How to Start a 3D Printing Business

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We’re all familiar with traditional 2D printing—printing out documents like letters or memos on paper.

3D printing is the process of making a solid, three-dimensional object out of a digital


With recent advances in this technology, people can print everything from hearing aids to

design products like furniture.

The best part is that it requires less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

Today, 3D printing is mostly either a fun (if expensive) hobby, or an important part

of a company’s industrial supply chain.

But research firms predict the field to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry in the

next five years.

Is this an opportunity you can take advantage of?

I’m Eric Goldschein, editor at Fundera, and if you’re interested in starting up

a 3D printing business, this video will help you cover the bases and get your venture off

the ground.

Here are five steps to starting your own 3D printing business.

Step 1: Cover the entrepreneurship basics Whether your hobby or side hustle is 3D printing

or anything else, if you want to make it into a business, you need to cover some of the


We’ve got a comprehensive guide on the 10 steps you need to take when starting a business,

which is linked in the description below.

But I’ll put out the high-level stuff for you right now.

You need to:

Write a business plan.

This means doing market research, selecting a certain 3D printing niche (more on this

in a second), understanding how much funding you need to get started, and planning for

how you’ll grow, where you’ll find customers, etc.

This is where you write the story of your business from beginning to end, as you see

it today.

Choose your business’s legal structure.

Will you be an LLC, S-Corp, or sole proprietor?

There are financial and legal benefits to each.

Register your business.

This includes registering a business name, getting a tax ID number, and registering for

state and local taxes.

Obtain funding.

Some of what you’ll need to run a 3D printing business isn’t cheap—like the printer.

Do you have the cash on hand to pay for your startup investments?

If not, where will you get your funds?

Friends and family?

A startup loan?

Time to start researching this.

Get some business financial tools.

Look for a business credit card and business bank account so you can separate your business

and personal finances, and the money your business makes has a place to live.

There’s more to this process, including potentially finding a storefront and hiring

employees, but let’s move on to the next steps, since they’ll dictate the size, scope,

and details of your 3D printing business.

Step 2: Choose your niche You can print all kinds of things with a 3D

printer—but that doesn’t mean you’ll print everything.

Industries that use 3D printing include automotive, aviation, and aerospace.

As a small business owner starting out in this arena, you’re probably not going to

3D print on that scale (though that could be an option for the future as you grow).

To start, pick a field where you see an opportunity to serve consumers or other businesses.

That could mean designing and printing consumer products like eyewear and jewelry, or healthcare

products like crowns and dentures.

If you need some inspiration, the Fundera team put together a list of 3D printing business

ideas, covering everything from custom-made tools and rare parts to sustainable fashion

and collectibles.

We’ll link that in the description below as well.

The niche of 3D printing that you choose will dictate everything, of course—but most pressingly,

it will dictate the materials you need, the printer you use, and other important startup


Step 3: Select your software As you probably know, a major part of 3D printing

is building 3D models, and you can’t do that with Microsoft Paint.

You’ll need 3D modeling software that is robust enough for business use.

When getting started, you can find open source and otherwise free software with really simple

tools and features to help you get a handle on how to design 3D models.

Well-regarded, popular options include Tinkercad, Blender, and DesignSpark Mechanical.

Eventually, you will want to upgrade to a professional version of certain softwares

or industrial grade software, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year

in licensing fees.

These fees will be worth it—the paid software options will have incredible capabilities

and tools that help you model, animate, and render professional-level products.

You may also need “slicing” tools, which is software that takes a CAD model, slices

it into layers and turns your model into G-code.

Your 3D printer reads this G-code and prints the model layer by layer.

Does all of this sound confusing to you?

It may be worth it to invest in a training course on 3D modeling and animation so you

can understand how to best use the tools available to you.

You’ll save yourself hours of trial-and-error in the long run.

Look into local courses or research what’s available online.

Step 4: Invest in your hardware and materials In order to 3D print, you’ll need a 3D printer,

as well as the materials necessary to create your products.

You have two options here: Turn to a third-party printer, or invest in buying your own.

In the former scenario, you become something of a 3D printing middleman; in the latter,

you handle all the production yourself.

If you want to buy your own printer, consider questions such as how many items you’ll

typically need to print, the scale of those options (are they small, like eyeglass frames,

or large, like entire homes?), how detailed your creations are, and what material you’ll


Different printers will use different processes and require different materials.

There are a handful of different methods you can use to print.

They include—and here comes the hard part of the video—Vat Photopolymerisation, Material

Jetting, Binder Jetting, Material Extrusion, and others.

In order to decide the process for you, check out’s rundown of each printing


We’ll link that in the description, too[a].

No doubt the product you’re looking to print will dictate what process you use.

Step 5: Begin marketing your business and making connections

You’ve got your printer, your software, your materials, and your ideas.

The last part of starting a 3D printing business is the part where you, you know, do business.

You need to find customers and clients to sell your products to.

Right now, the market is fairly limited for straight up selling wares from your 3D printer.

It will be difficult to compete on price with products manufactured and sold by larger firms.

You may be able to carve out a niche selling specific items, such as customizable earbuds

or artwork.

To market these items, you’ll need to set up an ecommerce site, and use a mix of traditional

and digital marketing (including email and social media) to get the word out about your


If you’re looking to create a B2B business, attending trade shows, using direct mailers,

and cold calling are just a few of the ways you can drum up business.

3D printing may also just be one part of a larger business you have, which you use to

complete custom and unique orders.

3D printing is still coming into its own, so prepare to play the long game when it comes

to finding profitable ways to use this emerging technology.

That does it for our rundown on how to start a 3D printing business.

For more information on starting any kind of business, visit, and

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Thanks for watching.