The very near future of 3D printing offers a lot of fascinating opportunities for digital artists.

While the 3D printing industry is still in it’s infancy, revenue numbers are expected to double every year for the next 5 years, (I would say much longer though) and we haven’t even begun to comprehend the new business opportunities that are still evolving.

Naturally, when I saw the announcement from Daz3D today about their move to start offering 3D printing, I was really excited.

Daz3D is one of the industry leaders in 3D figure modeling software and content. I use their software quite a bit for my pin-up art and have a huge runtime folder full of their content. The idea of being able to print my stuff in 3D, directly from their software is really awesome.

Although a logical next step for someone like Daz3D, it is still a pretty brilliant move when you think about it. Millions of artists already have their free software, know how to use it and most likely have tons of Daz3D content. Daz3D (along with Smith Micro’s Poser) have huge ecosystems of artists, fans and products, so this is really a huge thing to happen in the 3D art industry.

Here are a few thoughts about where I see the future of digital art and 3D printing going, as well as how to position yourselves to profit from it:

  • If you create 3D art like I do, being able to offer limited edition 3D printed figures or dioramas of your work will open some awesome new business opportunities. Check out the Munnies and other figures over at Kid Robot for some examples and ideas of how the business and culture of limited edition & collectable vinyl art toys are booming.
  • If you create 3D content, your future looks bright! Right now there is a huge community and ecosystem of 3D art content creators (Daz3D, Renderosity, RuntimeDNA) and when you add 3D printing into the mix, there will be tons of new customers wanting to accessorize their 3D printed models. As 3D printing becomes more mainstream and the price of printers go down, I expect a lot more printable marketplaces to appear. Creating both content and places to sell content will be goldmines.
  • Creating graphics and textures for 3D models is already a growing business. I can see it eventually growing for 3D printed models as well. Currently 3D printed models come in limited color and texture options based on the type of filament material they are printed out of. Anything super detailed is usually hand painted. This should evolve over time, as the quality of color and painting increases. In the mean time, custom graphics and decals, as well as hand painting services, could be an interesting option to pursue.
  • I would assume that companies like Zazzle and Cafe Press will jump on the 3D printing bandwagon and start to offer all kinds of customized products soon. If you are a 2D digital artist and still haven’t begun offering print on demand products, now would be a great time to get started.

3D printing is coming and it’s going to be a game changer, so jump on it!

3D Printing Links & Resources

MakerBot – Makers of some of the most successful and affordable 3D printers

Thingverse – Thingverse is an online community and marketplace (owned by Makerbot)for 3D printed models

MyMiniFactory – Another marketplace for 3D printable models.

Yeggi – A search engine for 3D printable models.

Vinyl Collectable Toy Resources

Kid Robot

TOMOPOP

MyPlasticHeart

Vinyl Pulse

I’ll add more to this post as I think of it.