3D printing is still a new concept to many, but for those who know exactly what it is all about know that they can earn thousands of dollars of passive income every month from it. After you design, download, scan or outsource your work, you can proceed with printing and make some passive income in the long run.
How to make passive income through 3D printing? There are many ways of making passive income 3D printing. You can passive income by designing and selling 3D printed objects (jewellery & fashion accessories, motion picture props, and electronic or electric device casings), opening a printing service, providing 3D printing training or leasing your printer.
This guide is specifically curated for beginners and amateurs looking for ideas on how to make passive income 3D printing. There are many ways of making money passively through 3D printing (we have 6 ways of making money from a 3D Printer here) but we have listed five main ways that beginners can engage in and make money easily.
We will also uncover some of the best 3D printing services available today and how you can leverage them to boost your passive income without having to buy a printer. So let’s dive right in!
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Where Can I Get 3D Designs?
Before we dive into ways of making passive income with 3D printing, let’s have a quick look at where you can get your designs from.
Printing Existing Designs
You don’t need to be a 3D modeler to be able to print things with a 3D printer. There are thousands of designs and patterns that already exist! You can download the from sites like Thingiverse and send them to your 3D printer.
Important If you are interested in printing other peoples designs and selling the prints, make sure to respect the Creative Commons attributions set by the creator, and to get the creator’s written consent to sell your prints before getting started.
I have an awesome Xiaomi Mijia M365 electric scooter. I love it! It’s so much fun riding it to work in the morning. But after binge watching hundreds of YouTube videos before making my purchase, I found that there were a couple accessories that are truly essential to avoid natural wear. For example, it’s a well-known fact that the handlebar mechanism slowly deteriorates over time creating more wiggle room between the bar and the clasp mechanism. In order to be ready for this, I purchased a custom designed piece. It fixes the slack, putting more pressure in the shaft fold for a better fit.
There are a couple sellers offering these pieces on eBay, but I noticed that most of them are located in Europe. However, very few eBay sellers are offering these 3D printed pieces in North America where I am located. I actually bought the accessories while I was on a trip in France to avoid extra shipping and import fees from Europe. I believe that there is a huge business opportunity for these 3D printed parts in North America. The seller I purchased my accessories from has actually sold over 970 parts at about $4 a piece. Without considering expenses, that comes to well over $4,000, just for clicking “print.”
Designing Your Own Prints
If you are a designer and have skills to create your own prints, check out this article on our site, it’s about 3D Printing for graphic designers.
Actually designing your own models requires advanced 3D modeling skills. However, as a beginner you probably don’t have any 3D Graphic design skills. That’s not a problem to be able to get started printing 3D items. You can scan items around your home, adjust right in the app, and print them out with the 3D Catch App. You can also use low-cost services like Fiverr where 3D model designers can create the print you need for you. Check it out, you can get it done for only $5 depending on who you choose to do it.
1. Selling 3D Printed Objects
There is a huge business opportunity selling small, light, 3D printed objects online. You can sell them on your own website, or on eBay for example. There are several online platforms that provide you with the opportunity to design and print objects, develop a niche in 3D printing and generate passive income selling your items. If you don’t want to buy a printer, they can be an excellent option to start with. Let’s have a look at both options, from buying your own printer, to using a 3D printing service.
Printing From Your Own Printer
If you have the money and interest they could be a great idea to invest in your own 3D printer. If you have your own 3D printers can print out whatever you want within the comfort of your own home. However, 3D printers can be a costly investment. A basic 3D printer costs around $350, and top of the line 3D printers are around $2,000 to $3,000.
The cheaper printers are usually smaller and therefore limit the size of items you can actually print. Cheaper printers also provide less quality, whereas printers in the thousand Dollar range render higher quality items. If you are planning on going pro, it would be better to invest in a higher quality printer.
You can sell your prints in various places online. The lighter and smaller the item the better because it will be easy to ship. Learn how to sell your items on eBay in our passive income guide for beginners here.
Tip You could always start out with a cheaper printer and then resell it once you have made enough capital to buy the more expensive ones.
Shapeways is one of the most popular online 3D printing service in the world. The service offers a diverse range of 22 materials (one of the largest services available) ranging from ceramics, plastics, gold, platinum etc. The tool is extremely easy to use, making it the ideal tool for beginners. Uploading & viewing your design, choosing and printing it is easy and fast. The service boasts printing millions of objects and efficient customer service when you encounter technical issues.
This is a Belgian 3D printing service that offers over 17 materials including ceramics and precious metals. With over 20 years’ experience, i.Materialise offers high-quality 3D printing services with over 70 material combinations. It is easy to use in terms of designing, uploading, adjusting, and purchasing your models. Although it comes with higher shipping costs and extended shipping time, the service is a high-quality option ideal for all skill levels.
This is a France based 3D printing service with a wide variety of materials and designs. Sculpteo is easy to use, is fast, affordable and high quality. It also offers a wide range of printing and incorporating design apps, making it ideal for different skill levels.
This is the consumer division of 3D systems. Cubify sells home 3D printers and offers print-on-demand service with a few select materials. To access the service, you only need to register on the site by navigating to the MyCubify section. The site is appealing, easy to use and high-quality making it ideal for beginners and other skill levels in 3D printing.
This is a New Zealand based printing service, and one of the initial services offering on-demand manufacturing and distributed manufacturing as a business model. Ponoko offers 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC cutting by accessing fabrication machines across the globe. This makes it highly efficient and versatile, which might pose a challenge for many beginners. However, once you are accustomed to how it works, Ponoko is easy to use and highly practical.
2. Leasing Your 3D Printer
3D printing is a new technology that is still developing. That alone clearly indicates there’s a high possibility that only a few people currently own 3D printing machines. Moreover, not all people can afford to buy and own a 3D printer considering that they cost a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars. And, although there are excellent 3D printers under $1,000 still few people can afford them.
Therefore, you can easily monetize your 3D printer by allowing others to use it for a duration and pay you accordingly. Considering 3D printers are not common, you can make passive income easily and consistently.
3. Offering 3D Printing Training
3D technology is still developing and only a few people possess the skills to create, design, and print 3D objects. Moreover, many people continue showing interest in designing and printing such objects. If you know more than someone else, you can easily teach how to use 3D printers and monetize your new skills.
As a beginner, you may feel as if you don’t know much about training others. But, even training people on 3D printing basics can earn you money passively. You can also sell them your 3D materials and other relevant information for their learning experience. Better yet, you can extend your services online, capture more interested clients, and make more income passively.
4. Open a Printing Service
You can make passive income through 3D printing by running a printing agency both online and offline. There are platforms that allows you to 3D print for other people. Your clients can send you their prototype design for printing at a fee. Although you are still a beginner, there are a few designs you can learn that most people don’t know. By creating a niche, you can successfully run a 3D printing service and earn passive income.
5. Selling 3D Print Models [Advanced]
If you get far enough into 3D printing you may be interested in learning how to create models and sell the prints as digital products. There are tutorials online teaching how to create 3D models if you are interested. In order to seamlessly sell your digital products, we highly recommend Ecwid eCommerce. This platform facilitates the sales of digital goods! And Ecwid integrates Amazon, eBay, Instagram and Facebook so you can sell in multiple places across the web. We have an awesome passive income resource on eCommerce for beginners, check it out.
What Should I 3D Print?
So now you know how to and where you can 3D print your designs and digital models. But if you want to make money by printing objects you should focus on niche items. Why should you pick a niche? Filling demand may be easy but creating it is a difficult task. Before making products, identify a market with high demand and low supply then create the product they are looking for. As a beginner, you can use the Google Trends to explore similar keywords with similar search traffic.
Let’s take my scooter example from earlier. When I enter the name of my scooter into Google Trends I can see a strong upward search trend. That means that there are thousands of people doing research on this product online. And if you’re looking for the Xiaomi Mijia M365, you will see the accessories available for it. I watched a ton of YouTube videos talking about the scooter before I purchased it. I knew that I would need 3D printed objects to ensure its longevity.
Knowing that there are people searching for a specific product will help you choose an adapted niche. Also make sure it’s something that you’re interested in. If you know that there are things that people need within that niche, that can easily be 3D printed, then you may be onto something. It becomes easier for you to fill demand if you are part of the niche and know the need well. And if you are the only 3D printing service provider, chances are people who will search, find and buy from you!
How Passive is 3D Printing?
3D printing is generally a passive way of making money but the degree of passiveness it offers varies depending on the type of service. Designing and printing 3D objects, for example, requires more of your attention compared to leasing your 3D printer. If you choose to run a printing service or train newbies, you will require more hours to run the idea until it can run on its own.
In the beginning, you might have to spend over 10 hours a day creating, designing, printing and selling your 3D objects. This should not discourage you. It will take a couple of years to become fully passive but if you stick to it, you will be able to make lots of money passively. Make sure to always build your business to be passive, or it will remain active.
Regardless of the service you choose to offer, 3D printing is a highly scalable passive income source. There are many 3D printing services you can offer, which requires you to have a helping hand for efficiency. You can do most of the work alone, but eventually, you will need the help of an assistant to come up with faster results. If the demand is high, you can always outsource the work to a 3D printing drop-shipping service.
This is the main stumbling block to offering 3D printing services. This idea comes with a high starting capital considering that printers are expensive. A good 3D printer costs hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the quality of the printer. You also need a good quality computer/laptop, internet connectivity and other equipment used in 3D printing.
Consider that a basic 3D printer costs around $350, and top of the line 3D printers are around $2,000 to $3,000. The cheaper printers are usually smaller and therefore limit the size of the item you can actually print. Cheaper printers also render less quality, whereas printers in the thousand dollar range provide higher quality items. If you are planning on going pro, it would be better to invest in a higher quality printer. If you don’t I want to invest in a printer, you can always use a 3D printing service.
Although it may seem difficult at the beginning, 3D printing quickly becomes easy as you get used to it. Many people find it difficult because it is still a new concept. However, there are many online platforms, tools and service providers that can help you master the skills quickly and easily. Check out the video above to learn more about how easy it is for beginners.
When it comes to 3D printing, you will need to invest a lot of time to get things off the ground. Like many new technology concepts’ patience is a virtue that determines the success of your 3D printing service. Generally, you need to spend 8-10 hours every day to understand the details of this work, finding your niche and the right suppliers. After a few years, you can transform this active business into passive income.
Considering the initial investment, 3D printing is a higher risk idea. If you don’t end up making anything, you can risk losing a lot! Moreover, the equipment you have to use (3D printer, laptop etc.) is expensive and should be handled carefully to prevent loss through breakage. The best way to avert most of these losses and risks is by contracting an insurance policy for your equipment. This allows you to have peace of mind in case your equipment is damaged.
You can make money with 3D printing all year round. The concept of printing objects in 3D using different materials like gold, platinum, ceramics etc. is fascinating and attracting many people, which guarantees you year-round passive income (unless what you are printing is a seasonal item).
Return on Investment
3D printing comes with excellent ROI. Although it might take you time to start earning passively, the amount of income you can make is incredible. Considering it is still a new concept, starting up may be a bit expensive, but there is more and more demand for quick printed parts offering you high returns on invested capital within the first few years.
Which is the best 3D printer for beginners? There are many types of 3D printers available on the market. Every product comes with specific features that makes it ideal for certain purposes. As a beginner, it is prudent to start with a cheap printer that is easy to use and allows you to perform your tasks efficiently. High-end options come with advanced features that might be challenging for most beginners.
How can I learn 3D printing fast? 3D printing is as complicated as it is easy. Initially, you might find 3D printing difficult but as you learn more, it becomes easier. Moreover, you can use the many video and written tutorials online to better your skills and understand 3D printing comprehensively.
How much passive income can I make from 3D Printing? There is a variety of ways you can make passive income from 3D printing. From printing and selling objects to selling prints, leasing your printer or printing for others. 3D Printing Professor talks about how he makes $1,000 per month passive income 3D printing (source).