3D printing is going to cost you some money. Filament, electricity and auxiliary equipment will all add to the cost of your fascinating fabrication hobby. With this in mind I’ll cover 5 ways you can get your 3D printer to pay for itself.
3D Hubs is a network of 3D printers (called Hubs) around the world. Anyone with a 3D printer can list their printer as a hub to 3D print items on demand.
3D Hubs is great for people that need the occasional print . 3D Hubs works by sending the file to a hub in their local area. After the job is printed, the 3D printer can mail the print or arrange a pickup.
When you sign up as a hub you can list the printer and materials you print with, as well as the cost per cubic cm.
3D Hubs would be a great side hustle if you do not use your 3D printer on a daily basis.
Threedigo is a European firm advertising itself as the Uber of 3D printers. Threedigo is a 3D printer rental service, where a user can rent and take home a 3D printer from a host. For a nightly rental charge, a user can rent a 3D printer for the duration of a project or field test different models of 3D printers.
This is a new service that has started in Europe, so there are currently no US based host. This may be a good option in the future for small businesses that have printing farms, or for entrepreneurs to run as a small rental service for 3D printers. In looking at Threedigo’s website, I did not find any consumer protection for the host printers (See UPDATE below). Personally I’d be anxious to let someone else handle my Taz 5’s without some sort of insurance in place from Threedigo.
Threedigo may be more viable if you have a 3D printers that you are not using or if you have multiple printers you don’t mind renting out.
UPDATE 1/3/17: On Dec 29th after this blog was published, Threedigo contacted 3DPrinterChat and 3D-PT. Threedigo also sent a private email to 3D-PT informing him of a newly instated security policy, where each user and renter signs a contract to rent out a 3D printer. The legally binding contract between user and renter is suppose to protect the owner from damages from the user.
While 3D-PT appreciates this step in providing legal protection for both parties, I would still like to see some insurance policy in place for expensive 3D printers. Contracts are great, but it leaves the legal expenses for damages in the hands of the 3D printer owner. Going to court for breach of contract or damages accrue additional expenses, and there is no promise that a user will even be able to pay. Renting a personal or business item like a 3D printer requires a amount of risk that needs insurance against loss. In the future Threedigo could partner with an insurance firm to offer some sort of policy like renters insurance.
MyMiniFactory is a file sharing site that actually test all published files to see if they are 3d printable. This eliminates many of the junk files that have flooded Thingiverse . In addition to sharing files you can also sign up to receive tips like Thingiverse . The main source of finances through MyMiniFactory would be through entering in to the various design challenges that are offered throughout the year.
This is a great platform for designers to share their files, and there is a steady rotation of challenges to participate in.
Etsy is known as the ebay of homemade arts and crafts. You can sign up on etsy to sell your own original 3D print designs. While etsy is full of 3D printers that are selling prints that are not their own design, you can find plenty of legit sellers that are selling 3D prints of their own unique designs.
When you sell on etsy, make sure to watch how you are shipping your items out. I perfer flat rate envelopes to avoid postage hassles
Freelance CAD Design / 3D Printing
Freelancing as a CAD designer and 3D printing is the most involved way to employ your 3D printer. If you want to do this, you will need a CAD program along with the 3D printer, and a business license for your area.
If you are creative and willing to put in the work, you can build a freelance firm that does contract designs and 3D printing jobs for different clients. Freelancing is not for everyone, and you may need a secondary stable source of income when the jobs are not lined up.