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3D Printing as a business...does it make CENTS?

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by AnAverageJoe, Mar 30, 2018.

  1. OnTheFastTrack
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    OnTheFastTrack New Contributor

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    Entry: The entry-barrier is very low. You can lern it very fast I think and you can get a 3d-printer for a few bucks... Theres a lot of competition because there are a lot of guys who do 3d-printing as a hobby. If you need a 3d-printed part just go to facebook and find a 3d-printing-group. Someone will make you a very low price. Its much easier to lern than cnc-milling. And even in the cnc-milling area there are a lot of hobbyists who will mill your part for a few bucks. Here in Germany you can even get your party printed in some supermarkets. That would also be your competition. No good idea...

    Time: You cant automate it very well... And paying someone to do the work for you doesn't make sense because the margins are too low...

    Control: Does it make sense to control a buissiness that lacks the commandments of entry and time ?

    So its no good idea I think... But you can take a look at selective laser melting. The machines are very expensive but you can take much more money and theres not such much competition.


     
  2. hughs
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    I bought one a few years ago to make prototypes instead of outsourcing the work. I had similar thoughts about making money with it, but never dove into it. You have to take a hard look at "why would they choose me" and the only market is going to be custom one of a kind orders. anything a 3D printer can make can be mass produced very cheap.

    so in my opinion the viable entry is prototyping, if you are good at 3D modeling and can prototype from a drawing you may have something there. you can also print their provided 3d models before they have them machined in metal.

    this is a business where your speed and reliability is key. not much room for mistakes and deadline oriented.
     
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  3. theOfficialRJ
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    A lot of the markets (like Etsy) are already saturated and the race to the bottom has begun. There isn't much profit to be made there, especially for a newbie. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't get into 3D printing. It just means that you have to get more creative with it. Personally, I have found a niche where I have 0 competition. I design, print and sell my parts. If I were to quit my job I could probably live off my earnings. The problem is that I'm still trading my time for money. I have recently been experimenting with a method where I'm making money through my printer without designing anything or selling my prints. It is also 90% on autopilot.

    Just need to think outside the box.
     
  4. masterneme
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    masterneme Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    What about electroplating your prints? That could give you the advantadge you need to stand out and it increases the number of options.

    You could sell jewelry, sculpts to people and "metal" parts to companies.
     
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  5. theOfficialRJ
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    You could electroplate your prints but you really don't need to. There are already metallic filaments that you can buy and plenty of people are using them.

    For example, here's copper filament:
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Raitis
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    Raitis New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Metallic filaments are nice and all that, but have a low entry barrier and the prints will still look like prints, even after getting some shine in the tumbler.

    Rarely anyone is electroplating prints. I personally remember only a single instance where a person introduced the process and the special primer necessary for doing the plating on plastic.

    The fact that it's hard doesn't add the need to it of course. What adds it is the fact that plated item looks like the real deal, not a print. I would still say that the case of either metallic filaments or plating requires a specific audience due to the prohibitive cost of larger items.
     
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  7. rollerskates
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    rollerskates Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    This is a useful business tip for anything, not just 3D printers. I was discussing with someone a few weeks ago that some of what I do is REALLY easy and I don't get why anyone would pay people to do it. I still take their money, though! :cool: The reply was "some people just don't want to do to things themselves, they would rather pay someone". So, as a universal business principle, think about that--what would people pay for someone else to do?
     
  8. ygtrhos
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    ygtrhos Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    I would love to drop my two cents on this. I am a structural engineer and have attended some scientific conferences on 3D printing technologies and have been in contact with industrial users of 3D printers.

    The advantage of this is the ease of manufacturing complex shapes.

    The drawback is the material strength, and the machines are so damn expensive if you want to produce something big.

    Companies who have to care about lightweight design have already implemented 3D printed machinery components in their business. For example Airbus makes some uncritical structures (like the fittings of seats for example) out of 3D printed titanium alloy. These small flanges save about 60 kgs in one aircraft, and their failure is not critical to the safety of the flight. No plane has crashed because the seat is not fitted to the floor exactly.

    They also produce complex shape components without structural loads. A common example is a heat exchanger or a gas manifold. They look like honeycomb structures out of metal. I have had something like that as big as a watermelon in my lap, it weighs about 3-4 kgs. It was amazingly light.

    These components are especially good to 3D print, because they have very complex shapes, especially after computer optimization of their shapes. It is practically impossible to manufacture it with milling, because the surfaces are very complex.

    Now the million dollar problem: every component can be optimized in computer and made as lightweight as possible. However, the shapes become increasingly complex. (type "topological optimization" in google to understand what I mean) You can 3D print structural components, but because of the manufacturing process, fatigue strength is reduced to %1 of the conventionally manufactured components.

    This means that the plane could break apart in the middle of the flight and the plane might crash. Or the car, train, whatever you produce.

    A person, who can invent a 3D printing technique which guarentees fatigue strengths of half of the conventionally manufactured ones can save 4-5 tonnes of weight per aircraft. That guy will become a billionaire.

    If this will happen, not only your aircraft gets lighter. In the future, you will get a CAD file of your brake pads, you will go to your local 3D printer and print your brake pads, then install them in your car. The whole aftermarket industry will be transformed.

    Imagine the possibilities! You can design a machine overnight and print it until tomorrow, and test your first prototype. On a microlevel, this is already being done. You can get a whole gearbox printed out of a 3D printer.

    The question is how durable that gearbox is.

    Hope one or two of you can see the engineering applications of this technology. :)
     
  9. Raitis
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    Is the durability because of the layer by layer production process?
    Can this be countered with an after-printing annealing process?
     
  10. Real Deal Denver
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    Real Deal Denver Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I believe I have your answer.

    Tungsten steel filament, printed via an arc welding technique, through a diamond print head that can withstand the heat and stress.

    They are already close to that in the automotive robotic industry. Just need to amp it up to a higher level. Very easy to do - but not profitable at this point.

    FWIW, they can already print an entire house using a concrete type slurry mixture. They could print an entire car, if it were not cost prohibitive. The technology is certainly there.
     
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  11. ygtrhos
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    The problem is, that while printing, you are actually doing a continuous welding.

    In that sense, the crystalline structure of the material is extremely heterogenous. It is just a matter of luck that a microdefect like pores can occur. What's more, grains do not hold together. The spaces between these grains work as microcracks.

    So to say, you can compare this with a vase, that is original, or one that has been glued back. 3D printing is namely glueing tiny pieces of metals together. Which does not hold as the original structure of course.

    Annealing would also not really be effective, unfortunately. Firstly, you can only partially overcome the microdefects. Secondly, they would be so ductile like ferrite.

    In conventional production, what makes the metal hard and durable is not the mixture of the materials, it is just one of the factors. More important is how you cool them down. And in 3D printing, cooling homogenously (and thus guarenteeing the material quality at every point) is next to impossible.

    It is more or less like sintering.

    The question is, WHAT stress and heat they can withstand CYCLICALLY?

    Every load can be sustained by making material thicker but you just cannot make a structural component, say a spring, with 3D printing as of now. We are talking about cyclic loading, no monotonous loading.

    If you make a spring, you have to assure that it can withstand that load for a billion times, not only one time. Most spring steels have tensile strengths more than a GPa, but they are designed for loads that cause less than 600-700 MPas (for example). You do not have that kind of strong materials currently.
     
  12. Tammyanne
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    this might be a bit off topic but juggled my memory

    3D printing is cool..my friend created something but he is still looking for someone to do injection molding, I was trying to find what he was looking for but he was wanting it mass produced.. I liked the idea and even introduced him to another friend of mine we brainstormed but to no avail..I'll re check in with him...He has been busy on new project called

    www.itsborrowed.com

    I love the concept on this app.
     
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