Making Money with a 3D Printer

Though already a fairly established technology, the complexity of 3D printing means the systems are still a mystery to many of the general public. Taking advantage of this, savvy printers and crafts enthusiasts might find a place to explore a gap in a local market. Whether part of a big town or a small community, a decent 3D printer can afford many opportunities to generate a little side cash, if you know where to start.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

At the very least, an entry-level 3D printer could still perform adequately for certain projects that don’t require much accuracy. You also need more than a basic understanding of how 3D printers work to be successful. While it is certainly possible to purchase your first ever printer and eventually become a pro, you need to understand that you probably shouldn’t sell anything until you’re comfortable with the machine’s ins and outs. A poor final product will only hurt your reputation, after all.

Deciding on a Project

3D printers excel at many things, but the projects which are in the broadest demand, and which have the fastest turnaround, are unlikely to be the most profitable. After all, if something is extremely popular and simple to make, it is probably already available on Amazon for far cheaper and easier than you’d need to charge. Since a 3D printer’s output is so limited, you’re going to need to pick and choose your projects. This means investigating local niches and demand. It also means that you might need to work on some other skills and invest in some additional products for your printer.


An enormous range of toys and figurines make great printing projects, especially if you aim toward popular characters or evergreen types of games. One great example is the Cloud Strife model from the much-loved Final Fantasy 7 video game. These games are back in the public eye now with the remake trilogy series of titles, so taking advantage of the renewed interest could get you off to a strong start.

“Mr. Strife” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by PuyoDead

This figurine also brings up the important question of whether you want to complete the finish yourself or leave that up to the hobbyist. In this example, the figurine needs to be both sanded and painted to reach its full potential. Luckily, sanding isn’t too difficult and many figurine hobbyists take great joy in completing their own painting. As always, be sure you invest in the right grain sandpaper and tools for this route to avoid damaging the print.

More Advanced Toys

Another of the most popular modern goods we’ve seen take off in 3D printing are shells for RC cars. This is a somewhat niche market, but it’s also one where users place a premium on customizability and being able to show something that nobody else offers. Again, this is where you need to be aware of how complex it can be to learn the initial ropes.
Since RC car shells can be made of many different parts rather than one continuous print, taking this route is best for someone who doesn’t mind intricate fastening work. Though screws and rivets are going to play a part, an understanding of the right range of adhesives is equally as important. Just as the wrong screws can crack the plastic, the wrong glue or epoxy can destroy an otherwise good print. This goes doubly so for sealant on an RC watercraft. Doing a good job of assembly comes down to the use of compatible materials.

Evergreen Pieces

Finally, no list of great and potentially profitable printing projects would be complete without the suggestion of board game pieces for classics like chess. Popular takes here can adopt the form of older piece designs for veterans, or adaptions of popular properties like Star Wars to help keep new players engaged. This is another situation where the finish sanding/painting/connecting will depend highly on the product and the buyer, so check what the audience usually goes for ahead of time.

“3D printing at home” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by La Tarte au Citron

Wherever your research takes you, understand that even the best printer is going to rely on the hand of a skilled craftsman. These are popular and powerful tools, that much isn’t in doubt, but they’re also not a simple license to print money. With that in mind, those who are more craft-oriented could see some real financial success and personal fulfillment if traveling this route. Plus, by focusing on the design side of the equation, you might end up with your own line of unique products to sell as well.

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