3D printing has seen a huge surge in popularity over recent years thanks to affordable printer setups and a plethora of different uses that it can serve. You can go from printing simple toys and miniatures to full-sized weapons and useful household objects. Some scientists are even experimenting with 3D printers to make edible items or even cook food.
Suffice to say, 3D printing is going to continue growing as an accessible and experimental industry that many business owners haven’t taken full advantage of yet. There are countless personal ideas and home projects that can be undertaken with a 3D printer, which means there are an equal amount of untapped business opportunities to be explored as well.
Powder coating systems make excellent partners to a 3D printer. After printing out an object, your company could also offer a full paint job on the object to add further customisation and quality to the product. Painting equipment can be extremely precise for general coatings, but small miniature-scale details will need to be done by hand.
To give you a good idea of what the 3D printing industry is capable of, here are some examples of businesses that could utilise industrial grade or custom made 3D printers to provide consumers with unique products that they’d rush to buy. These will make great startup ideas for the new year and should be capitalised on!
3D Printing Services
Perhaps the most simple business usage of a 3D printer is to sell its services. A 3D printer is an expensive item that people aren’t likely to splash on unless they make a small business or hobby out of it. 3D printers can usually take in 3D models as a template and then print them out with startling accuracy. This means that you can allow customers to upload their 3D models, scale them and edit them how they want, and then request your company to print it and send it to them.
You’ll have to limit the types and designs of models that you allow. There are a lot of different factors to consider with shipping, international orders, and legal issues. There are items like guns or knives that can be 3D printed, so you need to place clear restrictions on everything that you print out and notify customers of your ethics and rules.
In the future when 3D printers become more accessible and cheaper, this type of business may fade out and become less popular. However, for now, it’s a profitable business because of how interesting and unique 3D printing is. The goal here is to make 3D printing accessible to the general public.
With new technology, there’s usually always a link to mass production. When a new video game console is announced, entire factory lines are modified to support mass production of the console to meet the demands of consumers. With 3D printing, it encourages self-mass production of items such as toys and miniatures, but it can also be used to create industrial-grade products with real-world applications.
If there’s a plastic component of a car, computer, or any commonly used piece of technology, chances are it can be easily reproduced with a 3D printer. If it’s fast enough, a 3D printer could potentially replace entire factory lines of noisy and expensive machinery. There are enthusiastic 3D printer users that create old car parts that are no longer in production. They can simply scan broken or worn out car parts with a machine, transfer it to a computer, edit it to work out rough edges and kinks, and then print it out to be used as a replacement. Thanks to the durability and low cost of the plastics used in 3D printing, they can sometimes replace parts that are made of expensive materials as well.
The current consumer trend for the holiday season is personalised gifts. A custom present adds a lot of sentimentality and uniqueness to a product. A boring shirt or pair of slippers can be spruced up to evoke feelings of joy if they’re given a personalised touch, and there’s no better way to achieve that than 3D printing.
Computer technology makes it possible to scan a person’s belongings or even face into a digital format, then it can be used to print 3D objects in the form of miniatures, cartoons, bobbleheads, or even busts. It’s also possible to convert game characters, celebrities, and virtually any character or person into a unique personalised gift that people can relate to.
In addition to 3D printing software, a personalised gift company will need to employ talented artists to convert pictures into 3D models for a high-quality and accurate representation of someone’s face. It’s easy to wrap a photo or image around a spherical object and call it a day, but the more work that is put into an object, the higher its value and the more recommendations you’ll get from happy buyers.
Word of mouth is a powerful advertisement tool, and the uncanny likeness of a person that you can replicate on a product will be posted on social media and your company brand will spread like wildfire. There will be imitators, but you can swat them away with your attention to detail and high level of quality.
3D Printing in a Food Environment
There are currently 3D food printers on the market, but they are designed to be consumer products that require pre-prepared food instead of industrial grade machines to use on a mass scale. While the technology for 3D printing food has a long way to go, it can still be used in creative ways with existing food.
3D printer technology can be extended and modified to swap the ink and plastic for food items. This isn’t a weekend project that anyone can undertake and it requires a specialised team of engineers and computer programmers to pull of. However, when successful, there are a number of very unique and odd modifications that you can use to your advantage and create a business or niche out of.
For example, if the 3D printer’s nozzle is modified to take pancake batter instead, then you could make some crazy and unique pancake designs to sell in a bakery or restaurant. It’s a quirky way to use a 3D printer, and the whacky designs that you could make will resonate with curious customers who’ll rush over to get a taste and look at such a strange food item.
It’s also a fun, albeit expensive, method of garnishing and decorating dishes. It’s possible to create intricate cake icing designs with a 3D printer that can be transferred onto a baked cake or to design puree and sauce patterns to use with other foods. While it won’t add to the flavour of food, it adds a dimension of customisation that will attract customers who are looking for something out of the ordinary.
But modifying the 3D printer isn’t the only way to use it in a food environment. You could also print out cookie cutters, templates, and other cooking utensils. The idea of personalised cookies would be a sentimental and tasty present to anyone.
Fashion Items and Clothing
The fashion world has been eyeing the 3D printer for a while now. With some creative designers and unique ideas, it’s possible to create jewellery, accessories, decorative designs, and even full-sized clothing with a 3D printer. The technology is young and clothing items created with 3D printers are stiff right now, but it’s a business that could grow to become one of the main ways that human beings produce clothes in the future.
Making jewellery and decorative designs is a straightforward creative business. It just takes a talented design team and a crew of detail workers to polish 3D printed models into works of art. Once objects are designed and printed out, they need to be painted with intricate details and smoothed out to be safe wearables. Several accessories could be items like hair clips, hair pins, earrings, studs, belt buckles, or even masks and glasses. The opportunities are vast and the only limit is the imagination of your creative design team. An entirely 3D printed clothing and jewellery line isn’t a farfetched business idea, and it can be extremely profitable if you add in some customisation options like name etching.
Maintenance, Sales, and Rentals
Since 3D printers are relatively new, knowledge about them is scarce and there are only small communities that specialise in 3D printing technology. A standard 3D printer will undoubtedly become more accessible in the next decade, so it’s a critical time to establish yourself as a trusted supplier, repairer, and rental service of 3D printers.
You’ll need to recruit 3D printing technicians and engineers to start your business, but it’s also a great time to recruit new employees to train them in how to handle 3D printers and repair them. With enough educational and teaching power, your business could also extend to coaching and tutoring people on how to repair and maintain 3D printers. Education is always a powerful and profitable business, and being at the forefront of an emerging technology is a sure-fire way to get noticed and reel in potential clients.