3D Printers Arrive in US Stores

    29 September, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    Imagine having an idea, drawing it on paper, bringing it to a store and seeing it turned into a physical object. This is now possible with the help of 3D printers. Such machines were once used just by universities and big companies, but now, stores with 3D printing services are appearing around the United States.

    Bryan Jaycox and his wife opened The Build Shop LLC in Los Angeles two years ago. The store is filled with tools like a laser cutter, an industrial sewing machine and 3D printers. The Jaycoxs offer 3D printing classes and services for anyone who is interested.

    "I think 3D printing is going to be huge. It's going to make a huge impact on society as a whole."

    One of the students in a recent class was KiChong Tran. He plans to open a 3D print business in Cambodia.

    3D printing services are becoming available for American consumers. The UPS Store is a nationwide retailer that provides shipping, copying and other services. The UPS Store recently put 3D printers in three of its independently-owned stores. Burke Jones owns one of the stores in San Diego.

    "The demand has been amazing. It's been much more than I would have imagined."

    The UPS Store plans to add 3D printers in three more stores.

    For $11, Jonathan Netter used a 3D printer to produce two small plastic parts as part of a knuckle for a hand. He works for a medical device company, the company is testing finger prosthetics. He says the same-day or next-day printing services will speed up testing of parts and get the devices to patients faster.

    An office supply company, Staples is selling 3D printers on its website for as low as about $1,300. A cartridge of color plastic costs $50. As with any technology -- experts expect the printing speed and price to improve.

    Bryan Jaycox requires $15 an hour to print an object, he also charges a fee depending on the size of the object and up to $50 an hour for design and labor services.

    At The UPS Store, the cost of the object depends on the amount of materials used. The store charges up to $95 an hour to design the object with computer software that creates a digital file to guide the printer.

    Mr Jaycox predicts that within five years, 3D printing technology could become more consumer friendly. But KiChong Tran says even current technology can make a difference in a developing country like Cambodia.

    "With 3D printing you can give them tools, you put it in their hands so they are responsible more for their own development and they learn skills beyond just learning English and becoming a tour guide or something like that or working at a bank you can actually create things that give value to the world."

    He says it's not just Cambodia but anywhere where there is a 3D printer, it can turn a good idea -- into reality.

    And that's the Technology Report from VOA Learning English.