How to Make Money With 3D Printing

Jason Reynolds is a printer with 3D Hubs. For the past year, he’s been printing custom parts for the local community, and last night he shared his accumulated expertise with our Hackster Live meetup. We learned a ton!

Printing tips from the pro

Jason’s make-or-break concern is bed adhesion. If your print comes loose during the process, it’s all over in a tangle of stringy filament. And big prints are susceptible to warping a corner or two up off the bed, as heat is applied on top. Many people will use blue painter’s tape, the more expensive heat-resistant kapton tape, specialized BuildTak, kindergarten-style glue stick, or even hairspray to help prints stay put. And they still need to be easily removed with a putty knife, if not your fingernails.

A beautiful test print with its raft still attached. Thanks, Jason :)

Challenges of the trade

Customer education is front-and-center. Having printed hundreds of models over a year of professional manufacturing, Jason knows the ins and outs of print orientation, sizing, materials, strength-to-weight with infill percentages, and more. Often, he’ll write back to a customer with suggested changes before accepting a print job that might fail. “If you have a thin print with just two shells side-by-side, they won’t adhere well without infill, and might pull apart,” he says. “I can glue those together, but it’s better to modify the print.” Most will graciously accept his advice.

Making money

It’s all about repeat business, and that’s one of the benefits of working through 3D Hubs: they deliver customers, and it’s Jason’s job to make them happy with print quality and service. Good reviews mean a good listing, and the 5-star “Jinxbot” shop tops the San Jose listings.

A new breed of business

3D Hubs’ model is a novel one, which they compare to Amazon and Spotify. Their slideshow cites Tom Goodwin: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

[This is not a sponsored article, but] Yes, it works

Hackster has used 3D Hubs a couple of times in the past: I commissioned someone to print my Eveii chassis, and Monica used it to recruit Boston-based Autotiv for on-site printing at our hardware hackathons. All of our experiences have been superb. Jason (and his better half, Amanda) were excited to share tips and stories, and he coaxed my own finicky printer into life.

The payoff

Jason and Amanda seem very happy with their lifestyle — she has a well-paid job and he, a self-described “house husband”, helps support them by making people’s dreams come true. Their favorite job of all time was a custom prosthetic hand and wrist for a child. The Reynolds are tangibly improving the world, print by print, and that’s enviable.

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her

DIY robots, music, EEG, wearables, languages. FIRST alumna. Hardware Nerd @hacksterio. She/her