Golf is a sport built on tradition and is slow to change, but that may well turn a corner as 3D printing technology is brought to bear on the tools of the game.
Lee Westwood, an English professional golfer, is one of a precious few golfers to have won tournaments on every major continent and his victories have come on the European Tour and the PGA Tour. Named player of the year for the 1998, 2000 and 2009 seasons, Westwood won the 2000 European Tour Order of Merit and is frequently mentioned as one of the best golfers without a major championship victory. He's represented Europe for the last eight Ryder Cup contests, and in October 2010, he became the number one player in the world supplanting Tiger Woods on that list.
Westwood recently paid a visit to The UPS Store in New York City where he got a firsthand look at 3D printing. That visit included a live putting demo where Westwood used a specially created 3D putter. The putter, a slightly lighter-weight replica of the PING putter he uses on tour, was created using The UPS Store's 3D printing services.
"There's a tremendous amount of innovation in the golf industry today, especially on the course," said Westwood. "It's amazing to see how The UPS Store's 3D printing services can help small businesses bring their innovative ideas to life."
UPS Stores are currently testing 3D printing services in select locations, and they're hoping startups, small businesses and retail customers will find the services useful.
"We're constantly looking at ways to meet the demands of small businesses and provide them with the latest technology offerings. Our stores are able to handle a wide range of 3D printing requests," said Daniel Remba, small business technology leader at The UPS Store. "We look forward to expanding our services later this fall."
The UPS store in San Diego recently began offering 3D printing services and their list of customers has printed objects like robotic arms and custom figurines. It's one of the first stores in the country chosen as a retail test site to evaluate 3D printing-as-a-service. Using a Stratasys uPrint, the store has already manufactured more than 80 pieces. Store employees say customers have brought their own designs while others have chosen to consult with an in-house designer. The designer leads customers through a multi-step approval process, and the average prices per item depends entirely on the complexity of a given object. Prices have ranged from $15 for a simple job to more than $500 for relatively complicated prototypes.
Remba says that while UPS is still monitoring the test sites, he expects more store rollouts will depend on whether or not the technology can meet internal profit goals.
"It will depend on when we have determined that this is a successful business for our franchises," Remba said.