Can I Sell 3D Prints From Thingiverse? Legal Stuff


In the 3D printing field, there are massive archives of designs which people upload, can also download for free themselves, and use them to 3D print. Another element comes into play when you print these models and put them up for sale. This article will look into whether you can sell 3D printed models that are downloaded from Thingiverse.

You can sell 3D prints from Thingiverse as long as you have the adequate copyright status or explicit permission from the original creator of the design. There are designated websites built to sell 3D printed items, and they ensure you have the correct rights to the sold products.

This topic can definitely get complicated, so I know you’d appreciate it if I simplified things. I will attempt to answer this question and give you straightforward facts about selling 3D prints and the laws that follow.

Is it Legal to Print & Sell 3D Prints from Thingiverse?

There are many models that are open-source and present in the market, but that does not mean you can simply print and commercialize them.

For this very reason, you must acquire a license if you want to commercialize the models and 3D prints. Many digital files present on Thingiverse require a license and permission of copyrights.

Basically, it depends on the author of the design that what kind of license they pick for their model that can allow people like you and me to print those models and commercialize them.

For example, there is a complete section of Wonder Woman models on Thingiverse, and if you don’t have the copyrights or license, it will be considered illegal to print and sell those models to others.

Remember one thing, every item that is present on Thingiverse is for display, and you need a license if you want to use the work of other people. That is why it is not legal if you print a model and sell it from Thingiverse unless the licensing on the page says it can be used for commercial purposes.

Here’s a YouTuber that discusses an issue that was raised due to unlawful 3D printing. We’re hoping you can take away something constructive from it.

Where Can I Sell 3D Printed Items?

With the online access these days, you get a fair chance of selling your 3D printed items online on different platforms. You do not have to create a website to sell your 3D printed items. There are such platforms like Etsy, Amazon, eBay present for you to get your 3D prints to the people.

These platforms are visited by millions of people, which gives you a good chance to display your items here and attract people.

You do not have to build and maintain a level of trust in your store or struggle for marketing, as it is all done on these platforms.

Platforms like Amazon, Etsy verify your credibility for the people right from the start when you launch the store and adds a verification tag to your ID. What you can do is:

  • Display your item on the online store
  • Add a description to it
  • Display the price of the item
  • The required delivery time
  • Let the customers change the quantity if they want

This is how you can sell your 3D prints easily online, even when you are asleep at night.

How Does Thingiverse’s Creative Commons Work?

Basically, the Creative Commons licenses allow you to share your design with other people, and they can then use it to either modify it or print the original.

This is one of the special things of Thingiverse as community members of Creative Commons can collaborate to create new models.

You do not actually abandon your rights, but you give other people the chance to use your model to the extent you think is right.

Creative Commons licenses lie in two categories:

  • Attribution
  • Commercial Use

It depends on you and the creator of how you want the terms to be considered, such as whether you want attribution, it means you may use a file in exchange for crediting the creator.

Secondly, it depends on you whether you want to allow the creator to commercialize the 3D prints or not. The following video explains how the Creative Commons license works.

Can You Make Money From Thingiverse?

Yes, you can make money from Thingiverse, but again, everything boils down on your current license.

The legal process of making money from the Thingiverse is done in two ways.

  • You can sell your 3D print licenses to other people at some credit. This will give you an opportunity to earn.
  • Secondly, the creators can buy the license, which can help them commercialize and sell their 3D prints on different online platforms, such as Etsy, Amazon, etc.

However, it would help if you did not try to act cleverly and steal the design to print the models for anonymous commercialization.

One of the creators of a popular online store actually did this to earn money illegally, but the community went against him and took down his store from eBay, the platform on which he was selling 3D printed objects.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a 3D Printing Business?

This business covers a wide variety of technologies, items, and different kinds of costs. So, it is impossible to say the exact amount needed to start a 3D printing business.

However, an amount between $1000 for a simple business, up to $100,000 for an industrial business would be enough for you to start your exclusive 3D printing business.

This cost is divided into different categories which are as follows:

  • Material cost
  • Printing cost
  • Spare parts cost
  • Marketing and Promotion cost
  • Cost of buying Licensing
  • Maintenance cost
  • Printing Place cost

When starting up a 3D printing business there are a few ways to get it done, but generally, people start with 1 3D printer and work their way up.

You want to make sure you have good experience maintaining a 3D printer and getting consistently good quality before you get into creating a 3D printing business.

People make things called a ‘print farm’ which is where they have multiple 3D printers running at once, and can even be controlled together remotely.

You can get a solid 3D printer like an Ender 3 V2 for under $300 and get respectable print quality, worthy to sell to others.

It’s a good idea to advertise for free by visiting social media groups on Facebook or creating an Instagram account that showcases some cool 3D prints.

Realistically, you can start a small 3D printing business for under $1,000. As you narrow down some profitable products, you can start to expand your products and number of printers.

Is 3D Printing a Profitable Business?

Well, this is a whole new section of the industry in the current era. The research that is being done on the profitability of the 3D printing business shows us that it is continuously growing at great speed. There is a chance that it might become a billion-dollar industry.

The profitability of the 3D printing business completely depends on the quality and creativity of the print.

During the last five years since 2015, the value of the 3D print market has increased by almost 25% per year.

The proof of this increase is that BMW has increased the production of its parts with time. Similarly, Gillette is also making customizable 3D printed handles for their pilot razors.

Below is the list of niches that you can follow for profitability in the 3D printing business.

  • 3D Printing of Prototypes and Models

Every industry or product manufacturing companies require prototypes for the marketing of their items.

This is where 3D printing can play a role in producing these models and prototypes of their customers.

  • Industrial 3D Printing

This one is risky; however, it is also very profitable. It requires capital for $20,000 to $100,000 to buy industrial 3D printing machines to print at a large scale.

You can use it for creating furniture, car parts, bikes, ships, parts of planes, and much more.

  • 3D Printing Point

What you can do is build a simple shop or a point in your locality through which you can take orders on demand.

This will help you in getting the orders on the price which you want. It can profit you immensely if you deal with it carefully. The location of your 3D Printing point is the main aspect of this business.

  • Nerf guns
  • Technological accessories such as headphone holders, Amazon Echo stands etc.
  • 3D printing took over the hearing aid industry with ease as the benefits were realized!
  • Prosthetics and medical industry
  • Furniture
  • Clothing & fashion and so many more…

Below is a video that contains great 3D printing business ideas. You may watch it for a few pointers to get you started in the right direction.

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