UPS to test 3-D printing at some stores
The company says small business owners are interested in having the new technology made available to the public.
UPS (UPS) says it will become the first nationwide retailer to test 3-D printing services in its stores -- marking a financial step forward for the nascent technology. The tests will begin in the San Diego area in the near future and will spread to additional U.S. cities.
UPS says a recent poll of small business owners, conducted by its UPS Store business service centers, showed "high interest" in making the 3-D printers available to help customers create such items as prototypes, promotional materials and artistic renderings.
"Start-ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners may not have the capital to purchase a 3-D printer on their own, but they may have a need to show prototypes to their current and potential customers," Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and small business solutions at The UPS Store, said in a press statement.
The printing was in its infancy just a couple of years ago and is still hard to find. But the technology has been found to have a wide variety of applications, from customized stents and synthetic bones for medical procedures to clothing, car parts and even food production. It has also sparked a revolution in the concept of manufacturing, as well as a huge increase in demand.
For its tests, UPS says it will use industrial-strength 3-D printers made by Stratasys (SSYS) -- printers that, compared to current home versions, can create detailed objects with greater accuracy. And by offering this state-of-the art printer, UPS envisions people coming to its stores "to produce items like engineering parts, functional prototypes, acting props, architectural models, fixtures for cameras, lights and cables."
However, it may not be too long until the 3-D printer becomes an essential piece of machinery in not only stores and businesses but homes. According to a study by researchers at Michigan Technological University, open-source 3-D printers can basically pay for themselves, by recovering material costs, in less than one year.
"For the average American consumer, 3-D printing is ready for showtime," Associate Professor Joshua Pearce, the study's co-author, told Michigan Tech News. "It would be a different kind of capitalism, where you don’t need a lot of money to create wealth for yourself or even start a business."
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