3D printing is a growing industry. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global 3D printing market size was valued at USD 11.58 billion in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.6% from 2020 to 2027. That's a significant growth potential for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a 3D printing business.

However, starting a 3D printing business isn't as simple as buying a printer and offering printing services. There are several factors to consider in order to lay a strong foundation for your business. From defining your business concept to solidifying operations, there are several steps that you need to take to establish a successful 3D printing business.

In this blog post, we'll walk you through the 10 essential steps to opening a 3D printing business so that you can build a strong, profitable enterprise that caters to the needs of your target audience.

Whether you're an engineer, designer, or hobbyist with a passion for 3D printing, this guide will provide you with the necessary guidance and insights to help you establish a 3D printing business that stands out in the market.

So, without further ado, let's dive into the first step in launching a successful 3D printing business - defining your business concept.

1. Define Business Concept

Before starting a 3D printing business, a solid business concept must be defined. This includes understanding the industry, identifying the target market, and defining the products and services offered.

  • Industry: First, research the 3D printing industry and its trends. Understand the different types of 3D printers, materials, and applications. Consider attending trade shows and conferences to gain a deeper understanding of the market.
  • Target Market: Identify the ideal customer for the business. This can include industries such as aerospace, medical, and manufacturing, as well as individual consumers. Tailor products and services towards the needs of the target market.
  • Products and Services: Determine what specific products and services will be offered. This can include selling 3D printers and supplies, offering 3D printing services, or providing consulting and training services.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Consider specializing in a specific niche, such as providing 3D printing services exclusively for medical devices or fashion accessories.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest 3D printing technology and trends to continuously improve the business.
  • Consider partnering with other businesses in complementary industries to expand the customer base.

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2. Develop A Business Plan

A business plan is a roadmap that will guide you through every step of your 3D printing business.

  • Executive Summary: This section will showcase your business’s goals and objectives. It will provide a brief overview of the company and its products or services.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the market trends, your target customers, and the competition.
  • Product or Service: Details about the 3D printing products or services that the business will provide.
  • Marketing and Sales: How your company will reach out to its customers and help fuel growth.
  • Management Team: Shapes of the team who will manage and operate the business.
  • Financial Projections: A detailed financial plan that includes start-up costs, revenue projections, and expenses.
  • Implementation Plan: A timeline of milestones that will help your company stay on track.

A business plan provides a clear view of the 3D printing business’s current and future financial goals.

3 Business Plan Tips

  • Be Specific: The more specific your business plan is, the easier it will be for you to achieve your goals.
  • Be Realistic: Your financial goals should be challenging yet achievable. Set realistic targets that can be accomplished.
  • Be Flexible: Your business plan should be flexible as it may need to change in the future based on market trends and other variables.

An entrepreneur who has a clear business plan will be more attractive to investors and lenders.

  • Self-Assessment: Assess your strengths and weaknesses before starting a 3D printing business.
  • Target Market and Competition: Research your target market and competition to understand your potential customer base and to determine how to differentiate your company from the competition.
  • Choosing the Right Equipment: Consider the quality of the materials and how many printers you will need to launch the 3D printing business successfully.
  • Location: The location should have a large enough space to hold 3D printing machines and allow for possible future expansion.
  • Business Model: Have a clear understanding of how the company will make money, generate revenue, and provide value to its customers.
  • Maintaining Cash Flow: Cash flow is important for the growth and sustainability of any business.
  • Troubleshooting: Understand potential problems that may arise and be prepared to troubleshoot those issues.
  • Networking: Get involved in the 3D printing community, join industry-related forums, attend conferences, and connect with other business owners.
  • Legal Requirements: Comply with all legal requirements such as licensing, tax obligations, and insurance requirements.

A well-developed business plan will guide you towards running a successful 3D printing business.

3. Create A Financial Model

A financial model is a tool that analyzes a company's financial performance over time. It shows how much money comes in, how much goes out, and how much is left over. It is a crucial tool for any business owner looking to start or launch a 3D printing business. The financial model is what investors, bankers, and other stakeholders will look at to determine the viability of your business. Here is how to create one:

  • Know Your Costs: You need to determine how much it will cost to run your 3D printing business. This includes everything from rent, equipment, labor, and materials. Once you have a good understanding of your costs, you can start to project your revenue and profits.
  • Calculate Your Revenue: You need to have a realistic idea of how much money you can make from your 3D printing business. This will depend on several factors, including the demand for your products, the competition, and your pricing strategy. Research the market to get a good idea of what your revenue could look like.
  • Projected Profit and Loss: Your financial model should include a projected profit and loss statement. This statement will show how much revenue you expect to generate, as well as your expenses, and how much you expect to make in profit.
  • Break-Even Analysis: A break-even analysis will help you determine the point at which your revenue will cover your costs. This is the point where you start to make a profit. This is an important metric that investors and lenders will want to see.
  • Cash Flow Statement: A cash flow statement will show you when money is coming in and when it is going out. This is important to ensure that you have enough cash on hand to cover your expenses and keep your business running smoothly.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Be realistic with your revenue projections. You don't want to overestimate your revenue and end up in a zero profit situation.
  • Understand your costs and pricing strategy. You want to make sure you are pricing your products in a way that will allow you to make a profit.
  • Update your financial model regularly. Your projections may change as your business grows and evolves, so it is important to update your financial model to reflect those changes.

Creating a financial model may seem daunting, but it is an essential step in starting a 3D printing business. By understanding your costs, revenue projections, and other financial metrics, you will be able to make informed decisions and set your business up for success.

4. Secure Capital And Funding

One of the biggest hurdles to starting a 3D printing business is securing capital and funding. Without proper funding, you’ll have to cut corners on equipment and supplies, which can make it difficult to provide high-quality products.

Here are some steps you can take to secure the capital you need:

  • Create a business plan: Before you start looking for funding, you need to have a solid business plan in place. This includes a mission statement, financial projections, and a marketing plan.
  • Research funding options: There are a variety of ways you can secure funding for your 3D printing business, including loans, grants, and crowdfunding. Research all of your options to determine what’s best for your business.
  • Network: Attend industry events, join local business groups, and reach out to potential investors to get your business in front of more people and increase your chances of securing funding.

Tips & Tricks

  • Consider reaching out to family and friends for funding, but make sure you have a solid plan in place and can pay them back in a timely manner.
  • Apply for as many grants and loans as possible to increase your chances of securing funding.
  • Create a pitch deck to present to potential investors that highlights your business’s unique selling points and potential for growth.

Remember, securing funding is a vital step in launching a successful 3D printing business. Take the time to create a solid plan, research your options, and network with potential investors to increase your chances of success.

5. Determine Target Markets And Customer Segment

Determining the target markets and customer segment is the next step to opening a 3D printing business. This will help you understand the needs and wants of your potential customers, which will enable you to create a tailor-made solution that meets their expectations.

Here are some steps to help you determine your target markets and customer segments:

  • Conduct market research: Research the market to find out which industries and businesses are currently using 3D printing technology. You can also investigate the size of the market and the competition to identify potential opportunities and threats.
  • Define your ideal customer: Identify the type of customer who would benefit the most from your 3D printing service. This can include the demographic, psychographic, and geographic characteristics that make up your target audience.
  • Develop customer personas: Create a detailed persona of your ideal customer based on the information gathered from the market research. This will help you understand their pain points, needs, and goals.
  • Choose a niche: Determine the specific areas within the 3D printing industry that you want to focus on. This could be anything from product design to manufacturing to education.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Use online tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics to gain insights into your target market
  • Collect customer feedback regularly to ensure that you are meeting their needs and expectations
  • Focus on a smaller customer segment to start and expand as your business grows

Once you have identified your target markets and customer segments, you can start building your marketing and sales strategies. This includes developing a value proposition, creating a unique selling proposition, and setting up your sales channels.

Remember, understanding your target markets and customer segments is crucial to the success of your 3D printing business. By taking the time to do your research and identify your ideal customers, you'll be able to create a solution that meets their needs and keeps them coming back for more.

6. Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses

Before starting your 3D printing business, it is important to obtain the necessary permits and licenses required by your state and local government. This will ensure that your business is operating legally and will avoid any legal troubles down the road.

  • Business License: Every state and local government requires businesses to have a license to operate legally. The requirements for obtaining a business license vary depending on the state and the type of business you intend to start. Some states may require you to register your business with the Secretary of State’s office, while others may require you to obtain a tax identification number (TIN) or register with the local government. It is important to research the specific requirements for your area to ensure you have the proper documentation.
  • Permits: Depending on the nature of your 3D printing business, you may be required to obtain additional permits. For example, if you plan to operate your business out of your home, you may need a home occupation permit. If you plan to sell 3D printed products that could be considered a health or safety hazard, such as toys, you may need additional permits and certifications to ensure that your products are safe to use.
  • Zoning: Depending on your location, your business may need to comply with zoning regulations. Zoning laws regulate how properties can be used in certain areas. For example, some areas may be designated as residential, commercial, or industrial zones. If your business is in a residential area, you may need to obtain a permit from your city or county to operate a home-based business.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Research the specific requirements for your area to ensure you have the proper documentation.
  • Consider hiring a lawyer or accountant to help you navigate the legal requirements.
  • Check with your local government to see if there are any grants or other funding opportunities available to help you cover the cost of obtaining permits and licenses.

7. Acquire Equipment And Materials

Acquiring equipment and materials is an essential step in starting a 3D printing business. To produce high-quality prints, it is vital to invest in the right equipment and materials.

7.1 Research Equipment And Materials

Before purchasing any equipment or materials, it is crucial to research and identify the optimal tools needed for your specific business needs. This includes examining the features, capabilities, and pricing of different 3D printers, scanners, software, and materials. Additionally, consider which equipment and materials will best complement your skillset and business plan.

7.2 Purchase High-Quality Equipment

While purchasing equipment, opt for high-quality equipment and choose reliable vendors for purchasing materials. Investing in high-quality equipment may seem expensive initially, but in the long run, it will help you save time and money, which otherwise would have gone into maintenance, repairs, and replacements.

7.3 Choose The Right Materials

Choosing the right material is as important as choosing the right equipment. Factors like the material's strength, flexibility, detail quality, and compatibility with 3D printers should be considered while selecting a material. Also, make sure that the material is cost-effective and fits your budget.

7.4 Plan Your Budget

Creating a budget plan for purchasing equipment and materials is crucial to prevent overspending. Make a list of all the necessary equipment and materials, and research their average costs. Ensure that you have factored in shipping, installation, and maintenance costs when creating your budget plan.

7.5 Purchase In Bulk

Purchasing materials in bulk can help reduce costs. Many vendors provide discounts and offers for bulk purchases. Consider ordering in larger quantities if you feel confident in estimating your needs to reduce your cost per unit.

Tips & Tricks

  • Consider leasing equipment instead of purchasing it outright to reduce initial costs.
  • Get recommendations from other businesses in the same industry before purchasing any equipment or material to ensure that you have the right tools for your business’s needs.
  • Establish a relationship with your vendor of choice to get further discounts and priority access during emergencies.

The acquisition of equipment and materials can be challenging. However, with the right research and plan, one can make this task more manageable and efficient, leading to successful 3D printing operations.

8. Identify Potential Customers And Partners

Identifying your target audience is crucial for every business, and the same goes for a 3D printing venture. Before you commence your operations, you need to figure out who your potential customers are. And once you do so, you'll be in a better position to market your products and services effectively.

Defining your customer base

There are several factors you need to consider when defining your target audience. These include age, gender, location, income, interests, and more. You should use such demographic data to create buyer personas that represent your ideal customers. Doing so will help you determine the type of products to sell, marketing techniques to use, and how to improve customer engagement.

Searching for partners

Partnering with other businesses can be an effective way to grow your 3D printing start-up. When looking for partners, you should consider companies that offer complementary products or services. For example, partnering with a company that sells 3D printing software can help expand your customer base and increase your revenue.

  • Contact 3D printing suppliers: Reach out to other 3D printing suppliers in your area to see if they are open to partnering with your business.
  • Attend 3D printing conferences: Networking is essential, and attending industry events is a great way to meet potential partners.
  • Check online directories: There are numerous directories online where you can search for other 3D printing businesses.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Offer referrals to your partners and customers. It's a great way to build strong relationships and promote each other's businesses.
  • Collaborate with other businesses on joint projects. Working with other professionals can give you new ideas and increase your customer base.
  • Ensure that your partner's values align with your own. This will ensure that your collaboration is successful in the long run.

By identifying potential customers and partners, you can lay the foundation for your 3D printing business's long-term success. Make sure to take the time to define your target audience and seek out partnership opportunities, and you'll be well on your way to building a thriving enterprise.

9. Utilize Marketing Strategies

Marketing is critical to the success of any business. The same holds true for a 3D printing business. Without a good marketing strategy, you might never be able to attract customers. The following are marketing strategies that will help you promote your 3D printing business:

  • Create a website: This is the most fundamental step for any business that wants to make its presence felt online. Your website should have all the information that your potential customers need. Make sure it's user-friendly and mobile-friendly as well.
  • Social Media: A social media presence can also be beneficial. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can help you reach a wider audience. Share your work and offer feedback to potential customers to build relationships.
  • Networking: Attend industry events and other networking opportunities to spread the word about your business and make valuable contacts.
  • Email Marketing: Sending regular newsletters and email updates about your business can be an effective marketing strategy. Capture your potential customer's email addresses and send them relevant and valuable content.

Marketing Tips & Tricks

  • Focus on the Benefits: Explain the benefits of 3D printing to your customers rather than focusing on the technical aspects. People want to know how 3D printing can solve their problems or meet their needs.
  • Invest in Quality: Quality is key in any business, 3D printing is no exception. Invest in high-quality materials and equipment to ensure customers are satisfied with the end products.
  • Offer Samples: Offering free samples to potential customers can lead to new business opportunities.

Marketing your 3D printing business is an ongoing process. You must stay consistent and open to new ideas. By using a combination of these marketing strategies, you can increase the visibility of your business, attract new customers, and achieve success.

10. Solidify Business Operations

Once the initial steps of setting up a 3D printing business have been taken care of, it's important to focus on streamlining and solidifying your operations. This involves putting systems in place to ensure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

1. Define Your Business Processes

The first step in solidifying your business operations is to define your processes. This involves breaking down each aspect of your business and creating a step-by-step guide for how each task should be completed. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that tasks are completed consistently and efficiently.

2. Automate Where Possible

Automation can be a key tool in streamlining your business operations. This could include using software to automate tasks such as inventory management, accounts payable and receivable, and marketing campaigns. Automating these processes can help to save time and reduce the risk of human error.

3. Implement Quality Control Measures

One of the most important aspects of solidifying your business operations is implementing quality control measures. This involves ensuring that every product that goes out meets your high standards. This could include implementing a quality assurance checklist or investing in quality control testing equipment.

4. Hire the Right People

It's important to have a team of skilled and experienced individuals in order to build a successful 3D printing business. This means putting in time and effort to find and hire the right people. Make sure to have a clear job description and carefully vet potential candidates to ensure they have the necessary skills and expertise.

Tips & Tricks

Streamline Your Workflow

  • Take the time to analyze your workflow and identify areas that could be streamlined. This could include eliminating unnecessary steps or implementing tools such as a project management software.
  • Empower your employees to identify areas that could be improved and encourage them to suggest solutions.
  • Regularly review your workflow and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that you are always operating at maximum efficiency.

Starting a 3D printing business is an exciting venture, but it requires careful planning and execution to succeed. By following the 10 essential steps outlined in this checklist, you can develop a solid foundation for your business and ensure that you stand out in a rapidly growing market. Remember, it all starts with a strong business concept, followed by a well-developed business plan, financial model, and marketing strategy. Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, acquiring the right equipment and materials, and securing funding are also crucial components of the process.

As the global 3D printing industry continues to grow and expand, with a current market size of USD 11.58 billion as of 2019, there is great potential for entrepreneurs to carve out their own space in the market. Remember, strong business operations and a focus on customer needs are key to sustained success in the industry.

By following these steps and staying committed to your vision, you can create a profitable and innovative 3D printing business that makes an impact in the industry.

Excel financial model

3D Printing Business Financial Model
  • 5-Year Financial Projection
  • 40+ Charts & Metrics
  • DCF & Multiple Valuation
  • Free Email Support