In an aggressive push to make 3D printing more accessible to small businesses across the U.S., United Postal Service (UPS) announced Monday plans to expand the technology to 100 locations around the country.
Calling itself the “first nationwide retailer” for 3D printing, UPS started its 3D printing initiatives with just six stores in a pilot program last year.
In a statement Monday, the company said demand for 3D printing has continued “to increase across a broad spectrum of customers,” with small business owners leading the charge.
Meanwhile, the 3D printing industry has posted rapid gains in 2014. According to a report put out by Wohlers Associates, which analyzes and reports on trends in 3D printing, the sector grew 21% from last year.
“We are committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all of their business needs,” said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and sales at The UPS Store, in a statement. “We launched the pilot to evaluate if there was demand for 3D print and we’re excited to be announcing an expansion, giving even more small business owners access to high-quality, professional 3D printing.”
The types of objects that small businesses can print at the stores soon to be peppered around the country include items used for engineering, architectural models, acting props and cables, according to the UPS website. Projects take anywhere from four to five hours for simple objects to over a day for those deemed complex.
The announcement comes on the heels of the company hiring 95,000 seasonal workers, or nearly doubling last year’s number of hires, due to being overwhelmed during the 2013 holiday season.
In July, meanwhile, Amazon entered the 3D printing space by beginning to sell products that online shoppers could design including bobble head dolls, pet ID tags and jewelry.