How to start a 3D figurines business: the best solutions for 3D printed figurines

How to start a 3D figurines business: the best solutions for 3D printed figurines

What’s a 3D figurine, mini-me, 3D portraits or 3D selfie?

3D printed figurines are photo realistic miniature versions of a person made with a 3D printer.

They’re basically a 3D printed replica of a subject who must first be captured in 3D by a 3D full body scanner, usually a 3D scanning booth. 3D figurines go by many different names: 3D selfie, 3D portrait, mini-me or 3D photo. The market is still in its infancy stage, hence the variety of names referring to the same miniature figurines.

The end product for the customer of a 3D figurine service is a small 3D printed figurine of the subject captured, which can be one or several people (up to four in some cases), either standing or simply a bust.

How to start a 3D figurines or 3D selfie business?

Are you looking to start a 3D printing business? Starting a 3D selfie business might just be the right thing for you. As a 3D printing entrepreneur looking to launch a 3D figurines service, you basically have two options:

1. Purchasing all the equipment

If you intend to buy all the equipment to launch your 3D photo studio, you would need to purchase: a 3D body scanner (either a 3D scanning booth or a handheld 3D scanner), a professional full-color 3D printer, and the 3D software to operate the equipment and run the business.

Pros

  • Full control on the process with in-house 3D printing
  • No fees per figurine or a monthly subscription

Cons

  • Budget: significant initial investment
  • Technical expertise is required to build your own body scanner and process the scans using a 3D software to make them 3D printable as figurines
  • No support: no access to a dedicated 3D figurine software or online platform to manage orders

2. Using a turnkey 3D figurines solution

Typically, you’d be purchasing a 3D scanning booth and the 3D software specifically designed to run a 3D selfie business. The 3D printing part is outsourced to specialized vendors (usually a global network of 3D printing services).

Pros

  • Reduced initial investment
  • 3D scanning booth specifically designed to capture people/pets for 3D figurines
  • Access to online platform for 3D figurine business management and dedicated 3D scanning software
  • Global network of vendors equipped for full-color 3D printing

Cons

  • Monthly subscription fee for software and cloud platform + fee per 3D printed figurine 
  • Lower control on the 3D printing process (outsourced to vendors)

The best 3D printed figurines systems for starting a business

Twindom Twinstant Mobile

  • Company: Twindom is a startup based in San Francisco, right near the Silicon Valley.
  • Price: $26,695 + $299/month cloud subscription + fee per 3D printed figurine
  • Benefits:

Portability: the Twinstant Mobile system takes around 20 minutes to set up

Ease of use: The Twinstant Scanner app has a quite simple point-and-click interface and requires no special 3D software the user has to download. The system comes with a laptop (included in the purchase price) with everything you need to run the 3D figurine business pre-installed.

Automatic processing of 3D scans: One of the most overlooked parts of running a 3D printed figurine business is the time it takes to process scans with consistent quality. With the Twindom Cloud Platform, all processing is automated and users don’t need to learn any 3D modeling software. Scans are ready to be shown to customers within 10 minutes of capture.

Cost-effective fulfillment: Twindom offers, via its network of partners, 3D printed figurines at much lower rates than most other companies (a 6-inch 3D printed figurine costs around $49 and ships in 1-2 weeks and includes all processing/retouching/printing in a single flat price).

HD retouching: Twindom also just launched HD retouching as an option for 3D printed figurines, which brings the quality on par with the output from DSLR pure photogrammetry 3D scanners for a much lower cost. 

In a nutshell: When it comes to 3D figurines business, Twindom is by far our go-to recommendation. The Twinstant Mobile 3D scanning booth is currently the most advanced turnkey 3D figurines system, allowing hundreds of business owners worldwide to deliver a high-quality results consistently and run a profitable operations.

Artec Shapify

  • Company: Artec is a company based in Luxembourg and originally from Russia, specialized in professional-grade handheld 3D scanners. The launched the Shapify system as a separate brand to tap into the fast-growing market of 3D printed figurines
  • Price: $39,000 + $20 per digital 3D model
  • Benefits

Fast: the Shapify 3D selfie booth offers one-click body scanning in just 12 seconds with automatic data post-processing. The 3D printable model is generated in around 15 minutes.

Open system: for the 3D printing, you can either order the 3D printed figurines through Artec’s 3D printing service (ensuring the print quality) or print the figurine yourself if you own a suitable full color 3D printer.

In a nutshell: The Shapify system is build by a well-established 3D scanner manufacturer, Artec, and offer the option to bypass the Artec fulfillment system for the 3D printing part of the process if you already own a full-color 3D printer.

The best 3D printers for 3D figurines

There are only a few 3D printers capable of printing photo realistic figurines in full-color. The industry’s reference is the Projet 660 by 3D Systems. This model is used by most 3D figurines business, either directly or via the network of 3D printing services which they use to take care of 3D printing of the figurines.

If you plan to start a 3D figurines business, investing in a full-color 3D printer might not always be a good choice. These machines are quite expensive (starting around $80k), require advanced expertise to operate, maintenance and consumables… That’s why most 3D printing business resort to external 3D printing services for fulfillment of their orders.

This approach allows 3D selfie business owners to focus on the 3D capture part using a 3D scanning booth ( on location in malls or events, or in a 3D photo studio for example). The 3D model obtained is then send to an external vendor, equipped with the right 3D printers for figurines, to produce high-quality mini-me figurines and ship them directly to the final customers.

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