Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.
What: 3D printing took off in the last decade. Michael Lynn is one of several entrepreneurs who are using the tools as a business.
Company founded: 2018
Where: 8151 White Settlement Road
White Settlement 76108
The Fort Worth Report interviewed Michael Lynn, 30, owner of 3D Print Everything.
Why did you start the company?
Michael Lynn: Where I was working before, I saw the writing on the wall. I wanted to be self-employed again anyway, so I bought my first 3D printer. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I knew I wanted to be in technology, but not sitting on a computer writing code. I bought the printer, figured it out, took about two, three months to get used to it. Break it. Fix it. Break it. Fix it. That’s how you learn.
When a lot of other people get started in 3D printing, they might have an invention like printing cookie cutters and sell them on Etsy or something. I didn’t have anything that I was going to just immediately start to resell.
I had seen through a TED Talk that I could put a Google listing on my house and just put a business right there, even though it wasn’t a full- on business yet. I was like, “Well, heck with it. I’m going to do that.”
So I just put it on my Facebook page and literally the next day, I had my first phone call.
It was: “Oh, hey, you do 3D printing? Can you print this for me?” My second day.
What’s the first job that made you realize this might work?
What I remember is one of my first decent sized jobs was a birthday party for a 10-year-old. It was like $750, and I printed a whole bunch of stuff kind of “Beauty and the Beast” themed.
And I was like, “OK, well that just paid for my printer and then some, so let’s keep this going.”
Six months in, I got business cards. A year in, I decided to take it full time and separate the bank account, get a sole proprietorship, that sort of thing. Since then, I haven’t advertised at all, ever. It’s literally just been people calling me from my Google listing and word of mouth. It’s continuously grown. I’ve got a lot of companies now that have been working for me or working with me for two to four years or more. I get a lot of repeat business and those help keep the lights on and pay the energy bill. I moved, so I did everything out of my house for a while.
Back in November, I moved into the Tarrant County Maker Space. I’ve got a storefront location inside of that on a little strip in White Settlement. It’s a little easier to meet with people here than at my house.
That’s a lot of growth.
Lynn: I got so busy that in the past two months, I partnered with another local 3D print shop. I became good friends with the owner, and he’s taken over about 80% of my machines. He’s actually operating them and providing maintenance to them so that I can have more time to focus on communicating with clients and taking in more jobs.
I even started a side gig where I’m working with a guy locally with his startup where he builds subwoofers and I just started a separate side company as a party event/rental organizing company.
We’re organizing parties and events as well as renting our sound system out on the side. I also work with him on designing new speakers that we’re going to sell. I’m 3D printing these really cool speakers for them, and combining what 3D printing can do with the audiophile scene.
What’s something people should know about 3D printing?
Lynn: Probably one of the biggest misconceptions is that you can just easily scan something and then 3D print it immediately. Sometimes I get that call where it’s like, “Oh yeah, you can just scan it, and then I can 3D print it, right?” And it’s like, “Well, I can scan it, but there’s a lot of holes and issues.”
It’s not ready to be 3D printed without another two to five hours of having someone manually clean and fix those holes and make sure that the measurements are correct. You can have a 3D print ready model. But otherwise it’s just that people don’t know that they have a broken part or they have something they need made, and 3D printing is the right way to go with it.
So it can depend. If you’re like, “Hey, I’m building a race car. There is no dash, and I’m using these custom gauges.” I had a guy happily spend $1,600 just to get a dash cluster, and he was extremely happy with it.
He spent a pretty penny, but that’s also a race car that’s probably worth between $60,000 to $100,000. It’s relative to what you’re spending it on. If you’re trying to get large parts for your $2,000 car, you could spend as much as your car versus if you’re building something really unique and the part is not available.
Anything you wish you’d known five years ago when you started that you learned along the way?
Lynn: How much I needed to charge. In the beginning, I lost a lot of money. A lot. The very first lesson was: charge people up front. Because I’d tell someone, “Hey, it’ll be $80.” OK, it’ll be ready in two days. “I’ll pick up on Friday,” they’d say and then four weeks later, I’ve spent $20 printing for their $80 print and they haven’t picked it up. Now that happens 15 times, and I’ve got a shelf full of crap that I don’t need or want, and no one’s come to pick it up or paid for it and I’ve spent all my time working on their projects instead of somebody else who’s paying.
When I initially switched to paying 100% upfront or a minimum – paying half up upfront. Everyone generally comes to pick up their parts, or at least 95% of the people.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.