UPS 3D printing on demand

Ian Kerr, founder and host of Postal Hub Podcast, a podcast for the mail and express industry, recently spoke to Cathy Morrow Roberson from Logistics Trends and Insights. They talked about the implications of 3D printing on the postal industry, specifically UPS’ new print on demand system.

UPS will make a huge impact from a logistics and delivery perspective. Last year, UPS made an investment in 3d printing in a startup called Fast Radius. They are now utilizing the 3D printing capabilities by putting printers in their UPS stores, creating a network for 3D printing on demand for manufacturers across the US.

Cathy says they are redefining spare parts logistics and contract logistics as we know it. Prior to this, logistic providers such as UPS, DHL, FedEx, etc were using field stocking centres to support the spare parts logistics network. Now, 3D printing will allow manufacturers to request spare parts on demand closer to their own facilities, which cuts down delivery time significantly as well as cost of transportation.


In addition, UPS announced a partnership with SAP. The 3D printing ordering process is being integrated into SAP’s software, which means manufacturers can look in their warehouse management system inventory software and order directly from the software.

The implications of this are pretty big, as supply chains won’t be interrupted because of unforeseen circumstances, for example natural disasters. Cathy said “It is great for supply chain risk, risk management. If you think about earthquakes, in Japan last month, how that disrupted some of the automotive manufacturing in the US. I wonder how much of that could have been mitigated by something like [3D printing]”.


Ian and Cathy go on to talk about 3D printing trials in places like the Royal Mail in London, and how that may have started off as more of a novelty. It was good as a trial, which led the way to augment the supply chain for manufacturing centres. As long as UPS has access to the schematics for the critical parts that need printed, it will all go well. UPS tested their printing capabilities with customers such as Whirlpool, and also for parts on their own airplanes in their trial of the technology.


Cathy believes UPS is on the forefront of the integration of 3D printing, as most other postal services have acknowledged the importance of 3D printing but haven’t yet implemented anything.


You can listen to the whole podcast below. Ian begins by talking to postal and regulatory expert Joost Vantomme about the European Commission’s announcement about a  package of measures that it hopes will make it easier for consumers and companies to buy and sell products and services online across the EU. This is also pretty interesting but if you just want to hear the 3D printing content, fast forward to 29:30.



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