No big surprise that UPS is getting into the 3-D printing business. After all, it’s not much different from the other printing services that they’ve offered for years. It’s a natural extension that literally adds a new dimension to the service printing industry.
This is exactly where 3-D printing will make the most sense (and profit) in the coming decades. Sure it’s nice to think about having a 3-D printer on your desk at home – but ask yourself – how many practical and useful things are you going to make from extruded plastic that will make it a pay to own one? A lot of the stuff we use and need are made of metal or a combination of different materials that an inexpensive home printer just can’t produce. A service business like UPS can invest in the higher-cost industrial printers and serve a broader market.
Staples announced last year that they’re offering 3-D printing using ordinary paper (Belgium & the Netherlands only) – obviously this has a more limited use but it’s a great match for a company that’s in the paper and office supply business.
In a few years I expect it to be pretty standard operating procedure to purchase a ‘licensed’ replacement part 3-D file from a manufacturer that you can take to the local print shop to print out for you. No waiting for delivery or shipping charges!