At the end of July, The UPS Store announced a new trial program where it would offer 3D printing services in-store. Such services will be available to students, start-ups, businesses, and retail customers in San Diego and Washington D.C.
Okay, so it’s only a limited start, but it’s a sign of what’s to come.
As mentioned in my response to the exaggerated hype 3D printing has been receiving in the media, I argued that we won’t necessarily see a 3D printer in every home, but that we will probably see increased services and programs at office supply stores and print centers. I thought FedEx would be the first to offer such services, but The UPS Store beat them to it.
3D printing at copy/banner/print centers? It just makes sense.
Where do most people go to have their vacation photos printed – do they do it at home with their color printers, or do they hire the job out to a photo lab? Most people will order prints from a photo lab.
Despite the availability of small and affordable 3D printers within affordable reach of consumers’ budgets, we are bound to see a future where you can alternatively upload a digital design at home and pick up the physical object a few hours later at a local print center.
Participating UPS Stores accept read-to-print designs, but also offer consultation services where customers can work with an in-house designer. According to a recent Forbes article, approximately 90% of the customers who visited the participating San Diego UPS Store location had taken advantage of the consulting services.
It will be interesting to see where things go from here, but the advantages of the program expanding to other UPS Stores, or possibly kicking off at FedEx/Kinkos locations, are clear.
Such brick-and-mortar printing services allow for better print quality than small and affordable desktop printers, and without any of the required investment or maintenance. Plus, once things stabilize, lead times should be shorter than with today’s reputable but slow online printing services.
I believe that in the future there will be strong parallels between how and where you can have photos and 3D objects printed. There are already at-home printing solutions as well as online services available to the public. Now, starting with just two UPS Store locations, we have the first in-store printing services.
I think it would be a reach to expect for every UPS Store to offer design consultation services, but there is no reason why we won’t see increased expansion of upload-print-pickup services, at least in bigger cities.
The Stratasys uPrint SE Plus printer is a pricey piece of equipment, but perhaps we’ll see a special version of the MakerBot Replicator at smaller UPS Store locations, now that Stratasys has officially acquired the younger company.
More Info(via The UPS Store)