Best 5 Ways to Make Money With a 3D Printer

James Alday / ImmersedN3D.

It's a perfect time to make money 3D printing. While it's still a new concept to most people, and designing and printing 3D products is not quite mainstream, you have an opportunity to use your expertise to make some real money.

You can cash in on 3D printing in numerous ways. Even if you don't own a 3D printer, you can sell your 3D objects or even just the designs, or teach other people how to 3D print.

Regardless of where you're at in the printing or designing process, it takes just a little digging to see how the money can come in.

Sell Your Designs

Screenshot of the Shapeways website

One of the best ways to make money with a 3D printer doesn't even require that you own a 3D printer. If you have some designs for a 3D printer that someone with a printer (or with access to a printer) wants, they might very well purchase your designs.

Shapeways is one place where you can open a 3D printer shop. These folks are the Etsy of 3D printing. If you have designs or models ready, you can make them available within Shapeways for customers to buy. Because it's print-on-demand, nothing is made until a customer orders it.

They have all the tools to help you build an online store. Plus, they have a tool called CustomMaker that lets you make your designs customizable, which is one way to let your customers turn your 3D designs into something a bit more personal to them.

Sell Your 3D Prints

Screenshot showing 3D printed objects you can buy at Shapeways

If you already have 3D printed objects, you can start selling them yourself anywhere, be it on Facebook or dedicated shops like eBay or Etsy. Shopify is another e-commerce platform that works well for small businesses.

Another way to sell your 3D prints is to advertise them as such. Tell your visitors that you can print for them and all they have to do is order from you and wait for the print. This takes the hassle out of them having to find a place to use a 3D printer.

Then, when someone orders a 3D print from you, you can print it at home if you have a 3D printer, or simply get your designs printed at a place like Shapeways or another 3D print services. Just ship the print out to the customer and you've made money 3D printing.

Help Make Prototypes

People working on a windmill prototype together

Another way to cash in on 3D printing is to offer local engineering firms help with 3D printing prototypes. This is a great idea if you're a 3D designer because you don't have to worry about the printing yourself. Just design products for them and have them do all the printing. Chances are they already have a printing service in contact or on-site printing capabilities.

Teach 3D Printing to Students

Male teacher in front of his middle or high school classroom

Lots of people are interested in 3D printing, especially students who are looking for careers in 3D design or 3D printing specifically. You can offer to go in and teach classes, for a fee, on how to set up and use their own 3D printer.

Finding these types of 3D printing teaching jobs might be hard, but advertising on social media sites and job offer websites might be a good place to start.

Print for Other People

Screenshot of the 3D Hubs local printing page

3D Hubs and MakeXYZ have been growing like crazy and offer a nearly instant way to get into business as a 3D printer owner. You list your printer on their network and potential customers, usually local, can find you and request 3D printed work to be done.

Consumers, business owners, and busy engineers at large companies are often in need of 3D printing help, although the first category is just learning about 3D printers. You can be the one to provide that service, locally or online, if you are willing to ship items to customers.

Jewelry designers can scan their designs and migrate to a 3D model and print sales process, which is similar to the custom options above, but that you could do solo. Again, you will need a printer or a service.

Find electroplaters in your area and find a way to combine forces. RePliForm works with anyone who has a 3D printer, but you could find platers in your area who would welcome new work and then you can offer to coat your prints in nickel, silver, or gold, to name a few.

Find a computer graphics (CG) expert or CG animator and offer to team up on creating physical 3D prints of animated characters—or go bigger and pursue licensing deals, like Sandboxr is doing.