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Total 3D Print EVERYTHING with this 3D Printing Business Idea!  Taking a multi-dimensional approach to making a complicated and intimidating industry easy to understand and access!

Most of us have heard of 3D Printing.  Scan an item or design a model, hit a button and it’s created layer by layer right before your eyes, somewhat reminiscent of replicators or bio-matter resequencers from Star Trek (I may be dating myself here).  It’s like you’re own mini manufacturing line!

As simple as the explanation above may sound it trivializes the process and entry into this often mysterious and baffling world for newcomers.  The price of 3D printers has fallen dramatically recently over the years based on old patents expiring opening up the market to an ‘open source’ approach. 

There are major patents that expired earlier this year and even more continuing well into 2015, promising exciting innovation and an even lower barrier of entry into the market (we hope!).

Why 3D print anything, I don’t get it?

So what’s the big deal, why would I want to buy or how would I make use of a 3D printer?  It could be for a number of reasons – you’re a hobbyist, want to create something fun for the family, have a design for a basic product you would like to create locally at your leisure under your full discretion and control, or perhaps you’re on to ‘the next big product’ that you’d like to prototype – the list goes on and on.

Household consumer adoption – why hasn’t it happened?

Firstly, while most will agree that this is a REALLY cool technology many people don’t have a use for 3D printing (or at least they don’t know it yet), in fact it’s not uncommon for regular computer printers to have sat idle for some time as we progressively more closer to a paperless society.  That being said there is a want and need but it’s scary because it’s still relatively new, expensive and the perception is that it requires superhuman advanced skills to operate.  The media covers stories around houses and cars being built with 3D printers leaving the average consumer immediately dismissive of any entry into such an advanced world.

3D printing has been around for 30 years, taking 20 years to become a billion dollar market and another five years to hit the two billion dollar mark.  It’s expected to DOUBLE in 2015 to four billion and exceed 10 billion by 2021 (2021 *sounds* SO far away, almost a date you would expect to hear out of a sci-fi futuristic novel but it’s right around the corner!).  Again with many key patents expiring and the technology become easier to use, more accessible, generally better understood and more pervasive across all channels this could be the new age gold rush – early prospectors and adopters may find themselves handsomely rewarded for their initiative.

Where and why do you fit in this ‘evolution’?

You can explore this from both sides – from the DIY’ers to people that need a 3D printing related services.  Both are in need of help, and lots of it! 

There are still many factors preventing most people from entering the market.

  1. Lack of knowledge – everything from is that a good price, the right model, what are my options, how does it work, where do I find it?  They may even have an idea for ‘a million dollar product’ but be overwhelmed by the process to find then outsource the design and creation of a product or prototype (typically offshore which can be unsettling and lack consumer confidence – I want to work local!).  The list is extensive.
  2. Lack of skill – I have a fun knick-knack for the family I want created, an idea for a product I need prototyped, maybe I want to ‘download’ existing models but have no idea how to make slight changes or edits, or even have the level of understanding to ‘load’ it into the program.  I may not even understand how to setup the printer or load ‘whatever it is’ that goes into it to start creating layers.  It’s not like using email or a Web browser (which many people still struggle with *ahem* Dad) – some programs and printers are more intuitive than others however it can be a complicated, daunting mess that most avoid at all costs.
  3. Printer availability – Personally I would be hard pressed to find somewhere that even sells 3D printers locally.  I wouldn’t know anything about whether or not it’s right for me or offered at a competitive price (because there are few competitors and it’s not readily advertised in your local big box flyers!).  Sure I can buy online (if you’re in the US or select other regions), but there are lots of options, perhaps too many – I don’t get to see, feel and touch the item, can only see a ‘staged’ in action video by professionals, and leaves many questions I as a consumer would have when making a large purchased largely unanswered.
  4. Service availability – I need a design printed.  I need a design created.  I need an item scanned and reproduced.  I need a how to course on how to operate my printer, scanner, software or design program.  I’m in between – I can’t afford a machine but I’m a  DIY’er that needs to ‘rent’ some time and resources.  I’m making a purchase but have no idea how to setup my system – I need a hand getting started.
  5. Cost – It’s not a commodity nor are they cheap.  Printer prices can range from several hundred for a basic printer, into the hundreds of thousands for commercial grade applications.  As sharply as the price of these 3D printers has dropped, it’s not the only barrier of entry into the market.  Many of the printers that hobbyists or consumers can afford (or more aptly would invest in) are far from manufacturing models and often produce lacklustre results.  It’s typically not a finished, polished product – it’s a novelty.  Many models produced are not capable of creating the functional prototype ready for mass production or to attract investors.  While really ‘cool’, only give you a basic sense of creating some basic ’throwaway’ in 3D.  There are a few machines that teeter on the commercial / consumer edge capable of creating closer to if not finished products / prototypes however these machines are still out of range for most hobbyists or those new to the game at 3-5k.

I’m interested in / need 3D printing services but I lack the knowledge, skill, I’d have no idea where to start looking or how to find it, and even if I did it’s cost prohibitive!  Help!

Serving a customer’s every 3D printing service or product need – Introducing Total 3D Print!  Taking a multi-dimensional approach to making a complicated and intimidating industry easy to understand.

Business Model

You are the trusted advisor and go-to for EVERYTHING 3D printing related – you are the Total 3D Print solution.  There are a few big names in the 3D printing market however they are niche and few and far between, typically specializing in one specific offering and not always easily accessible (and often backlogged!) – either selling printers or producing your provided finished design.

This is where Total 3D Print steps – making it easy to get into the world of 3D printing regardless of what product or services you’re in need of. 

This business would work best if you setup a local store, with the opportunity to expand privately or franchise out in the future.  You can go online (in fact there are a few ideas around including revenue streams with your Web presence) however we feel it’s the hands on approach based on the services above that will win you a sizeable chunk of the market.

Here are a few thoughts on products / services that can be offered – choose one, some or all!  Start small or go all in from the get go!

  1. Offer classes – For adults or children, beginner to advanced, one off to multi session.  Educate the market on everything from what they are, to how they work, how to setup them up, use the software, maintenance and everything in between.  The sooner and better potential customers are educated the quicker word will spread, adoption will be higher, more visits and ultimately sales in your store!
  2. Sell 3D Printers / Scanners – From smaller hobby applications all the way up the commercial grade.  Your team are the experts and know what machine will fit for a customer while aligning with their price point.
  3. Sell 3D Printing Supplies – Filament, Thermoplastics, Photopolymers, Parts and Accessories
  4. Sell 3D Printing Software – From consumer to commercial grade software applications
  5. Rent 3D Printer / software in-house – For those that may want to use software or output a design but don’t have the budget to get fully setup at home, or perhaps it’s a one off creation, this is a fantastic in between solution
  6. Design services – For those that want to create something for the family, a commercial product or even a prototype for proof of concept.  This will likely also lead to a printing job(s)!
  7. Consulting services – A customer may have an idea for the ‘next best thing’ but need help with direction around what’s possible, what will work best, expected outcome, etc.  Be the trusted advisor that help gets their prototype to the next stage or their product to market!
  8. Printing Services – Many may already have their design download or created / completed and simply need printing but aren’t comfortable with or don’t want to DIY it by renting a machine.  Small hobbyist projects all the way up to commercial grade!
  9. Replication services – Scan an existing item to produce a copy.
  10. Scanning services – Scan a person or item, and transform or transpose with prebuilt or custom options (ex. create a replica of yourself or a family member as-is or select the uber-cool pose and costume and watch while it prints up!)
  11. Setup services – Many hobbyists or even commercial operations purchase machines and want the help of an expert to get everything setup and running smoothly.  In-home or business, your expertise can be lucrative!  This also provides additional opportunity to create / strengthen your relationship with the customer and solidify your brand as being the go-to for all of their 3D printing needs.
  12. Customizable products – Design products in house that can be customized; cell phone cases, trinkets, glass frames.  Create a catalogue and provide the option to the customer to add their own personal touch to it for as a gift or well deserved present for themselves!
  13. Sell design files – Created neat designs in house?  Sell / license them online or in store!
  14. Design marketplace – Have you created a community?  Monetize by creating a marketplace allowing your customers to sell / license their designs or sell products to consumers directly.  This can be made available both online and in store!
  15. Resources – Books, Ebooks, Videos.  Can be free or paid depending on how you position and market the business.
  16. Offer ‘Interesting’ Services – Market niche off the wall services like ‘We’ll 3D model your cat riding a dinosaur with a long sword in hand – the perfect holiday gift‘ – this is pushing it a bit but you get the idea – at the very least it’ll garner attention!
  17. Affiliate / referral / broker services – depending on how you go to market you may not have all services or products in house, but that doesn’t mean you need to lose on that piece of pie.  Decide what and how you’re going to offer based on demand and capital and forge strategic relationships for everything you may be missing to ensure you have a complete solution.  Another thought would be complimentary services such as marketing or regular printing – you can do anything but not everything.  Setup a referral network!

Don’t be the last to the party!

Get in and get in now – There had been some key patents expiring earlier this year January / February that are hopeful to open up the market to innovation and competitors, but it’s been quiet.  So far.  These patents for many have been a barrier of entry into the market as the machines capable of producing ‘finished products’ are commercial grade and can run into the tens of thousands.  The thought is that with the patents expiring we could see a huge price drop of the average machine.  It still takes knowledge of how to work with and operate and design – this is where Total 3D Print comes in.

We’ve seen this type of innovation and price drop off with the expiration of FDM patents – there was an open source boom and a huge drop off in price sparking (although still relatively hobbies and asdfasdfsad) consumer adoption.  14k to $300.  Major investments have been made both on and offshore, in China for example, devoted to the advancement and commercialization of 3d printers..

Niches and beyond

There are so many niches to fill – a company out of Brazil offers a 3d design of an expectant couple’s baby, a 3d printed ultrasound!

Organovo is printing biological materials, synthetic tissues – mind boggling!

Remember how cool it was to toss a few quarters into a machine, watch the cup drop down and have your coffee fill, cream and sugar dropped in?  3D printing vending machines are right around the corner – pop in your design or model on the fly!

Having already printed houses and cars should be a good indication that it’s gaining popularity, the pace of innovation is red hot and the opportunities are limitless.  Will your passion kickstart the next wave of awesomeness?

Risks / Challenges / General thoughts

1. Get in fast!

2. Focus on what your customers need – don’t position yourself as a selling printers if what the market demands is help with getting basic prototypes out the door

3. There’s a lot of information out there – do you research!  We won’t dive in to the specific technologies like laser sintering, SLS, FDM, SLA, etc but there is a learning curve.

You’re on the forefront, while you may not be the pioneer who invented 3D printing, you can be the new age early adopter that becomes the local or international trusted advisor for the products and services you decide to offer, or the innovator that builds ‘the better mousetrap’.

Image compliments of DIY Genius.


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Comes complete with the Twitter handle @total3dprint!

Build an awesome local or global brand.  Love the brand name but have a twist on what to offer or how to execute – awesome!

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