Starting a 3d printing business

Hi, I wonder if there is anyone on Pinshape forum who has started a home based business of sorts with 3d printing and can share the capital costs estimation? Even, say, if you are an expert and have dabble with different starter kits and understand the price of the printing filament and electricity and other hidden costs - kindly comment.

At this point, let’s talk about small designer style 3d business projects so not specialized prosthetics or auto parts but fun house hold products and accessories.

Thank U for sharing.


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Hi @Zedar_Thokme

While I dont have a business, I have put a question out before in regards to costing print time. I didnt get the answer I was looking for and so I purchased an energy meter, as seen here, and I have used it to get an idea of pricing print time per hour based on only energy consumption of the printer, A Lulzbot Mini. Below is what I have found.


I have picked up a power meter and I have had it on my Lulzbot Mini now for just over 8 days worth of print time. I will post my findings below in hope’s that it can help others with the same question I originally had.

Current recorded time on the meter = 8 days, 13 hours and 29 minutes [205hrs, 29 min]
Current kWh on the meter = 14.22
Total print time in minutes = 12,329

kWh used per hour = 0.07

*This is based on running a heated bed at 60° and a hot end at 190-193° the entire time.

I am going to look at other settings of the power meter to see what else I can come up with including laptop consumption."

I will also include what hemocyanin originally wrote to me as well…

"Here’s some info on power draw. I’m currently printing in ABS (240 C hotend, 110 C bed) using a 2009 iMac to feed data with the screen dimmed to lowest setting but not off. According to my UPS, this system is drawing just over 200 watts. My power is pretty cheap, about a dime per Kwhr, so the 4.25 hour print job will cost me 8.5 cents in electricity, use 72g of filament (95% fill rate so this is somewhat high) at about 2.5c/g – about $1.80, or $1.885 for juice and plastic. That’s $0.449/hr. I don’t want to stop the job to figure out what the computer draws on its own, but certainly a beaglebone or raspPi would decrease the power needs, but with such cheap power, it might take a long time to make that up.

Based on just material and electricity, $1/hr would be an amazing bargain. But then you need to consider the printer cost. At $1350, if you ran it 40hr/wk at $1/hr, it would take almost 34 weeks to recoup that cost excluding electricity and filament. Add in the filament and electricity used over 1350 hrs at 44.9c/hr, you get $606.15. The next 650 hours will cost you $291.85 in elec/fil. If your assumption of 2000 hours is correct, and you don’t spend another penny on the printer for maintenance items, that’s 1350+606.15+291.85=$2248. You’d spend almost a year losing $250. You’d have to charge $1.124/hr to break even. Notably, these figures ignore sales tax on the stuff you buy.

I only have experience with one makerspace, but I found the costs at the one near me to be so high that it made it ridiculously economical to buy my own printer. They charge a memebership fee of $50/mo (or a 3 day pass for $20), and then $0.25/g for filament. The $1.80 in plastic I’m printing right now would cost $18.00, and you have to pay for failed prints, brim, and support material too. The event the pushed me into buying my own printer was spending 13 hours on Saturday at the space – twice a printer glitch ruined my print. I spent $20 in plastic plus $50 for the membership and got nothing at all. Yes, I could have gone back more that month, so it isn’t exactly fair to say it was $70 for nothing but garbage, but between the conflicts with my schedule, their hours, and printer availability, I wouldn’t have gotten much more value for my membership and I would have paid through the nose for filament. At 25c/g, a spool of filament is $250.

Anyway, let’s say that I can drop everything and devote 10hrs/wk to being at the makerspace() (**), that’s 43 hrs/month, or $1.16/hr in membership fees. Using this print job printing 17g/hr, at 25c gm, that’s $4.25/hr in material costs, total is $5.41/hr.*

Using 2000 hours and a perfectly running Mini again, and my $5.41/hr cost, they gross $10,800 on users like me, spend $898 in electricity/filament, and $1350 on printer (actually there’s sales tax too, but let’s forget about that for now): That’s a net of $8552. To be fair, there’s also all the costs in paying for a building, staff, taxes, etc. We’ll leave that out.

So, at $1/hr you are losing money, $1.124 breaking even, and at $5.41/hr, you’re basically telling your customers to get their own printer. Somewhere inside that range, you might find a figure that makes sense, providing this is either a garage based business which doesn’t require any additional layout for building costs, or you do a big volume business and have a couple dozen printers chugging away 24/7.

*This assumes no scheduling conflicts with the printer. The lower this number, the higher my per hour membership costs.
*I love that with a printer at home, I can start a print and go mow the lawn. I can’t do that if trapped at the makerspace."

Hopefully that gives you some help to start off with!


Bit of a loaded question there. The type of 3d printing business can effect business costs. For instance, are you designing digital files for 3d printers to sell, selling the prints that come from your printer, or selling your service for 3d printing where people give you the file they want to print and pay you to print it for them?

  • Selling digital files
    • Probably going to be the most popular business method that will get you noticed and get you more work down the line as the cost of 3d printers drop. Biggest cost here to add into pricing is transaction fees/ files host fees.
  • Selling Prints from your printer
    • A good method if you want to join craft shows or Calculating energy costs into pricing like Chris_Halliday has suggested is a good idea. If you sell in shows or etsy, would need to calculate things such as vendor costs,materials, shipping, transaction fees/taxes,etc.
  • Printing service
    • Still falls into category of selling prints from your printer but you have big competition here from other 3d printing services. You can charge fees to review the file first to make sure what people give you is compatible with your printer.

The term “business”, is going to mean a lot of different things, to a lot of different people. Not knowing your age or previous work history, are the “unknown variables” here.

So, IMO, Basically you should just consider 3DP to be either/or both:

  • an expensive hobby
  • affordable obsession
    Small household items are free to download, or cheap to purchase from a store.
    Keep practicing and improving your printing skills, and you will know the amount of TIME it takes to produce items. Then you can set a price that equates to “your” real-world living cost and expenses. Local minimum wage $/hr, for printer time, is a realistic starting point. But obviously, will not cover living expenses. (also, be prepared for customers that don’t like what they receive)

As tanya_Weisner mentioned, the best market to get in to, is design work. You’ll have to give away a lot of designs for free, just to build name recognition, Eventually, you may be able to sale designs and services. Design work produces long-term residual income. Printing items becomes a means to control your IP, and quality.


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Thank U so much for sharing Chris! And wishing you a happy New Year !
I can see that indeed you have put much effort into understanding time & costs (those invisible factors in order to make a successful 3d printing business in terms of what is a fair charge :slight_smile: I presume no 3d print business actually has a ‘charge $1.124/hr’ and it’s reasonable to factor in workmanship hours if charging per hourly. The ‘at $1/hr you are losing money, $1.124 breaking even, and at $5.41/hr’ spectrum is certainly a very useful reference for me although, I doubt at $5.41/hr that a customer may necessary decide to make his own purchase as 3d printing is still a niche market, and a good print needs some touch up skills as well. :slight_smile: The only fear is how many ‘production’ print can a 3d print before burn-out.

Are you also into some form of 3d printing biz?


Hi Tanya,
Happy New Year!
I am still figuring out what I would ultimately want to do but definitely garage biz and not occupying any expensive rented space. I think for startup 3d biz, it is better to do all three: design, print sales, print service. Unless of coz, if one already has a lucrative niche like a contract to print a part for a medical equipment and can specialize.

Selling design files, I feel, would be the most challenging - unless you have already earn the name as a designer in high demand. There are too many awesome designers in most 3dprinter ready populations.

Selling prints - yes, handle the distributor side of things well enough and if the product is innovative enough, there is some money to earn.

Printing service - I think the entry into this model is too easy, and as you say, it becomes too over competitive.

:slight_smile: Zedar

Happy New Year Gene - what you have brought up are all relevant considerations. TY :slight_smile:

For print Service, start small and get your printer listed under 3d hubs. I would recommend making a website/blog so that you can post prints for people to review the quality that your printer can achieve with that filaments you use.


I am not running a business at this time. More or less helping folks out though and wanted to make sure I am costing so that I don’t loose on what I have put in. Tanya’s suggestions on 3D Hubs and posting relevant images on print quality are important.

Wow, some really insightful comments here!

Interesting to see all the different aspects of the business that need to be taken into account, one of the most complicated of which is certainly pricing properly based on costs and effort.

This might make a great topic for a future blog post: How to Make Money with your 3D Printer. If so, we’ll certainly get some more ideas from everyone here about what should be included.



Thz Nick for joining in the discussion and to Chris and Tanya for helping with the basics good-to-know :slight_smile:

I wonder if you all can also give your opinion on 3D printing being the next ‘revolution’ that will change our economic lifestyle. From a macro perspective, perhaps shall I say, allowing a better cash down flow from a economy dominated by the top 1-10% (this referring just to the business of manufacture and retail) to everyday citizens, the you’s and me’s that made up the rest of the 90% in being able to now learn to be industrious within a cottage industry where technical know-how is shared and learned at a more affordable reach; people are encouraged from young to create and to trade or well,…sell to a buyer that appreciates what you make ( a more personal satisfaction to the whole idea of creating-making-and-selling). Thus, lots of offshoots of home-based businesses and team work learning and trading…even being able to exchange things due to the sheer variety of created 3d printed goods in the market that is as unique as each designer/maker.

And from a micro sense, 3d print business, whether one is training, designing, making, selling or a combo of some of there activities - which, in the end is the most difficult part (before the macro dream will ever materialize…)…

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… (continue) how do every interested 3d enthusiasts be able to start somewhere? I am aware of what Tanya has put forth in general terms as that is what requires least capital and most easiest of entry, however, is there any stats that objectively show what is the percentage of those millions of designers and printing services advertised on pinshape / 3dhubs/ cgtrader/ turbosquid / Shapeways /Makerspace etc. actually is able to make a living.

Do you foresee the actual revolution in economic model to happen? Or probably, the system we have now will not be able to permit such a paradigm shift?

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Making a living off of 3d printing is hard to say since the industry is still fairly young but I am sure there are a few people out there that have figured out the business aspect of it to do it successfully. Will 3d printing revolutionize the global economy? Probably not, but it can make things more affordable in the future such as shoes (kanye west is against this).

As for a print service, I am sure location can be a factor into running this aspect of a business. If you look at 3d hubs, individuals who live in or near a major city probably obtain more clients for print service works than individuals outside of the cities.

Making a living off of designing 3d files is possible as long as you do not limit yourself to one market of 3d design. If you like designing in 3d there is always designing for CG and games too. Many companies outsource work to 3d contract designers or buy work off of sites such a Turbosquid so there is plenty of business to obtain there.

In the end to make a efficient living off of what you want to do comes down to how you market yourself and the quality of work you do.

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Hi, Nice discussion. Really helpful for all those who are going to start their new business on 3D printing. Recently I just took service from Iannone3D, which provides best 3D Printing Services in the New Jersey area. Thanks a lot.

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Once I found a good service to start printing and find customers on
What I exactly found nice is that it provides designers free business tools such a Facebook app and Treatstock widget. This system is easy to use and it saves much time to find a customer and offer your 3D models. Plus, each time you receive an order through the app or widget, Treatstock will reward you with an extra 10% payment on top of the service fee.
I hope I gave you some other opportunity to develop your ideas :slight_smile:

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Yes, you can do it.

You get started with designing and printing shop window stickers, vinyl stickers and floor stickers.

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Thanks alot for this beatuful information !!! it has clear many points [about 3d]( 500) printer.
Thanks :slight_smile:

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We are using a good printer and it is really helpful for us. And I use the printer and if I have an issue with printer repair near me to solve the problem. which provide good service.

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How much will be the estimated cost needed to start the 3D printing business ?

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i also want to know the cost and i found the platform for getting knowledge about the best 3d printer under 500

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