Have a great idea for something you'd like to print in 3-D, but don't want to invest in the actual printer technology? Thanks to a popular shipping company that's bringing these specialized printers into its stores, professional 3-D printing services might only be short a drive away.
The UPS Store announced that it is expanding its 3-D printing services with Stratasys printers to nearly 100 locations across the country.
"We are committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all of their business needs," Michelle Van Slyke, UPS vice president of marketing and sales, said in a statement. "We launched the pilot to evaluate if there was demand for 3-D print and we're excited to be announcing an expansion, giving even more small business owners access to high-quality, professional 3-D printing. We look forward to being a part of the future of the 3-D printing industry."
UPS claims to be the first nationwide retailer to host such services, deploying 3-D printers in six locations last year. In this pilot program, UPS said in a news release that it saw the machines being used by inventors in the patenting process and entrepreneurs creating prototypes.
Watch UPS' video about the spread of its 3-D printing program:
The Stratasys printers in these UPS stores are also professional grade and will produce better products than home printers.
"There are significant differences between home 3-D printers and professional 3-D printers," Daniel Remba, UPS small business technology leader, said in a statement. "Many of the challenging and time consuming steps used to prepare a simpler printer are fully automated on the uPrint SE Plus, leading to added precision and reliability, higher print quality and a success rate that is unmatched by a home printer."
In other 3-D printing news, the International Space Station has accepted another SpaceX shipment. This one contains the first 3-D printer ever launched into orbit.
This April 2014 photo provided by NASA shows a 3-D printer after it passed flight certification and acceptance testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA recently sent a 3-D printer to the International Space Station in hopes that astronauts will be able to one day fix their spacecraft by cranking out spare parts on the spot. (AP/NASA, Emmett Given)
Two days after blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the SpaceX cargo ship, Dragon, arrived at the space station Tuesday morning. German astronaut Alexander Gerst used the robot arm to grab the capsule.
The Dragon is delivering more than 5,000 pounds of supplies. The 3-D printer — an experimental model — is the headliner payload. Also on board: mice and flies for biological research, fresh spacesuit batteries so NASA can resume routine spacewalks, and a $30 million instrument to measure ocean wind.
NASA is paying SpaceX to stock the space station. Last week, the California-based company won the right to transport astronauts, too. That's still a few years off.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.