In the past, 3D printing was something that either had to be done by an outsource service provider, or by purchasing your own 3D printer for use at home. However, things are changing in the industry.
One of the world’s most reputable freight carriers just announced it will begin rolling out 3D printing capabilities for its customers in select locations. A few UPS store owners have begun offering 3D printing for customers.
Why the Shift?
What’s behind the move by UPS? Actually, it’s designed to provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with better service and to fill a growing demand. Currently, UPS has six stores around the country that offer 3D printing, but they do more than just providing customers with access to the machines.
The company actually helps customers improve their creations, design the part or product, and then print it using a Stratasys 3D printer. The printers cost $21,000 each, and the owner of each UPS store had to purchase the machine out of their own money (they’re franchise owners).
How Does It Work?
UPS’ new service works pretty simply. In most cases, a customer creates a design with their drafting/CAD program, and then sends the design to the UPS store. Once there, the company downloads the design, puts it into the 3D printer, and then prints the piece.
It’s simple and effective, and provides customers who wouldn’t have access to a 3D printer on their own with access to this technology. As mentioned, the company can also modify plans to include additional features or to change existing features/measurements and more.
What Can Be Printed?
UPS lists a number of things that can be printed using its 3D printing service, including functional prototypes, manufacturing jigs and fixtures, architectural models and more.
One of the most interesting possibilities for small business owners and entrepreneurs is the ability to print custom accessories – anything from a smartphone case to a tablet cover to bobble-heads and anything in between.
Expansion of the Program
Currently, only six markets in the US have a UPS store with in-house 3D printing capabilities. However, the pilot program was so successful that UPS plans to roll out 3D printers to over 100 different locations around the US.
You can bet that these locations will be in urban or suburban areas where demand is highest. However, as the program matures, look for this technology to become more and more accessible and commonplace.
In a few years, it might be strange to find a UPS store that doesn’t offer 3D printing.
3D printing technology has been around for some time, but with higher industry adoption and new technological innovations, it’s becoming more and more accessible. As access improves, demand will continue to increase.
Because not everyone will be able to afford their own, services like UPS’ new offering will be essential to making 3D printing technology widely available to everyone on a large-scale basis.