At $20,000 or more, a 3D printer is a big investment for a small business, especially if you're not sure it's right for your company.
But there may soon be a better option.
Staples and UPS are both starting to offer 3D printing services, not unlike the traditional photo printing sections of drugstores. Both stores have designed their programs to help start-ups and small businesses try out the technology.
UPS already has six stores that allow the production of prototypes, art, marketing material, and custom objects. While some details have yet to be finalized, the store hopes that the usage of their uPrint SE Plus printers will turn into a national program.
"Start-ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners may not have the capital to purchase a 3D 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 and small business solutions at The UPS Store.
Staples began offering services in December, using a Mcor IRIS 3D paper printer. While services are currently limited to Netherlands and Belgium, expansion plans are in the works.
The landscape of 3D printing is changing, and more stores may begin offering 3D printers side-by-side with regular ones. As locations expand, this could be an excellent option for small businesses seeking to test out printers--or to print 3D materials on a limited scale--to keep in mind.