UPS is going to test 3D printing in its stores. It could be the beginning of a whole new business for the delivery firm

3D printing: Out of the box

Aug 6th 2013, 18:39 by P.M.


THE emergence of three-dimensional (3D) printing will have a revolutionary effect on manufacturing, but it may be equally disruptive for firms that make much of their living warehousing and delivering spare parts for companies. Now, one of the biggest delivery firms, UPS, is going to test 3D printing in its stores. Stratasys, a Minneapolis company which is one of the leading makers of 3D printers, will provide its uPrint SE desktop machines to six UPS Stores in America for a trial programme. These machines will allow customers to bring their designs to the store and have them printed out as objects—in much the same way as people take two-dimensional digital documents to the store and have them printed on paper. The uPrint machines can produce items in plastic in a range of colours and make bigger objects in finer detail than consumer-level 3D printers. UPS expects designers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and architects seeking models to be among its customers for 3D printing services. Some people might also be seeking spare parts: it is often small plastic items that break in products, but they can be difficult and expensive to find. Some industrial 3D printers can print metal components too.

“3D printing has the potential to turn manufacturing supply chains on their head,” reckons Anthony Vicari of Lux Research in a report assessing the future of the 3D-printing industry. Despite plenty of hype, 3D printing is not about to replace mass manufacturing, but will enhance it with the ability to make one-offs and small batches of items relatively cheaply.

Instead of holding a central stock of spare parts and distributing them with overnight delivery firms, like UPS, it becomes possible for companies to store digital designs on a server and have the files downloaded and printed out locally whenever new parts are needed. This could be done by a carmaker’s dealers, for instance. Repairmen fixing domestic appliances might print simple components in the back of their vans.

Even if there is no access to the original design file, it is possible to use 3D scanners to reverse-engineer items and then print them out. This could open up a can of worms in patent and design infringements, and it remains to be seen how UPS will deal with such copying. Classic-car restorers already reverse-engineer and 3D-print components to fix vehicles for which parts are no longer obtainable.

The UPS trial is only an experiment to see what the real level of interest in 3D printing will be. Nevertheless, it could evolve into a whole new type of business for the delivery company.

The UPS Store to offer 3D printing service in select San Diego locations (video)

By Melissa Grey posted Jul 31st, 2013 at 6:26 PM79 

Today, The UPS Store announced its plan to bring 3D printing services to the masses. The shipping company will soon roll out Stratasys Uprint SE Plus printers to 6 locations in San Diego to test out the new service; it’ll be aimed at small businesses, start-ups and retail customers in need of a professional grade model to produce things like prototypes and artistic renderings. At $20,900 a pop, Stratasys printers aren’t exactly the kind of gadget you’d purchase for home use, so their availability at UPS stores is a pretty major step towards making high quality 3D printing an accessible option for the common man. Though the company is starting small, it hopes to expand the service nationwide, provided that the San Diego experiment proves successful. For more info, check out the video after the break.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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