As 3D printing hype continues to sway back and forth in the public eye, the shipping giant United Parcel Service (UPS) has shown over and over again that they believe the hype is real. Back in September 2014, UPS announced that 3D printing services were coming to 100 of their nationwide stores, and since then, the shipping company has continued to expand upon their additive manufacturing services.
Last year, they partnered with a startup called CloudDDM to build a full-scale manufacturing facility within UPS’ worldwide hub, which is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Even more recently, UPS also implemented the cloud-based 3D design platform talk3D into The UPS Store located in Tucson, Arizona, which allows their customers to create their own 3D models with help from online professionals. Apparently, UPS is showing no sign of letting off the additive manufacturing gas pedal, as they’ve just announced yet another partnership that stands to expand their 3D printing services even further.
UPS has just announced that they’re teaming up with the supply chain company SAP SE, who will assist UPS in creating a so-called “end-to-end system,” which will handle the entire manufacturing process from the initial manufacturing order to the final product shipment. UPS made the official announcement at SAP’s Orlando, Florida-based Sapphire Now conference, one of the largest business technology events around. At the conference stating that the new integrated service should be available during the first quarter of 2017.
According to Alan Amling, the vice president of UPS Supply Chain Solutions, the move could enable the shipping company to take an order, 3D print, and deliver a part within a 24-hour window. The service will be especially useful for companies that wish to reduce the amount of inventory they have to carry, and will be able to simply order on-demand 3D printed parts straight from UPS. The system will work intelligently as well, analyzing each order to ensure that it is indeed 3D printable, and will also decide whether it’s more efficient to print the part or just pull it from their stock.
“Technology innovations such as 3D printing are revolutionizing traditional manufacturing and redefine our notion of the industrial supply chain,” said Bernd Leukert, a member of the Executive Board, Products & Innovations, SAP SE. “By bringing together the on-demand manufacturing and logistics expertise of UPS and the extended supply chain leadership of SAP, we can enable direct digital manufacturing and an on-demand industrial manufacturing network that connects from manufacturing floor to the customer door.”
Once the ordered part is approved as printable, the approval process can either be handled manually by UPS employees, or automatically through a set of rules that helps route the order. The UPS customers that will utilize this service won’t just be creating 3D printed novelty items either, the plan is to provide functional production parts and components to a variety businesses. UPS already has well-established customers using their 3D printing services, such as the camera company GoPro and the ergonomic furniture manufacturer HumanScale.
Amling likens the upcoming service to Shutterfly, which is an on-demand online service that enables consumers to upload photos and create customized photo albums. It’s a fair comparison, but in my opinion, doesn’t truly do justice to the potential innovation that a 3D printing-centered UPS facility could provide for both businesses and the additive manufacturing industry as a whole. As UPS and SAP collaborate on bringing this on-demand facility into full effect, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more companies integrating on-demand 3D printed parts and components into their products, which will help them cut down on stock, and in turn, increase innovation. Discuss in the UPS 3D Printing Manufacturing Center forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Fortune / 12 News]