3D printers have the ability to create almost anything from scratch. Their primary purpose is prototyping and product development. Users can leverage various niches to establish a profitable 3D printing business. Today, almost everyone has access to this amazing technology, which has made the 3D printing industry more competitive and made it more important to have a good business plan.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to 3D printing business ideas.
As per the studies, the global 3D printing market is expected to reach a staggering $41 billion in revenue by 2026.
If you have any specific product on your mind that has huge demand in the market, it is the perfect time for you to start a 3D printing business. Right from the prototypes and spare parts to medical implants and much more, everything can be 3D printed.
While starting a 3D printing business follows a process similar to launching any other business, a few steps may vary slightly depending on your chosen niche. But don’t worry because key factors and steps remain universal across all lucrative niches.
In this article, I will explain each step required to start a business with a 3D printer, including basic requirements and considerations, legal documentation, and more. This information must be carefully reviewed before launching your first 3D printing venture.
What is a 3D Printer?
A 3D printer is a machine that utilizes a digital file to produce three-dimensional solid objects via a process called additive manufacturing. This method involves gradually depositing material in layers to create the finished product.
It needs 3D software such as Tinkercad to prepare the 3D model of the object. Then using a slicer, the object is divided into layers and sent to the machine for printing.
3D printers have brought the revolution to rapid prototyping. They are capable of printing highly detailed products within the shortest time.
Initially, 3D printers were capable of working with only a few materials, primarily plastic. However, as technology has advanced, the range of materials compatible with 3D printing has expanded significantly.
Nowadays, 3D printers are compatible with a wide variety of materials, including metals, resins, ceramics, carbon fiber, graphite, and more.
Things to consider before starting a 3D printing business
Before we start discussing the steps to launch a 3D printing business, let’s quickly understand what you must consider.
#1 – Learning curve
Acquiring comprehensive knowledge of 3D printers and 3D modeling software is crucial for launching a successful 3D printing business.
While there are no official university degrees for 3D printing technology, abundant online resources exist on platforms such as YouTube and third-party websites.
Devote at least one to two months to mastering 3D printers and modeling software, allowing you to create 3D models independently and diagnose any 3D printer-related problems.
In general, 3D printing has a less steep learning curve when compared to traditional manufacturing techniques. But the complete knowledge of this technology is key to success; otherwise, you might have to hire experts to help you with unexpected and sudden issues.
#2 – Market demand
Conducting thorough market research is crucial for every business, including those in the 3D printing industry. It helps in determining the viability of a business idea. In other words, you can gauge the potential success of your 3D printing venture and the problems you will encounter in the next couple of years.
Here is a list of questions that you can ask yourself,
- What problem will I solve by offering this particular product or service?
- Who are my ideal customers?
- Who are my top 10 competitors?
- How can I standout from my competitors?
- What is the market size for my product or services?
- How is this market for my product or service expected to grow in the next few years?
Note that these questions are merely the tip of the iceberg, so it is advisable to conduct comprehensive research to guarantee the continued expansion of your 3D printing enterprise.
#3 – Competitors
I am discussing this point separately because it ultimately influences the pace of your growth and the initial measures you take to establish your market position.
Understanding the competitive landscape and its operational strategies will significantly aid in making informed decisions in the early stages of your business.
Additionally, in my experience, monitoring your competitor’s tactics and product or service offerings continuously presents an opportunity to stay up-to-date in the market and offers an easy way to expand your business.
#4 – Budget
Not to mention, you need a 3D printer to launch a 3D printing business. The cost of an industrial-grade 3D printer typically ranges from $1500 to $10000.
Investing in several 3D printers at once represents a significant financial commitment. But, on the other hand, you don’t have to worry about 3D modeling software, as a few best options, such as Tinkercad, are free.
Also, do not forget to consider the initial cost associated with your business’s legal documentation and registration.
#5 – Space requirements
The popularity of 3D printing technology is largely attributed to its space-saving benefits, as it requires minimal installation space for the manufacturing machine, also known as the 3D printer.
A 3D printer is the main tool for many hobbyists and engineering enthusiasts.
It can easily sit on your workbench and still save some space for additional equipment.
You can start your 3D printing business right from the basement of your house. However, it would be great if you dedicate a separate room in your house as it will allow you to install multiple printers to build a small 3D printer farm.
#6 – Team size
Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, a 3D printing business requires significantly fewer employees to operate.
If you have only one printer, you can manage everything independently. However, when your business expands and gains more clients, you may need to increase the number of 3D printers.
You can effectively manage several 3D printers and accelerate the 3D model design process with a dedicated staff.
Allowing your team of designers to work remotely can lead to cost savings on expenses like physical space and utilities.
#7 – Time investments
A strong desire to scale 3D printing into a full-time business is all you have in the beginning!
But things change rapidly with the course of time.
It mostly applies to people that are launching a part-time business to generate additional income, so planning how much time and effort you can invest is crucial.
Whether you start a part-time or full-time business, most of your time will be spent on designing 3D objects and printing them. Much time will also be spent on marketing your products or services.
Additionally, allocating a substantial amount of your time to support your employees, weekly reporting, and other management responsibilities becomes essential if you consider hiring people to assist with your business.
#8 – Operational costs
Operational costs primarily comprise the expense of raw materials, which can vary depending on the materials used.
3D printers are compatible with various raw materials, including plastics, metals, resins, etc. Carefully assessing the cost of raw materials and selecting appropriate materials is the key to success in the 3D printing business.
The type of material you need depends upon the niche and type of products the business plans to print.
Moreover, do not forget to consider the cost of troubleshooting, which can include repairs, maintenance, and other unexpected expenses that may arise during printing.
#9 – Marketing strategy
Suppose you launch a 3D printing business, and no one is aware of its existence; surely, it will lead to a lack of customers, sales, and revenue.
Establishing a strong brand presence is crucial for growth during the early stages of the business.
Nowadays, attracting customers to your business, whether they are local, national, or global, has become more effortless with digital marketing.
The easiest approach is to begin with, your circle of friends and clubs that you belong to. Provide them with complimentary 3D-printed presents and items to encourage them to spread the word.
Attracting customers is the most challenging aspect when starting out, and implementing an effective marketing strategy is crucial for success.
#10 – Strategy to stand out from competitors
While the number of options may be limited, it’s crucial to give utmost attention to the ways that will help you differentiate yourself from your competitors.
The strategy to stand out depends upon your niche, target audience, and specific parts you plan to print. It ultimately determines your long-term success in the 3D printing industry.
Providing a final product with meticulous attention to detail and an excellent finish is key. In essence, delivering a high-quality product to customers in the shortest possible time is essential for establishing a loyal customer base.
#11 – Platforms to sell your products
There are several online platforms where you can sell your 3D-printed items and designs. For instance, Etsy.com is a popular website where many people sell their unique art pieces.
Note that utilizing these platforms can also help increase brand awareness and exposure for your products.
In today’s digital age, having a website for your business is essential. And, fortunately, building a website has become much easier with the latest technology and advanced website builders.
Starting with a basic website from the outset can be a great way to establish your online presence.
#12 – Product or service charges
Attempt to create a robust pricing strategy by accurately estimating expenses such as manufacturing, labor, marketing, and other related costs.
The cost of each service or product offered is determined by a multitude of factors. Moreover, if you are introducing a unique product or service, it can be challenging to predict its pricing upfront.
However, deciding the pricing for your product and services will help you in various ways, including revenue forecasting and cash flow analysis. Thereby, ensuring the financial viability and long-term sustainability of your business.
#13 – Name of your brand
Naming your business is like choosing a flavor of ice cream. For some, it’s a breeze – they know they want chocolate or vanilla. But for others, it’s like trying to pick the perfect scoop out of a freezer full of indecisiveness.
It’s a rocky road, but you’ll get there eventually!
So, in my opinion, you should thrive to select a name that effectively communicates the nature of your products, services, or business approach. Essentially, the name should be as descriptive and meaningful as possible.
Having a brand name will significantly help you with marketing campaigns, foster customer loyalty, encourage repeated orders, and much more.
Remember to trademark your business name and ensure its availability through websites like Trademarkia.com. Additionally, check if a suitable domain name is available using domain registrars like GoDaddy.
Steps to launch a 3D printing business
Assuming that you have carefully read the above section and have prepared a comprehensive business plan for your 3D printing venture, including all the necessary elements.
Let’s understand how you can start a 3D printing business and start offering products and services to your ideal customers.
Step 1: Choose A Legal Structure
Establishing a legal structure for your business in the United States is essential to protect yourself from personal liability. You can choose from sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation.
Your business’s legal structure determines how it will operate and how it is taxed. Simply put, it is one of the crucial steps while launching any business.
It’s important to note that each business structure has its own benefits and drawbacks. We will discuss them shortly in the following section.
#1 Sole Proprietorship: As the name suggests, a single person owns the entire business and assumes all responsibilities in this type of business structure. Setting up a sole proprietorship does not require any paperwork, but it also means that personal assets are at risk in the event of debts or legal liabilities.
#2 Partnership: A partnership allows for shared ownership of a business between two or more individuals. Establishing a partnership is cost-effective, and partners can choose between a general or limited partnership. In a general partnership, profits and losses are shared equally, while in a limited partnership, one or more partners can act as passive investors. The main drawback of a partnership is that owners are personally liable for the business’s debts and obligations.
#3 Limited Liability Company (LLC): This is one of the most common types of legal structure for businesses. It combines the corporation-level liability protection and tax benefits of the partnership. LLCs are owned by members who are not personally liable for the business’s debts and legal liabilities. Additionally, LLCs offer other benefits, such as easy and inexpensive setup and pass-through taxation.
#4 Corporation: If you are launching a business that requires substantial capital investment, a corporation may be a suitable option. Unlike other business structures, corporations have shareholders who are not personally liable for the company’s debts and legal issues.
However, establishing a corporation requires additional formalities and paperwork. You can choose between C and S corporations, with the latter being more suitable for small businesses with less than 100 shareholders. Keep in mind that the setup costs for a corporation are typically higher than for other business structures.
Step 2: Register for Taxes
An EIN (Employer Identification Number) is used for identifying businesses for tax purposes using a unique nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
It is essential for opening a business bank account as well as filing and paying taxes.
Applying for EIN (Employer Identification Number) is simple and straightforward. You will get it for free through the official website of the IRS.
Note that each business structure is subject to different tax regulations. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with tax professionals to obtain the latest information that is specific to your state.
Step 3: Apply for Business Bank Account and Credit Card
A business bank account is used for receiving payments, paying bills, depositing revenue, and more. It is empowered with special benefits such as better interest rates and higher lines of credit to encourage business growth.
It is suggested to keep your personal and business bank account separate for managing the financial transactions related to your business.
Do not hesitate to discuss your business with the bank because maintaining a healthy relationship with your banker will help you in the long term.
Applying for a business credit card is also recommended to keep your personal and business expenses separate. Maintaining a good credit score will help you secure loans quickly when needed.
Step 4: Get the necessary Permits and Licenses
A business license is essential to run a 3D printing business. Apart from a business license, you need documents such as a trade name registration paper, sales tax permit, certificate of occupancy, zoning permit, and more, as mentioned on the city or country website.
Not obtaining the required permits and licenses for your business in the US can lead to significant penalties and may even result in the closure of your business. So, I would suggest you to contact one of the US local associations by clicking here.
As previously mentioned, obtaining the necessary trademarks and copyrights will safeguard your concepts, brands, and designs.
Step 5: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is necessary to ensure financial protection in case of risk or liabilities. It takes care of unexpected events such as theft, natural disaster, and more.
Depending upon your niche, you can choose from various insurances, including general liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, business interruption insurance, and more.
Investing in business insurance is crucial because it protects businesses from experiencing devastating financial losses that could lead to their downfall.
Each insurance comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. I have listed a few of the popular insurances below,
- Property Insurance
- General Liability Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- Business Interruption Insurance
- Directors and Officers Insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Cyber Liability Insurance
- Commercial Auto Insurance
Step 6: Setup a website and create social media accounts
This step is crucial to establishing a strong online presence and maintaining brand consistency across all platforms.
Establishing an online presence through a website and social media accounts can bring numerous benefits to your business.
You can showcase your products and services to a wider audience by creating a website and social media accounts. Additionally, you can share your website and social media accounts with your clients to demonstrate your expertise and skills in a convenient and accessible way.
It’s essential to secure social media accounts with desired usernames, just like finding the perfect domain name that represents your business accurately.
Step 7: Setup your office
3D printing business office setup includes purchasing or leasing 3D printers, software, and other tools. Opting for reliable and quality equipment will guarantee an efficient and secure 3D printing workplace, thus leading to a thriving business.
You need to consider the following things while setting up an office for your 3D printing business,
- Storage and safety of raw materials
- Dedicated order fulfillment platforms
- Noise and fumes generated while 3D printing
- Safety of 3D printers
- Proper ventilation
Step 8: Start offering the products and services
After following all of the instructions described in this article, you are finally ready to open your 3D printing business.
Make sure to invite your friends and family to visit your office or online store and seek their support to attract customers and clients during the initial stages of your business.
As 3D printing is one of the fastest growing industries of 2023, there are high chances for you to succeed.
How to Start a business with a 3D Printer: Conclusion
In conclusion, using a 3D printer to launch a business is a practical and exciting choice for entrepreneurs wishing to enter the manufacturing and product development industries.
The potential for profit and creativity is limitless, even though buying the printer and supplies may need some upfront expenditure.
A 3D printer may open up a whole new world of possibilities for both large and small enterprises, from prototypes to creating personalized items.
This is the ideal moment to begin your printerpreneur adventure due to the fast improvements in 3D printing technology. Hence, don’t be scared to make the initial move and use the power of 3D printing to bring your ideas to life.