Business ideas
8 min read

How to Start a Profitable 3D Printing Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a profitable 3D printing business with our 11+ step guide. From choosing the right equipment to marketing your services, we've got you covered.

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 05, 2024

image of a 3d printing business
This page may feature products from our affiliate partners, which could influence the products we discuss due to potential compensation. Despite this, our evaluations are impartial, based solely on our independent analysis. The content here is intended for informational purposes and should not be seen as legal advice. For professional guidance, consulting with a legal expert is recommended.
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1. Perform market analysis.

Performing market analysis is an essential first step when starting a 3D printing business. This process involves researching and understanding your potential customers, competitors, and industry trends. Having a clear picture of the market situation can help you make informed decisions about your business strategy.

  • Identify your target customers: Determine who is likely to use your 3D printing services. This could be businesses in specific industries (like manufacturing, healthcare, or architecture), hobbyists, or educational institutions. Consider their needs, preferences, and budget.
  • Analyze your competitors: Look at other 3D printing businesses to understand what they offer and how they operate. This includes their pricing, services, marketing strategies, and customer reviews. This information can help you identify gaps in the market and unique selling points.
  • Understand industry trends: Keep up-to-date with the latest developments in 3D printing technology and materials. Also, monitor trends in the industries you aim to serve, as this may affect demand for your services.
  • Assess the market size and growth potential: Use industry reports, surveys, and other data sources to estimate the current size and future growth of the 3D printing market. This can help you assess the profitability and scalability of your business idea.
image of a 3d printing business

Are 3d printing businesses profitable?

Yes, 3D printing businesses can be profitable depending on the type of services and products offered. Many businesses offer 3D printing services, such as creating prototypes, creating custom products for clients, and selling 3D printed objects. Additionally, entrepreneurs can sell 3D printer hardware and materials for those who want to use 3D printing in their own home or business. Successful businesses can generate a steady stream of revenue from the sales of both services and products.

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2. Draft a 3d printing business plan.

Creating a robust business plan is a critical step in launching a successful 3D printing business. It not only helps to solidify your ideas but also serves as a roadmap for your business and can be vital in securing financing. Here are some essential components to include:

  • Executive Summary: Offer a concise overview of your business goals, target market, and unique selling propositions.
  • Market Analysis: Research and document the current 3D printing market trends, customer needs, and competition.
  • Services and Products: Describe the 3D printing services you'll offer, the products you'll create, and any niche markets you'll target.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Outline how you intend to attract and retain customers, including pricing, sales tactics, and advertising.
  • Operational Plan: Detail your business location, equipment, supplies, and the technology you'll use for 3D printing.
  • Management and Organization: Define the structure of your business, including key team members and their responsibilities.
  • Financial Plan: Provide projections for startup costs, operating expenses, revenue, profit margins, and break-even analysis.
  • Funding Request: If seeking financing, specify the amount needed and how it will be used, along with repayment plans.

How does a 3d printing business make money?

3D printing businesses make money by selling their printed products to customers. For example, a 3D printing business could produce custom design phone cases and sell them to retailers or directly to consumers. Another way a 3d printing business can make money is by offering 3D printing services. For instance, they could provide 3D modeling, scanning, and printing services to various customers including schools, businesses, and individuals. A target audience for a 11 Steps To Starting a Successful Spice Business could be people who are interested in setting up their own spice business. These people might be entrepreneurs who want to start a side business or small independent shop owners looking to diversify their product offerings.

3. Develop a 3d printing brand.

Creating a brand for your 3D printing business is a critical step in your startup journey. Your brand is more than just a logo or tagline; it's an embodiment of your business personality and the promise you're making to your customers. Here's how you can develop a strong 3D printing brand.

  • Identify your unique selling proposition (USP): Understand what sets your 3D printing business apart from the competition. Is it the quality of your prints, your customer service, or your pricing? Use your USP to differentiate your brand.
  • Create a compelling logo and tagline: Your logo is the face of your brand that people will recognize, while your tagline succinctly communicates what your business does. Both should be unique, memorable, and reflective of your brand's personality.
  • Establish brand guidelines: Consistency is key to building a strong brand. Establish guidelines around the use of your logo, color palette, fonts, and tone of voice in all of your brand communications.
  • Develop a strong online presence: Launch a professional website and establish your presence on social media. Showcasing your work, sharing customer testimonials, and engaging with your audience will help build your brand's reputation.

Remember, your brand is not static. As your 3D printing business evolves, so too should your brand. Always be open to refining and developing your brand to ensure it remains relevant and appealing to your target audience.

How to come up with a name for your 3d printing business?

Coming up with a name for your 3D printing business can be a great way to give people an idea of the purpose and specialties of your business. Start by brainstorming words related to 3D printing, like build, create, design, and construct. After that, consider meanings that relate to the services you offer, such as innovative, personalized, and reliable. Once you have some ideas in mind, create a list of potential names that include these words. Finally, compare your options and pick the one that best captures the spirit of your business.

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4. Formalize your business registration.

When starting a 3D printing business, formalizing your business registration is a crucial step. This process will vary depending on where you live, but it generally involves registering your business with the appropriate local, state, or federal authorities. By doing this, you ensure that your business is legally recognized, which is important for tax purposes, legal protection, and establishing credibility with customers and suppliers.

  • Choose a Business Structure: Decide whether your 3D printing business will operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. Each has different legal and tax implications, so consider consulting with a business advisor or attorney.
  • Register Your Business Name: If you're using a business name different from your own, you'll need to register it with the relevant government authority. This is often referred to as a "Doing Business As" (DBA) registration.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): If your business is in the United States, you'll likely need an EIN from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees. This can typically be done online and is free of charge.
  • Register for State and Local Taxes: Depending on your location, you may need to register for state and local taxes. This can include sales tax, use tax, and property tax if you own business property.
  • Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses: Check with your local government to find out what permits or licenses are required to operate a 3D printing business. This may include a general business license, zoning permits, or industry-specific certifications.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore key resources designed to provide 3D printing entrepreneurs with valuable market trends, operational best practices, and strategic business growth advice:

  • The Wohlers Report: An annual comprehensive guide offering an in-depth analysis of 3D printing and additive manufacturing worldwide -
  • 3D Printing Industry Newsletter: A free subscription-based newsletter delivering the latest 3D printing news, innovations, and trends directly to your inbox -
  • Additive Manufacturing Magazine: A publication covering the industrial applications of 3D printing technologies, offering insights into manufacturing efficiencies and product innovations -
  • ASTM International Standards for Additive Manufacturing: A collection of standards guiding the processes and materials used in 3D printing, vital for ensuring quality and safety in production -
  • An online resource offering daily news, analysis, and opinions on the state of the 3D printing industry, helping entrepreneurs stay informed on developments -

5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for 3d printing.

Before you start a 3D printing business, you must ensure that you have all the necessary licenses and permits. This step is crucial because operating a business without the required licenses and permits can result in heavy fines or even closure of your business.

  • Research on Necessary Licenses: Different locations and jurisdictions may have different requirements. Check with your local government or a business advisor to understand what specific licenses and permits you need for a 3D printing business. This may include a general business license, sales tax license, or even special permits related to manufacturing.
  • Apply for Licenses: Once you've identified the necessary licenses, complete the application process. This usually involves filling out forms and paying application fees. Ensure all information is accurate to avoid potential issues or delays.
  • Keep Up with Renewals: Most licenses and permits are not one-time requirements. They must be renewed periodically. Keep track of all renewal dates and fees to maintain your business's legal standing.
  • Understand Copyright Laws: 3D printing can potentially infringe on copyright, particularly when creating replicas of existing products. Familiarize yourself with copyright laws and consider consulting with a legal expert to avoid infringement issues.

Getting the required licenses and permits can be a lengthy process, so start early. This will ensure you are legally ready to operate when you're set up and ready to start printing.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a 3d printing business?

The licenses and permits you need to run a 3D printing business depend on a number of factors, such as the type of 3D printing service you provide, the location, and other regulations that may apply. Generally, you will need to obtain a business license, any applicable permits from your state or local government, as well as any necessary professional licenses. You may also need to register for sales tax collection and comply with any industry-specific regulations. Additionally, depending on the materials you use for printing and the items you sell, you may need to get certification or obtain various patents and trademarks.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

Embarking on the journey of starting a 3D printing business requires careful financial planning and management. A dedicated business bank account is essential for keeping personal and business finances separate, while securing funding will provide the capital necessary to purchase equipment, materials, and cover operational costs. Follow these steps to establish your financial groundwork:

  • Research banks that offer business accounts with low fees and suitable services for small businesses. Compare their offerings and select one that aligns with your business needs.
  • Gather the necessary documentation, which typically includes your business registration, EIN (Employer Identification Number), and personal identification, to open your business bank account.
  • Explore different funding options, including small business loans, lines of credit, grants, and crowdfunding platforms, to determine the best fit for your startup capital needs.
  • Prepare a solid business plan that outlines your business model, market analysis, and financial projections to present to potential investors or lenders.
  • Consider reaching out to local small business associations or chambers of commerce for guidance on obtaining funding and other financial resources available in your area.
  • Keep track of all financial transactions meticulously to maintain a clear financial picture of your 3D printing business as it grows.

7. Set pricing for 3d printing services.

Setting pricing for 3D printing services is a crucial step in starting your own 3D printing business. Your pricing strategy should be competitive yet profitable, and must consider your operational costs, market trends, and customer expectations. Here are some tips to help you establish pricing for your services.

  • Understand your costs: Determine all the costs involved in your 3D printing process, such as the cost of materials, machine maintenance, and electricity. Understanding your costs will help you price your services in a way that ensures profitability.
  • Check the competition: Research how much your competitors are charging for similar services. This will give you an idea of the market rate and help you set a competitive price.
  • Value-based pricing: Consider the value you are providing to your customers. If your service offers unique features or superior quality, you may be able to charge a premium price.
  • Consider different pricing models: You may choose to charge per hour, per project, or offer package deals depending on the complexity and size of the 3D printing tasks.
  • Review and adjust: Your pricing strategy should not be static. Regularly review your prices and adjust them as necessary to reflect changes in costs, competition, or customer demand.

What does it cost to start a 3d printing business?

Initiating a 3d printing business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $6000 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your 3d printing business.

8. Acquire 3d printing equipment and supplies.

Acquiring 3D printing equipment and supplies is a crucial step in starting your 3D printing business. It's important to consider the quality, cost, and capabilities of the equipment, as well as the type of materials you will need for your specific services. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Research and choose the right 3D printer: The type of 3D printer you need depends on what you plan to print. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers are the most common and affordable, but if you need to print in high detail, you might need a stereolithography (SLA) or selective laser sintering (SLS) printer.
  • Consider the cost: 3D printers can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Make sure to budget for the cost of the printer, as well as ongoing costs for maintenance and supplies.
  • Buy quality materials: The type of materials you use can greatly affect the quality of your prints. Research different types of filament and resin to find the best ones for your needs.
  • Don't forget the accessories: In addition to the printer and materials, you will need accessories like a scraper, cleaning solution, and finishing tools. Some printers come with these included, but others do not.
  • Invest in good software: You will need 3D modeling software to create your designs, as well as slicing software to prepare them for printing. There are many options available, from free programs to professional-grade software.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a 3d printing business:

  • 3D Printer - $1000 to $5000
  • 3D Printing Filament - $20+ per kg
  • Computer with 3D modeling software - $600 to $3000
  • Scalable 3D Design Platform - $30 per month
  • Sustainable Printing Materials - $20+ per kg
  • OTA/Firmware Management Software - $70 per month
  • CAD Software - Free or premium versions from $50 to $1500
  • 3D Scanner - From around $750
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software - Free or premium versions from around $10-50/month
  • Marketing Automation Software - Free or premium versions from around $5-50/month.

9. Obtain business insurance for 3d printing, if required.

Securing business insurance for your 3D printing business is a critical step that should not be overlooked. This step not only protects your business from any unforeseen circumstances but also enhances its credibility in the eyes of your clients. Here are some tips on how to go about obtaining business insurance for your 3D printing business.

  • Identify the Risks: Before you can get insurance, you need to understand the potential risks in your business. These could be equipment breakdown, product liability, or even intellectual property disputes. Knowing these risks will help you determine what type of coverage you need.
  • Seek Professional Advice: It's advisable to consult with an insurance broker or agent. They have in-depth knowledge of various insurance products and can guide you to select the most suitable coverage for your business.
  • Compare Insurance Providers: Don't settle for the first insurance provider you come across. Instead, compare different providers and their policies. Look at aspects such as coverage, premiums, deductibles, and customer reviews.
  • Consider Business Interruption Insurance: This type of insurance can cover loss of income resulting from a disaster that disrupts the operation of your business, which could be very beneficial for a 3D printing business.

10. Begin marketing your 3d printing services.

Step 10 involves marketing your 3D printing business. This is a crucial step that will make potential customers aware of your services and help you establish a customer base. To effectively market your business, you will need to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy.

  • Identify your target market: Are you targeting businesses, hobbyists, or individuals? Knowing your audience will help tailor your marketing messages and choose the right channels to reach them.
  • Develop a unique selling proposition (USP): What makes your 3D printing services unique? This could be anything from superior quality, competitive pricing, or quick turnaround times. Your USP should be the central message of your marketing efforts.
  • Create a professional website: Your website is your online storefront. It should be user-friendly, visually appealing, and contain all the necessary information about your services. Ensure your portfolio is included to showcase your past work.
  • Utilize social media: Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be effective for marketing your 3D printing services. Regularly post updates, share pictures of your work, and engage with your audience.
  • Network: Attend industry events, join online forums and communities, and connect with potential customers and partners. Networking is a great way to spread the word about your business.
  • Email marketing: Collect emails from interested parties and send them regular updates and promotional offers. Email marketing is a cost-effective way to keep your business in the minds of potential customers.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a 3d printing business?

  • 3D Printer - $1000 to $5000
  • 3D Printing Filament - $20+ per kg
  • Computer with 3D modeling software - $600 to $3000
  • Scalable 3D Design Platform - $30 per month
  • Sustainable Printing Materials - $20+ per kg
  • OTA/Firmware Management Software - $70 per month
  • CAD Software - Free or premium versions from $50 to $1500
  • 3D Scanner - From around $750
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software - Free or premium versions from around $10-50/month
  • Marketing Automation Software - Free or premium versions from around $5-50/month.

11. Expand your 3d printing business.

Expanding your 3D printing business is a strategic move that can lead to new markets, increased revenue, and a stronger brand presence. It involves scaling operations, diversifying services, and strengthening customer relationships. Here are key points to consider for successful expansion:

  • Invest in Advanced Equipment: Acquire higher-end 3D printers to increase production capacity and offer higher quality prints.
  • Diversify Materials and Services: Offer a wider range of materials and 3D printing services to attract a broader clientele.
  • Explore New Markets: Research and target new industries that could benefit from 3D printed products, such as healthcare or automotive.
  • Strengthen Online Presence: Optimize your website, engage on social media, and utilize online marketplaces to reach a global audience.
  • Partner with Other Businesses: Form partnerships with design firms, manufacturing companies, and educational institutions to expand your service offerings.
  • Focus on Customer Service: Provide exceptional customer service to encourage repeat business and generate positive word-of-mouth.
  • Implement Marketing Strategies: Use targeted advertising, content marketing, and trade shows to promote your expanded capabilities.