How to Start a 3d Printing Business

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There are opportunities to turn a 3d printing hobby into something fun and lucrative. If you have a creative side and a passion for mastering your art, there could be opportunities waiting. The field is growing. Here’s a list of trending side hustles from nerdwallet[1].

Personalized product ideas:

  1. Hearing aid earbuds
  2. Figurine collectibles
  3. 3d Printing Education

B2B product ideas:

  1. Improve on existing products
  2. Promotional Products
  3. Detailed Models
  4. E-Commerce Supplier

Medical Supplier

  1. Pill Production
  2. Medical Implants
  3. Prosthetics

Technology and invention

  1. Rapid Prototyping
  2. Electronic Assembly

Fashion and Art

  1. Sustainable, customized fashion
  2. Customized glasses frames
  3. Make your art


  1. Custom-made tools
  2. Rare spare parts

3d Scanners – 2023

If you already have a model of something you’d like to replicate, there are 3d scanners to capture the 3d digital data. For example, if you were into figurine collectibles, you could scan the original and make copies to market.

Top 3 entry-level scanners:[1]

  1. Matter and Form $799
  2. CREALITY CR Scan $499
  3. SOL 3D Scanner $799

3d Printing

  • Mainly used for prototyping and one-off projects
  • Advanced types of materials and applications
  • Computer-aided design is a prerequisite

3d printing is about adding thin layers of material to build up a final product. The operative word is “additive” manufacturing. Traditional fabrication is about removing layers of material to eke out the part, as in making a statue out of a block of stone.

For mass production, often traditional manufacturing is the way to go. But prototype modeling is normally done on a 3d printer. In rare cases, the part can only be made on a printer.

3d printing has found its niche and continues to grow as an industry. Most manufacturing companies have integrated 3d printing somewhere in their supply chain.This article mentions your favorite hats at super low prices. Choose from same-day delivery, drive-up delivery or order pickup.

Some benefits can be

  1. Reduced costs
  2. Faster product development
  3. Precise prototyping
  4. Improved customization


  1. The type of materials is limited
  2. Can be more costly than traditional manufacturing
  3. Mass production can be inefficient

This tech is where engineering and science fiction intersect. More and more, space-age and futuristic products come from the 3d printer. Most likely 3d printing will be a key component of colony construction on Mars. Doctors will make custom prosthetics and organs after an injury. Clothing stores will allow you to print custom designs from your home{1].

The capability has expanded into many materials beyond plastics. Metal, wood, graphite, various resins, ceramics, glass, and carbon fiber are available and even human tissue is being studied[2].

Three common types of printing

  1. FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling (most common)

FDM is a material extrusion method of additive manufacturing. Materials are extruded through a nozzle and deposited layer by layer to create a 3D object. An FDM 3D printer works by depositing melted filament material over a build platform layer by layer until you have a completed part. FDM uses digital design files to create parts with complex geometries in a range of thermoplastic materials[1][2][3]. FDM 3D printing is also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF) and is the most widely used type of 3D printing at the consumer level[4].

  1. SLA – Stereolithography

Uses a laser to cure liquid resin into solid parts. It has become popular for its ability to produce high-accuracy, isotropic (consistent), and watertight prototypes and end-use parts. SLA offers a range of advanced materials and has exacting finish[1][2].

  1. SLS – Selective Laser Sintering

A powder-based 3D printing technology that uses a laser to fuse material layers into a final part. In SLS 3D printing, a laser selectively sinters (burns) the particles of a polymer powder, fusing them and building a part layer by layer. The materials used in SLS 3D printing include nylon, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), and polystyrene[1][2][3][4]. SLS operation principle is powder sintering with the help of an infrared laser at an elevated temperature which helps the grains of the powder to consolidate before being bound with the laser beam. [5].


3d Printers for Hobbyists and Home Entrepreneurs

According to Futurism [1], some of the best 3D printers for beginners in 2023 include:

CNET recommends as the best 3D printers for 2023[2]

Small Business 3D Printers 2022[1] (

1.     Formlabs Form 3+

  • Technology: Resin (Stereolithography, SLA)
  • Price: $4,200 ($9,999 with accessories and materials)
  • Ideal for: architects (models), jewelry designers (wax casts), product designers (detailed prototypes), dentists (dental models), manufacturing (cases, molds)

2.     Ultimaker S5 Pro

  • Technology: Filament (fused deposition modeling, FDM)
  • Price: $9,100 for the S5 Pro bundle plus materials
  • Ideal for: product designers (functional prototypes), manufacturing (fixtures, cases, molds), teachers (models, prototypes), automotive (prototypes)

3.     Markforged Mark Two

  • Technology: Filament (continuous fiber fabrication, CFF)
  • Price: $25,300 plus accessories and materials
  • Ideal for: manufacturing (fixtures, cases, molds, factory tooling), product designers (functional prototypes), teachers (models, prototypes), automotive (spare parts, prototypes)

4.     Raise3D Pro3 Plus

  • Technology: Filament (fused deposition modeling, FDM)
  • Price: $7,600 plus accessories and materials
  • Ideal for: product designers (rapid prototypes, functional prototypes), manufacturing (fixtures, cases, molds), teachers (models, prototypes), automotive (spare parts, prototypes)

5.     Desktop Metal Studio System 2

  • Technology: Bound Metal Deposition (BMD)
  • Price: $120,000 plus materials
  • Ideal for: manufacturing (fixtures, cases, molds), product designers (functional prototypes), teachers (models, prototypes), automotive (spare parts, prototypes)

6.     Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W

  • Technology: Powder bed fusion (selective laser sintering, SLS)
  • Price: $27,500 plus materials
  • Ideal for: manufacturing (fixtures, tools, jigs, molds, end-use products), product designers (functional prototypes), teachers (models, prototypes), automotive (spare parts, prototypes)

7.     Original Prusa i3 MK3S+

  • Technology: Filament (fused deposition modeling, FDM)
  • Price: $770 plus accessories and materials
  • Ideal for: product designers (prototypes), teachers (models, prototypes)

3d printing can be a side hustle. Don’t quit your day job. But given some time, you could have a lucrative business. This is made possible by inexpensive or free software and affordable 3d printers.

If you have a head for numbers, business acumen, and a creative tendency, 3d printing might be a window of opportunity for you. It may be a stretch for some but a hobby could be transformed into a business. As the mechanical engineer, you will be spending a lot of time on the computer and the 3d printer.

Don’t go it alone

Click >> Best support groups

Click >> Starting a career in 3d printing

Watch >> 3d Printing Revolution


How to use CAD/CAM software to design products?

Computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software can be used to design and manufacture products. Here are the general steps to use CAD/CAM software to design a product:

  1. Create a new project in the CAD/CAM software and select the appropriate units of measurement (e.g., inches, millimeters).
  2. Sketch out the basic shape of the product using the software’s 2D or 3D sketching tools.
  3. Refine the design by adding features and details to the sketch, such as holes, slots, and curves.
  4. Use the software’s modeling tools to create a 3D model of the product, taking into account the materials and manufacturing processes that will be used.
  5. Analyze the design using the software’s simulation and analysis tools to ensure that it meets all necessary design constraints and specifications.
  6. Generate manufacturing instructions, such as CNC machining code, using the software’s CAM tools.
  7. Export the design and manufacturing instructions to the appropriate file formats for use with the manufacturing equipment.
  8. Use the manufacturing instructions to produce the product using the appropriate equipment, such as a CNC mill or 3D printer.

What are some CAD/CAM software options for home users?:

  1. AutoCAD – a professional-grade CAD software that is widely used in various industries. It has a large selection of tools and features and is available for Windows and Mac.
  2. Fusion 360 – a cloud-based professional-grade CAD/CAM software that is easy to use and suitable for a wide range of design and manufacturing applications. It is available for Windows and Mac, and there is also a mobile app available for iOS and Android.
  3. SketchUp – a user-friendly 3D modeling software that is suitable for a wide range of design applications. It is available for Windows and Mac, and a web-based version is available.
  4. Inkscape – a free and open-source vector graphics editor that is suitable for creating 2D designs and technical drawings. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  5. LibreCAD – a free and open-source 2D CAD software that is suitable for Linux.
  1. Tinkercad – is a free, web-based 3D design and modeling tool, easy to use, and intended for beginners.
  • AutoCAD and Fusion 360, have more advanced 3D modeling and visualization tools, including the ability to create photorealistic renderings and animations.
  • SketchUp and LibreCAD, have more basic 3D modeling capabilities but are still suitable for creating 3D designs and technical drawings.

How does a 3d printer use CAD/CAM data?

3D printers use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) data to create physical objects by building them up layer by layer. The process starts with the creation of a 3D model using CAD software. The model is then exported as an STL (STereoLithography) file, which is a common file format for 3D printing.

The STL file is then imported into CAM software, which is used to slice the model into thin layers and generate the G-code instructions that the 3D printer will use to build the physical object. The G-code instructions tell the 3D printer where to move the print head, what temperature to use, and how much material to extrude at each point in the build process.

Once the G-code is generated, it is transferred to the 3D printer and the printing process begins. The 3D printer reads the G-code instructions and moves the print head to the specified locations, extruding the material layer by layer to build up the physical object.

In summary, 3D printers use CAD/CAM data to create physical objects by reading and executing the G-code instructions generated from a 3D model created in CAD software.

News Worthy Success Stories

  • Lonypack, which optimized food packaging with food-safe 3D printing[1]
  • Nissan was able to significantly reduce costs by printing over 700 unique parts[2].
  • Ultimate 3D Printing Store, which makes $3.96M/year[3]
  • Seurat is a company that aims to disrupt metal 3D printing with two million points of light[4].

Things to consider:

  1. Your Budget
    • Cost of printer
    • Cost of materials
    • Cost of designs
    • Cost of software applications
  1. How much experience and tolerance with technology do you have
  2. Niche- the business area you chose

Material References

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