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The 5 biggest pains of running a small 3D printing business

From pricing automation to operational support, these are the key ingredients for the success of small 3D printing businesses.

3D printing has revolutionized the way we create and manufacture products, with small businesses and hobbyists alike bringing their ideas to life all over the world. However, starting a small 3D printing business

can be challenging, especially for those who only have one to three printers and are looking to earn some side cash. Based on a survey of over 130 participants worldwide, we have identified the top 5 challenges faced by small 3D printing businesses. Here’s how to address them:

1. Pricing Automation

Did you know that providing accurate price quotes can account to 40% of a printshop’s workload?! That makes sense when you think of all the different stages needed for a Printshop operator to go through before determining the price manually, waiting for the customer to accept it, and charging for it.

In our research, many printshop operators claim that the tools they need most relate to automating their pricing & sales process, allowing users to upload a file and check out automatically. These tools have existed for a while - but they are usually expensive and only used by very large 3D printing services.

2. Access to wholesale discounts on supplies

It is tough for a small 3D printing business to get discounts on supplies. As far as the big distributors are concerned, there is not much difference between a small business and a highly engaged hobbyist.

Many Printshop owners order their supplies on Amazon and pay full consumer price for the products. Material is one of the most expensive costs a Printshop has, and lack of access to cheaper materials jacks up the prices to the end consumers significantly.

3. Commercial licensing to high-quality designs

There are millions of 3D printing designs out there, but at the end of the day, designing products for 3D printing is an art. Many 3D Printshop owners are actually designers as well, but splitting your work between different crafts can sometimes be very tiring.

Many Printshop owners have reported that one of the things they need most is simple access to 3D designs that they can sell without the hassle of designing them themselves & making sure they print well.

At the same time, designers often feel like their designs are being abused. IP infringement is a huge problem in the 3D community - which subsequently hurts everyone. This problem underlines the fact - commercial rights to high-quality designs at affordable prices are hard to come by.

4. Marketing Content & Strategy

When it comes to selling physical products - content is king. In today's social media-driven commerce world, the STL alone just doesn’t cut it. Even if a Printshop owner had commercial access to incredible models, and even if they are master makers, this doesn't mean these products will sell. Creating eye-catching, aesthetic content takes time, money, and talent and is the single most crucial aspect of selling a product on places like Etsy.

Furthermore, marketing goes beyond good pictures and videos. Navigating social media is no walk in the park, and finding unique ways to interact with customers in both the physical and the digital world demands creative & strategic thinking that is not always up the alley of the Printshop owners.

Here are some examples of content made by professional

5. Operational support

In most cases, running a small Printshop is a one-man/woman show. Think about how crazy that is. A Printshop owner is running a small production factory all on their own but needs to manage not only the production floor (or bed;) but rather the sales, marketing, customer support, business development, and inventory, and often runs an online business as well.

Most Printshop owners have reported they lack the assistance they need to grow their business in a way they know they can. Printshops are built to be lean operations, it is the only way they financially make sense.

There is rarely a need for one professional in a specific field. Rather, what Printshop owners need is a bit of help on all fronts. These types of tailored services are just not out there.



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