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3D Printing 101


Technology seems to evolve at lightning speed, and it can be tough for business owners to sort out the latest tech fads from the tech must-haves. One recent innovation adding new dimensions to all kinds of small businesses is 3D printing. Before you write it off as a fad, read on to find out how it could be just the right fit for your business.

3D Printing Basics

3D printing is a manufacturing process that uses digital information to create tangible, three-dimensional objects, one layer at a time. It's being used to prototype elements in architecture, construction, industrial and automotive design. 3D printing has helped make advances in the dental and medical fields, and has made the move into fashion design and even food. In fact, the 3D print service provider sector increased by 21 percent last year, according to The Wohlers Report 2014.

How 3D Printing Can Work for You

Small business owners and entrepreneurs can use 3D printing to create functional prototypes for new product development. For example, you could produce engineering parts, architectural models, fixtures for cameras, lights and cables, and even acting props for theatre or video productions.

Like many small business owners, you may not have the capital to invest in your own 3D printer. But you can have access to top-notch 3D printing at places such as participating The UPS Store Centers - and at a much higher quality than an at-home printer can provide.

"We're committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all their business needs," said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and sales at The UPS Store. "We launched a test to evaluate if there was a demand for 3D print, and we're excited to now give even more small business owners access to high-quality, professional 3D printing."

The Stratasys uPrint SE Plus, selected by The UPS Store, is a professional-grade 3D printer that accurately and reliably produces complex engineering parts, prototypes and one-of-a-kind objects. The heated build chamber and soluble supports allow entrepreneurs, engineers, home inventors and makers to produce parts true to their designs.

"There are significant differences between home 3D printers and professional 3D printers," said Daniel Remba, small business technology leader at The UPS Store. "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, reliability and a success rate that is unmatched by a home printer."

How long does it take to print? It depends on the complexity of the design. A simple object may take 4 to 5 hours, while a complex object may take multiple days to create.

A 3D printer service can help you get your products from concept to consumer with lightning speed - and that could just be the added dimension you need.

To find out more, and to find participating locations, visit www.theupsstore.com/3dprinting.

From Passion to Patent

Entrepreneurs Jeff Russell and Nick Brooks turned a DIY gadget they invented to blend their passion for surfing and film into a product that is now available to surfers and action sports enthusiasts worldwide. The MyGo Mouth Mount is a mouth piece used to create and share action video footage with flexibility and ease of use in mind. Russell and Brooks were able to get their product to market quickly and cost effectively by using 3D print technology.

Knowing about 3D printing for some time, the two entrepreneurs set out to find a quality 3D printing service at a reasonable price. They visited The UPS Store in San Diego, California and worked with the 3D Print Manager to print their prototype.

"The turn-around time was quick and the prototype looked great," said Russell. "We couldn't wait to hold it in our hands and try it out on the waves."

Once surf tested by Russell and Brooks, the two brought the 3D printed prototype to potential manufacturers and were able to get a patent. The MyGo Mouth Mount is now sold online and in surf shops in Southern California and Australia with plans to grow. For more information, visit www.mygomount.com.

More Tech Tools to Expand Your Small Business

Are you taking advantage of all the technology available? Here are some other tools available to help small business owners and entrepreneurs:

Technology for marketing
Reach your customers where they're at with effective email marketing. For example, Email Marketing from Constant Contact helps you build relationships and drive revenue, and makes the process easy for you.

Technology for customer service
Make sure your calls are answered professionally with a service such as ReceptionHQ. Calls can be transferred to you, or a message taken and sent via email or text.

Technology for sales
Make sales easier with multiple payment acceptance methods. With a service such as Chase Paymentech, you can take payments online, in the store, or on the go.

To learn more about these and other small business tools, and to take advantage of special discounts, visit http://smallbiz.theupsstore.com/services.

Sponsored by The UPS Store