Interested in trying out 3D printing? Why not take your newly 3D-printed products and sell them on Amazon?
That’s exactly what many entrepreneurial folks are starting to do, so we’ll share the best practices and tips you need to know to create 3D products that will sell on Amazon and get your business off the ground.
The 3D-printing craze
Although 3D printing has been around for close to 40 years, its popularity as a hobby is much newer. With affordable, at-home 3D-printing solutions, hobbyists and business owners can now print their own, well, just about anything at home.
Nearly any item imaginable can be 3D printed: wedding rings, tools, toys and game pieces, home decor — even medical supplies.
In fact, during the coronavirus crisis, 3D printing has even been helping save lives. As medical personal protection equipment (PPE) supplies have dwindled, people with 3D printers are producing face shields for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.
How does 3D printing work?
There are a number of ways to print something in 3D, but the basic gist is that a material, known as the filament (consider this like 3D ink), is pushed through a hot nozzle onto a surface to create a thin layer of material.
These layers are piled up according to highly specific computerized directions to create the 3D product. This is known as fused deposition modeling (FDM) and can be seen in this Rapid Pro YouTube video:
Why should you 3D-print products to sell online?
There are lots of different ways to make money on Amazon, but the most common is to find a product to sell and then source those products from a third-party supplier to sell under your brand on Amazon — this is private label selling.
Other business models include:
- Wholesale: Buying products directly from a brand or from distributors with extra stock in order to sell
- Reselling/Arbitrage: Buying discounted products through online or physical retailers to sell
- Dropshipping: Buying products directly from a manufacturer who fulfills the order and ships directly to the customer
- Handmade: Creating/crafting own products to sell
For the folks who prefer to create their own products to sell by hand, 3D-printing is an innovative new method which gives sellers a number of advantages.
A few ways in which 3D printers have an edge against other business models selling on Amazon are:
1. Lower upfront costs
In a recent Jungle Scout survey of more than 1,000 Amazon sellers, we learned that private label by far is the most common business model (71% of respondents) among Amazon sellers, followed by wholesale (26%). However, many private label and wholesale sellers would say the biggest drawback is the upfront costs associated with both business models, which typically range from $1,000-2,500.
A lot of those costs are put towards purchasing bulk products — often at low costs from overseas suppliers.
For 3D-printing Amazon sellers, on the other hand, beyond spending the first $350-$500 to purchase a 3D printer and related supplies (more on this below), your products can be made to order. That is, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to invest in a bulk order of something without knowing it will sell.
Plus, if the operation doesn’t work out or you simply change your mind, you can sell your printer and recoup 50% or more of your startup costs.
2. Less time spent finding/creating products
With a 3D printer, you don’t have to search for multiple products to sell online; you only need to list a handful. And once those products sell, you can print and fulfill the products to fit the order.
Compare this to reselling (arbitrage), for example. An arbitrage seller needs to spend their day scouring stores or the internet for discounts on products. Although their time investment might net them high-value products, there is no guarantee.
3. Faster turnaround times
With 3D printing, you can print, pack, and ship the product in as little time as a single day.
While selling FBA can be similarly quick turnaround time, other business models take longer. For example, dropshipped products can take up to one month or longer to arrive in your customer’s mailbox, which isn’t an optimal customer experience.
Why sell 3D printed products on Amazon (vs eBay or Etsy)?
Amazon holds considerable advantages over other e-commerce platforms such as eBay and Etsy.
Pros of selling on Amazon:
- Amazon has a larger market. Amazon sees more than 2 billion unique visitors each month and even more during the holiday season. Meanwhile, eBay only sees roughly 750,000 visitors and Etsy brings in a little over 222,000.
- You have less competition on Amazon. Not only does Amazon have more traffic than both its competitors combined, it also has fewer sellers. As of this writing, there are 2.2 million active sellers on Amazon, compared to 2.5 million on Etsy and a whopping 25 million on eBay.
- You can predict sales in advance. Because Amazon.com offers each of the more than 119 million products in its catalog a Best Sellers Rank (BSR), sales estimators like Jungle Scout can predict the average monthly sales for a given product niche as well as relative competition.
- Amazon can fulfill products for you. Amazon offers a program called Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). With FBA, sellers can ship their inventory to store at Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Then, when a product sells, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the product on your behalf.
- You need to know a little more. While eBay and Etsy are pretty straightforward in terms of setting up an account and a listing, Amazon can require a little more knowledge. Fortunately, there are plenty of learning resources available.
- You pay higher fees. Amazon typically has higher fees than Etsy and eBay. However, those Amazon fees go towards benefits such as its large user base as well as the cost to ship products via their fulfillment program. It’s worth noting that, often, Amazon’s FBA fees are less than the cost to ship and fulfill your own products.
How to get started with 3D printing: Costs & tools
Getting started with 3D printing requires an investment of roughly $250 to $500 — more if you need to purchase a new computer.
Here’s what you need to buy to get started:
- 3D printer: To 3D print, you’ll need a 3D printer! Before making your purchase, consider the following. After answering these questions for yourself, check out a full list of recommendations on all3Dp.com.
- Are you printing just as a hobby? Or do you need a bigger surface area and faster machine to create professional products?
- For professional needs, look for printers with large, heated printing beds (12-inch by 12-inch is preferred) and high build-quality. Starting out, the Creality CR-10 is recommended. You can purchase it on Amazon business for $399.
- What is your budget?
- Filament: A 3D printer uses filament (its “ink”) to create the models. Filament is a thermoplastic that melts (rather than burns) when heated. For a full guide of the different types of filament available, and how they’re used, check out a full list of recommendations on all3Dp.com.
Cost: $20-30 per roll
- Assorted tools: You may need or want to use tools like pallet knives, chemical sealant, and other items. You can read up on recommendations for accessories on windowscentral.com.
Cost: $10 or more
- 3D models or modeling software: Whether you create your own models (hard mode) or purchase designs from others, there will likely be an associated cost. For a full list of 3D modeling marketplaces and free repositories, check out all3Dp.com. And for software recommendations, all3Dp.com also has a list of those to look over.
Cost: Free to $150
- A good computer: Experts recommend a computer with at least 4 GB of RAM and a strong processor capable of handling the software.
Cost: varies, but expect to pay $500-$800
How do I 3D-print models?
After interviewing several multi-million dollar 3D-printing business owners and exploring all3Dp.com’s many tutorials and resources, we’ve collected a high-level overview of how to 3D print your products:
Make sure you have a 3D model to print
There are a few ways to source the models:
- Create your own designs. Although it requires a little skill and a ton of practice, you might digitally sculpt your own designs for 3D printing. You can use 3D modeling software such as Blender or Zbrush.
- Download existing designs. There are a ton of repositories and marketplaces for 3D models that you can download and print for free. Specifically look for those that are open license or that can be licensed by the original designer; you might even be able to find some in the public domain. Just note that you can’t sell products you print from copyrighted models. To sell, the model has to have an open license, or you must design it yourself.
- Hire someone to create models based on your specifications. If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for or if you’d prefer something that others can’t duplicate and you don’t have the skill to make it yourself, hire a designer. You can find 3D modeling designers on freelance sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
Next, translate the model-to-machine instructions
This is done through another software program called a “slicer.” The slicer translates the model into G-code which creates the parameters the machine needs in order to print the 3D model.
Then, prepare the printer
There are two important steps required for preparation:
- Load the filament (the material from which the model will be made.)
- Level the bed. Make sure that the bed — the area where the printer’s nozzle deposits the filament — is correctly positioned to receive the filament.
Once everything is set up, print the model. The time it takes for a 3D printer to print the model depends on the printer you have and the complexity of your model. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a week or even longer.
Finally, post-process your designs
After your model is printed, you may need to remove supports, sand away mold lines, paint, polish, and smooth the design.
How do you sell 3D products on Amazon?
The process for selling your own designs and models on Amazon is very similar to how other business models sell on Amazon, but with a few changes.
Here is an overview of how to get started, as well as linked resources to help you through the process step-by-step.
Step 1 – Create an Amazon seller account
Before you can start selling on Amazon, you’ll need to create an Amazon seller account. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do. You’ll just need to go to sellercentral.amazon.com and click ‘Register now.’
From there, Amazon walks you through the process.
Step 2 – Research product opportunities
First, consider what type of product you would sell on Amazon using Jungle Scout’s product research tools. Jungle Scout identifies both historical and real-time sales and search trends on Amazon to spot high-demand and low-competition product opportunities.
Try Jungle Scout’s Product Database or Opportunity Finder features to explore ideas and validate your own ideas with Product Tracker.
Typically, you want to consider products that meet the following criteria:
- The product should have an average of 200-300 sales per month. This ensures that there is plenty of demand for the product you’re creating.
- The top 10 competitors in the same niche have fewer than 500-1000 reviews/ratings combined (or fewer than 100 each). Reviews and ratings are a good indication of how much competition you will face once your product is live on Amazon.
- The products can sell for $20 or more. You want to make sure that you can profit above Amazon’s fees, as well as the costs to print the model.
- Ideally, the product should weigh no more than one pound (0.45kg). Also, it should be small enough to fit in a shoe box. The smaller the item, the easier it will be for you to ship it. This is especially true if you use Amazon FBA to fulfill your product orders.
- Make sure that there are no patents for the product. The last thing you want when starting a business is an intellectual property lawsuit.
Once you’ve got a few good ideas or, if you’ve discovered something interesting while doing Amazon searches, you can use Extension to verify the popularity of the products.
Make sure that it’s something that can be made with a 3D printer
One thing to note is that 3D printing is not recommended for food-related items.
First, only some filaments are food-safe. Second, due to the nature of 3D printing (a material made from hundreds of small layers), there is a lot of space for bacteria to grow.
Also, some filaments are dishwasher-safe, while others are not; it depends on the type of plastic used.
PLA (the most popular and common type of plastic for 3D printing) will melt in the dishwasher. PETG may be more heat-resistant, but can still melt. And though ABS is most resistant to heat, it can be toxic.
All in all, it’s best to avoid printing food-related products.
Step 3 – Decide your fulfillment method
But, as a 3D printer, you will also need to decide if you want to make your products made-to-order, have forward stock, or a mixture of both. This decision also dictates whether you use FBA or FBM.
If you choose made-to-order, you only have to create products once someone places an order. However, you won’t be able to use FBA if you use this method and will have to ship your own products.
If you choose to create forward stock — meaning that you print up a whole bunch of copies of your models in advance — then you can ship your goods to Amazon and have them fulfill your orders. Of course, this puts you at risk for creating stock that may not sell.
Finally, if you use a blend of both methods, you can have enough stock in place to fulfill your FBA orders for the week, and then print as you go. And if you run out of stock for FBA, you can still ship the products yourself.
Step 4 – Create a product listing
After you know the basics of how your 3D printing business will run on Amazon, you will need to create a product listing. Although we cover product listing optimization in more detail in other articles, here are a few pointers:
- Make sure to do plenty of keyword research for your product listing’s title and description. Jungle Scout’s Keyword Scout gives you access to real Amazon keyword data.
- Take great photos of your product. When it comes to Amazon, images sell, so make sure your models shine, especially in your main product image.
- Register your brand so you can get A+ content. Not only will A+ content make your products look great, but on average, it improves your chance at a sale, too.
It’s worth noting that some categories like Toys & Games might have certain restrictions, so be sure to research those before you sign up. You might also consider listing your products as Amazon Handmade, which may help you circumvent the restrictions of Amazon’s gated categories.
Step 5 – Launch!
After you’ve got all your ducks in a row, it’s simply a matter of turning your listing on and waiting for sales. To increase your sales, you can even try Amazon PPC ads to get more eyes on your products and models.
Interested in 3D printing and selling on Amazon? Check out Jungle Scout and discover how we can help you get started.