D printing really a “revolution”? Yes, indeed 3D printing is a revolution in model prototyping.

Perhaps it is not the revolution that they tried to sell us at the beginning, with such an accelerated rate that they said “all households will have a 3D printer”, the future is uncertain and everything is possible, but there is still a way to go to this point.

It is important to understand that you must learn to master 3D design so that you can create your own pieces, if not, you will have to depend on someone else, whether you hire the services of a third party, or expect someone to upload a design that suits to your needs.

Remember also that for now, 3D printing is not just plug-in and 3D print, there are settings, methods, and techniques that you must learn to use to get a good 3D print.

Now, answering the question, is 3D printing profitable to start a low-budget business? The answer is yes, but obviously, it will depend on each case.

You must analyze well for what you need the 3D printer, study similar ventures to yours, do a lot of research, and try to create a business plan strategy that seems feasible and profitable.

The 3D printer is an investment that requires patience, perseverance, and study to learn how to use it in such a way that your creations look good enough, you need to update and stay up to date to get better and better prints.

This article was written focusing on a user who wants to use this technology for the most common applications. 3D printing can be used for other relatively more complex applications such as:

  • Medical and dental applications.
  • Large-scale constructions.
  • Military applications.
  • 3D food printing.

To finish, I would like to leave you a documentary video, that talks about what is expected for the future with respect to 3D printing.

This video is related to the question asked: Is 3D printing really a “revolution”? For those of us who love this wonderful world of 3D printing, where you can create physical pieces from ideas and concepts, we like to share knowledge so that we all grow together, click here to access the video.

If you have ventured to create your own business in 3D printing, we would love to hear about your experience in the comments section.

Cheers See you soon Machine Bros!

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