3D Printing Services Blog

This blog will keep you up to date with our 3D printing projects and technical accomplishments.

Design and manufacture of a unique belt buckle for fashion shoot

The Brief

A very interesting project came our way when up and coming fashion designer Ilyes Ouali asked us to create a unique belt buckle for an upcoming fashion shoot. As often the case we weren't given much time to complete the task but we were confident of achieving the desired result with quick actions from our design and engineering team.

Design References

Designer Ilyes provided us some basic information for us to quote and to get the project moving quickly once accepted. Then Ilyes provided us some pictures of a clay maquette and a cardboard cutout to give us an idea size/form and orientation for our design to be based upon.

3D Design

Our designer, Rafa Camacho then created the first 3d design for review by Ilyes, by creating a parametric model in Solidworks, the shape, form and size can be quickly changed making adjustments to the base construction elements such as 2d sketches, boundary curves to ensure the final design iteration is as close to what Ilyes requires. Final detailing can then be added such as corner radii again quickly adjusted via input values as shown in the developed designs below

3D Printing

With the final 3d model saved as an stl our development engineer Greg Hodson has to then make and finish the belt buckle to the specifications outlined by Ilyes. When receiving a new print request we will normally ask questions about it's use to understand what is most important- for instance dimensions, finish, colour, material, strength, etc.

In this case the the primary parameters were identified as colour and finish. Rich orange (sample colour provided) and glossy. It was decided at this point that printing in ABS would be good choice as this would allow vapour polishing- a process of placing the component into a chamber with acetone so that the vapour smooths the object by melting the surface slightly.

When attempting to achieve the best possible print finish, one normally thinks first about a high resolution. It stands to reason that the higher the resolution the better the finish. However the effect of the layering is heavily affected by geometry; for example a straight sided vertical print will have the least gain in quality when using a higher resolution.  On the other hand a curve approaching the horizontal will have noticeable layering even at a high resolution. The following print previews below illustrates this, particularly the image on the right showing 100µm transitioning to 50µm as the geometry tends towards the horizontal.

With a large print like this the print time can become restrictive at high resolutions, so one option is to print with multiple processes, increasing the print resolution only as the model requires. After getting a decent base print it was time to process the part to achieve the desired glossy finish.

3D Print Finishing

So on to vapour polishing; to create a vapour chamber large enough, a pyrex dish was used, however this was not the ideal chamber and some condensation dripped back onto the part, damaging the otherwise very smooth finish. "Adventures in vapour polishing" could easily be another blog post, so for the sake of this post let's just say I decided to try a different approach.

Left image showing the vapour polishing process, right image shows the effect when a full seal not achieved and condensation creeps in

XTC-3D is a fantasic polyurethane sealer and coats particularly well on angled/ vertical faces whereas other sealers and resins don't hang on these surfaces so well often pooling at the base creating more work to finish. Given the 3d form of the belt buckle this was the ideal sealer to use. The image below shows XTC-3D curing after being applied to the show surfaces of the 3d print.

On the right side we have the bare finished ABS part and on the left the result of XTC-3D sealing and polishing.with fine wet and dry paper and rubbing compound
To get the ultimate smooth finish required a little elbow grease; sanding and polishing, but the final result was worthwhile.

Finishing touches and the fashion shoot

So the finished finished belt buckle was shipped to Ilyes in London where it was detailed further in spectacular fashion with the front surfaces completely encrusted with jewels and a contrasting black belt applied to finish. Here are some images from the fashion shoot showing the final finished belt buckle in context.

For more of Ilyes Ouali's impressive work please check out his website and instagram: and @ilyes.ouali

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3D Scan to colour print- Complex and Reflective Surfaces

The Brief

We were recently approached by fashion designer Emma Charles with an interesting and challenging task to 3D scan a glass ornament with the intent of using the form in an odd pair of ear rings to be used in a fashion shoot. 3D scanning shiny and highly reflective surfaces is challenging for most devices despite the significant advances in technology and methods in the last few years.

Preparation and Scanning

There are a few techniques used to ensure a nice matt surface for a good 3d scan. Painting the object is one way but if the object is delicate, must remain untouched then a matting spray is the best method. This can be layered up just like regular spray paint and when 3D scanning is completed the object can then be washed off completely with water.

With a good coat applied it's imperative not to touch the object as this will disrupt and expose the glass surface below so a 3D scanning system that is freehand or on turntable is essential to capture all the surfaces required. In this Instance we captured the object in two attempts to get the outside, base and partial inner surfaces as Figure 1. below shows.

Fig 1. The Inner and Outer scanned meshes ready for knitting together as one

Mesh knitting and finishing

With the required data captured we then knitted the two scans together using the shared data at the base to ensure an accurate join. Despite our best efforts, with the deep cavities within the folds and up inside the stem we have voids in the mesh and need to fill these gaps and create new meshes to fill where there is no data at all as shown in Figure 2 below. Meshmixer is a fantastic free software that repairs, remodels 3D scanned meshes and with a little effort we were able to repair the mesh completely, making a watertight .stl file that can now be 3D Printed.

Fig 2. Healed gaps in the mesh and up inside the stem where scanning wasnt possible

Creating the Odd Pair and Colouring

Now the finished 3d file can be reduced down to the correct size for one of the ear rings. To make up the odd pair we duplicated this file, cut the stem off at the right height and then sealed, rounded the top and corners to finish. Again all of these modifications were carried out in Meshmixer.

With the odd pair complete and ready for printing we had one last task to do in our zprint software. Emma provided us the pantone colour ref she wanted and we applied it to the 3d models, saving them both as WRL files so that they can be then 3D printed in full colour plaster.

Fig 3. Coloured final models ready for printing in the build software

Photo Shoot

Here are some pics of the finished 3d prints in the fashion shoot. As you can see the 3d prints come out in great detail and a perfect colour match. If you would like to see more of Emma's fantastic designs please check out her website and Instagram, : @EmmaCharlesUK

If you are looking to produce designs & items based on an existing object or maybe just a complex object to 3D scan please contact us:

We have a wide array of digital processing tools and solutions at our disposal.


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We recently completed an interesting project for sculptor Hazel Reeves which provided challenges in not only completing the work in a very short turnaround but also providing a the right solution at the right price for our customer. More about how we overcome these hurdles using our experience with digital process and materials knowhow below.

The Brief

Hazel was looking to produce a solid model of her wax maquette and a chair for the figure posing on. Sculptors use maquettes to work through their ideas and concepts for full scale works. In this instance Helen was competing for a large commission and wanted the solid model to complement her 2d artwork.

​3D Scanning

With a tight deadline to produce the model and deliver ahead of the deadline we began by using our SLS scanner to capture all the details of the maquette and chair. Once the items have been captured from multiple angles to gather as much of the target subjects surfaces the software can cleverly knit together a complete mesh. This can then be fused together into a solid body and saved as an stl file ready for 3d printing.

Pictured here is the original clay maquette. With it being black we use a white background to get best contrast between objects and get the best possible scan.

In order to meet our customers budget and armed with a full 3d model after scanning we were able to reduce the size slightly to help reduce the overall cost of 3d printing the models. You can see further down in this blog the proportional scaling of the model.

3D Printing and Finishing

We used our powder machine to build this model for a few reasons. Firstly the nature of the shape would require much support if using SLA or FDM 3d printing process and with the latter option the surface finish isand build time would be long. Powder process requires no support and has an even finish of 100 micron so ideal for visual items. It also is the quickest process so when a job needs to be turned round urgently it is the only way to go.

The powder 3d printed model isn't as tough as a resin or plastic print, bur with post processing it can be made more durable. In fact our own unique post processing methods allows our powder prints to be used in ovens and autoclaves under heat and pressure if desired.

We opted to use one of our epoxy resins to infiltrate the powder for added strength and then we sealed the finished model with a tough polyurethane coating to give further strength. This also smoothes the surface to improve the finish and even out the build lines you can get with very three dimensional models.

Final Verdict

Hazel was very happy with the result and as you can see from the comparison picture,the resemblance from the model to the final 3d print is very good. 

This was ​another great example of when new digital processes can work in tandem with traditional processes to not only produce physical results in very short timeframes, but can help support, communicate creative ideas very effectively.

We have just learned that Hazel's proposal has made it to the last 6 entrants and wish her all the best for securing the full sculptural commission

For more information on Helen and her work please visit

Have an item you would like 3d scanning, reproducing?

Please send an email to with a picture, dimensions of your object. Or alternatively fill out our online form

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                                               3D PRINTING APPLICATIONS


In this post we are going to introduce some outstanding applications of 3D printing (additive manufacturing), with an approaching towards high value-added products such as wearables, exclusive products and investment casting. Through this post we are going to deal with a cutting-edge 3D printed motorcycle made with advanced composite materials, custom-made insoles that will make our lives more comfortable and finally, we will take a look through the possibilities of building metal parts using 3D printing.

Exclusive products

In our last post we talked about the benefits of 3D printing in areas of product development, speeding up it and decreasing the cost of the designing and prototyping phases. A remarkable example is found with the Energica 90, the first 3d printed electrical motorbike with a racing performance: Energica 90 can reach a limited top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) and travel up to distances of 150 km (93 miles) on a single charge.

Here is the electric beast: an authentic pure Italian-blood motorcycle. 

During the prototyping stages CRP group, the company behind the superbike, has extensively used 3D printing in order to assess several part designs. Fully prototypes were developed by the R&D project team, stage in which a wide variety of parts were manufactured by Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) using an exceptional material: Windform. This is an advanced composite material for SLS based on polyamide reinforced with carbon-derived particles. Windform range is capable of withstanding demanding mechanical loads, reason why it was used to build structural components of the motorbike, for instance fairings, headlight covers and other non-mechanical or electrical components.

These two photographs show the prototyping stages in which 3d printing was extensively used.

Far more affordable than the Energica 90 is what Faraday Motion offers us: the Spine and Hyperboard. They are two electric 3D printed skateboards capable of reaching speeds of 25-30 km/h with a range up to 10 km. While most of the structural parts of them are made by plastic 3D printing, the brackets for the disc brakes are built by metal 3D printing.

The Spine and Hyperboard 3D printed electric skateboards by Faraday Motion.

Faraday Motion markets three versions of the Spine to cover the wishes of all their fans depending on their "maker spirit". On one extreme, the dream for Do It Yourself (DIY) makers: Faraday Motion provides you only the non 3d printed plastics parts (engines, electronics, etc) so you will have to download and print the rest ones, and finally assembly the skateboard following the guidelines and webinars. On the other extreme, a fully assembled and ready-to-go version in which the plastic parts are printed in PLA on an Ultimaker 2.​

Watch this video to learn more about Faraday Motion and their electric 3D printed skateboards. 


Another growing market is the related to wearables where every day we are seeing new gadgets and accessories with exotic designs and functionalities, whether practical or for purely aesthetics reasons. Into a rapidly growing field, designers are looking to 3D printing as an extension to their R&D departments. This is due to the fact that it is vital to show a tangible prototype to the clients that looks like as much as possible the production version: touch, texture, appearance, functionality, weight, ergonomic. Some wearables are smart devices equipped with embedded electronics and sensors to provide users with multiple information: augmented reality, distance walked, "wearer's biosigns" such as heart rate, body and environment temperature, etc. For instance: the Google Glass technology, smartwatches (Fitbit, CuffLinc), wristbands (Zero360)...

Smart wristband Zero360 by zero°. The photograph shows three prototypes manufactured on an Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer by Stratasys.

A further step is achieved when combining wearables and 3D printing where the result is maximum customization. In this line, Wiivv has just reached the goal to fund by crowdfunding on kickstarter its project to develop exclusive and unique insoles made by 3D printing. The product, named BASE, is a body-perfect insole that is engineered to maximize comfort, promote alignment and lessen fatigue through a custom-made design. Particularly fascinating is the design and manufacturing procedure, in which they are made by Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and designed from photographs taken by the user smartphone.

BASE insole by Wiivv. Source:

Other companies and research centres consider 3D printing as an opportunity to develop customizable prosthetics and smart wearables with embedded sensors, with the aim of improving the patient's quality of life. Below, an example of a bespoke insole with embedded sensors which was made for a patient who suffered from flat feet. The Mark One composite 3D printer was used to build the insoles. This printer is capable of printing composite materials reinforced with continuous fibre.

3D printed insoles with embedded sensors.

Mark One - composite 3D printer.

Metal parts through investment casting

Beyond the typical concept of 3D printing as a technology mainly used for building plastics parts, there is a far deeper world by the hand of the professional and industrial additive manufacturing technologies, where fully ceramic and metallic parts can be manufactured. However, you are wrong if you have ever thought that metal 3D printing is only reserved for dedicated and expensive metal 3D printers. 

What is truly fascinating is the possibility to build complex metal parts using a 3D printer capable of printing with plastics or resins. This is achieved by means of traditional casting methods in which a highly detailed pattern is now made by 3D printing instead of by injection moulding or machining. Then, the pattern is used to build a mould using the traditional procedures.

3D printed manifold in Castable Resin (left), cast in bronze (middle) and after final polishing (right).

Any plastic 3D printer is able to create a pattern that can be used later for building a mould. However, 3D printers based on vat photopolymerization usually reach the best details and extremely high resolution. Some manufacturers, such as 3D Systems and Formlabs, among others, offer a wide variety of vat photopolymerization printers in which a photocurable resin is polymerized by a UV light. For investment casting, castable resins are used. These resins are specifically designed to burnout cleanly with no ashes or residues, making them perfect for jewellery making, metalworks and engineering applications.

Metal and castable cured resin rings.

Some fashion designers are making the most from 3D printing and investment casting developing new digital jewellery collections. They build fashionable accessories and metal jewels using the benefits of the additive manufacturing. For example, Francis Bitonti, one of the pioneers of using 3D printing into the fashion industry, is collaborating with WonderLuk, a well-know digital jewellery designer and manufacturer. This collaboration has the aim to develop one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery using a complex algorithm ensuring uniqueness. Then, each 3D printed castable jewel is processed in order to build the masterpiece by investment casting.

Jewels made by investment casting from a 3D printed pattern.  

Obviously, these moulds can be used not only for making metal parts but also ceramic and plastic pieces can be manufactured. Dental prosthetics and orthodontics take advantage of 3D printing to develop one-of-a-kind dental parts and tailored orthodontic treatment for their patients. Therefore, ceramic dental parts and plastic clear orthodontic aligners can be developed with the mentioned techniques.

ClearCorrect, a leading manufacturer of clear orthodontic aligners makes the most of the additive manufacturing to offer customers a comfortable, aesthetic and individualised treatment.

Germán García-Romero- 3D Printing Engineering 15/02/2016​

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Structural elements evolution. (1) Left: made by traditional manufacturing from welded metal sheets. (2) Middle and right: elements made by additive manufacturing using Selective Laser Melting technology.  



It may appear like a heavyweight boxing fight, on one side of the ring the well-known and massively extended traditional manufacturing technologies, on the other side the astonishing, highly flexible production, non creative constraints, but still questioned 3D printing. It may seem it is going to be like a train crash. So, who will win the fight? 

Before the duel starts, let’s take a minute to explain two concepts: 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing. 

3D Printing was defined in our previous post What Is 3D Printing and What Are Its Uses? However, it is also possible to find another concept called Additive Manufacturing (AM). But is 3D printing the same as AM? Let’s take a look at what The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International says about AM:

“A process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies.”

In common practice, the terms “AM” and “3D printing” are used interchangeably.


In general terms, traditional manufacturing technologies, as machining and casting, provide the highest parts quality level, according to surface finish and geometrical and dimensional accuracy. Even, the mechanical properties are usually better, due to 3d printed parts may be not completely filled by the material. In addition, the AM technologies have a short range of available materials which are usually proprietary. However, the materials variety is continuously expanding while the prizes are decreasing.

In spite of the mentioned drawbacks, 3d printing is building up into the most reputable cutting-edge technology companies within sectors for example aerospace, automotive and medicine. This is possible due to AM does present tremendous opportunities, derived from its exceptional advantages. Some of them are listed below.


The giant airplanes manufacturer Airbus is really betting on AM, as 3D printing plastic and metal parts will allow manufacturing lighter and cheaper parts. 




Unlimited designs: AM makes possible the manufacture of any design regardless the design complexity and allowing the production of integrated components. This is extremely important towards a wide open-mind design (revolutionary shapes and lighter parts) without considering manufacturing constraints related to machining, moulding, etc. It is said “complexity is free”, because it has not an impact in the manufacturing cost.

Flexible supply chains: production by AM does not need any special tooling neither casting, so shifting the production to a totally different object is completely easy and immediate. Redesigning stages has no influence in the production costs, consequently, it is the ideal manufacturing technology for both prototyping and low volume batch (as low as one if required). This is truly interesting in areas such as product development and low-to-medium volume production, also being the perfect ally for highly personalized customer market.


Herein an example of how 3d printing may lead to non-constraint designs. In this case, GE Aviation is developing a fuel nozzle for the LEAP engine that is up to 25 percent lighter and more complex than its counterparts and combines into one part what previously had 20 small pieces. Source: GE Aviation -

Product development: due to AM does not need specific tooling neither casting any design may be produced in a short period of time under a cost effective perspective. As a result, AM offers product development teams a rapid iteration between designs, assembly and functional tests, bringing about a remarkable decrease in both time and product development costs. 


Ford automotive manufacturer is using 3D printing in product development stages (cylinder heads, intake manifolds, air vents, etc), cutting times and costs. Source:


Mass production: in terms of high-volume production moulding manufacturing is the right choice. This is because, in spite of the extremely higher fixed costs (derived from tooling and moulds), the variable ones which comes from the massive production (materials and operational) are tremendously more economical. Therefore, in those cases in which the derived costs from tooling and setup cannot be amortized, AM has to be considered. 


Fig. 1: Cost evolution in relation to AM and traditional manufacturing production volume. Source: Deloitte University Press.

Parts manufactured quality: traditional manufacturing are a truly mature technology in comparison to AM, which was born 30 years ago. So far, AM manufacturers are seriously working towards to improve some identified drawbacks, such as the part surface finish and the inaccuracies and lack of reproducibility of the processes.

Wide range of materials: there is an unlimited variety of materials available for traditional manufacturing. Currently, just a narrow range of materials are offered for AM (only a few polymers, metals, ceramics and composites). However, there is a huge interest in new materials research and development, hence, the portfolio is constantly growing while the prices are dropping.  


After the first rounds, it is difficult to figure out who will be the winner. Each technology has unique advantages which become each one in the best choice for some specific fields.

However, we may find something really fascinating when we combine both technologies as many poor points of the AM may be mended by means of a post finishing treatment. Geometric and dimensional accuracy and surface finishing can be considerably improved by machining, sanding, polishing, abrasive blasting and coating. Mechanical properties and surface quality can significantly enhanced by resin infiltration or electroplating.


DMG MORI has developed a technology capable to combine laser AM and integrated milling in the same work station. Some blades have been milling improving the part quality and the geometrical and dimensional accuracy. 



3d printed plastic part after an electroplating process. The superior mechanical properties and surface finishing expands the 3d printing plastic parts scopes. Source:


There are 3d printers capable to print with conductive inks which allow embedded electronic parts manufacturing. Source:

It is known that within the next 10 years AM technologies are going to change the manufacturing process, in which the future supply chains will experience an evolution towards new non-constraint designs and flexibility. Moreover, will appear a new concept of small scale production where parts will be manufactured on demand, on site and based on a highly personalized customer. 

Meanwhile, we have to get the most from them and combine with our venerable traditional manufacturing technologies to enhancing the parts properties. So, the smartest answer of the post's aforementioned headline is: the union makes the force.


Herein, the graphic provides and a brief review of the current and future status of the AM within the automotive sector. Source:


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TCT show & Personalize @ NEC September 30th- October 1st

So at the end of September we made our first foray into the exhibition and trade event world with our stand at the TCT show & Personalize.  We chose this event to debut at because of not only with our very heavy involvement with 3d printing technologies but also the shows support for Product Development. Our business can support the entire process with CAD, first prototypes and series parts/ low volume manufacturing runs. For us personally it’s a pleasure to hear your ideas and offer advice on materials, manufacturing methods. We had plenty of this over the 2 days with designers, inventors, start-up founders and technical buyers shopping for suppliers. Some of the most promising leads were for jewellery manufacture where we can use SLA resin printing to produce highly detailed models for casting and CAD design using lightweight composite material for camera drones.

Away from our stand it was a 3d printing buyer’s paradise with machinery for professional and also consumer use. For us we were also were also on the lookout for ways to expand our range and we managed to pick up a Cube Pro Trio machine which will allow us to offer FDM parts in ABS plastic but also Nylon for higher performance, lighter weight parts.

Rapidnews organised the event superbly and were very helpful to us getting everything prepared. All the exhibitors were treated to drinks, food and music after completion of the first day. This was most welcome and great chance to network. Special thanks to:  for their design/branding and for their PR for this event.


We Mean Business Expo @ Fairfax Halls, Croydon 14th October

Following on from the TCT show, we also exhibited at Fairfield Halls for the We Mean Business Expo. Quite a few businesses from the Sussex Innovation centre also attended and were well supported by several staff members from the centre. It was a different crowd but most enjoyable as many of the visitors were getting their first taste of what 3d printing is and seeing samples we brought along they can get an idea of the possibilities and costs for production.



3d printed pattern making for metal casting

We had an interesting request from in Hove recently. Reproducing items no longer manufactured use to be an expensive and laboursome task. Not with the 3d printing tools we have at our disposal. Using rapid build plaster 3d printing we were able to make this pattern in less than 20 minutes. 



Once sealed to smooth and facilitate an easy release for moulding the pattern can go off to a foundry where a sand cast mould can be made to enable the casting of the piece in a variety of different metals. For more complex parts particularly with organic, curved geometry 3d scanning could also be used. We will have this option available in-house by the end of the month and will reveal more details on the process in our next update. 

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Summer activities

It’s been quite a while since I have written a blog. This has mostly down to all the work going on behind the scenes developing our young business.  I have been chipping in with useful news and insights relating to our work and industry in between where I can on our linked in page though.  3D printing is still a very popular topic in the media and we try to explain and where possible show with projects how the technology can be used.

The first 3 months have flown by since we moved to the Sussex Innovation Centre. We have had a lot of guidance and support from many people, especially with gaining access to funding and grants. The whole team at the centre do a fantastic job in all key areas for new businesses like sales, marketing and finance. Shortly we will get mutual benefits working with talented University Interns as part of the Catalyst Team Initiative assisting us with projects whilst giving them valuable insights into day to day running of a business. In Croydon this successful formula is now being replicated at a new centre. 


Recent news

So we have recently secured investment for our business with some of our development and expansion plans well underway. Some of this will be spent on new equipment and upgraded CAD software to expand the range of 3D printing materials we can offer, whilst improving our 3D scanning and reverse engineering capabilities.

In July we were awarded an Innovation Voucher from Innovate UK and this will be used on a research and testing programme with the University of Hertfordshire. We will discuss this further in the coming weeks once the project is underway.

We also visited the impressive new Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry for the Motorsports Industry Association workshop on Additive manufacturing strategy in the UK.

These premises are equipped with some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in the world. Partnerships with businesses and academia create the perfect environment for new additive manufacturing technology to be developed and tested here.  It was great to be given a guided tour although no pictures were allowed this time sorry.


Upcoming events

We are now confirmed to exhibit at the TCT Show at the Birmingham NEC on September 30th and Oct 1st. It is one of the world's leading events dedicated to 3D printing, additive manufacturing and product development. More information on what we will be presenting here in a special news bulletin early on in September. 

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After missing out last year it was really good to be able to stop by the 3d printshow up Brick Lane in East London last week. We were previously at the show in 2013 at the Business Centre. The new venue was the perfect location in the creative hub of London. Whether you were a hobbyist, tinkerer or established 3d print manufacturer like Laserlines, there was something for everyone to take away and marvel at.


So the main changes and developments from last time for us were in desktop 3d printers, the massive strides made in 3d scanning and breakthroughs where 3d printing has been used more in industry more for final built components as opposed to purely a prototype development part. This is an area that we at 3d Printing Engineering are committed to, using our materials and engineering experience to offer 3d printed parts that have advanced properties such as high temperature, fire retardant. One good example of this at the show was with Morgan Motors who had an open/ split car on display with some individual 3d printed components from the build to look at. On the creative, interactive side there was a nice area for 3Doodler where people could experiment with their 3d printed pen.

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As mentioned above there was a heavy presence of desktop 3d printers. Going beyond the cheapest available machines you can now get a very high performance 3d printer for under £2k. Two machines we liked were the Poetry 2 from IRA3d and the DeeGreen. It’s one thing for a 3d printer to have a good technical spec, but if the bed and support structure is not made from quality materials it will allow too much vibration and movement affecting the finish and accuracy of the parts.  The Poetry 2 internals are made mostly from steel to help deliver their impressive 30 micron resolution on parts. Another nice feature is the ability to use special filaments like copper, carbon and gummify for rubber like parts. DeeGreen  offers an eco-friendly build with PLA and wood materials. This is a very clean, safe and fully enclosed machine suitable for schools and office use. It is very user friendly in terms of its software and touch screen operation.


There were also several filament manufacturers exhibiting. Purement were showcasing their new world’s first anti-bacterial filament suitable for food and 3d education. On display were its test reports confirming its eco-friendly product that has consistent antibacterial effects.I posted a picture last Thursday on our company’s page of Joel Gibbards Dextrus bionic arm. This was a nice story telling how the initial prototype was designed and built from his bedroom when he was a university student. This is what can be done when creative minds are backed up with accessible technology. Strangely enough when I was leaving London on Saturday I met with Jeff Erenstone who had one of his 3d printed prosthetic hand samples on him. Read more about the great work his team is doing with orthotics and prosthetics:



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Colour 3D Printing and finishing

In recent times we have had more enquiries for colour 3d printing and we had a good opportunity to test the colour and our finishing processes when we produced a figurine for our friend, Steve Hewlett on his 40th birthday. With the help of digital designer James Stothard providing quality artwork and mesh manipulation we had a nice 3d model we could then 3d print. You may remember Steve's face from Britains' got talent 2 years ago. His ventriloquist dummies are often soft and flexible so it was important to keep the finish light, but also to bring out the colour. The colour on Zcorp prints goes quite deep so its possible to polish and work the surface to achieve different finishes without affecting or worse rubbing through the colour.


To complete the ornament a simple base was also 3d printed. Text was applied in CAD to the front face and underside of the piece to complete the piece. These and other finishing techniques can be employed to provide customers a display, or presentation model to best fit their requirements. With a little imagination your ideas can be visualised to produce one off gift, or memento for a special person or event.


Upcoming dates and events

It was a shame that the Inside 3d printing show in March was cancelled but we don’t have to wait long for the next big one in London. The 3d Printshow runs from the 21st-23rd May and in particular we look forward to seeing more focus on the automotive industry this time around. This show has grown just like the 3d printing market in general, with more shows in California, Paris, Dubai and Amsterdam to come this year.

There is also The Engineer Design and Innovation Show from June 2nd-4th at the NEC, which also is part of Subcon and Advanced Manufacturing show, so a real bumper event worth checking out. We will be visiting both of these shows but our plans are very much to exhibit at the advanced Engineering and Southern Manufacturing shows in November and February next year. These both fit exactly inline with our core business services within 3d printing, design and engineering.

We have recently updated our website and will be adding more content in the coming weeks. In other related news Chinese 3d printing company Xuberance won the coveted Salone Satellite award at Milan Design week using 3d printing technology combined with high quality metallic finishing to express Chinese culture and history.

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Winter Update

So we have come out of the busiest period of the year in December and January in good shape, with projects in motorsport taking up a fair chunk of our time.  We have had our plans for moving to a new office ticking along in the background too (More about that below).

In December we had some interesting new work come in prop making using combinations of ABS and ZCorp composite to offer rigid and in some cases very lightweight parts, working together in moving assemblies. The creative trend continued with some architectural pieces and collaboration with a new company specialising in 3d scanning people before the year end.


Our move to the Sussex Innovation Centre

Having looked at several locations and premises in the last year for a new home in our favoured surroundings, we made the decision to move down to the Sussex Innovation Centre on the outskirts of Brighton in East Sussex.




The centre is based between the Brighton and Sussex universities overlooking Brighton’s recently built Amex football stadium. It’s a natural fit for our business amongst other science and technology based businesses. We look forward to the opportunities working together with other companies in the centre where our 3d printing, design and engineering services can be fully utilised.


Business plans and shows for the year ahead

We will be fully set up in our new office in March.  There are a couple of interesting shows that we will be visiting around this period:

Southern Manufacturing 2015, Farnborough 10-12th February

Inside 3d printing, London 24-25th March

Our plan is to exhibit at Advanced Engineering UK at the NEC in November.

There are a couple of products that we have in development, testing stages right now that we will look to release by mid-2015. This is our rapid manufacture tooling solutions for advanced composite moulding and our surface smoothing coating for 3d printed parts that reduces labour time to aid finishing and surface preparation for painting. More info on these unique processes to follow soon.


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3d scanning: Mesh editing/ manipulation software

3d scanning technology is advancing at a rate similar to what 3d printing did about 2 years ago. As a design and rapid manufacture specialist we look to use 3d scanning to further enhance and expand our existing services and create new opportunities and partnerships with other opportunistic businesses. Through are partners we have managed to get some very good 3d scans to use in making projects. The good news is that even for the economy range scanners, there are some fantastic tools and software to enhance and repair scanned data. 

After undertaking a character print job we used our own Sense scanner to capture all the info we could. We were then able to modify and enhance the resulting scan with various different tools and software. The picture shows the scanned puppet and the screen grabs alongside show the enhanced mesh and modelling.  In the paragraph below I discuss some of the software we used to achieve the finished character model.




Meshlab and Meshmixer are free programs useful for some mesh manipulation and repair. Retopologization of a mesh and more advanced modelling can be done with programs such as Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max. Zbrush is very good to apply or modify colours in models and also completely free. Blender is perhaps the best all-rounder, as it can do many of the tasks required. We look forward to experimenting more with these programs on future projects.


3d printing versus traditional making methods

With the nature of our enquiries in recent months we have tried to be flexible to fulfil our customer’s needs. Having 3d printing technology at our disposal is very useful when we have urgent projects with deadlines flirting with impossible. 3d printing allows for shapes and parts to be created without tooling. Whereas in traditional model/mould forming techniques a pattern/mould/part process may be work out cheaper but could take 2 or 3 times longer to produce.

3d printing does some wonderful things but we utilise all making techniques to ensure customers get the required result. It could be because of cost saving, timeframe, part design that we will forego 3d printing and use other manufacturing methods. Our experience and knowledge in design, engineering, materials and processes allow us to offer a variety of solutions. There is also the benefit of using one supplier to deal with the entire design and manufacturing process, rather than having to deal with multiple companies.

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So we finally get a chance to have our summer break after a busy few months. With the 2 week shutdown in Formula One racing there is a brief lull in the motorsport sector. This has given us chance to develop some of our material processes further, expanding our services to push the boundaries of what 3d printing can do and provide interesting and innovative solutions and products for our customers.

Below I talk more in detail how 3d printing offers small batch manufacturing solutions to enable prototypes to be as close to the desired end products as possible, enabling designers and consumers to get a better feel for their new product.

These solutions are offered with budget in mind, delivering a high quality product that can be used effectively in presentation. Our rapid prototype tooling enables moulded composite parts in small production runs without the huge costs of production tooling.


Flexible colour printed parts

A distinct advantage of running Z-Corps full colour composite printers is the amazing visual effects and colours that can be applied to 3d printed parts. We have been working to expand our existing MP range of post processing to offer durable, yet fully flexible parts.  In the picture below you can see some of our laminated samples and we have been able to produce fully flexible parts down to a thickness of 0.8mm. 




This complements the crisp graphic details and strong colour effects making it suitable for signage and business cards for those who want something a little different to stand out from the crowd. The soft, malleable nature of the parts, make them suitable for working prototypes in children’s toys where these properties are required, but still maintaining visual effects


Rapid prototype tooling

We can now produce mould tooling from our 3d printers that is capable of small batch runs of moulded composite components. The MP post processing range has been developed further to produce robust, economical tooling. This is ideal in high development situations where a handful of moulded parts are made, and then design changes take effect and more tooling is required quickly to manufacture the revised part.

Further development and testing is underway to ensure the tooling can produce parts at high temperature and pressure, enabling Carbon and Glass pre-preg moulding by oven or autoclave.



The picture above shows a resin infused epoxy and carbon cover moulded at room temperature from our 3d printed tooling.



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For many of our former years in industry working in Formula One Racing we would often have discussion and chat with enthusiasts regarding how finished parts and assemblies were constructed on the race cars. The questions didn’t stop there! The real sharp fans asked the what, how and why behind innovative concepts.  The doors close behind most engineers in this mysterious world, with the general public seeing the result on the television. It’s good to be able to fill in some of the blanks, allowing people a greater understanding of how ideas get developed and the type of work that goes in getting to the finished article on the track.

3D printing and F1

I say ‘finished’, because it’s never really finished as the development is constant in the race to be the fastest in the paddock. This cycle gives opportunities to companies just like us at 3D printing to support design of the cars in busy times, supply parts for wind tunnel models and R & D. We are proud of our Formula One Racing heritage and our continuous technical support.
Want the Formula One standard on your project?  You have come to the right place!



Metal Coated 3D printed parts


F1 and 3D printing industries:  Similarities and differences

Both these industries are fast paced, competitive and look to develop and benefit from technology and material advances.  For the people that aren’t involved in F1 and 3D printing it’s still mysterious and can be difficult to understand.  It’s very pleasing that the whole 3D printing revolution is very open and accessible to all, and people can even see the process and machinery in operation. Whereas in Formula One a factory tour or paddock access is very hard to come by and even then the general public will not have access to all the juicy bits!

We at 3D printing do our best to educate via our website and blog. But also keep people informed on what we are busy doing and everything else in the 3D printing industry that’s interests and inspires us as it happens.


Paris and Hanover Maker Faires

In the last month there have been some interesting technology and ideas unveiled at these faires. Firstly in Paris:  the event was created to celebrate arts, crafts, engineering and science. 3D printing is more prominent now, but many traditional making methods are showcased.

Sylvain Charpiot and the designer Samuel Javelle have built a printer to produce full scale, consumer usable furniture using ABS plastic in a variety of colours.

We like this because it’s a great example of 3D printing creating a finished usable product. The fact that large size objects can be printed shows what rapid advances are being made in 3D printing technology.


More of the same in Hanover last week:

3D scanning technology has grown rapidly in the last year, and become increasingly affordable. Inpro First has developed a scanner that works with commercially available webcam and laser in the confines of existing 3D print machinery.  What’s more the software is available for only 23 Euro! 

It’s encouraging to see that 3D printing machinery has become much more affordable, but now 3D scanning is also catching up enabling users to have both options at their disposal at reasonable costs.




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3D printing has gathered much varied and relevant work experience /education from automotive, engineering and model making industries.  In our business we look to take all the best elements of what we have learned and offer services and products to benefit consumers from all walks of life.

Just like the path of most technology advances, 3D printing machinery now produces better quality parts, for less money and now in a much broader range of materials beyond plastics and plaster based composite. However core design and engineering skills need to be learnt and developed much like ours has in many long and intense hours out in industry.

Having visited the 3D print show in London last year we became very aware that printing and scanning technology was evolving fast, but there was a distinct lack of design and products born using 3D printers. There was lots of look but don’t touch visualisation pieces, but not enough actual usable parts. At 3D printing we have developed processes that enhance the basic properties of printed parts. So you can use our parts for real world applications and not just as a pretty visualisation tool.

With our expertise and knowledge, 3D printing looks to give all the tools and products for creative minds to shine.  You could be a parent at home having that eureka moment and come to us with a sketch on a napkin, or an experienced designer engineer with a stl file ready to print. We are happy to be of service. If you have an idea you don’t need a business plan and bank loan to test it out. Come to us and we can produce a one off part in full colour, or a variety of different materials and finishes. The concept can be refined and re printed, or produced in a small batch for consumer testing and feedback. 

The world moves fast and so do we.  Much of our experience came from working in Formula One Racing.  Its commonplace for a designer to fix a fault from Sundays Grand Prix on Monday and the heat is on to get the part on the car to race ASAP. Even in time for the next race the following week!  So we are used to deadlines and pressure, but still delivering the highest standards.

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Should you spend money on a “cheap 3D printing service”?

Cheap 3D Printing, to do or not to do?

There is no easy answer to this question so let’s break it down.

Accurate Brief

Writing a good brief is always key to any 3D printing project. If you know what quality of 3D model your end customer is expecting for the stage of project you are on this will really help you make a decision on who to use. If your project is at a very early stage you might need to go through an iterative process where a quality finish is not required until a later stage. This can help keep your project costs lean.

Choose the Appropriate Finish

There are a number of possible finishes you might want to choose from. You need to be clear about the structural, performance and cosmetic specifications are correct for your model.

Infiltration, Sealing, polishing, Sanding, Electro-plating, Coating are all quite standard forms of finishing.

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If you are at a loss as to what to do and need to talk to an expert, please come and talk to us

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What Is 3D Printing and What Are Its Uses?

3D Printing and Its Uses to Consumers

3D printing and rapid prototyping technology (RPT) is starting to enhance product availability for consumers. The technology once used only by manufacturing industries is now available for consumer use in their home or small business. Rapid prototyping technology gives an almost unlimited ability for production to the average consumer. Just imagine that you have lost a button to your favourite suit or dress and there's no time to purchase another. Is there a solution? Yes there is, 3D Printing can produce an exact replica of the button you need! Once produced you sew it on and you are on your way. 3D printing can apply this rapid prototyping technology for the consumer and in a variety of applications. The technology for 3D printers is computer assisted design software instructing the printer to build a 3 dimensional model layer by layer until an exact reproduction is produced. Just think of the possibilities for consumers that 3D printers using rapid prototyping technology propose, they are too vast to number.

The use of 3D printing for making toys and models for the consumer right in their home is only one of many applications of rapid prototyping technology. In this application the consumer would purchase or download a (CAD) model and software package for the toy they wanted to produce and upload it into the hard-drive. One could then start to manufacture and/or customise the product. Options such as customizing monograms or colours for the lucky recipient of the toy would be available to the consumer. In a short period of time a customised toy would be ready for packaging, wrapping and gift giving. That special train or model car that you haven't been able to locate for purchase could be produced by 3D printing and rapid prototyping technology. 3D printing really opens up a lot of alternatives for consumers when it comes to producing just the right toys or models. Many times consumers are faced with purchasing only the products that are currently available because they lack production abilities. 3D printers are removing such restrictions for the consumer allowing them to produce as many products as software is available.
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