Starting a 3D printing business is no walk in the park, especially since it still sounds a bit futuristic to most of us. Just a couple of years ago, it seemed like something intangible. But a lot has happened over the past few years, and now you can build a profitable business with a 3D printer. The 3D revolution is expected to surpass more traditional methods of manufacturing, experts say. Although you may believe it’s too challenging, we’ll show you how to start a 3D printing business simply by using a few simple tips and tricks.
The Basics When Starting a 3D Printing Business
1. 3D Printer We suggest you to purchase an in-house printer and start your projects from scratch. Many 3D printing companies use a third-party 3D vendor, yet outsourcing is not always the quickest way to get the project done. Indeed, it may lower your costs, we have to admit, but it doesn’t make up for the inevitable delays. The type of 3D printer you are going to buy largely depends on the work you are going to be doing. The most popular 3D printer model is the one that uses Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). This is an additive process where the creation is produced by heating and extruding plastic. The model is basically pieced together layer by layer. An FDM printer is also the cheapest, and more widely available than others. Then we have the 3D printer that uses Stereolithography. This too is an additive process, but it uses a UV light beam to harden the creation from a pool of photosensitive liquid. The advantage lies in the quality of its work, as it is superior to the once created by an FDM printer. Finally, the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is another option, and it can prove to be the best if you want to diversify your business. Here’s why. This type of printer uses lasers and powders, creating a layer of the material that is printed. This process ensures that some models can even print metal objects. With the other two types of 3D printers, this is not possible. As for the price, it depends mainly on the quality of printing. Professional ones go above $2000, but you can find high-quality ones somewhere around $1000. Of course, you also have your simple models that can go as low as $100. However, if you are serious about starting a 3D printing business, you should invest in a professional model that will provide you with more flexibility. Thanks to the heavy competition and the rising popularity of the industry, the prices will only go down from now on. 2. Materials So, you bought yourself a 3D printer for business, now what? Since they don’t come with the materials needed to print the products, you will need to acquire them separately. Different types of products require different materials. There are two materials used for 3D printing. You have the Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and the Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). The latter is excellent for beginners, but the models it creates may deform under high heat. The ABS, however, is a popular choice for businesses due to its strength and flexibility. An important thing to consider – not all printers can work with both materials. Consequently, choose both material and printer best suited for the type of products you are planning on manufacturing. 3. Software Now here’s where you can benefit greatly from the almighty internet. There are many exceptional open-source software within the big and vast internet archive. It’s great for beginners such as yourself. Over time, as your company grows, you can invest in a one-year license for a 3D modeling software if you wish. 4. Training You may have all you need, but can you make the most of it? Invest in your business by taking 3D animation courses. Both you and your staff should be well-trained in the art of 3D printing. You can either take online classes or look for a tech school in your area. Practicing the skills required for this line of work will only increase the revenue. Furthermore, you must also be instructed on how to avoid possible accidents. There are a few safety issues to consider when starting a 3D printing business. After all, you and your staff will be working with heated plastics. The room where you intend to keep your printer should be well-ventilated. During the printing process, the materials will most likely emit fumes. Although the impact these fumes have on our health has not been well-researched, it’s best to take all necessary precautions.
Where Can I Seek Funding?
Starting a 3D printing business means having the money to purchase all the items listed above, and more. If you’ve been working on a profitable business plan but you don’t have the financial means to get things started, don’t give up! As long as it does not require a huge amount of money (and a 3D printing business isn’t usually all that expensive to start), you should be able to find investors quite easily. You can find seek capital in a number of ways:
• Crowdfunding websites. These websites allow you to gain access to different types of investors. Whether it’s the general public, philanthropists, or accredited investors, each one can all help you realize your dream. Popular and reliable crowdfunding websites include Kickstarter, OurCrowd, Indiegogo, and Pererbackers. • Accelerators. These programs have a set timeframe in which startups spend a few weeks working with a group of mentors. The goal is to build your business and learn how to avoid inevitable problems along the way. Companies are being given a small seed investment. But there’s a catch, they do have to provide a small amount of equity in exchange. The best-known accelerators include Techstars, Brandery, and Y Combinator. • Incubators. When starting a 3D printing business, you might also want to read a bit more about incubators. A typical business incubator will provide you with office space and management training. More than half of these programs are mixed, meaning that they work with clients coming from different industries. Technology incubators make for 39 percent of the total of incubation programs. A good example of a business incubator is Idealab. • Angel networks. An “angel” will not only invest in your dream, but they will also offer mentorship and provide access to their contacts. Such websites include Angel Investment Network and Angel Capital Association.
Things to Consider When Starting a 3D Printing Business
1. Be innovative Come up with a 3D printing business idea that is innovative. One of the best ways to shine in the spotlight is to bring something new to the table. Check out what your competitors are doing, then look for something else. Search for something that may have the potential to sell but has yet to be produced. Your customers are always looking for something new, the next best thing that can add even more to the uniqueness of 3D printing. Don’t sell a model just because it is 3D printed. It should also have an added value that other manufacturing methods cannot provide. 2. Go for a niche market Find your ideal niche and establish yourself in it. Pleasing everyone might not be the ideal way to go about this. Finding loyal customers who are looking for certain products that you are getting better and better at providing, may turn you into their most trusted vendor. You can start on a marketplace, grow your experience, then expand beyond it. 3. Print on demand When you have a 3D printer, you can expand your services in more ways than one. This means that along with printing your own designs, you can also print on demand. In fact, this is the easiest way to start making money out of your business. Of course, this is a competitive business plan as well. However, establishing yourself in a niche market can help you stand out among most of the other competitors. 4. Work with B2B customers B2B means business-to-business, a situation where one company makes a commercial transaction with the other. As opposed to business-to-consumer, B2B transactions bring significantly higher values. Typically, these customers tend to place larger orders, since they can afford to purchase many products. Moreover, B2B customers should also have a more consistent need for your 3D printing services. This strategy could ensure a safe and cozy place in the 3D printing market. 5. Keep costs low Starting a 3D printing business from scratch means managing your money wisely. After finding funding, the next step is to keep the costs as low as possible. Running and maintaining your printing facility requires a lot of money. Which is why some startups prefer to outsource production. This is a popular way of minimizing the costs and the risks involved with production. It could be worth considering, especially if you do not wish to invest in a printer at the moment.
How Can I Promote My 3D Printing Business?
Promoting a service or a product is an ongoing challenge for any small business. What the best way? How can you get your name in front of potential buyers? How can you do it when money is tight? There are countless ways you can promote your business. Below, you have the best methods that require only small investment from your part: 1. Social media Starting a 3D printing business means making a name for yourself. Social media is a great way to build up any brand. You can start by identifying influencers and engage with them. Sooner or later, those individuals will create some buzz around your service. You can use social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ to keep them and your customers up to date with your accomplishments. 2. Online ads Online advertising is one of the top ways a starting business can expand its reach and find new customers. There are many options available, such as pay-per-click, paid social media, display advertising, and in-app ads. Direct website advertising is also a good idea. It’s important you advertise on a website that has relevant content. You should also choose a site that has a good reputation, as it’s never a good idea to be associated with a disreputable service. 3. Embedded marketing Embedded marketing, or product placement, often involves ads placed within videos, shows, online stories, or other types of media. Whether we’re talking about links, written words, video, or visuals, how you use it depends on your objectives and budget. Either way, this marketing technique is beneficial for the viewers as well, since they won’t be interrupted by the ads from the particular content they searched for. 4. Resellers Here’s how this works. A reseller will buy a batch of your products and sell them at a higher cost. The advantage is that these partners often visit potential buyers in person. Unfortunately, you will have to sell your models at a discount price to the reseller. This is so they can make a profit as well. However, you should be able to make up the difference through these added sales. 5. Promotional goods This can really prove to be a powerful tool for your business’ marketing strategy. Almost anything can be branded with your company’s name or logo, but you can also give away 3D printed products. See, the industry you have decided to join does not have the same restrictions as others. So you can easily provide your possible customers with something else than just the standard branded t-shirt.
3D Printing Business Ideas Worth Considering
1. Create personalized gifts Personalized gifts are incredibly in right now since we always strive to offer the most eccentric presents we can find. Fortunately, 3D printing companies can produce as many one-of-a-kind products for about the same price as the same number of identical products. This instantly gives you a leg up on more traditional printing methods. From custom-fit earbuds to spectacular phone cases, the possibilities are nearly endless. You can basically personalize anything that can be 3D printed. This will thrill your customers more than the common store-bought gifts. 2. Print 3D maps The 3D printed cartography market is growing, and you too can take advantage of this. These 3D maps have the advantage of depicting the topographical features of a landscape to a fuller extent. In fact, 3D printed maps can open new doors because you will be able to appeal to more customers. The reason is simple. A number of companies have started printing them for the blind or the visually impaired. Also, you can find free, open-sourced map data online and print them with embossed features. 3. Cook some 3D food How about starting a 3D printing business around food? We’ve already told you that the possibilities that come with 3D printing are almost infinite. Yet did you know that you can also print food? That’s right, we’re talking real, edible food. Since you are allowed to prepare any dish in an automated additive manner, you can start a catering business even if you have no knack for cooking. However, 3D printed food requires particular printers, most of which are still in the prototype stage. The ones you can find on the market start as low as $300. The food also takes quite some time to process. Nonetheless, your customers may not mind the waiting, since their main objective at the moment is to experience something unusual. This type of food is already being “manufactured” in the molecular kitchen, gourmet restaurants, and haute cuisine. 4. Take selfies to a new level Help your customers up their selfie game by opening a 3D printed “selfie studio”. Let’s be honest, everyone has gotten tired of those flat 2D pictures we see everywhere. Since your potential clients are always on the lookout for something new, how about printing their lovely faces the 3D way? This is actually one of the hottest trends at the moment. These 3D selfies make for fun toys to place on our desks, but they are also perfect gifts. 5. Approach e-commerce stores We can tell you for a fact that e-commerce stores need reliable local producers to cater their needs. Many of them are now doing business with factories overseas. This is not always beneficiary because of the long production times, costly delivery, and possibly poor factory standards. Your 3D printing services can be the flexible and affordable fix to all of these problems. This is yet another gap in the market that may benefit you. Nonetheless, you too must provide something in exchange: on-time delivery and high-quality products. 6. Offer repair and maintenance services Here’s another opportunity for your business, one that requires no actual printing or model design. As the 3D printing industry grows, so does the demand for repair, assembly, troubleshooting, and maintenance services. While this does not involve creativity, nor will it spark your enthusiasm, it does respond to a real need within the industry. Consequently, you should be guaranteed a steady stream of projects. 7. Print prosthetics and assistive devices Stepping out in the real world and helping patients with physical disabilities that affect movement will be highly rewarding. In fact, the best business ideas are those that provide us with solutions to real world issues. There is a huge demand for cost-effective prosthetics and assistive devices. Luckily, the answer is 3D printing. It can improve the functionality of prosthetics and allow for more customization. Furthermore, 3D printing also helps with assistive devices, making it easier to manufacture support tools. 8. Dip your toe in the design industry This is actually one of the simplest, straightforward 3D printing business ideas. Jewelry, clothes, home furnishing, decorations, and many other objects can be produced with a 3D printer. As long as you have a keen sense of style, your work can generate a great deal of profit. You can create the designs yourself, or seek collaboration with talented artists. Thanks to 3D printing, designers can create unique products that are both beautiful and cost-effective. Furthermore, these objects are highly marketable as well. If you don’t own an e-commerce shop, you still have other options for selling your designs. Etsy, for instance, is the perfect platform to try your luck because its customers are all about individualized products. Starting a 3D printing business can be risky, but the way you manage your company can help ensure a steady profit. Furthermore, depending on the projects you will be working on, your reward will go beyond the financial horizons. Seek advice from people who have successfully grown such a business, but don’t be afraid to try new things yourself. IMAGE SOURCES: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
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