Because of a growing popularity of 3D printing technology, a number of people who want to try their luck at running a company with 3D printing services is still increasing. The main motivation is a conviction that 3D printing is something new and fresh and that the competition on the market is small – so they have a relatively good chance to achieve a success. Unfortunately, it’s one of the myths about 3D printing. The truth is, that this industry is really demanding and a lot of potential sectors are reserved and new projects require a factor, which is the biggest deficit -to be innovative.

However, it doesn’t mean that new companies are unnecessary and it doesn’t make any sense to establish them. Just in contrary, every year a lot of new companies are established. A part of them can’t stand a crash with reality and is closed, but most of them grow dynamically  up and is still developed – and sometimes it happens after a few months!

The most crucial are two things – financial resources and innovation. If you don’t have one of them, you have to be strong enough in the second one. The best companies on the market are leaders in both of them – they are innovative companies with huge financial resources.

Below I am presenting 10 ideas for a new business in 3D printing industry. These are all of the most popular areas

– if I passed something over, it means that are niche (3D scanning of people and solid printing of their miniatures) or complicated to initiate because of industrial realities (3D printing of jewellery or personalised gifts for individual customers). Some of these ideas are not regulated by law or too risky (3D printing of food or implants).

1. Production of 3D printers

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To be clear – there are countries which don’t need the next producer of low-budget 3D printers printing in FDM technology. There are hundreds of companies producing this kind of devices and most of them are almost the same.  This investment will be rather better for FabLabs or services companies, because you will need a commercial when you start.

If you want to produce 3D printers and succeed, focus better on light hardened resins or powdered metal. Of course these areas need huge amounts of money for researches and development. Nonetheless, it’s the key to success. Market trends show unequivocally that 3D printing technologies like: printing from metal, powdered material or light hardened resins will be leading companies in the close future.

2. Production of materials for 3D printing

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It’s a bit better, but the scheme is almost the same – you concentrate on something easy – filaments for low-budget 3D printers. In almost every country you will find this kind of companies, but the market is still not full.

An interesting business model is starting a cooperation with company specialised in production or processing of plastics, which can sell you ready products and next pack them into boxes and sell them with a label of your company. This kind of company concentrates only on preparing of a proper mixture and than sale, services and marketing.

An alternative to production of filaments for low-budget 3D printing are resins and powdered plastics – unfortunately, in this case huge costs of R&D are considered. When you would like to have a company of this sort, it would be worth to buy a machine for which you would like to produce substitutes – and in case of SLS it’s at least 400 000 .

3. Production of components and accessories for low-budget 3D printers

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It’s a very interesting conception and it’s surprising that such a small number of companies have decided to do it. The examples of the companies of this kind are: TYTAN 3D producing Goliat extruders,  Infinum3D producing sensors for automatic calibration of workbeds in ODO Motion and electronics ODOII, CORO Technology producing stickers for workbeds – COROPad, 3D Printers producing electronics for 3D printers 3D Sunbeam 2.0.

In case of accessories the most important is an idea and innovation. The key point is to produce a product, which cheaper substitute can’t be found on AliExpress, because of its specification. In contrary for appearances, at the beginning a company can count on back up and loyalty of native customers, because of so-called local patriotism – of course under the circumstances, that your product is good and in relative good price.

4. Selling of 3D printers, filaments and accessories for 3D printers

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It’s one of two two the most popular business ideas for establishing a new company on 3D printing market. Unfortunately that’s why it’s one of the areas, where it’s complicated to succeed. A competition between producers of 3D printers is quite big – so what about their resellers and distributors?

In this kind of business innovation is not the key – more important are business contacts with potential customers, abilities to negotiate with producers and “the sixth sense” in choosing of product into your offer. Although the number of 3D printers producers in the world is enormous, customers stay faithful maximal to several of them. It’s really hard to talk a customer to a new and unknown device.

The next meaningful question is how to vary your offer or to focus on 1 or 2 products. On one side, there are companies like 3D Phoenix or Spectrum Store, which have a wide portfolio of 3D printers, but on the other side CadXpert or get3D, which reduced their offer to 2 or 3 models of devices. I can’t claim which business model is better, that’s why it’s recommendable to watch how these companies cope on the market and which decisions they make.

5. 3D printing services

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If not sale of 3D printers… maybe realising of orders? It’s the second the most popular business idea on the 3D market. I tried to write about it several times, the most lengthy article  was: “3D printing for 10 PLN per hour – how low-budget  3D printing kills itself“. I don’t want to repeat it but I am encouraging to read it and form your own conclusions. I can only say, that the article was published 6 months ago and it’s (unfortunately) still up to date.

6. 3D designing and 3D scanning

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3D printing industry is dominated by professionals and its biggest problem is an influx of new people, who aren’t competent enough, what has a negative influence on the quality of the services. If you don’t want to compete with underpriced services carried out with machines which have bad quality, think rather about more demanding area.

Designing for 3D printing is one of the most desired abilities on the market. I don’t mean normal modelling of details but the ability of creating of solid models, with having an engineering knowledge in treatment of plastics. Needed are specialists who could for example design a detail and predict a contraction of material during 3D printing, optimize its geometry and prepare it to eliminate a wide range of problems connected with further treatment.

3D  scanning is am advanced level of abilities. Thanks to 3D scanners you can digitally replay real objects and moreover use them to make measurements and – under the circumstance that it will be carried out properly.

7. Designing and sale of 3D prints – on your own or on platforms likeu Shapeways

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It’s quite popular business model in the USA and Eastern Europe. If it’s hard to imagine that you would set this kind of business only in your country (too small awareness of 3D printing technology among potential customers and to high prices of 3D prints like for the local industrial realities), an international enterprise could have lucrative and interesting results.

Creating and selling of unique products (f.e. Jelwek Watch) depends on huge need of investments in marketing. A cheaper solution are of course platforms like Shapeways, so global internet shops with 3D prints, which take an ordered detail into consideration.

It doesn’t matter, what you choose, a crucial factor is innovation. On Shapeways, Sculpteo or Materialise there’s a lot of models and becoming unique there borders with a miracle.

8. Trainings about 3D printing

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Between 2014-2015 it was a very popular business idea and we also realised it. Unfortunatelly it came out, that the number of people, who want to take part in the trainings was limited ant today it’s rather a niche topic. Although, it doesn’t mean, that trainings about 3D printing don’t take place anywhere. It’s a good idea for business, but it can’t be its main range.

9. Events and 3D printing shows

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Like in case of 3D printing trainings, this area had its peak in 2014-2015, when 3D printers were a sensation. Nowadays, when a lot of people experienced it (f.e. during events organised in their past), we can’t see an enthusiasm.

Events and 3D printing shows are the next example of additional tasks, which support the main area of you business. Anyway, shows of this kind are connected with 3D design services, because during them you can see items created for special needs of the customer who orders your show.

10. Creating of applications for 3D printing services

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The last area is designing and creating of applications for 3D printing industry and technology. The most known platforms to estimate costs of 3D printing services are: 3DHubs, Printr or Astroprint.

Like in case of designing and selling of 3D prints here it’s also important to be innovative and original. Unfortunately, a lot of people and companies deciding for a business of this kind, think about the next portal with 3D prints for sale – but it’s almost always a defeat. If you would like to create applications for 3D printing, think it over…

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Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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