The UPS Store Fires First Salvo in U.S. Retail 3D Print Services

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Sep 6, 2013

In late July, The UPS Store announced an initiative to test 3D printing services via Stratasys equipment in select stores. The result has been significant publicity and interest in the offering. For example, the Clairemont, San Diego, location has received much attention due to the service since its debut three weeks ago. The owner, Burke Jones, spoke to Forbes about his store’s 3D printing service, the types of customers using it, pricing, and expectations for the future. One of the most interesting takeaways from Mr. Jones’ interview is who his customer base is. The majority are medical students and small businesses–a common demographic in and around Clairemont–whose rapid prototype needs fall in line with the offerings of Stratasys printer capabilities. Knowing the type of consumer and their applications are an important consideration for companies seeking entry into the 3D printing market.

Although The UPS Store is the first nationwide retailer to offer 3D printing services in store, Staples announced an initiative to bring 3D printing in-store and online. The partnership (with Ireland-based Mcor) will deliver 3D printing services to select European Staples locations. The first step in that plan was executed in April as a 3D printing “Experience Centre” at a Staples location in the Netherlands. The location offers customers hands-on interaction with Mcor 3D printers, presentations, and workshops. Despite a concrete launch date, the next step is the rollout of Staples’ “Easy 3D” online platform. This service will allow customers to upload designs online and then pick up the finished product in-store. If successful, Staples will expand the service to other countries. Stateside, Staples announced the availability of Cube 3D printers for purchase at retail locations–a first for major U.S. retailers.

For people interested in 3D printing services where there is no nearby walk-in option today, it’s no surprise that they can turn to the Web. For example, Shapeways allows users to upload designs, choose materials, and receive the finished 3D product. Furthermore, users can open their own shops within Shapeways to sell their original designs–iPhone cases are particularly popular. Another innovative website in this space is MakeXYZ. MakeXYZ is a service that connects owners of 3D printing equipment with people who want to use that equipment. The service operates very much like a print management network–users can choose from a variety of technologies and shop for the best price point. The website launched this service in January 2013 and encourages collaboration across the globe. Currently, MakeXYZ boasts a network surpassing 1,000 available printers in 45 countries.

According to analyst Terry Wohlers, 3D printing was a $2.2 billion dollar industry in 2012 and is expected to grow to $3.7 billion in revenue by 2015. The question from print service providers in the retail and quick print market is “should we be in this market?” The answer to that question will depend on the needs of their region and the willingness to learn how to approach the sales, advisory, and creative services sides of this business. In a similar vein, it is unlikely that The UPS Store deploys 3D printers to all 4,700 of its locations given that the successful placement of a 3D printing service really depends on demand in each market. What remains to be seen is whether or not FedEx Office, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, or any of the other franchisees within the retail and quick print market will follow The UPS Store’s lead. Either way, The UPS Store is benefiting from good press and a new reason to visit select stores.

Paul Rizzuto
Research Analyst, Document Outsourcing
paul.rizzuto@infotrends.com

InfoTrends tracks developments in the retail and quick print market through our Document Outsourcing Consulting Service and analyses such as the U.S. Retail and Quick Print Market Update and the broader 3D market through our Functional Industrial Printing Service and analyses such as 3D Printing: Technologies, Markets, and Opportunities.

 

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