Pay for your Printer by Running a Low Cost 3D Hub

After I had my Printrbot Simple Metal for about a month, I found 3D Hubs and I listed my printer at the suggested prices. 3D Hubs suggests a $10 setup fee and $1 per cubic centimeter of filament.

After my printer had been listed about a month I received an inquiry from a college student who wanted to print an Adafruit WiFi camera project it looked simple enough, but he wanted to do the bumper parts in a flexible material which I had not done before. Seemed like a good excuse to try out ninjaflex so I ordered some and printed out the camera parts and learned a little bit about using ninjaflex.

I enjoyed printing the first project, and after a few weeks I received an order for a 3D printer part I printed it out and shipped it off to the customer. I printed one more order in February and started a new job at the beginning of March.

The first couple of months I had my printer I was unemployed so I printed a ton of projects and gifts for the holidays and really got it dialed in. I had several hundred dollars of birthday and Christmas amazon giftcards sitting in my amazon account so every time my daughter wanted to print with a new color I bought it and somehow I wound up with 12 different colors.

Now I was working again and I having printed most of the things I needed for my projects I decided to see if I could use 3DHubs to utilize all the filament I had bought by printing projects for people on 3D Hubs. My total 3D Hubs revenue for February was only $30, so if I planned to pay for my printer and filament I needed some more orders.

3D Hubs releases a monthly 3D printing trends report that aggregates together data from all of their hub orders into an overview. There is a lot of interesting data in this report, including some interesting average order price data by category.

Average order

Looking over the data, all of the categories are quite a bit over $20 for the average order price, and $20 is a pretty powerful dollar amount for most products.

In March I lowered my prices to $0.20 per cubic cm and $5 setup (Lowest prices they allow) for my lowest priced medium quality option and since have done pretty well.

Month # of Orders Total Revenue
February 2 $32.00
March 8 $151.00
April 10 $128.00
May 12 $191.60
Hub Screenshot

At this point 3dhubs has paid for my printer, now I am trying to see if I can pay for all my filament and the new computer I bought to handle 3d software. While I could probably make more money doing software development in my spare time, I have had a lot of fun printing people’s projects and it has not occupied a ton of my time. As a hobby it has been pretty amazing, since it deposits money in my paypal account that I can use to buy more stuff from adafruit.

I have now completed more than 25 orders and am the second highest rated Printrbot Simple Metal on 3D Hubs in the world, and based on the total of 161 reviews for hubs in Seattle it appears that I have accounted for 15-20% of the total order volume on 3D Hubs for Seattle.

Printing people’s projects has really been a great experience and I highly recommend it to people who have their printer dialed in and are trying to figure out what to do with their filament.