3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a 30-year-old technology, but it remains an enigma to many manufacturers who wonder if it’s a fad or if it has applications beyond product design and prototyping.

The 3D printing industry has seen staggering growth in recent years, and its uses are expanding every day. Manufacturers of all sizes can use 3D printing to reap benefits such as faster product development, increased customization opportunities and lower inventory storage costs. Demand for 3D printers, materials and services will exceed $10 billion by 2018, according to Wohlers Associates. Clearly, additive manufacturing has finally hit its stride.

Smartphone manufacturers already use 3D printing to build hardware and internal parts that can be upgraded. Some medical devices companies also have embraced 3D printing. For example, there are more than 10 million 3D-printed hearing aids in circulation worldwide today.

Just this year, UPS launched an on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network, which links UPS’s world-class global logistics network with 3D printers at more than 60 of The UPS Store locations across the United States. The company does this via Fast Radius’ On Demand Production Platform™ and 3D printing factory at the UPS Worldport in Louisville, Ky. UPS invested in Fast Radius in 2015, to learn more about 3D printing and its potential while bringing the benefits to its customers.

“By building this disruptive technology into our supply chain models, we also bring new value to our manufacturing customers of all sizes,” said Stan Deans, President, UPS Global Distribution & Logistics. “Additive manufacturing technology is still developing rapidly so ‘manufacturing as a service’ is a smart approach for many companies.” 

This year’s partnership with The UPS Store makes 3D printing’s convenience and cost savings accessible to even more potential users: 
  • Manufacturers who don’t currently have access to 3D printers 
  • Industrial designers and engineers who want high-quality prototypes delivered as fast as one day
  • Manufacturers and retailers of custom/semi-custom products, as additive manufacturing allows cost-effective customization of goods
  • Manufacturers with short production runs where the cost to create the mold or tooling could make these orders too expensive for traditional manufacturing
  • Manufacturers wanting to reduce inventory and cut warehousing costs

To place 3D printing orders, customers should visit the Fast Radius website (www.fastradius.com). Orders will be routed to the optimal printing location – either the Fast Radius facility in Louisville or a local UPS Store location based on required speed, geography and product quality. UPS can ship orders that require delivery as early as the same day. The UPS on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network simplifies the industrial manufacturing process from digitization, certification, order-to-manufacturing and delivery.

So, while some skeptics may continue to debate its future, the reality is that 3D printing is destined for important applications across the supply chain. That means manufacturers finally can reap the benefits 3D printing has promised for decades.

AMT and IMTS are proud to have UPS as our Global Logistics Provider.