Making Money with 3D Printing: An Overview
As is the case with many nascent industries, the 3D printing industry has an array of relatively untapped avenues for making money. Mainly due to its contiguity to eCommerce as a mostly digital industry, there are plenty of freelance opportunities that are continually popping up. Here is a list of some of the freelance jobs that exist within the 3D printing industry:
- 3D Product Designer
- 3D Prototype Builder
- 3D Model Designer
- 3D Modeling Assistant
- CAD Designer
- CAD Modeling
- 3D Printing Content Writer
Clearly, there is a variety of freelance jobs available to those working within the 3D printing industry. One does not even need hands-on 3D printing experience to perform some of these jobs, such as a 3D printing content writer.
Still, those with more experience may prefer an opportunity to work in the 3D printing industry on a more concrete timeline. For those looking for a more permanent job opportunity, here is a list of such opportunities present in the 3D printing industry:
- Biological and Scientific Modeling
- Architecture and Construction Modeling
- Business and Sales
- Operations and Administrative Work
As is evident in this list, the range of more permanent jobs in the 3D printing industry is just as vast as the list of freelance jobs in the 3D printing industry. Most 3D printing jobs are in manufacturing and modeling, but there will always be a need for those with a background in law or business with any industry.
While these jobs certainly fall under the umbrella of the 3D printing industry, most of the work involved in these jobs does not pertain to the manufacturing or designing of 3D objects. For those looking for ways to make money with a direct connection to operating a 3D printer or its contiguous software, let’s take a look at some of the best methods for doing so.
Making Money with 3D Printing: Selling Designs
First, let’s take a look at the avenues with the most room for creativity and independence. While it may be your first inclination to seek out contractors who will hire you to perform the tasks that they desire, it is absolutely worth exploring the freedom that brainstorming your own products would give you.
If you already have a background, or some form of expertise, in CAD and 3D printing, an excellent way to make money on your terms is to come up with your own designs and sell your products online. You may even choose to open up your own pop-up shop or brick-and-mortar store to sell your products, but to mitigate costs it may be a good idea to start online.
However, before you start selling online, you must spread word-of-mouth about your product. You may do this effectively by either offering samples to friends and family or developing a marketing plan. This avenue may require a range of expertise and a great deal of work, but the payoff is working independently doing something you are passionate about.
Making Money with 3D Printing: Make Prototypes
In addition to making your own products, you can also design prototypes for future products or as contracted work. While this line of work may be easier to achieve as contracted work rather than fully independent, there is plenty of demand for CAD experts who can deliver 3D design prototypes.
You can reach out to businesses or engineers who need these prototypes and get started in no time. A significant benefit to making prototypes over producing your own products is that most of your knowledge and experience will solely be related to 3D modeling software.
Thus, you will not need to worry about the business or marketing side of things, or even the actual 3D printing job, for that matter. You can simply focus on one aspect of the 3D printing process and earn plenty of money doing contracted work for various businesses and other contractors.
Making Money with 3D Printing: Fulfill Others’ Needs
Perhaps the most popular method for making money with 3D printing is performing contracted work for businesses, individuals, and any other entities seeking a freelancer. One of the reasons this method is so popular is that there are various avenues available within this broader method.
For instance, you can perform contracted work related to your knowledge and experience with 3D modeling software or slicing software. You can also utilize your own physical equipment and materials such as your 3D printer or filament to perform contracted work.
There are plenty of businesses, individuals, and other firms with a 3D model or concept and are in desperate need of an actual 3D printer to bring the model to life. There are websites such as 3D Hubs and MakeXYZ where you can list your own 3D printer for contracted work, so the process of marketing and advertising is relatively simple and straightforward.
This method’s upfront costs can run high, as you will need to purchase your very own 3D printer. 3D printers can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, but many more effective, cutting-edge models are priced in the thousands. The Ultimaker S5 is priced at $5,995, and the Formlabs Form 3L costs over $10,000.
Still, there are more affordable options, such as the Prusa i3 MK3S+, which costs roughly $749. Ultimately, if you are willing to front the costs, owning a 3D printer could grant you much more returning value once you start subcontracting it out.
Making Money with 3D Printing: Teach 3D Printing
Finally, although this may not be the most straightforward method for earning money with your 3D printer, making money from teaching concepts and procedures related to 3D printing is certainly possible.
While some universities, such as Penn State, MIT, and DePaul, offer 3D printing classes that edify on these concepts and procedures, many prospective learners would prefer a cheaper option.
If you currently own a 3D printer or have experience and knowledge related to 3D printing or 3D modeling, it may benefit you and many others to begin teaching what you know online. There are plenty of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching concepts and procedures related to 3D printing and 3D modeling.
You may also choose to build your own website and offer classes related to 3D printing for a subscription rate. Ultimately, there are several ways you can monetize your knowledge and experience related to 3D printing, and the most altruistic way to do so may be to spread your knowledge to others.
By the end of this article, it should be abundantly clear that there are many ways of making money with 3D printing. This is especially true if you are willing to front the costs of a 3D printer and its complementary equipment. If you already own one, there are many avenues for making large sums of money in very little time at all.