Many hobbyists get a 3D printer because they simply want to be able to fabricate components for their various projects, whether that’s slot cars or printing a whole car. DIYers get 3D printers for repairing, replacing, and upcycling things around the house, and we already know that 3D printers pay for themselves quickly in that setting. And then there are those that want to print money. Not literally, that’s illegal. Rather, print objects for money. Run a 3D print service out of the house with an entrepreneurial yawp!
It’s very possible. Selling jewelry and phone cases to friends is pretty easy, but what about when they’ve all got a printed phone case? 3D printers being robots are accustomed to working long hours, so what do you do with the idle time of your printer? Several startups have sprung up recently to put your printer to work. We’ve covered some of them before but we thought it worthwhile to compile them all for you, along with some new ones.
The first and now largest printsourcing site is makexyz. It’s very straightforward: if you’ve got a 3D printer you can add it to their directory and people in your area can commission you for prints at your specified rate. There’s an emphasis on local, allowing all parties to avoid the time and costs of shipping. makexyz takes a modest 5% cut, but clients can later go straight to printers that they’ve built relationships with.
Customers get all the attention at CowFab. Instead of them going to those that have printers, those with printers bid on the projects of customers. This creates a very competitive environment that gets customers the best prices. It may be too competitive though, because there haven’t been too many projects posted. Hopefully that will change. CowFab also takes 5%.
Operating as a repository and printsourcing service, Azavy lets designers and printers make money. You can upload your designs and get a piece of every pie that sells. Or you can list your printer and set bids for printing objects in the store; if someone orders an object that you’ve bid on, you may be asked to print it.
For those that have an idea but lack the CAD skills and printer to produce it, there’s you3Dit. Customers can submit drawings, videos, or just text describing what they’d like printed, and you3Dit will source a CAD designer and a printer to fabricate your idea. If you’re good at CAD you can sign up to model projects, and if you’ve got a printer you can fulfill print orders. It’s a one stop shop for product creation.
Though not dedicated to 3D printing, lots of people sell 3D printed goods on Etsy, from jewelry to lamps. Customers can even make custom orders.
Also not dedicated to 3D printing, but still a great way to get orders. Projects start at $5 but add-ons can be stacked for larger orders.
There are a couple others, such as 3Dpinpoint and 3Dhubs, but they’re currently building their sites/directories, so check on them occasionally. All of these services support the democratization of manufacturing, intentionally or not. If you’re hesitant to get a 3D printer because of the price, keep these sites in mind.
How to make money with your 3D printer
by Cameron Naramore