Need a Prototype? 3-D Printers Coming to UPS Stores

The shipping giant has made 3-D printing available in a San Diego franchise and will extend the offering to five other cities across the U.S. in the next two months as part of a pilot program.

learn more about Catherine Clifford

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

3-D printing is going mainstream.

You'll soon be able to walk into a UPS store and use a 3-D printer, according to a statement from the shipping giant released this week. The UPS Store is testing out a pilot program where it will have 3-D printers available in its franchise locations. The rollout kicked off in a San Diego store this week. In the next two weeks, a franchise in Washington, D.C., will also get one.

To see whether customers use the service, UPS will have 3-D printers installed in another four cities in the next two months, according to Chelsea Lee, a spokeswoman for UPS. The shipping giant declined to disclose the locations of the next four UPS stores to get 3-D printers.

Related: Why eBay's 'Exact' Project Isn't the 3-D Printing Solution for the Masses -- So Far, Anyway

For entrepreneurs looking to make a prototype of their product, finding access to a 3-D printer can be a challenge. "Start-ups, entrepreneurs and small-business owners may not have the capital to purchase a 3-D printer on their own, but they may have a need to show prototypes to their current and potential customers," said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing at UPS, in a statement.

The shipping giant is piloting the program with the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus printer, which has the ability to print more fine details than 3-D printers that some consumers have in their homes. With the Stratasys uPrint printers, entrepreneurs will be able to print engineering parts, functional prototypes, architectural models, fixtures for cameras, lights and cables, UPS says.

Related: Youngstown, Ohio, a Leader in 3-D Printing and Manufacturing Innovation, Says Obama

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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