Why you should read this article: Because you can make some extra money if you own a 3D printer.
This article is an excerpt from the “Share Your 3D Printer” Chapter in How To Make Money With 3D Printing: Passive Profits, Hacking The 3D Printing Ecosystem And Becoming A World-Class 3D Designer by Jeffrey Ito.
Sell Your 3D Printed Items
These days it seems like everyone is doing business online. If it’s not the 15 year old entrepreneur at your YMCA running an ecommerce business, it’s your grandmother selling hand made trinkets on Etsy. Times have changed; and the concept of using the Internet for communication, information and commerce is commonplace. With 3D printers people are able to create things from imagination and manufacture it out of their own homes. This opens the concept of a home-based business to a whole new spectrum.
Not everyone has a website, nor has the time and resources to create and maintain one. Building an ecommerce website is more akin to running a business. Many people would rather focus on just selling their product. That’s why websites like Etsy, Amazon and eBay are so popular and have become amazing platforms to sell your products from. In fact, they are the most popular places online (excluding Craigslist) to list and sell items. These platforms already reach millions of people so you don’t have to go through the struggle of marketing and building trust. Listing your items on these sites is simple and even better – it’s free.
“It is a good time to think about how something that is as old as the fashion industry can be redefined with new technologies.” –Huang
Selling 3D printed items on Etsy
Although all three of these websites are places where people can list and sell their own things, the demographics and interests of users varies for each site. For example, Etsy is a great place to sell 3D printed art and accessories but maybe not 3D printed RC drone parts. Etsy is known as one of the best places to sell handcrafted items, and 3D printed items are no exception. The artisanship of modeling a 3D dimensional item is an articulate, free form craft similar to sculpting or painting. When 3D modeling is turned into physical form there’s a certain magical quality because it comes straight from the imagination. Imagine the possibilities in design 3D printing can provide and highly consider investing in a 3D printer, if only just to hone your design skills.
On a fundamental level, artistic and high utility 3D printed items seem to sell well on Etsy. It’s not uncommon to find 3D printed clothing and accessories along with jewelry while browsing Etsy. These categories have a large market on Etsy. Furniture and art are also good markets to target, especially if the print is unique or fun. Some of the more popular 3D printed items seen on Etsy are lamps, iPhone cases, rings, dolls and skulls.
There are an incredible amount of things you could 3D print and sell on Etsy. It would not be difficult to carve out a 3D printed brand within Etsy, especially as the technology is still in its primal stages and Etsy is still growing as a marketplace.
Here are some cool 3D printed items on Etsy for inspiration:
- 3D Printed T-Rex Shower Head by GeekFabLab
- Cube Theory: Gold Plated Brass 3D Printed Jewelry by LanaBetty
- Young Maleficent 3D Printed Dark Brown Horns by MudpiesandMajesty
Selling 3D printed items on Amazon
Amazon has its own dedicated 3D Printing store. Not only can you buy a 3D printer from here, but also you can customize your own 3D printed mini-me, toys and much more. There are also a wide variety of 3D designed items to choose from and purchase.
In Amazon’s Creative Expressions store (search for Mixee Labs or UCODO), you’ll find more than 25 things you can personally customize, 3D print and have sent to you. The things range from rings and necklaces to mini swords, cufflinks and wallets. Each of these items has its own personalization window that lets you customize shape, color, patterns, text and/or material. Each customization allows a complete 360 view of the item being made. This is Amazon’s first foray into customizable 3D printing and the interactivity they’ve achieved is quite interesting.
One of the coolest customizable products is the ‘Create Your Own’ 3D Printed Bobble Head. The customization lets you customize skin color, eye shape, hair color and clothing. Viewing the customized creation in 3D is simple and sharing with the world is even easier.
In all honesty, there aren’t too many people selling 3D printed objects on Amazon compared to Etsy or eBay. Aside from UCODO and Mixee Labs, which lets you customize your own items, there are a few designers such as Makerbot 3D Printed Products, Joshua Harker, Noah Hornberger and Emmett Lalish with 3D printed items for sale. Sandboxr and ZVerse have painstakingly detailed 3D printed figurines and models available as well.
If you can create a product with 3D printing such as a toy or even a work of art consider listing it for sale on Amazon. The Amazon 3D printing marketplace works best for unique standalone objects, so parts and accessories for existing equipment will probably fare better on Etsy or Ebay. Amazon has less competition for 3D printed items than the other two marketplaces and is an expanding global marketplace. The best part about selling things on Amazon is that if your item sells well they will market it on Amazon for you. Your product will show up in, “Users also viewed” and “Users also purchased” lists and it creates a nice cycle of sales.
Here are three some personalized 3D printed creations you can make on Amazon:
Selling 3D printed items on Ebay
Due to the auction priced nature of eBay, specialized 3D printed items tend to sell well. General, commonplace items like jewelry or accessories would fare better on Etsy or Amazon.
eBay is a great platform to sell 3D printed parts for hard-to-find machinery and equipment. Assuming you have personally modeled the part, this means you are the only seller of this specific part shape in the world. Basic supply and demand means you’ll have the advantage when it comes to price, especially if your custom part becomes popular. Sure, someone may be able to eventually copy your print, but you’ll already be the first mover. The satisfaction of having an original idea and bringing it to life is far greater than copying someone else’s design.
There are many parts for specific models of existing items that you could 3D print and potentially improve. For example, instead of going to your hobby shop and paying an arm and a leg to fix a chassis, you could simply find a 3D printed chassis to replace the one in your RC car, boat or plane. There are 3D printed mounts and electronic accessories that do well such as ones for the GoPro or the iPhone. Gun parts, from paintball to Nerf, also have a decent marketplace on eBay. 3D printed cosplay clothing and even custom cookie cutters have their own unique markets. eBay is a great place to test your outlandish 3D printed creations, especially with its auction format. Odds are if you found a need for your 3D printed item, then someone else around the world will also find a need for your 3D printed item.
Anything can be listed on eBay as long as it follows the basic guidelines. The great thing is you can sell your items as either a Buy It Now price or as an Auction. I would encourage you to experiment with both methods to gauge what the best selling price is for your item. An idea is to first list your creations on eBay as an auction and then use the results from that to price your products on Etsy or Amazon
Many of the 3D printed items on eBay are actually just physically 3D printed free Thingiverse models listed for sale. In essence, a 3D printer is a tool not everyone has, so there are people who will gladly pay for the convenience of buying a part from using someone else’s printer, even if downloading the file is free.
Here are a few unique 3D printed items found on eBay:
- 3D Printed – Steam Punk Nerf Barrel Extension for Nerf Silencer – Gun Blaster
- 3D Printed GoPro Hero 2 Action Camera Frame – Choose Your Color!
- 3D Printed Protective Shell Case for NAZE32 Flight Controller version 5
Remember that 3D printers only print one at a time. The markets with the best potential to be disrupted by 3D printing are the small-run, high quality, customized markets. Limited or high quality personalized items tend to have larger profit margins anyways. By utilizing the advantages of 3D printing, makers can also create less work for themselves. Instead of envisioning creating an economy of scale with 3D printing, seek to fill the holes of niches that an economy of scale creates.
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