3D printing is taking off as printing technology advances. In fact, the 3D printing market is set to quadruple in size by 2026. If you want in on that action, there are many 3D printing business ideas to choose from. You can print product prototypes for startup companies, make 3D toys or household décor items, or print industrial or manufacturing parts. The most common application of 3D printing is product prototypes, so that’s probably the best niche to focus on.

If you want to get into the business, we have some tips to help you start making money from 3D printing.

Costs to Get Started

Let’s cut to the chase. It takes between $7,000 and $15,000 to get a 3D printing business off the ground if you run your business from home, which is a great option. The printer itself will cost between $3,000 and $7,000, and you’ll spend a few thousand more for design software and printing materials. You also need a website to market your business and take orders. It’s not a huge investment, considering how much money you can make in a booming industry.

So, How Much Can You Make?

Prices for 3D prints can range from $30 to $1,000 or more depending on the complexity and materials used. If you focus on product prototypes, your price will most likely be at least $500 on average. You’ll also have a good profit margin running your business from home – about 80%. 

So, say you do five prints a week when you’re first starting out. That will give you about $130,000 in annual revenue, which means more than $100,000 stays in your pocket at that 80% margin. Not bad for a home-based business! At some point, you might want to open a 3D printing shop, which will cost some money and reduce your profit margin to about 30%. However, you’ll have greater local visibility, and you might get walk-in business, which could drive your sales to 25 prints per week. That’s $650,000 in revenue, with you keeping almost $200,000 in profit. 

Finding Customers

If you want to do prototypes to get those big-ticket print items, your target market will be entrepreneurs. You can connect with entrepreneurs in your local area on LinkedIn and do some paid advertising on LinkedIn as well. Another strategy is to go to your local business incubators and small business development centers to offer your services to startup entrepreneurs. These places often hold networking events which you can attend to meet them. 

Of course, you’re not limited to your local area, since you can print and ship items.  You can do all sorts of digital marketing to find customers anywhere in the world. You can do paid ads on social media, post videos of your printing, or even do a webinar. All of those things can drive traffic to your website. 

Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan will help you to think through every part of starting and running a business. A business plan is also necessary if you apply for a loan.

Your business plan should include:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan. Write this after your plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your products or services in detail. 
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and try to find a way to give your business a competitive advantage. 
  • Sales and Marketing: Develop sales and marketing strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background. This may be just you at this point but think about who you might need in the future. Consider who else you might need to hire for various roles. 
  • Operations Plan: This is the logistics of how you will run your business on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.

Choose a Business Structure

You need to decide what your company’s business entity type will be. Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return. You do not have to register your business with the state.
  • Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns. You usually do not have to register a partnership with the state. 
  • Corporation – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. You must register your corporation with your state. 
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. You must register your LLC with your state.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

Start Counting Your Money

It’s time to get your marketing plan going, find those customers, and start making a profit. Once you’ve done your preparations, just go for it! 3D printing is a huge industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds, and with even a small business, you can get a share of that market. So, get started, and then start counting your cash!