As the readers of this media site probably know, the first thing most people say when you discuss 3D printing is: “this is awesome, let’s make money with it.” When people ask me how to make money with 3D printing, what I usually tell them is “don’t invest money in 3D printing”. The second thing I tell them is: “invest in yourself: study, learn everything you can about 3D design, 3D software and about the entire 3D printing process (and follow 3DPI religiously).
A new eBook by Jeffrey Ito, available on Amazon, helps you to do just that. The fact that it’s inexpensive is already a great indication that this book is not just trying to take your money by selling some over-simplistic concepts on investing and building a business. Ito seems to be a genuine 3D printing enthusiast who has taken the time to list all of the possibilities and opportunities that are opening up in the blooming consumer and prosumer 3D printing segment.
The truth is that, right now, the only ones making serious money with 3D printing are the large manufacturing companies and rapid prototypers who have been working with 3D printing for decades. There is no easy path to making money in any sector and 3D printing is no different. Those who have invested years of hard work are now reaping the rewards of what they’ve sown and those who now enter the new 3D printing arena will see the fruits of their labor down the road.
What I think has changed with affordable 3D printing is that you can currently start a small business with a good idea and minimal financial investment. You will, however, have to invest a lot of your time, the most precious commodity of all. The premise, though, as Giorgio Buson, founder of Provel (now 3D Systems Italy) once told me, is that your good idea cannot simply be “let’s get into 3D printing”. You need to assess market demands and try to satisfy them, keeping in mind that 3D printing is a process, so the greater added value is in the pre-process (creation and 3D design) and post-process (finishing).
That is what Jeffrey Ito also seems to believe, and he illustrates it with clear examples. After a brief introduction on 3D printing, he goes on to list all of the different ways to create a 3D printed product that you can sell: how to design it, which software to use, how to outsource the CAD design process and how to familiarize with 3D scanning. He then goes on to illustrate the hardware-related opportunities, which vary from using a 3D printer to making customizable and useful objects, constructing a 3D printer yourself, offering a 3D printing service even without owning a 3D printer, by optimizing the printer use of everyone else.
Through the concept of “smart niching”, something Amazon has built its fortune on, he also analyzes areas that he considers to be particularly receptive to 3D printing technologies, such as art, jewelry, household items, replacement parts, prosthetics, wearable technology, mobiles accessories, and, even, sex toys.
Ito lists all the names of the primary websites, networks, service providers and manufacturers that may be useful to achieve these goals. His suggestions are all on target and cover the entire spectrum of companies. Of course, he cannot list them all in a brief book, but he does focus on many of the most relevant ones. The final section of his book is dedicated to other 3D printing related opportunities, such as investing in stocks (now, by the way, is a great time to buy. But, if you bought stocks at the end of 2013, you would have been in for a considerable loss) and, most importantly, teaching about 3D printing, which is the single most valuable 3D printing related service you can offer to people and to the industry as a whole.