Starting a 3D Print Shop

We recently ran across a post on LinkedIn that piqued our interest. The author, a CAD designer in the UK stated that he “was hoping to open a 3D print shop” in the UK and asked if group members could fill out his survey and/or share their thoughts. Naturally this was a very interesting topic to us so we connected with him on LinkedIn and asked a few questions. To protect his business concept, we’ve left out his name and specific location, but following are some of the highlights of our initial conversation:

3D4Printers:  Are you aware of any other 3D printing shops in the UK or elsewhere?

Aspiring Shop Owner:  There are currently a variety of online 3D print shops that are based in the UK (although their services are only available online) – these cater mainly for commercial use and don’t market themselves to the everyday user. There are also small ‘workshops’ that can be hired out (similar to TechShop in the USA but smaller) that cater for students and small businesses looking to develop ideas. The few contacts I have in 2D print shops have also told me they have 3D printers but they seem very underused/under marketed and again limited for commercial printing.

3D4Printers:  Are you interested in specific markets or applications, or do you see your shop servicing a wide range of needs?

Aspiring Shop Owner:   I would love to see my shop serving a wide range of customers – from casual hobbyists to techy geeks who want to build their ‘world changing idea’! I’m more passionate about the end design of the printed product so I’ll focus on showcasing the artistic/completed side (i.e. jewellery/art/fashion accessories.)

3D4Printers:  Do you have any thoughts on what your ideal shop might look like?

Aspiring Shop Owner:  The business model I’m striving for would be similar to Shapeways in NYC – I love the community feel this radiates and really looks to me like the direction 3D printing should take.

3D4Printers:  Have you thought through what you would need to start your shop? Space, staff, software, printing and finishing equipment, etc.

Aspiring Shop Owner:  Yes, I have my eye on a few properties – looking at around 500-800 sq.ft with close friends all imputing their skills (designers/architects/artists) into running the shop and using the software we’re all trained in (solidworks/autoCAD/sketchup) – I will be attending the first 3D printing trade show here this Friday to determine the final printer choice as its extremely hard to compare and contrast with the current set up of resellers in the UK. Finishing equipment is one thing I have yet to investigate, again the trade show will help with this.

3D4Printers:  What would it take for a traditional printer to bring 3D printing into their business? What training, processes and technology would be required? What software would they need (CAD, etc.) and what finishing equipment would they need.

Aspiring Shop Owner:  It’s interesting that you should raise this subject – the one thing that scares me about investing in a specialist 3D shop is the inevitable growth of competitors especially in established 2D printing hubs who have the capital and established network/resources to invest heavily in the area. I’d say that the software costs & training would be the biggest hurdle established 2D print shops would encounter – but easily fixed with the hire of a specially trained employee!

We can’t begin to thank our aspiring shop owner for his time, but hopefully we can help him collect some data. Would you like to help him out? Take his survey HERE.

Have other questions you’d like to ask? Add them to the comments below and we’ll see if we can’t get the answers you’re looking for.

Want to connect with others in the traditional (2D) printing community who share an interest in 3D printing? Join our LinkedIn Group – 3D for Printers.

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3 responses to “Starting a 3D Print Shop”

  1. berto57 says :

    inspiring stuff 3D4Printers.
    i work a great deal with designers, architects and the like and have been following advances in 3D printing for a few years now. it does feel rather like the tipping point is approaching where rapid prototyping really kicks off into mainstream…
    i wonder how long until we have a 3D print store on every high street…and how much resistance there would be from of the existing retail sector?

    what are peoples thoughts in terms of intellectual property rights? so if i broke my vacuum cleaner and wanted to repair a part…i just need a 3D scan / print right…but if i wanted to start designing iphone cases for example…do i need the rights to do that from apple?

  2. Tom Slaiter says :

    3d Print Shop? The world’s advancing so rapidly I can’t keep up!

    Thanks for the post, ‘kinda inspiring 🙂

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  1. 5 Questions Answered About Opening a 3D Print Shop Printing Hub - October 24, 2012

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