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How to Make Money With a 3D Printer [7 Options for (2024)]

Today, 3D printers can make virtually anything, from spare parts to home decor and action figures.

As long as you have the creativity and the design skills, you can 3D print anything. Anything except cash, which we can never get enough of in this economy.

You might not be able to print money, but you can definitely make money with a 3D printer. It takes a bit of skill and the right strategy, but you can turn your 3D printer into a lucrative side hustle.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get into the 3D printing business.

Can You Get Paid for 3D Printing? 

Yes, there are several ways to make money with 3D printing, from selling online to starting a business.

It can be a lucrative side gig and eventually become a source of passive income with the right business model.

How Much Can You Make by 3D Printing?

It depends on the type of 3D printing services you’re willing to offer. There are 3D prints and print designs that sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

As a solo 3D printing artist, you could make around $53,000 a year, but the industry is growing at an impressive rate, so you might make even more.

The 3D printing industry was valued at USD 18.33 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow by about 24.3% annually. Where there’s growth, there’s an opportunity to make extra income.

What You’ll Need to Get Paid for 3D Printing

Before you jump into the 3D printing business, there are a few things you’ll need, such as:

  • A 3D Printer: It can cost anywhere from $200 to $10,000+, so choose according to the complexity of your prints and your budget.
  • Technical Know-How: You should be familiar with CAD software (Computer-Aided Design Software) to create and edit your 3D model designs.
  • Filament: You’ll need to stock up on different types of filament (PLA, ABS, and PETG) for creating physical 3D objects.
  • Business and Marketing Strategy: Having a clear business model and marketing plan can help you create the right 3D prints, attract more clients, and make more money.
  • Post-Processing Tools: You might need things like sandpaper, paint, and adhesives to give your 3D prints a final, professional touch.

Ways to Make Money With a 3D Printer

There are tons of ways you can make money with a 3D printer. Some ideas are simple, like designing and selling 3D items online, while other methods are more creative.

Let’s take a look at seven different ways you can make money with a 3D printer.

1. Design and Sell Prints Online

One of the best ways to make money with a 3D printer is to design 3D prints and sell them online. You can easily create your own online store using popular online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.

With this business model, you’ll need to research items that are in high demand and then create them. This means you’ll be selling pre-designed prints instead of personalized or customized products.

You’ll find almost every 3D print imaginable online, so make sure you print objects that you enjoy making and are selling at a high rate. Some of the most popular items for 3D printing include:

  • (D&D) Miniatures and cosplay items
  • Board games and educational models
  • Phone cases
  • Jewelry
  • Toys
  • Planters
  • Mugs and desk accessories

For inspiration, you can check out these articles: What to Sell on Amazon and What to Sell on Etsy.

How Much You Can Make

It depends on the type of 3D prints you’re making. Some items sell for a few bucks, while others can go for a few hundred dollars. Pick a niche market that you’re familiar with and a decent selling price per item.

As your online store gains more traction, you can eventually make four digits a month.

What Makes This Option Great

Selling pre-designed prints allows you to create your items ahead of time. This saves you time and money and you’ll be able to ship to your customers much faster.

Online platforms have a huge audience, which means more potential customers and, therefore, greater sales and more money with 3D printing.

  • Fees/Commission: Variable (depends on each online marketplace)
  • Payment Methods: Variable, but generally, PayPal is the most popular method

2. Open a Local 3D Printing Business

If you’d rather create customized products on a case-by-case basis, you could start a local 3D printing business. It’s one of the fastest ways to make money with a 3D printer and make a name for your small business.

Tons of local businesses often require replacement parts, product prototypes, or custom items that are easily done with 3D printing.

If you set up a shop near an industrial area with many industries or factories, this could become a lucrative side hustle.

You might end up with regular contracting work for several corporate clients.

Another smart idea is to collaborate with event planners or wedding caterers in your area that need 3D printing services.

You can make customized wedding items like miniatures of the bride and groom for wedding cakes. Some people even request personalized items that have the couple’s name and wedding date. With a 3D printer, almost anything can be personalized.

How Much You Can Make

With custom 3D printing, it depends on the kind of replacement part or print items you create. Generally speaking, you can either charge for the entire project or charge an hourly printing rate to customers.

Most small 3D printing businesses charge an average of $5 to $20 an hour, but you can set your business prices. Complex items that require long hours to print can sell for hundreds of dollars.

What Makes This Option Great

With customized 3D printing, you don’t have to create products and then wait for them to sell. You only spend money when you know potential clients are going to pay for an item, so there’s less risk involved.

You can also gain popularity much quicker with a local business, which translates to more traffic and sales.

  • Fees/Commission: None
  • Payment Methods: Most clients will pay you in cash or via PayPal

3. Create and Sell 3D Printing Courses

Many enthusiasts buy a 3D printer and then look for online courses to learn the trade. If you have theoretical and practical knowledge, you can pass on your 3D printing skills for money.

Creating a 3D printing online course takes a lot of time and effort. You’ll need to brainstorm the content, film it, do some editing, fine-tune it, and then market the final product. If you have your own website or blog, you can use it to get the word out about your course.

Lots of online learning platforms, like Udemy, will let you host the courses so you can reach more clients. If you’re interested, you can check out this tutorial on how to make a Udemy course.

Besides Udemy, the most popular platforms you can use to sell online courses include:

Related: How to Sell Online Courses

How Much You Can Make

You can set whatever price tag you’d like for your 3D printing course. However, you’ll find the majority of courses range from $30 to $140, so you might want to be somewhere in the middle.

As more students sign up for your course, you can eventually make a few thousand dollars a month.

What Makes This Option Great

While creating an online course can be difficult at first, it can quickly become a passive income source. You create the course once and every time someone signs up, you get paid without effort.

  • Fees/Commission: Udemy usually takes 50% commission, while other platforms like Skillshare can take from 30 to 50%
  • Payment Methods: Mainly PayPal and credit cards

4. Sell 3D Printing Designs

Another way you can make money with a 3D printer is to create designs and sell them to others. Other 3D printer owners can take your designs and can create products for themselves or use them to start their businesses.

You can sell your designs in the form of digital files through online platforms such as:

How Much You Can Make

It depends on the price you set for your 3D printer designs and how fast they sell. There’s a huge variety of 3D printing designs on these platforms, ranging from free to over $100. Try to set an average selling price to encourage users to buy your designs.

What Makes This Option Great

Selling your own designs means you won’t have to create the products. You might want to print a sample to show the design’s final product, but other than that, the expenses are minimal.

  • Fees/Commission: Depends on the online platform, but generally speaking, you can expect to pay 20 to 40% in commission fees
  • Payment Methods: Mainly PayPal

5. Start Your Own YouTube Channel

If you have decent 3D design skills, you can create a YouTube channel on 3D printing. You can post videos with cool tips and tricks on how to use a 3D printer and how to create your own products.

With this method, you can earn money through ads, donations, affiliate links, and even sponsorships. It’ll take time, but focus on delivering high-quality content, and the monetization strategies will come.

You can also use your channel to promote your online store or blog and advertise your 3D printing business.

How Much You Can Make

It depends on your monetization strategy and how great your reach is. Some YouTubers consider this a full-time job and make more than five digits a month, but they get millions of views. You can find more information in this article on how to get paid on Youtube.

What Makes This Option Great

This method gives you several ways to make money with a 3D printer. You can build your online and offline brand, which opens up countless opportunities to make extra cash.

  • Fees/Commission: YouTube takes 45% commission from ad revenue
  • Payment Methods: Mainly wire transfer, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), and PayPal

6. Flipping 3D Printers

Sometimes a 3D printer will break and people will just sell it at a low price rather than go through the process of fixing it. If you have an eye for details and you know how to fix used printers, you can buy them, flip them, and make a profit.

Even better, you can use your 3D printer to create any replacement parts you need to fix the broken one. You can then list the fixed 3D printer on eBay or Amazon and build a store based solely on your flipping business.

How Much You Can Make

It depends on how good a deal you can find, the cost of fixing the 3D printer, and the final selling price you set. However, it’s possible to make a few hundred bucks per 3D printer.

What Makes This Option Great

This option gives you excellent profit margins because you buy the broken 3D printer at a low price. In case the repaired 3D printer doesn’t sell, you can always use it to further your 3D printing business, so it’s a win-win situation.

  • Fees/Commission: Variable (depends on the online platform you’re selling on)
  • Payment Methods: Variable

7. Start a 3D Printing Blog

A blog is much like a YouTube channel. You can use it to teach others tips and tricks about 3D printers and to showcase your products. It’s an excellent way to build a brand and advertise your services.

Your blog proves that you have the know-how and encourages people to buy your products, courses, and content.

You can also monetize the blog through ads, affiliate links, and sponsorships.

How Much You Can Make

Popular blogs can make over $10,000 a month through monetization strategies and by promoting their products. It depends on how much effort you put into the blog and how popular it becomes.

What Makes This Option Great

Blogs are a great alternative to YouTube channels for camera-shy people.

You can still use most of the monetization strategies without having to film videos and you can outsource the content creation to writers.

  • Fees/Commission: You can build a blog for free, but affiliate programs usually take around 50% commission on sales
  • Payment Methods: Depends on the affiliate programs you join

Why You Should Consider 3D Printing as a Side Hustle

3D printing is a great side hustle for people looking to make extra cash. Here’s why you should consider it:

  • Versatile: 3D printers give you more versatility and flexibility to create almost anything, unlike traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Low Startup Costs: All you need is a 3D printer, some filament, and software to start your business.
  • Little Space Require: 3D printing doesn’t take up much space, so you can run your business from home or even your garage.
  • Flexible Schedule:You control your work schedule, so you can make 3D printing a side hustle next to other full-time commitments.

Problems With 3D Printing For Money

As great as 3D printing is, it does have a few problems to look out for. Here are a few issues to keep in mind:

  • Steep Learning Curve: Some CAD software have a steeper learning curve than others, so you might need to spend some time and effort sharpening your skills.
  • Time-Consuming: 3D printing takes time, depending on the size of the objects you’re making. The number of products you can make with a 3D printer per day is limited.
  • High Competition: The 3D printing industry is highly competitive due to low startup costs and a high potential for making money.
  • Legal Aspects: 3D designs are considered intellectual property under licensing laws, so make sure you’re legally allowed to sell 3D prints made from other people’s designs. You might need to purchase a proper license that allows you to sell them.

How to Get Paid for 3D Printing: Step-By-Step Instructions

Here are four steps to follow before you start making money with a 3D printer:

Step One: Learn the Skills

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself. Learn the different skills you need for 3D printing and familiarize yourself with the ins and out of a 3D printer.

Start with the basics and then go into things like quick repairs. This can help you get over minor obstacles that might pop up during 3D printing.

Step Two: Research Your Market

Whether you’re selling pre-designed prints or customized services, you need to research your market and find out which product line is in high demand. This way, you’ll know the types of filaments you’ll need, and you can fast-track some of the 3D printing process.

Proper research can also uncover potential marketing streams. For example, if you notice a growing community of entrepreneurs in your area, you can focus on selling product prototypes and building your brand from there.

Step Three: Pick Your 3D Printer

This is possibly the most important step. Choose a 3D printer that fits your needs according to your research.

If you’re going to sell small figurines, there’s no reason to buy a full-scale industrial 3D printer. A professional 3D printer that can do intricate work is fine.

Entry-level 3D printers go for as cheap as $200, while professional FDM printers can start at $2500. Take your total startup costs and your final selling price into consideration when choosing a 3D printer.

Step Four: Choose Your Filaments

Filaments are the building blocks used in 3D printers. Take some time to research and learn about the different types of filament and what each one is used for. Proper research can save money and time.

For example, ABS is a common filament that’s cheap and easy to use but requires a heating bed to print.

Some filaments need you to constantly adjust the build plate of your 3D printer while printing. Know your building blocks and you’ll offer more services.

Things to Consider When 3D Printing for Money

Offering 3D printing services is a great way to make money. However, there are a few things you should consider when 3D printing.

1. Have Competitive Prices

The competition is tough, so it’s okay to have low-profit margins at first. Many customers will want the cheapest prices possible and a high markup can build a bad reputation for your 3D printing business.

Focus on delivering quality products, building a brand, and eventually, you can increase your profit margins and find more ways to make money with a 3D printer.

2. Quality Control

Quality control is vital before your 3D prints reach the end customer. Make sure to inspect each product and make sure it’s up to standard, especially personal-use prints.

Post-processing tools can help add a finishing touch and make it look more professional.

3. Keep an Eye Out for Opportunities

To make the most out of your 3D printing business, keep an eye out for trends and opportunities.

For example, if craft fairs or conventions are scheduled in your area, you might want to capitalize on this opportunity and create special 3D prints for the events.

Products can also become viral trends on social media, making them ideal for 3D printing. Use the trend to make some quick cash.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 3D Printing Legal? 

Selling 3D prints is legal as long as you create them from your own designs or open-source designs. As long as you’re not using trademarked content or violating a copyright license, you can print and sell your products and services.

What Software Do 3D Printers Use?

The most popular kind of software for 3D printers is CAD software. It’s used to create precise 3D models of objects. Some of the best CAD software to check out are AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Fusion 360.

Similar Tutorials to Check Out 

While 3D printers are an excellent side hustle, here are a few other ways to make money on the side:

  • Get Paid to Review Movies: If you enjoy watching movies and have a critic’s eye for detail, you can make extra cash reviewing movies.
  • Get Paid to Give Advice: If you like helping people and have good listening skills, you can get paid to give people advice.
  • Get Paid to Talk to People: You can make extra cash by talking to people for a few hours a day online or in person.

Wrapping Up

With 3D printing, the sky’s the limit.

And so are the ways you can make money with a 3D printer. Follow any of the methods in this article and you can create a 3D printing side hustle with a steady cash flow.

Let us know what you think in the comments, and if you like the article, share it so others can benefit as well! 

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