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Out of the Box: UPS and 3D Printing

Anyone who keeps up with supply chain news understands by now that 3D printing will have a revolutionary effect on business as usual, but an article at The Economist discusses what it will mean now that UPS is going to test 3D printing in its stores. The company Stratasys is providing the machines to six UPS Stores, where designers, architects, and maybe just the curious will take advantage of their services in the same way one would seek out a UPS Store to print something made on paper. For UPS itself, the printers could mean having the ability to print spare parts on demand according to files kept on a server, rather than having to ship parts overnight. The article gives the example that car dealers too could print out parts in such a way. And as it turns out, 3D scanners are making it so that items can be reverse-engineered and printed out as well. This will likely be a blessing and a curse, as its convenience will be offset by the potential for patent infringement. This particular article does not view 3D printing as utterly usurping the standard method of producing and shipping supplies, but I am not so sure. After all, nobody could have imagined social media would so wholly alter the way we interact with friends and colleagues until it up and happened.

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