How To Make The Most Out Of Your 3D Printed Products
3D printing is a fun hobby, especially if paired with complementary passions like tabletop gaming or 3D artist. But what if you wanted to do more with your 3D printer?
Is it possible to sell your prints online? Which platform is the best for this? And what other things should you keep in mind before embarking on a 3D printing business venture?
Let’s find out.
Can you sell 3D printed products?
Definitely. If printed right, 3D products are on par or even better than products that are mass manufactured by industrial units. A 3D printer also gives you a lot of versatility, letting you switch production to another product as and when the need arises.
There are obviously some caveats; you must use top notch materials, deal with the actual logistics of selling your prints (more on that later) and find a way to market your products.
Transitioning from 3D printing as a hobby to making a business out of it is certainly possible, if you have a flair for business and play it right.
Where can you sell 3D printed stuff?
But if you are looking to do it properly, Amazon is your only real option.
This is because the number of unique visitors on Amazon is way, way more than anything eBay or Etsy can field. At the same time, it has far fewer sellers, making it easier to find customers and make money.
Keep in mind though that selling on Amazon isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Unlike a peer-to-peer selling platform like eBay, Amazon has a higher barrier of entry. On Amazon, you are an actual seller with responsibilities and have to take your business seriously to succeed.
That said, it is a great way to make money by selling your 3D printed objects – if you are willing to put in the work.
Is it worth selling 3D printed objects?
Of course. The real question is, what kind of 3D printed products are worth selling?
You can’t just expect to print anything that comes to your mind and make a fortune selling it. You need to print objects that have a strong demand.
Additionally, you don’t want to try selling objects that are too difficult to print. You will not make much profit if you are spending too much time and resources on every print.
Research the market for small objects that can be 3D printed easily and yet have unmet demand. If you play it smart, it is definitely worth selling 3D printed products.
An advantage 3D printing enjoys over the usual methods of selling on Amazon is the profit margin. When you source your products from a third-party supplier, you must always be on the hunt for the most discounted products, and even then, your margins tend to be slim.
With 3D printing, your only costs are materials, shipping (depending on which shipping method you choose), and of course, Amazon fees. Your best bet is to choose products worth at least a bit (say about $20), so that you can actually make a profit after all the expenses are taken out.
Another advantage is lower upfront costs. Where a typical Amazon seller would end up having to make bulk purchases of a large number of objects in advance, a 3D printing seller only needs to invest in the printer and the materials.
And if the printer was purchased as a hobby, then you aren’t really sinking anything except some time and effort, are you?
What about shipping?
Decide on how you are going to handle shipping before you jump into business. This is because depending on your method, you might need to print on order or in bulk.
If you choose Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), then Amazon will deliver the products for you. In many ways, this is the best option, as it saves you from the hassle of arranging for shipping and also ensures the best delivery times for your customers.
On the other hand, going with FBA requires you to stock an inventory of your products with Amazon in advance. This means that you will have to print each of your listed products in bulk before making a single sale.
The best way to go about this is to list a small selection of products to begin with, reducing the burden of prints you will have to stock up.
If you instead decide to take care of the shipping yourself, you don’t have to stock up an inventory of your products. You can print each product as and when you get an order, eliminating risk and wastage.
But the flip side is that the entire responsibility of shipping the product to your customer falls on you. No matter which part of the country they are located in, you will have to deliver the product, and deal with any damages that might occur.
It might also take longer for you to print the product and then send it to the customer, which can affect their reviews of your service.
The best method is a mix of both the approaches. You can opt for FBA, supplying Amazon with the bare minimum quantity of products needed to qualify. In addition, you can print products to meet the demand in case it exceeds that inventory.
This ensures that routine orders are managed by Amazon itself, while you still have the capability to scale up your supplies in the festive season or popular sales. Printing a smaller inventory in advance limits your upfront investment, allowing you to have the best of both worlds.
Which materials should I use to 3D print for money?
When you are looking to commercialize your prints, you cannot just use the cheapest material and get away with it. You need a material that is somewhat durable, and will not degrade to normal wear-and-tear.
PLA, the cheapest filament, isn’t good for anything but experimental prints. PLA products are very weak, and start decomposing even in normal temperatures.
ABS and PETG are much better for this, as these filaments are tough, heat resistant, and in case of PETG, denser than normal plastic. For most applications, you can choose any of these two materials and start churning out prints.
Some objects, however, are meant for rougher usage. For example, things like toys or 3D printed tools are put through greater physical stresses than say, a phone stand, and thus require even stronger materials to print.
Polycarbonate is one such material. Another is carbon fiber. Both materials are harder to work with, requiring a better printer than an entry-level model.
But the results speak for themselves, giving you prints that are much harder and stronger than most objects in the market.
Do I need a better printer?
Before setting up an online 3D prints shop, make sure that your current printer can handle the workload. Sure, even the most basic entry level model can handle small prints, but it is limited to making them one at a time.
With a bigger, better printer, you can sequence multiple prints simultaneously. This considerably speeds up your workflow, allowing you to fulfill your orders faster.
Besides from increased volume, a larger printer can also print bigger objects, allowing you to target niches that would otherwise be closed to you.
Even if printing larger objects is something you don’t wish to go into (as they can be a pain to ship), a better printer would be able to handle advanced filaments like carbon fiber and polycarbonate. This gives the ability to create durable 3D prints that are superior to the majority of the products in the market.
3D printing has exploded into public domain big time, and has brought the capability to manufacture anything, anywhere. While using this ability as a hobby is a great idea (and a fun one too!), you can also leverage it to make some money.
All you need is a decent 3D printer, some good materials, and you are ready to get started.
Like with any business venture, market research is essential, as is figuring out the logistical issues beforehand. Thanks to Amazon, selling products online in a legal and hassle-free way is easier than ever.
Anyone can register as a seller by completing some basic paperwork, and if you take advantage of the FBA, leave the shipping to them as well.
So what are you waiting for? Get your own 3D printer today and start an online 3D print shop.