3D printers are one of the technological marvels of our time, and people get them for many different reasons. Some are hobbyists wanting to try something new, others are artists and professionals of various kinds looking to expand their craft.
No matter the initial reason, many 3D printer owners have thought about making how to make money with a 3D printer, whether to make some cash on the side or to turn a hobby into a full-time job. The potential of designing things to 3D print and sell is as limitless as the potential of the machines themselves, and so there are many 3D printing ideas out there that sell well on the internet.
From toys and statuettes to practical home and business designs, there are plenty of ideas for things to 3D print and sell on a host of marketplaces. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best and coolest designs and some of the top places to market your creations to the world.
What Should You Know?
Before making money with your 3D printer, there are a few key things to note. The first of which is the legal ramifications of selling 3D printed items that resemble the likenesses of copyrighted IPs.
While 3D printing figurines of famous characters is fine for personal use, selling them for a profit can have legal consequences. Be sure to know the laws surrounding fair use of copyrighted material before bringing your work to the marketplace.
The easiest way to avoid these consequences is to only 3D print and sell original or open-source designs. However, some referential designs such as cosplay accessories and ornamental logos are safe to 3D print for profit.
To design your own 3D printable models, check out:
Our ranking of the best free 3D modeling software
Or, check out our list of the best sites where you can download free 3D printer files
Most online sellers these days turn to social media to advertise their products. Many online retailers will recommend you avoid inundating or spamming particular pages or timelines, so some finesse will be required to make sure you get your product out there without bothering potential buyers.
As is the case with many artforms, selling 3D printed items requires good presentation. Professional, high quality photos show off your creations and make them appear more desirable to consumers, as do in-depth descriptions and any necessary instructions for assembly to let customers know they’re in good hands.
Where Can You Sell Your 3D Prints?
After you’ve decided on what things to 3D print and sell, you’re going to want to chose the right retail venue to reach customers and maximize sales.
There are many online marketplaces where you can sell 3D printed items, each one offers a different experience depending on what kind of service you’d like to provide.
Thingiverse is a very popular site for people who want to share their 3D printed creations online. While most of these are shared as free downloads for other users, it is possible to sell 3D printed items on the popular site.
Anyone can list their 3D printed items for sale on Thingiverse provided they’re original designs that neither copy another user’s files nor infringe on copyright laws.
While selling on Thingiverse is possible, most people will use the site to look for free files, which the site is known for, and so are more likely to turn away from a price tag.
Moreover, physical items cannot be sold here, only the files. So as popular as Thingiverse is for 3D printer owners, using it to sell 3D printed items is difficult and may yield little success.
Etsy is an online retailer for amateur creators that is normally the first stop for anyone seeking to make a profit out of their hobby.
While not specifically designed for selling 3D printed items, Etsy is an open marketplace for creators of all kinds to offer their designs for sale at a price they set themselves.
Online shoppers go to Etsy for unique, handmade objects, so your 3D printed designs aren’t likely to be buried under mass-produced products that can be found in other marketplaces. This means that customers are more likely to favor 3D printed items for sale on the store.
Etsy charges $0.20 per item up for sale and a transaction fee of 5% of the total value of each sale, even more if you choose their online payment service.
Fiverr is an online resource for freelancers to sell their services. While Etsy caters specifically to handmade items by artists and designers, Fiverr is geared towards all those who work either full- or part-time from home in any capacity, from writing and translations to 3D printing and artwork.
Unlike most online marketplaces, Fiverr is geared towards those who work to commissions, with buyers requesting specific, custom items and works from sellers. This means printing to order, and often to exact specifications, so it’s a marketplace of choice to dedicated designers who are capable of modifying models to specific degrees before printing.
Fiverr has a peer-to-peer review system where both sellers and buyers receive star ratings and notes based on others’ experiences, helping to ensure all users are able to accept or decline orders as they see fit.
The Amazon marketplace is probably the most secure of all the online sites to sell products on because of their high profile requiring them to pay more attention to theft and fraud prevention. However, this comes at quite a literal price, as Amazon takes a higher commission than most at 8-15% depending on the product.
While the 3D printer Amazon marketplace is a good place for part-time sellers, many people who have turned to online retail as full-time professions tend to look elsewhere due to the higher commissions that can take wide margins from fully formed businesses.
Make Money With Your 3D Printer By Starting Your Own Site
Many artists have found a new way to reach their market by cutting out the middle man and starting their own websites and blogs to show off and sell their creations and make money with their 3D printers.
Selling 3D printed items on your own site does remove commission costs, but at the price of having to do just about everything yourself. All marketing and publicity needs to be done by you, and self-made businesses like that take some time as most people are hesitant to give money to unverified businesses.
But with enough know-how, careful self-promotion, and good word-of-mouth, you’ll be able to sell your 3D printed stuff in no time.
What 3D Items Sell Online?
If you can print it, then you can almost definitely sell it. While choosing which 3D printed items to sell comes down to your own design specialties, preferences, and what your hardware is capable of, making money with a 3D printer can be achieved in many ways.
Below are just a few of our favorite ideas for what you can 3D print to sell.
Cosplay Clothing and Accessories — hugely popular 3D printed items that sell to superfans
Cosplaying has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, with conventions popping up for just about every fandom from comic books and videogames to TV and film.
Cosplayers take pride in their referential outfits, and many choose to make their costumes themselves to add a layer of uniqueness to the homage of their chosen hero (or villain).
However, many cosplayers don’t have the means to create some of the more intricate or complicated parts of their outfits, and official merchandise of the franchises they seek to emulate can be extremely expensive.
Selling 3D printed cosplay items means providing cosplayers with the clothes and accessories they need to really feel like their favorite characters. There are plenty of 3D printed stuff to sell that will delight cosplayers of all kinds. Batman’s armor, Cloud Strife’s iconic soldier guard, Link’s gauntlets, and the Nazgul’s helmet are all available as pre-made designs, and that’s just to name a few.
See also: our list of the coolest things to 3D print
Or, our ranking of the best 3D printers for miniatures
If you’re creative enough, you can design and 3D print custom items to sell to consumers with specific requests or unique spins on the cosplay of their dreams.
Statuettes and Figurines — great 3D printed items that sell
Speaking of fandoms, there’s nothing quite like decorating your home with physical representations of your favorite characters from the big and silver screens.
Like cosplay, officially licensed likenesses of these characters can be pricey, and so they make for some popular 3D printed items that sell well on the internet. Figurines don’t have to be representations of fictional characters, and you can 3D print and sell likenesses of celebrities, animals, and even fictional creatures.
People are always looking to make their home or workspaces as personal to them as possible, which makes custom decorative figurines all the more popular with online shoppers.
Because figurines and statuettes vary so widely in detail, they can be made as 3D printed things to sell no matter your 3D printer’s size or capabilities.
Jewelry is one of those universal likes of which almost everyone owns at least a piece or two. Many people who wear jewelry regularly like to have pieces that are unique to them, especially if they’re custom made.
Selling 3D printed jewelry can be a nice way to earn some extra cash by following templates and simple patterns that can be found all over the internet, or by creating your own. If you’re open to exploring your creative side, 3D printed jewelry can be made in different ways including pendants resembling famous logos.
See also: our ranking of the best 3D printers for jewelry
Or, our list of the most stunning pieces of 3D printed jewelry
Or even, our list of the best jewelry design software
If you like to draw, jewelry can also be made using 3D pens, which are ideal for those who are better with working directly with their hands.
Vases and Plant Pots
Decorative items are the pride of most homes, and many of the more noticeable ones involve house plants.
Creative plant pots and other indoor fauna containers are the pride of many an interior décor, and 3D printing lends itself well to these, making them one of the better, and sometimes easier, 3D printed projects that sell well online.
Plant pots can be 3D printed to sell as designs that you either find online or create yourself, and, like many things on this list, can be made to order depending on a consumer’s needs.
Vases and plant pots are known for being both heavy and fragile, and both of these problems are avoidable with 3D printing. By 3D printing plant pots to sell, you can find a wide market of people who want a unique decoration that won’t break so easily and is easy to transport and move around.
Cell Phone Covers
Whether we like it or not, our cell phones go everywhere with us these days. Work or pleasure, e-mail or Instagram, they’re an integral part of our day-to-day lives.
As such, customization is key. Not only do we like to make our devices easily recognizable at home, but like many things we take everywhere with us, many people like to decorate our cell phones with covers that express our passions or personalities.
Cell phone covers are a great way to make money with your 3D printer. They are small, often simple projects that don’t take long to print and fit a relatively small variety of sizes. This means that you can keep the base models saved, and alter their designs as necessary to suit your customers.
3D printed toys can in more forms than statuettes, and people are always looking for unique gifts for their children or toy aficionado friends.
See also: get some ideas from our list of the coolest 3D printed toys
Board game parts, custom chess pieces, doll house furniture, and marionettes are just a few of the things you can 3D print and sell as gifts for all occasions.
Articulated dolls and puppets will require some assembly, but with enough creativity you can create your own line of unique characters and even give them back stories for a level of intrigue that has been proven to add to marketability (as seen with the likes of American Girl Dolls).
Conclusion: is it worth selling your 3D prints to make money?
If you can make it work, using your 3D printer to make money can be a great and fun side hustle.
If this article has piqued your interest, you should also read our guide to starting a 3D printing business.
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