Last week I walked into The UPS Store in State College, PA for a reason unrelated to 3D printing and was met with the outdoor sign, “We 3D print” and a Stratasys uPrint on the floor. I checked in the with the store manager, Victor DeDonato, and he gave me an interesting scoop on the franchise’s entry into the 3D printing market, which began about a year ago.
The State College store is one of the top UPS Store locations for printing services in Pennsylvania, he said, and has good geographical positioning. While the store promotes its 3D printing via its web presence, it also capitalizes on foot traffic, so when people come into the store for printing or shipping services, they walk right into the sign and, subsequently, the 3D printer itself. The high volume of print work translates into a higher than average exposure for its 3D printing capabilities.
I was curious about how the franchise handles design. Isn’t this a challenge for its customers? Not at all, DeDenato said. The store has an Occipital 3D scanner in the back (which uses FDM modeling) which it uses to create files for models with non-working parts. Its $60/hour charge for this services keeps down the frivolous requests. For models requiring working parts, it sends out to a third-party 3D vendor in Baltimore, MD, that charges an appropriate rate. Turnaround on outsourced files is two to three weeks.
DeDonato also pointed to the presence of Penn State University, especially with its robust engineering program, as a justification for this investment. University towns tend to have a higher “technology IQ” anyway, and with the presence of Penn State’s engineering students and faculty, its customer base tends to be better able to make the connection between capability and opportunity.
The UPS Store’s most recent 3D project? A replica of a model train that is no longer in production. The customer was an amateur model train enthusiast who ultimately purchased 10 models of this particular train. “It was a really fun project to work on,” says DeDonato.
DeDonato notes that the store does offer wholesale pricing for printers or distributors looking to get into 3D printing without making the capital investment or doing the discovery process themselves.
Where are you seeing new installs of 3D printers? What business models do you see? Do you think any of them are successful?