With his skillset, 3D modeler Miguel Zavala could be toiling away in any number of CAD boiler rooms, working for the man. But "five years ago…his wife inspired him to make a hobby of creating digital models for his own 3D printer," Polygon reports. "After getting a good response on Reddit, he started taking commissions for custom figures. Eventually that income became enough to pay the rent, he quit his day job to work at 3D modeling full time."
The digital models Zavala's been creating are of Dungeons & Dragons miniatures. If that doesn't sound particularly lucrative, consider that fan site Dungeon Vault reckons there's "13.7 million active tabletop D&D players worldwide." If just a fraction of them decide to shell out for 3D-printed monsters to augment their tabletop gaming, you're in business. And to date Zavala has modeled over 1,900 creatures and objects, making him the go-to guy.
Also interesting is how Zavala's business model works. Zavala has created "3D models of every single monster in Dungeons & Dragons' 5th edition, and [gives] away those digital files for free, so people with 3D printers can make them at home." The files have to be given away for free to avoid running afoul of the licensing rules of Wizards of the Coast, the company that owns the rights to Dungeons & Dragons.
Where Zavala makes his living is off of custom commissions and his Patreon, where he has amassed thousands of grateful supporters. Patrons of Zavala's gain access to a Google Drive that contains all of his files.
Zavala's files can be downloaded from Shapeways at the DM Workshop and the mz4250 pages.