When it comes to industry disruptors, there have been quite a few during the 21st century. Uber and Lyft disrupted the public transportation industry. Airbnb disrupted the hotel and lodging industry. Postmates and UberEats disrupted the food delivery industry. So what’s next? It might come as a surprise, but 3D printing is poised to be the next big industry disrupter. The technology has implications everywhere from the automobile and construction industry to the mail service industry. That’s right – even USPS, UPS, and FedEx are looking to capitalize on the rapidly growing tech. So how can the mailing industry benefit from the trending technology of 3D printing?

Income Growth from Mailed Packages

The applications for 3D printing are taking off in a big way with individual consumers and at-home creators being some of the biggest and earliest adopters. Etsy creators and individual makers are starting to create entire businesses based on the technology. No longer is 3D printing limited to a few applications that are out of reach by mainstream creators. Now, anyone with a desktop-sized 3D printer and a minimal understanding of how 3D printing works can create everything from mugs and home décor to bike parts and 3D printed prosthetic limbs.

What does this mean for the mailing industry? Packages. A tremendous increase in the number of packages that need to be shipped from city to city, country to country, and around the world. The USPS handles the majority of package delivery within the United States. FedEx and UPS handle both state-side and global shipping. Combined, these three mail carriers carry the weight of domestic and international shipping. The expected influx of 3D printed packages could very well be the impetus for a significant boom in the mailing industry.

With the latest direction from USPS being, “If it prints, it ships,” 3D print businesses everywhere have reason to expect cooperation from the mailing industry for shipping their lightweight-if-awkwardly-sized packages. While the number of packages shipped out from 3D print creators isn’t presently enough to significantly increase shipping demands, this is expected to change in a big way with the widespread adoption of the technology.

Diversification of Services Offered

In addition to the increase in expected parcel service, there’s another element to the 3D printing boom that might be of serious interest to numerous mailing services - diversifying services by becoming a 3D printing hub.

The 3D printing industry is currently getting off the ground with individual makers offering 3D printed goods for sale. There is a significant expectation, however, that there will be a higher demand for 3D print plans as opposed to printed products.

Two things are required to print a 3D printed product – the plans and a printer. While many people might be fine with waiting for the item to be shipped to them, they may opt to print it out themselves to save time. However, not everyone will have a printer at home and few will know someone who does. Even with 3D printer prices falling, most people will be forced to look for a service provider to fill the need for their printing services. Enter the mailing industry.

Where mailing services can supplement their standard shipping services is in providing printing services for 3D printing. Consumers will need a guaranteed location where they can send printing specs and have an item printed instead of shipped. When it comes down to it, no business has the bandwidth to provide these services quite like the mailing industry.

The public is already intimately familiar with the local post office and other mailing services. This familiarity can be used to the advantage of the mailing industry. By providing 3D printing hub services, mailing companies simply add another service onto their variety of offerings to a public who is already familiar with their lineup of goods and services. Not only can 3D printing services be offered, but add-on services such as delivery and shipping after an item has printed can also be monetized.

Perhaps more than any other sector, the mailing industry is perfectly positioned to benefit from expanding its services to offer 3D printing services and shipping-related add-ons for an industry disruptor that’s about to sweep the world.

Christine Evans is the Director of Product Marketing & Content Strategy at Fictiv, an on-demand manufacturing company. Over the past six years, Christine has grown Fictiv’s popular Hardware Guide and Digital Manufacturing Resource Center, with over 2,000 teardowns, DFM guides, and mechanical design articles to help democratize access to manufacturing and hardware design knowledge.