Royal Mail pilots 3D printing service for small businesses

The partnership with 3D printing specialist iMakr will be offered as a service from Royal Mail's central delivery office

The Royal Mail is to offer customers and small businesses the chance to use the rapidly growing 3D printing technology at its central London delivery office in a pioneering trial with specialists iMakr.

Although the trial will offer a range of ready designed items such as iPhone cases and fridge magnets, this represents an opportunity for small businesses and designers to explore the possibilities of the pricey process at low risk and cost to themselves. Customers will be able to collaborate with a professional designer to bring their ideas to life.

After the trial the postal service company will decide whether to introduce the process in the rest of its 1,400 delivery offices nationwide, combining the printing service with the postal service and giving businesses the chance to have prototypes and models delivered in approximately two days.

3D printing uses electronic data to produce 3D objects by the successive layering of material. Although currently very time consuming and expensive the cost of the technology has already dropped considerably since 2010 and is expected to decrease further with coming technological advances.

Following competition from rival parcel delivery firms such as Amazon and in a year that has seen the Royal Mail’s profits fall by a fifth following privatisation last October, the news marks a chance for the company to open up a possibly profitable new revenue stream for the digital age.

Mike Newnham, Chief Customer Officer, Royal Mail said: “3D printing is an emerging technology that has many applications and offers an innovative way to create unique or personalised objects.

“It can be prohibitively expensive for consumers or small businesses to invest in a 3D printer, so we are launching a pilot to gauge interest in 3D printing to sit alongside Royal Mail’s e-commerce and delivery capability.”

Romain Kidd, CEO of the iMakr Group, said: “iMakr is excited to bring to Royal Mail its expertise in 3D printing by offering customers an introduction into 3D printing through one if it Central London delivery offices and a selection of objects from MyMiniFactory.com.”

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