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Game changer: UPS launches 3-D printing network

Innovative 3-D printing technology at work at Fast Radius

From bird beaks to flippers to lifesaving cancer treatments, innovative technological integrations have transformed 3-D printing from a tech fad to a manufacturing game changer.

Now, UPS, Fast Radius and The UPS Store® are combining 3-D printing (also called additive manufacturing) with another 21st century marvel: the cloud.

The first nationwide retailer to offer in-store 3-D printing, more than 60 locations of The UPS Store in the United States are being networked with Fast Radius' large-scale 3-D printing factory near the UPS Worldport® air hub in Louisville, Ky. The benefit is more choices on materials, speed and cost, all available through one digital platform. As a result, orders can be shipped as early as same day and arrive the next morning.

In addition, UPS is teaming up with SAP, a multinational software developer, to create an on-demand manufacturing and logistics network tailored to larger companies such as Jabil Circuits, the third-largest manufacturer in the world and a co-innovation partner in the effort. SAP users will be able to digitize and simplify parts production, and their orders will flow seamlessly to UPS for production and delivery.

Bringing ideas to fruition

Small business owners, entrepreneurs and inventors nationwide are already taking advantage of The UPS Store's 3-D printing capabilities to bring their ideas to fruition, says Daniel Remba, small business technology leader for The UPS Store. "They've been using our printers for prototyping, product development and making individual spare parts or components."

Remba shares this example: The inventors of MyGo Mouth Mount for GoPro, a camera mount that you hold in your mouth while surfing, used a 3-D printer at a The UPS Store location in San Diego. "They tested several prototypes, refined their design, found a manufacturer and built a successful business from there.

"Because of the link with Fast Radius, projects can be handled at their facility or at our stores, depending on the complexity of the job, the equipment and the timing," Remba says. "A lot of times 3-D printing is about finding the right technology and materials needed for the task at hand. If you need 5,000 parts that are about an inch or so in size, Fast Radius would be a perfect place to get that done."

Rick Smith, CEO of Fast Radius, sees several advantages for small business owners. "They now have access to advanced prototyping and manufacturing capabilities without having to make the traditionally restrictive upfront cash investment."

Ultimate flexibility and speed

Faster throughput is another advantage. As an example, Smith cites Georgia-Pacific, where an engineer needed 40 brackets for a gear mechanism in a hurry. "He uploaded the plastic part files on a Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and signed for his parts at 9:30 a.m. the next morning."

Another Fast Radius customer is American Holt, which delivers spare parts to manufacturing plants around the world to keep machines up and running. "These parts are rarely needed, and therefore cost a lot to hold in inventory," Smith says. Many parts are now simply printed on demand, in the exact quantities needed. "This eliminates costly physical inventory while increasing flexibility," Smith adds.

To learn more about Fast Radius or get a quote, visit fastradius.com. UPS customers who need help are also welcome to call or visit a The UPS Store location that offers 3-D printing.

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