How to Run A 3D Printing Business with Joe Larson

Joe's MakerbotJoe Larson

Printer: Heavily Modified Replicator 1

Time in Business: 2 Years

Website: Joe’s 3D Workbench

Store: Joe’s Makerbotted Games and Toys

Joe Larson is a constant blogger on Joe’s 3D Workbench, owner of a 3D printer he won in the Makerbot/Tinkercad chess challenge for an awesome chess set that assembles into a robot, creator of awesome 3D printed things he sells on Etsy, and author of the beginner’s guide to modeling for home 3D printers: 3D Printing Blueprints.

An Interview With Joe on His 3D Printing Business

3DF: What printer are you using?

Joe: Heavily modified Makerbot Replicator 1.

3DF: What kind of modifications have you made to your Replicator 1?

Joe: Makeshift enclosure top, plexiglass enclosure walls, glass build plate with 3 point leveling. spring extruder upgrade, I’ve also turned the fans away so they’re not blowing on my prints for better ABS prints which necessitated a number of little changes, and I’ve got feet on my makerbot to reduce vibration transference to the table they’re sitting on.

3DF: How long have you been 3D printing items as a way to generate some income?

Joe: Almost 2 years now. From the moment I had a 3D printer I set up an Etsy store to try to make this hobby support itself.

3DF: What kind of filament are you using and how much do you go through in a month?

Joe: Mostly ABS and about a KG a month, I’d estimate. Maybe less. I don’t really keep track.

3DF: What kind of items are you making?

Joe: Toys, chess sets, themed jewelry like TARDIS rings. I also have a beginner’s intorduction to 3D modeling called “3D Printing Blueprints”. (Learn more at

3DF: Do you print on demand? Or do you keep stock?

Joe: I am also on MakeXYZ and doing print on demand things.

3DF: Where are you selling your products?

Joe: Physical products I sell on Etsy. 3D models for printing I sell on Ponoko.

3DF: Is it difficult to setup an Etsy store? What’s the learning curve for using their platform to sell items? What about MakeXYZ and Ponoko?

Joe: Etsy couldn’t be easier. Well, I suppose it could be if they just e-mailed everyone a pre-set up store front and came to your home to find out what you had so they could set up your store with stuff to sell for you. But besides that Etsy pretty much nails it on easy to set up storefronts. They even handle shipping on your order and will sell physical and digital items. The only problem with Etsy is they make it real hard to even want to break off and become your own selling entity.

MakeXYZ is pretty easy to set up. I feel the hardest part with MakeXYZ is finding an audience of people who want to home 3D print stuff.

Ponoko… I’m really just using Ponoko until something better comes along. They’re interface is clunky. You can’t edit models once they’ve been uploaded. but when you buy from them you get a nice editable STL with no DRM, so that’s why I still use them.

3DF: How do you market your products?

Joe: Word of mouth, mostly. Marketing takes time and money.

3DF: What techniques do you use to get the best build quality?

Joe: Heavily modify my makerbot. Print at 0.15mm resolution (excellent quality, but not nearly as slow as 0.1mm)

3DF: What techniques do you use to print faster?

Joe: Use a firmware that supports acceleration and, again, 0.15mm resolution.

3DF: What firmware are you using to support acceleration?

Joe: Sailfish. Only good for Makerbots and Makerbot knock-offs.

3DF: What mistakes have you made and how have you learn from them?

Joe: I’m going to cop out on this one and say “I’m always making mistakes and always learning from them. In reality, I don’t know. If you hit up my old blog that’ll probably give you an idea of the first mistakes I made with 3D printing.

There’s also the mistakes I made in selling. If you’ve got a product in demand there’s nothing wrong charging what people’ll pay, as opposed to what it cost you plus a little extra. Charging 2 or 3 times what a thing is worth will cover you in case of returns or mistakes and keep you in business. On the other hand, if you can’t charge what it’s worth, cut your losses and walk away.

3DF: What advice would you give you anyone looking to use their 3D printer to make some money on the side?

Joe: Short version, a 3D printer won’t make you money. Having something other people want will make you money. For the long version, check out my guide on How to Make Money with 3D Printing (Redux).

I’d like to thank Joe for letting me interview him about his 3D printing business! Please post your comments or questions in the section below.

Aso, if you’re making money with your 3D printer, I’d love to interview you as well. Just shoot me an email at and we’ll work something out.

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