For companies that don’t have the expertise or budget to invest in their own 3D printing equipment, service bureaus have stepped in to provide outsourced production capabilities. United Parcel Service (UPS) and SAP are teaming up to accelerate this type of outsourcing, and have launched a distributed network that will allow customers to order and receive printed parts within a day — a solution that the companies have characterized as being like a 3D print version of Shutterfly.
UPS already offered 3D printing stations in its stores, and partnered with start-up CloudDDM to create a 3D printing manufacturing facility in Louisville, KY. The new venture will utilize SAP’s supply chain technology to create an end-to-end system to manage the entire process.
“UPS is a leader in bringing industrial-strength 3D printing to reality. By building this disruptive technology into our supply chain models, we also bring new value to our manufacturing customers of all sizes,” said Stan Deans, president, UPS Global Distribution & Logistics. “Additive manufacturing technology is still developing rapidly so ‘manufacturing as a service’ is a smart approach for many companies.”
Customers will submit orders at the Fast Radius website that are then printed at the company’s Louisville, KY, shipping hub or at the closest of the company’s 60 3D printer-equipped UPS Store locations. Depending on the complexity of the item, customers could receive prototypes as quickly as the same day.
The system will allow companies to access on-demand manufacturing integrated with nationwide logistics network quickly and easily. SAP views the solution as a way for its customers to digitize and simplify production part approval processes.
“Technology innovations such as 3D printing are revolutionizing traditional manufacturing and redefine our notion of the industrial supply chain,” said Bernd Leukert, member of the Executive Board, Products & Innovations, SAP SE. “By bringing together the on-demand manufacturing and logistics expertise of UPS and the extended supply chain leadership of SAP, we can enable direct digital manufacturing and an on-demand industrial manufacturing network that connects from manufacturing floor to the customer door.”
According to the companies, the new service will benefit manufacturers that want to reduce slow-moving part inventories; companies with short production runs; custom or semi-custom goods manufacturers; industrial engineers who require rapid prototyping; and start-ups with no access to 3D printing equipment.
The companies made the announcement at SAP’s Sapphire Now conference. The service will be available in the first quarter of 2017.