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3D Printing at Home: How to Start a Business on a Budget

Looking to start a business with your new 3D printer? Here's a guide on how to get started, from finding the right software to using the best materials for your products. Plus, tips on keeping your costs down so you can maximize profits.

Starting your own 3D printing business can be a great way to make some extra money on the side – or even turn it into a full-time gig. But it can also be expensive, especially if you don’t know where to save on costs. In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to start a 3D printing business on a budget. We will also cover ways to track your material usage and keep your costs down. Let’s get started!

One of the great things about 3D printers is that they can be used to create a wide variety of products. From simple toys and trinkets to more complex items like tools and prosthetics, there is virtually no limit to what can be created.

In recent years, some of the most popular items to come off of 3D printers have been replacement parts for furniture and appliances. This is because 3D printed parts are often stronger and more durable than their traditional counterparts. As a result, they can extend the life of your favourite pieces of furniture or help you keep your appliances running smoothly for years to come. Of course, these are just a few examples of the many possibilities that 3D printing technology offers. So whatever you can dream up, there’s a good chance you can create it with a 3D printer.

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Choosing the right 3D printer

If you want to start a business printing objects, the first thing you need is a printer. You can find good quality printers for under $1000, and there are even some decent ones available for less than $500.

If you’re just starting out, it’s probably best to go with a cheaper model so that you don’t have to invest too much money upfront.

What are Filaments?

Once you have your printer, you also need filament – the plastic that gets melted and extruded by the printer to create your objects. Filament typically costs around $30 per kilogram, though prices can vary depending on the type of plastic and where you buy it from.

3D printing filaments come in a variety of materials, each with its own unique set of properties. Here are some of the most common filaments used in 3D printing, along with a brief overview of what they are each good for:

PLA: PLA is a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources. It is one of the easiest filaments to use, and it is also one of the most affordable. However, PLA can be weaker than other materials, and it is not as heat-resistant. As a result, it is not ideal for applications where strength or durability is required.

ABS: ABS is a petroleum-based plastic that is stronger and more heat-resistant than PLA. It is also more difficult to print with, due to its higher melting temperature. For this reason, ABS is often used for applications where strength and durability are critical.

PVA: PVA is a water-soluble filament that can be used to support other filaments during the printing process. It dissolves in water, making it easy to remove supports after the print is complete. However, PVA is not as strong as other materials and it can be difficult to work with.

PETG: PETG is a strong, durable filament that is easy to print with. It is similar to ABS in terms of strength and heat resistance, but it is less brittle and has better impact resistance. As a result, PETG is often used for applications where durability is important.

To keep track of your filament usage and costs, we recommend using an inventory materials tracker. There are many different software options available - one option is Craftybase as it is designed specifically for small in-house manufacturers.

With Craftybase, you can set up alerts so that you’re notified when you’re running low on specific filament, and it will also automatically calculate the cost of your prints based on the weight of filament used.

This is a great way to keep track of your expenses and make sure that you’re not spending more than you need to on materials.

Why makers should care about COGS: The True Cost of your Product »

What can I make and sell with a 3D printer?

Now that you have your printer and filament sorted, it’s time to start printing!

If you’re looking for ideas for things to make and sell with a 3D printer, here are just a few suggestions:

  • Customized objects: People are always looking for unique ways to personalize their phones, and 3D-printed phone cases offer a great solution. You can create custom cases with any design or logo, and customers will be happy to pay for something that’s one-of-a-kind. Keychains and zipper pulls are also a great other option here.

  • Cake toppers: If you’re good at sculpting or have an artistic flair, you can create beautiful 3D-printed cake toppers. These make great gifts or decorations for special occasions, and people are always willing to pay a little extra for something that’s both pretty and delicious.

  • Jewelry: From delicate earrings to statement necklaces, there’s no limit to the types of jewelry you can create with a 3D printer. And because each piece can be customized to the buyer’s liking, you’re sure to find plenty of people who are willing to pay for your one-of-a-kind designs.

  • Replacement Parts: Try to target common but hard to find replacement parts, such as knobs for appliances or commonly broken parts on popular devices.

  • Supplies and Assemblies: small parts that can be used to produce other items are another good target market. As an example: clasps, ball bearings.

  • Art: lamps, wall hooks, vases and coasters are all ideas that fall into this category.

  • Figurines and cosplay related items (making sure to watch out for copyright and intellectual property rights issues)

How do I make money with 3D printing?

If you want to make money from your business, there are a few different ways you can do this. You can sell your objects outright, or you can offer services such as print-on-demand where customers send you files and you print them for a fee. You can also offer subscription services, where customers pay a monthly fee and receive a certain number of prints each month.

Whatever model you choose, it’s really important you make sure you keep track of your costs so that you can price your products or services for maximum profits.

Here are a few quick tips for keeping costs down for your 3D printing business:

  • Take advantage of free or low-cost 3D modeling software. There are a number of excellent programs available, and many of them are free to use. This can help you save on the cost of hiring a professional designer.

  • Choose the right materials for your project. Some materials are more expensive than others, so it’s important to select the right one for your needs. See the section above for a rundown of the filament types available.

  • Print only what you need. It’s tempting to print large batches of objects all at once, but this can often be wasteful and expensive. If possible, print only the number of objects you need and then reuse or recycle the material when you’re done.

  • Use open-source design files whenever possible. There are many great websites that offer free or low-cost 3D models that you can use for your own projects.

By following these tips, you can keep your 3D printing costs under control and ensure that your projects stay on budget. As you can see, with a little bit of effort, you can easily start a successful and profitable business printing objects to sell from the comfort of your own home!

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, inventory and manufacturing software designed for small manufacturers. She has been working with, and writing articles for, small manufacturing businesses for the last 12 years. Her passion is to help makers to become more successful with their online endeavors by empowering them with the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.