The Rise of the “Printrepreneur”
Lots of people and companies claim that you can quit your day job and make a good living by operating as your own 3D printing service. Going into business for your self includes many challenges. One in particular is finding customers. 3D Hubs offers a solution to that challenge in its business model. So here is an example of how one “Printrepreneur” is making a go of his passion.
Ara Boghosian is a Mechanical Engineer with 23 years of product design and manufacturing experience. With nine humming desktop 3D printers in his basement, Ara operates as a one-man production facility out of his Washington, D.C. home. His operation has the capability of manufacturing thousands of parts per month, which makes Ara living proof of the promise that 3D printing holds for thousands of 3D printer owners around the globe: the ability to make a good living as an independent “Printrepreneur.”
In 2015 alone, Ara generated enough revenue from his home enterprise that he was able to quit his “day job” and turned his focus to fulfilling 3D print orders at home full-time. His customers range from experienced hardware developers, engineers, and designers to first time users and students; customers that need complex products that can be produced on a limited scale.
3D printing enables users to produce products with limited upfront investment. The scale of production has virtually no impact on costs; allowing 3D printing to be competitive with production at low order scales. Furthermore, the fundamental principle of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) makes it possible to create custom or personalized products and, because of its locality, there is no need for stock, no shipping, and no waste; a business proposition that nets Ara a six-figure annual income.
Similar to how AirBnb hosts might have multiple rooms in their house to rent to out of town guests, Ara “rents out” time on his 3D printers to customers through 3D Hubs, an online 3D printing service. The process is simple: a customer uploads the files he or she wants 3D printed, selects a local 3D print Hub – like Ara – and receives or picks up their finished order within a matter of hours or days. Last year, Ara completed over 500 customer orders and produced an estimated 10,000 products.
“Most of my orders are prototypes for inventors and small companies in my local area because I can make a part for them that costs less than the shipping cost of a prototype from China,” he said. “With enough capacity to produce several thousand parts a month from my basement, this is truly a revolution.”
Naturally, Ara believes that 3D printing will be used to make everything we currently use today – from household products to industrial parts – and he plans to grow his business even more to accommodate this belief. “I intend to expand to a larger space and have 500 printers,” he added. “Eventually, I plan on generating enough cash flow to focus on building the first neighborhood 3D Printing factory with a materials and R&D lab.”
Despite his current success, Ara is still working with a new technology that many customers are still unaware of what it can and – in some cases – cannot do. Although he doesn’t get paid directly for it, educating his customers is an integral part of running his business.
“As is true with any other successful endeavor, you have to really love it,” he said. “Your business must also be your hobby. There are many challenges, and your patience will be tested. But if you truly believe in it, then you will have a successful business.”