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What you can and can’t 3D-print at UPS

We asked UPS the awkward questions regarding what you can and can't 3D-print at its stores so you don't have to.


Mike Wehner


Posted on Nov 25, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 3:26 am CDT

3D printing is both really cool and oftentimes quite expensive, which is why companies like UPS offer 3D printing services to anyone with a compatible design file and the cash to pay for it. Select UPS Store locations began offering the service several months ago and recently expanded its reach to a further 100 stores. 

Bringing a USB drive to your local UPS Store and asking them to conjure up the items contained within doesn’t come with the same level of freedom that owning your own 3D printer does, so of course UPS has some rules. But what you are—and aren’t—allowed to print might surprise you.

The Daily Dot spoke with a UPS Store representative to get the lowdown on what’s banned and what isn’t, and as you might imagine, weapons were at the top of the prohibited items list. If you haven’t been keeping up on your 3D printing news lately, you should know that gun parts of all shapes and sizes are starting to take the industry by storm, but those bits and pieces aren’t allowed under UPS Store guidelines. The rules explicitly state that “guns, gun parts, gun receivers, etc” are banned.

Guns are one thing—and are probably the most obvious thing to disallow—but the prohibited weapons list takes an interesting and extremely detailed turn from there. For example, “Anything intended to be used directly or indirectly for nuclear weapons or nuclear-related activities or end-uses, including research, development, design, manufacture, testing, construction, operation, and maintenance,” is also banned from UPS Store printing.

OK, so guns and nuclear weapons, that pretty much covers it, right? The list continues, “Anything intended to be used directly or indirectly for missile or rocket systems activities or end-uses, including design, development, production, testing or use of rocket systems (including ballistic missile systems, space launch vehicles and sounding rockets) or unmanned air vehicles (including cruise missile systems, target drones, and reconnaissance drones.” Good thing they added this because I always forget about missile systems and space vehicles!

We’re not done yet, as the list wraps up with “Anything intended to be used directly or indirectly for chemical or biological weapons activities or end-uses, including design, development, production, testing, or use.” 

And of course the standard ban on any designed owned by a third party: “Any items protected by the intellectual property or other personal or proprietary rights of a third party, without express written consent from such third party; or anything for export.”

It’s an extremely interesting list—and not just for what’s included on it, but for what is left out. Namely, sex toys. The adult toy industry is seeing a bit of a boom in 3D printing, with entire websites dedicated to hosting free design files that you can turn into real-world sex toys, but are UPS Stores on board?


It might be easy to assume erotic items are also prohibited, but we went ahead and asked anyway, and it turns out there’s no rule against requesting the creation of a 3D-printed dildo from your friendly UPS Store employees. Want a set of anal beads, a sleek new butt plug, or maybe even an entire human fist to enjoy in the bedroom? A representative tells us that as far as UPS is concerned, those items are A-OK.

However, we were also told that each individual UPS Store owner could potentially place a ban on specific items, and if an item isn’t on the prohibited list, it’s ultimately up to each store owner on a case-by-case basis. It seems if you want that 3D-printed sex toy of your dreams you’ll have to venture in to a UPS Store and test your luck—as well as the open-mindedness of its employees. 

Photo via kakissel/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 25, 2014, 11:26 am CST