You may soon be able to use a 3D printer without having to buy one first. The UPS Store, with over 4,300 locations across the United States and Canada, announced their intention to begin putting 3D printers in selected UPS stores for customer use.
Although locations for the first printers and a price schedule have not been released, the UPS store is specifically targeting small business owners who need to develop prototypes but who can’t justify the cost of a $10,000 to $50,000 3D printer on their own. Other small business uses for the 3D printer include creating customized and branded items which can help promote a small business to potential customers.
The 3D printer chosen for the initial UPS Store rollout is the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus with a base price of $20,900. (It is unknown what options the UPS Store printers will include.)
As a mid-range 3D printer, the Stratasys offers much higher quality than home and small office 3D printers without raising per-model costs above what a small business can afford.
The superior quality of a mid-range 3D printer will allow small businesses to print precision parts which fit together, a task usually beyond the ability of current-generation home and small office 3D printers. The UPS store claims that this will allow small businesses to create working models as well as replacement equipment which can not be bought through standard channels.
Costs Of 3-D Printing At The UPS Store
The Stratasys 3D printer takes ABSPlus model material, which costs approximately $150 per spool. Each spool contains 30 cubic inches of material, allowing the creation of approximately one pint-sized solid object or a about 10 hollow pint-sized containers.
For a small business which would otherwise need to hire a craftsman for several hours at $50 an hour or more, the seemingly high cost of using a 3D printer is actually a bargain—and a time saver. UPS stores are typically open from dawn to dusk and 3D printing on a mid-range printer takes only 15 to 60 minutes per model, so small businesses can probably expect to get their models within the same business day—a significant improvement over traditional custom fabrication.
To create a 3D model, small business owners will need to bring to the UPS Store a complete Computer Aided Design (CAD) model in any one of several supported file formats. The customer’s USB drive will be connected to a computer and a preview generated. Once the customer is happy, staff at the UPS Store will begin printing while the customer either waits or returns later to pickup his or her completed model.
Models can, of course, be shipped overnight domestically or internationally directly from the UPS Store, making the 3D printer even more convenient for small businesses that need to make models for current or potential clients.
How To Find 3-D Printing Near You
The UPS Store website now lists 3D printing under its small business solutions, but the only store supporting 3D printing as of this writing is store #6322 in San Diego, CA. As UPS rolls out printers to more locations, look for a location-finding tool to appear on the UPS website.