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  • New Technology in Hand

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    An architect designing a commercial building went to The UPS Store on Zelda Road and had a 3-D printing made of the building.

    Yes, that really happened, and can happen only at two sites in the state and less than 100 in the country. It cost around $300. “When you have a multi-million-dollar building you want to be able to show the client – here it is,” said Claire Weil, who owns five UPS stores in the River Region, including the one on Zelda Road.

    A 3-D printing of a house, which contains a lot more materials than the commercial building, took 40 hours and cost $780. The 3-D printer made an engine block, which took 70 hours to complete and cost $1,300.

    For the most part, only one item can be printed at a time, although Weil can make several small snowflakes at the same time. The cost depends on the material needed for the object. The objects are made with ABS plastic, which Weil said is essentially the same material as a car bumper. And speaking of cars, the 3-D printer can be used for car parts. On a computer screen, Weil showed a very small electric vehicle made from a 3-D printer. The engine was made separately.

    Weil said the uses are “unlimited” for the 3-D printer, which she leases. About the only limitation is the size – 8 inches by 8 inches and a height of 6 inches. She said the printer is being used by inventors as well as architects and there are medical uses, including making 3-D images of organs. She plans to talk to officials at Baptist Health and Jackson Hospital & Clinic.

    Universities often have multiple 3-D printers, Weil said, but some of the projects take so long that The UPS Store “is a quicker solution.” One project was actually printed at three different UPS stores and mailed to the client, Weil added.

    Her goal is getting the word out about the 3-D printer. “Every day, I talk about it,” she said. “I carry one of those ball bearings in my pocket all the time and talk about it wherever I go. We are doing some external marketing, trying to let people know that it’s available. It’s cool.”

    Customers need to have a computer-aided design (CAD) file and most CAD programs are able to save the file as a stereo lithograph (STL).

    “It’s exciting to have something new and something that can do so many things,” Weil said. One company used the 3-D printer for cellphone cases.

    The longer-term goal for the 3-D printer is generating 3 percent to 5 percent of Weil’s total revenue. “Anybody can have a use for it,” she said. Businesses can use the 3-D printer for gifts to customers or employees. Customers can have a three-dimensional nameplate.

    “I love new technology and though it’s not new, it certainly is new to us and it’s new to the consumer,” Weil said. “It’s one more reason to come to The UPS Store.” 

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