It’s starting to become a truth that if you can’t find an additive manufacturing (AM) service, you really aren’t trying. Forget easy web searches, or online portals, soon you’ll be able to stumble across 3D printing by visiting Staples or just by walking down the street. AM is set to be as ubiquitous as the old copy centers were. Adding to this plethora of opportunity is UPS.
Following a small business poll in which respondents were generally favorable to the option of 3D printing services, the company has decided to test the waters of AM. A select number of the more than 4,300 stores in the US will be offering the service, beginning in San Diego. UPS is looking to fill the needs of its customer base for rapid prototyping, artistic renderings, and promotional materials.
“Start-ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners may not have the capital to purchase a 3D printer on their own, but they may have a need to show prototypes to their current and potential customers,” said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and small business solutions at The UPS Store. “By offering 3D printing capabilities in-center, we’re able to help further our small business customers’ opportunities for success.”
For the test run, UPS has selected Stratasys’ uPrint SE Plus AM system. For those without an encyclopedic knowledge of 3D printers, the uPrint SE Plus is a professional desktop system with a build envelope of 203 x 203 x 152 mm (8 x 8 x 6 in.). The system uses Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling process (ASTM material extrusion) with a variable layer thickness of .254 mm (.010 in.) or .330 mm (.013 in.).
In a nutshell, the uPrint SE Plus has plenty of AM power for the purposes UPS is proposing. The printer’s capabilities straddle the line between affordability and end-use. If the only material extrusion models you’ve seen have come from RepRap-like 3D printers, this system should have significantly better quality with slimmer strata.
Assuming the test run proves customer interest, we could be well on the way to neighborhood AM services. My only concern with the test run is that a single 3D printer may not be able to keep up with demand. It’d be a shame if long wait times deflected some of the interest in AM.
Below you’ll find the announcement video for UPS’ newest service.