Inspiration Session: Starting Your Etsy Shop with 3D Printing
A virtual panel with small business owners and Etsy shop users who are running their businesses thanks to 3D printing.
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Running your own small business can be hard, but these talented makers have found success through ingenuity. Click the video below to watch a recording of our Inspiration Session: an engaging Q&A discussion between our panelists, the audience, and MatterHackers moderator Mara Hitner to learn how you can kickstart your own Etsy shop (and avoid some common roadblocks) using 3D printing.
MatterHackers is here to help you get started! Contact us at email@example.com for recommendations, bulk filament discounts, and more for your small business.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking for solutions to expand your 3D printing possibilities even further, MatterHackers has got you covered. We picked the top 10 questions asked of our panelists from members of the audience and provided the answers for you here.
Q1: What are your favorite resources/communities for networking with other 3D makers, etc.?
A: Social media websites like Instagram and Facebook are great resources to interact directly with a wide community and build your audience, and to network and engage with customers. Meredith from SugarDashCo has also found Facebook groups that can offer advice for particular 3D printers and a group all about printing her specialty - cookie cutters!
Q2: Is there a wide variety of types of plastics / materials you can print with? Different hardness/weight, or is it all relatively the same material?
A: There is a HUGE variety of materials that each have their own differences in shore hardness, strength, heat resistance, flexibility, and all other kinds of properties. Most are relatively lightweight and many 3D printed materials are often used to replace the heavier, more expensive materials of traditional manufacturing. Many people will start out 3D printing with PLA, which is one of the easiest and most affordable filaments recommended to beginners, and then move up to more advanced materials as they expand. You can check out the MatterHackers filament comparison guide HERE for more info.
Q3: How do you deal with shipping?
A: Across the board, packaging was the least enjoyable step of the shipping process. Meredith from SugarDashCo recommends using a thermal printer for (2-D) printing shipping labels instead of a traditional inkjet paper printer. Your time is valuable as a business owner, and the right tool can help save you hours each week.
Also, Barrett from PortaKeeper orders bubble wrap, boxes, and shipping envelopes in large bulk, which come at a cheaper total cost than purchasing small packs at the local store. Barrett also mentions that while you may have the occasional customer upset with the shipping/mail carrier issues outside of your control, 99% of people will be friendly and understanding.
In terms of a preferred shipper, USPS is typically the go-to recommendation as the most affordable for small businesses and often has the best accessibility for customers in remote areas.
Q4: Panelists, are you using print farm management software if you have multiple printers? Perhaps Octoprint or any other advanced tools?
A: Yes! Octoprint has been an excellent software tool for managing multiple printers, and SD cards have been an alternate solution that avoids any complications with network connectivity issues as well.
Q5: What are some things that you wish you knew before starting your business?
A: Peter from Villanous Prop Shop recommends that makers starting a small business consider having several of the same printer rather than multiple different printers. That way, all of your machines can share the same settings, parts, and printing considerations, rather than having to juggle many different machines. Also, try to pick a printer (like the Creality CR-10s) with replacement parts that are easily sourced and affordable, so there are no specialized parts that will be high-cost or take a long time to replace should your printer require any maintenance.
Barrett from PortaKeeper also suggests making plenty of space in your home or workspace for storage! Consider the amount of space you'll need for not just your machines and materials, but also the amount of boxes, bubble wrap, and other packaging materials that will be need to be stored somewhere safe.
Q6: Follow-up question on filament storage, what are the best practices to keep all your filament fresh?
A: It depends on the type of filament. While all spools should preferably be kept in a relatively cool, dry place indoors, some filaments that are more hygroscopic (such a Nylons and PVA) may need to be dehydrated in a PrintDry prior to use.
Q7: SugarDashCo, how do you make products food safe?
A: PLA is technically food safe, but after being 3D printed, bacteria could be hiding in microscopic pockets between layers, so it is really up to the buyer to be aware. For cookie cutters in this case, the assumption is that you will be baking the cookies after using the printed cutter on the dough, the heat of which would kill off any bacteria. It is not recommended to eat anything before cooking.
Q8: Do you use a 3D scanner for any of your products?
A: Not yet says Peter from Villainous Prop Shop! Although Meredith from SugarDashCo is looking into a scanner to use for something unrelated to her cookie cutters, Barrett from PortaKeeper needs models with very precise measurements which would be difficult to accomplish using a scanner.
Q9: How do you decide on pricing for your 3D printed parts?
A. Offsetting shipping costs, cost of materials, overall time to print, and other overhead costs are all factors to incorporate into the final pricing. You can also consider offering discounts on shipping if a customer is placing multiple orders that can all ship together to the same address. Additionally, check out similar products on Etsy to get an idea of the range of average prices.
Lastly, Peter from Villainous Prop Shop offers use a useful tip of pricing a printed part "to fail 3 times". In other words, give yourself a materials cost cushion to retry the print at least a couple of times, especially if you're 3D printing parts that will take a long time to complete. And don't be afraid to give your product a fair price!
Q10: How do you get your products noticed on Etsy?
A: Take advantage of Etsy's SEO (search engine optimization) and advertisement opportunities both internal and off-site! Product tags & keywords are also important -- try to add relevant, popular tags with multiple words to your products whenever possible. And, of course, delivering a reliable, good product will earn you reliably good word of mouth. Encourage your happy customers to leave a positive review or share their positive experience online to help build your company's reputation.
A lot of different materials and 3D printers were mentioned in this discussion and in questions from the live audience. From the easy-to-use and affordable filaments like PLA to the higher strength, advanced materials like ASA and PETG, here are some of our recommendations to help small businesses pick the perfect filament for their 3D printed parts and the best machines to make them.
3D Printers and Accessories
- Pulse Custom 3D Printer
- Built on top of the proven, open source Prusa i3 design, the Pulse is also constantly improving and incorporating new and exciting technology as the 3D printing industry grows. This powerful state-of-the-art FDM machine is on its 5th evolution—the E Series—and is custom assembled to your specifications with the latest and greatest high quality components pre-installed for the best possible experience out of the box. Pick and choose which features are the most important to you, while still having a robust platform to build off of.
- Creality3D CR-10S 3D Printer
- This powerful but inexpensive machine is great for tinkering, modding or simply getting started with 3D printing. The CR-10S comes as a kit that only requires three pieces for assembly. It typically takes only ten to fifteen minutes before your Creality3D CR-10S is up and running.
- PrintDry PRO Filament Drying System
- This PrintDry PRO is the perfect moisture control solution for filament storage. This filament drying container features automatic humidity control that can hold up to two standard spools. This storage provides a quick and simple way to store your filament without any hassle. How does it work? Simply set the desired temperature, put in the filament and the PrintDry will take care of the rest!
- PLA (Polylactic Acid) is one of the two most commonly used desktop 3D printing filaments (with the other being ABS filament). It is the "default" recommended material for many desktop 3D printers, and with good reason - PLA is useful in a broad range of printing applications, has the virtue of being both odorless and low-warp, and does not require a heated bed.
- PETG filament is an industrial strength filament with several great features. Figuratively speaking, it combines the ease of use of PLA filament with the strength and durability of ABS filament. Its strength is much higher than PLA and, unlike ABS filament, it barely warps, and produces no odors or fumes when printed.
- ASA was developed as an alternative to ABS. With a number of additional features, like improved weather resistance and resistance to yellowing from UVs, ASA is an excellent choice for parts or prints intended for outdoor use.
- HTPLA was designed in-house is a PLA that can be printed at standard temps, but benefits from being printed at higher temps, and can even be heat-treated after printing for increased stiffness and durability.
Have a question not covered in this webinar or interested in learning more? Speak with a 3D printing expert at MatterHackers for answers to your burning questions or contact us for guidance to find the right machine or material best suited for your specific use case.
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