3D Printers

3DPRINTUK Celebrates 3D Printing its 100,000th Part

After three years in business and having processed in excess of 6,000 orders, today 3DPRINTUK is celebrating a milestone achievement with the production of its 100,000th part off one of the company’s two industrial grade 3D printers.

Nick-Allen-1024x867As the founder of 3DPRINTUK, Nick Allen is particularly delighted with this feat, particularly when he looks back to when it all started in September 2011. The central London-based 3D printing service is still owned by Nick who is now supported by a team of young and enthusiastic designers and the facility operates two EOS Selective Laser Sintering machines. However, that belies the humble beginnings of the company — in a garden shed in Oxford with Nick, a 3D printer and a ton of enthusiasm.

Nick puts the fast and successful growth of the company down to the fact that while 3DPRINTUK offers the same service as many other companies out there, they do it in a completely different way. The “doing it differently” ethos is based on three core principles that govern the operations of 3DPRINTUK at every level, these are: “awesome pricing, awesome delivery and honesty.”

The awesome pricing is actually a genius proposition. As Nick tells me, “it all comes down to an alternative pricing structure.” And this is also where the honesty comes in to play too: “The pricing we offer is not necessarily cheaper, but it is an alternative. Essentially we offer a slightly leftfield pricing structure that offers an alternative to the European Big players in the industry – rather than pricing via the volume of material in the part we charge by the XYZ dimensions of the STL file but at a tenth of the price of most other services.”

When you consider the ability to nest parts within the powder bed of an SLS system, this means that if you’re clever about it, if you do not go beyond the XYZ dimensions of the largest parts, the nested parts come free. If you use the pricing structure within this remit then the service is very competitive indeed. However, as Nick says “We’re here to not necessarily offer a cheaper alternative, but a different one – sometimes we’re much cheaper, sometimes we’re more expensive…. but we’re fair – if we think clients can get it much cheaper elsewhere for the same material, we don’t undercut, we just tell them where it’s going to be cheaper and why — this is all done with the good faith that they’ll return to us when they have the right kind of models…. either that or we are just haemorrhaging potential clients due to our honesty!”

And then there is the awesome delivery and this comes down to how well the team understand how these SLS machines run. As Nick says: “Despite the prevalent perception that 3D printing is click and print… it’s NOT …. it takes LOADS of practice to get it right. There are so many issues that people forget, even professionals, like orientation against shrinkage, orientation against machine failure, orientation against hole misshaping I could go on with the orientation but you get the idea. There is also understanding how to nest the parts, dummy parts on geometric shapes, collinear blade and part issues, Z-compensation, powder mix ratios and many other things.”

You’d be forgiven for throwing in the towel at this point, but don’t, because the point Nick is building up to is this: “Our customers don’t need to know what any of that is because we have it covered – we go to great lengths, with no expense spared in the process, to ensure the best part possible — every time.”

So what has 3DPRINTUK printed over these 100,000 models then? Obviously it would be impossible to cite them all, which is fortuitous as many are bound by NDAs. However, some of the stand-out stuff that can be referenced include parts for Bugatti, the 2012 Olympics, Adidas, Fifa, Aston Matin, Goldman Sachs, and Terry Tibbs. Geographically 3DPRINTUK’s parts have got about a bit too, Nick says: “We’ve sent stuff to the edge of space, to the bottom of the ocean and to the Dragons Den as well as many other places inbetween.”

All in all it has been a rollercoaster journey to get to the 100,000th part, and the company will have more on show at the TCT Show next week and they’ll still be having fun and doing it all with a smile.