Sophomore finds passion in 3D printing business

Aybika Kamil | The Chronicle

Mason High School (MHS) sophomore Imran Akbar navigates the dimensions included in forging his own 3D printing business. 

Photo contributed by Imran Akbar
Sophomore Imran Akbar creates a project on Fusion 360 for his 3D printing business.

Akbar began this journey in 2021 after he saved up for a few years and bought an Ender 3 V2 printer. Learning how to operate it, he printed and sold products such as combination locks, flexible toy lizards and other custom orders requested by his buyers. 

“I was excited,” Akbar said. “But at the time, I hadn’t thought about the full possibilities of [the printer] because I was 12.”

With this curiosity, Akbar said that he learned how to manage a self-made business and explored aspects of it by doing research online. 

“I watched a lot of videos and found out some of the things that [businesses] did, some of the different strategies and then the different things that sold well,” Akbar said.

Akbar started off designing on a beginner-friendly application called Tinkercad when he first began 3D printing. However, as he ventured into the more complicated realm of design from producing products for his business, Akbar needed a program that would be able to handle complex projects. 

“I moved to Fusion 360 which definitely [has] a learning curve to it,” Akbar said. “Again, a lot of YouTube videos helped but it’s a bit more complicated to use. But [I had] a lot more freedom designing stuff with that.”

Although his business had been running smoothly, Akbar ran into drawbacks with his printer. It had quality issues when it printed and he had to fix it often. Akbar attempted to upgrade and refine the machine but eventually decided to buy a new 3D printer with the profit he had earned from his business. 

“With this new printer, it’s been pretty great,” Akbar said. “Over the last summer, [3D printing] grew on me a lot, it became a more significant portion of my life.”

Akbar has a generally wide variety of customers which mainly includes students from school. Recently, he designed a fitted and custom Mandalorian helmet as a part of a costume for someone. Being able to access complex design programs and a better printer, Akbar has printed hyperrealistic projects. 

“Even my extended family, I made some things for them,” Akbar said. “My grandparents had a cat that passed away. So I made the 3D model of the cat and they were really happy about that.”

This new printer had a multitude of functions that his old printer didn’t have, allowing Akbar more creative freedom. He was able to work with different materials and also print multicolored objects. Akbar unlocked projects he would not have been able to take on before by utilizing these new features. With the carbon fiber filament, Akbar has made a custom exhaust for his father’s 911 Porsche Carrera. 

“I enjoy the creativity that you can have,” Akbar said. “I only use the models I designed to sell [so] I got into modeling more complex things.” 

Starting a 3D printing business opened many doors of opportunity for Akbar. His uncle helped him network and get in communication with leading corporate pioneers in 3D printing. 

Akbar said he hopes to continue expanding his business and exploring where it could go in the future. He intends to bring his 3D printer with him to college, if possible, to reach a wider demographic. Akbar said he views his business as a supplement to his goals. 

“It’s definitely a great side thing,” Akbar said. “It’s kind of similar to having an internship or a side job.” 

By managing his 3D printing business, Akbar has been able to take on leadership roles. Akbar said that this has aided him in refining his character.

“Managing my finances and everything is another part of it that I hope is going to be helpful in the future,” Akbar said. “It’s made me more responsible. I also [feel] inclined to go into business as a career.”