1. Create and sell 3D printed jewelry, home furnishings or decorations
This first idea for a 3D printing business might be the most straightforward and potentially even easiest on the list, though it does require a keen sense of style and a certain finesse. The idea is simple: create a 3D design, and sell it. With 3D printing, designers can create custom, unique jewelry, accessories or decorates that are beautiful, cost-effective, and highly marketable 3D printed goods. For example, self-trained artist Melissa Ng turned her passion for creative wearables into a successful 3D printing business via her shop, Lumecluster. Or, take a look at Nonmanifold’s 3D printed jewelry, LeFabShop’s 3D printable home decorations, or fashion designer Kasia Wisniewski’s 3D printed bridal accessory collection. The options are endless. Once you’ve got a vision for your 3D printing business, commercializing is as easy as setting up a shop on online platforms like Etsy, or 3D printing-specific markets like i.Materialise.
2. 3D print customized video game characters
If you have a knack for not only playing video games but also creating your own video game characters, 3D designing and/or 3D printing customized gaming characters might just be right up your alley. Gamers invest a lot of time into creating their characters, and are often willing to pay for high-quality figures, meaning this could therefore be a very profitable 3D printing business. Case in point? Whispering Gibbon recently received six-figure funding for their RenderFab 3D software that turns video game content into 3D printable characters.
3. Become a 3D printed fashion designer
From 3D printed shoes, to 3D printed glasses, to 3D printed garments, starting your own 3D printed fashion brand could be a great way to put your maker and design skills to work and earn some money while you do so. Just look at fashion student Danit Peleg’s entire 3D printed ready-to-wear collection made on a desktop 3D printer, or mechatronics engineer Markus’ stunning 3D printed high heeled shoe for proof that it doesn’t take a whole fashion brand to bring 3D printed wearables to life.
4. Open a 3D printed Selfie Studio
If you’re looking to get in on one of the hottest 3D printing consumer trends, you might consider starting a 3D printed Selfie Service. Customers are 3D scanned to capture their individual and one-of-a-kind look, and then 3D printed into fun figurines. There is a lot of room for creativity, too: just look to these 3D printed selfie faces that can be fastened onto lego bodies for motivation.
5. 3D print custom prosthetics or assistive devices
While 3D printed selfies are fun, the best business ideas are the ones that solve real world problems. There is a huge need across the world for lightweight and cost-effective prosthetics or assistive devices, and 3D printing technology has already proven to be the answer. The possibilities within the field are numerous, as we’ve seen within the realm of 3D printed prosthetic hands, whether they be myoelectric, Lego-compatible, or super-hero inspired. There are also the areas of 3D printed foot prosthetics, 3D printed wheelchairs, and custom 3D printed prosthetic covers that could be explored.
6. Whip up some 3D printed food
Earlier this week we covered a story on how the ability to 3D print food is beginning to change the face of fine dining, so why not get aboard the train for what is sure to be a delicious, and lucrative, ride. Some of the most marketable 3D printed food products to date have been in the realm of 3D printed chocolate and candy, so that might be a good place to begin, though being a bit creative couldn’t hurt either. You could always open a 3D printed pancake bakery for instance! If you love cooking but don’t have the knack for it, consider basing your business on 3D printed cooking accessories, like this Kriszti Bozzai did with her custom 3D printed cookie cutters.
7. Become a 3D architect
For a larger scale business project, why not consider pursuing something in the field of architecture? To date, we’ve heard of 3D printing being used within the field in a variety of ways, from 3D printing building models to show clients, to 3D printing architectural elements to preserve them, to 3D printing building blocks to make creative structures. For a particularly inspiring story check out how one creative maker 3D printed his way into becoming an architect. If you’re starting off in the field of 3D printed architecture, we suggest starting small by making scale models, and working your way up, perhaps one day even helping to 3D print an entire home!
8. 3D printed maps
3D printed maps can be used to more fully depict the topographical features of a landscape (even that of The Moon!), thanks to their nifty use of the Z axis. Thanks to this added functionality, the commercial demand for 3D printed cartography is growing, so master the art of the additive atlas and get printing. Last year, Finnish firm Versoteq created these cool 3D printed tactile maps for Slush, a tech startup event. Follow Versoteq’s lead and propose a 3D printed map project to a large organization, business, or city, and you could soon have a powerful 3D printing venture on your hands. 3D printed tactile maps can also serve a more noble purpose: A number of 3D printing companies have started 3D printing maps for the blind and visually impaired, using free, open source map data and 3D printing them with embossed streets and landmarks.
9. Create 100% personalized 3D printed gifts
Before 3D printing, customized gifts and trinkets were limited in scope, availability, and above-all, affordability. Now, mold-free 3D printing enables businesses to produce 1,000 completely unique products for nearly the same material cost as 1,000 identical products. From personalized 3D printed phone cases, to custom-fit 3D printed earbuds, to the whacky trend of 3D printed fetuses, 3D printing brings standard commercial products to a whole new level, and will entice consumers far more than boring, store bought offerings. Just remember the motto, if it can be 3D printed, it can be personalized.
10. 3D modeling and design service
Before you can start 3D printing, you need a 3D model, yet many at-home makers still don’t have adequate 3D modeling skills, creating the perfect market opportunity for a 3D modeling and design service. A 3D modeling service simply provides custom 3D printable files to would-be-makers for a fee. In terms of starting your own 3D modeling business, you could either create a 3D modeling app, open a 3D model repository, or if you are a 3D designer yourself, create a portfolio of designs and show them to the world.
11. Offer a 3D printing service
Another straightforward 3D printing business idea is to buy a 3D printer (or two, or ten) and offer a 3D printing service. Depending on how big you want to take this 3D printing business, you could either offer this service from home, doing small 3D print jobs on the side, or set up an entire, dedicated 3D printing service bureau for local and international customers. There are a lot of variables to take into consideration, such as what level of 3D printing you are capable of, what kinds of 3D printers and materials you will offer, etc. But, there is a huge demand for 3D printed goods right now, meaning whichever approach you take, this could be a very profitable business opportunity.
12. Push 3D printing education with a 3D printing course or tutoring service
3D printing is still a very niche area of knowledge, but more and more people want to learn the skills required so that rather than outsourcing 3D printing projects, they can do them themselves. If you have this knowledge, it’s the perfect time to share it via a 3D printing class. 3D printing education can be offered either online, via 3D printing video tutorials, or you can offer hands-on in-person 3D printing courses. Teaching is rewarding in every sense, and by becoming a 3D printing educator, either for individuals, children and students, or even small businesses, you’ll be helping people gain an extremely useful skill while utilizing your own.
13. 3D print promotional goods for creative advertising campaigns
Advertisers are constantly looking for the most creative, unique, and interactive ways to reach their target audiences, and 3D printing can provide the perfect cross-over between brands and consumers. A clever 3D printing business could partner with advertisers or directly with brands to 3D print promotional goods, either to get massive media attention, such as this life-size 3D printed shark, or to engage with audiences in completely unexpected ways, like the History Channel’s Vikings 3D printed sweepstakes.
14. Sell 3D printers, accessories or supplies
Even if you do not have experience in 3D modeling or 3D printing, you can still make money with a successful 3D printing business. Brush up your sales skills, and offer 3D printers, 3D printer accessories, and 3D printer materials for sale. Most 3D printer purchases happen online, since there are very few brick-and-mortar retailers offering 3D printers today, however if you live in an area where 3D printing is coming popular, it could be worthwhile to set up a shop to offer personalized, face-to-face service. Rather than selling 3D printers themselves, you could also open an online or retail shop for 3D printing filaments and accessories, since these are less expensive, yet always in demand.
15. 3D printing repair, maintenance, troubleshooting or assembly
Wherever there are 3D printers, there will be parts in need of assembly, repair, troubleshooting and maintenance. If you’re the type of person who enjoys taking tiny things apart and putting them back together, there is huge business opportunity this area, since the majority of 3D printer consumers either don’t have the time, patience, or tools required. While this 3D printing business idea may not entail as much creativity as designing 3D printed jewelry, and it may not be as fun as 3D scanning goofy 3D selfies, it is nevertheless a business that responds to a very real need within the 3D printing industry, almost guaranteeing a steady stream of work.