June 11, 2021
Interested in learning how you can kickstart your own Etsy shop or small business using 3D printing? Click the video below to watch a recording of the engaging Q&A discussion between our panelists, the audience, and MatterHackers moderator Mara Hitner.
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.
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
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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