UPS
Technology

3D printing can bring your idea to life

UPS Global Brand Ambassador and pro golfer Lee Westwood

New service for inventors and entrepreneurs now expanding at The UPS Store.

When Carlsbad, Calif., entrepreneurs Nick Brooks and Jeff Russell needed a high-quality prototype for their innovative MyGo Mouth Mount for GoPro® design, they turned to The UPS Store® location in nearby San Diego. The store was an early test site for 3D printing, a hot technology that builds three-dimensional objects with layer upon layer of plastic or resin.

"A lot of our small business customers just come in with an idea. We set them up with a designer, or any other help they need, as part of our one-stop service approach."

The Mouth Mount attaches to the tiny GoPro camera, allowing adventurers (like surfers, skateboarders or mountain bikers) to capture live-action video footage. Orders for the Mouth Mount, which just launched in August 2014, are already coming in from retailers as far away as Italy and Australia.

"We emailed a digital file created on our CAD software, and the next day had the finished product to look at," Brooks says. "The turnaround time was great, and the price was very affordable."

After fine-tuning the design, Brooks used the final prototype to create a mold and start actual production in China – using UPS for shipping.

3D matters

San Diego was one of six original test sites of The UPS Store for 3D printing. The service has proven so valuable to startups, small businesses and retail customers in California that the program is expanding to 100 locations nationwide. You can find a complete list here.

Like Brooks and Russell, inventor Wes Kouba used computer-aided design (CAD) software to create his TornadoPod™ structure, meant to protect up to six occupants during a tornado or other storm. Dallas-based Kouba worked with The UPS Store in Frisco, Texas, to create working models that are one-twelfth the actual size. Kouba says having models to show prospective customers makes a huge difference.

How it works

3D printers at locations of The UPS Store accept digital files from most CAD software, says Daniel Remba, small business technology leader at The UPS Store. "But a lot of our small business customers just come in with an idea. We set them up with a designer, or any other help they need, as part of our one-stop service approach."

Remba says the 3D printing capability at The UPS Store is different from desktop units for home users. The high-end Stratasys uPrint SE Plus builds in ABS plastic using a heated chamber that produces models and prototypes with pinpoint accuracy. "That means we can make fully functional parts that will fit together just like LEGOs do."

An example is the perfect replica of a Ping golf putter that pro golfer Lee Westwood, UPS global brand ambassador, recently had made and used during a putting demonstration at The UPS Store in New York.

"We're always looking for new ways to help small businesses get things done, and 3D printing is a great tool," Remba says. "Using The UPS Store, small businesses can access this new technology affordably without having to invest in it themselves."

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