The dream of 3D printing became a reality when in 2004, we imported our first 3D printer, a ZPrinter 310. But first, the back story.
The Bootstrap Years
Pauline Bullock (MScEng -Chemical, BComm) had resigned from Systems Automation & Management 6 months previously and was managing the building of their house – boredom was starting to set in.
David Bullock (BScEng – Mechanical) was working at Clifford Engineering as manager of the Design Department and was fascinated by the power and potential in 3D technologies. During an internet research session he stumbled upon the concept of a 3D printer. This concept was way too enticing to pass by and this led to business plans and ideas around the start up of a 3D print service.
One thing lead to another with Pauline meeting with ZCorporation at the TCT show in Birmingham and came home to talk with the bank. After much convincing and education, a loan was secured and the printer was ordered.
Bryan Bullock (BTech – Mechanical) was roped in almost from day one – the appeal of new technologies and new toys being too strong to resist. For David and Bryan, Rapid 3D was an “after hours” job for a number of years.
In 2008 Bryan left his position as Maintenance Manager at Pfisterer and brought his considerable experiences, working on the floor of a large foundry, to Rapid 3D.
David joined Rapid 3D full-time in 2010.
Building the Dream
With the arrival of the ZPrinter 310, the initial idea was to provide a 3D printing bureau service. But as events unfolded, by 2005, we had entered into an agreement with ZCorporation. A deal that would lead to Rapid 3D becoming the official distributors for 3D Systems in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Fast forward 10 years and Rapid 3D, a business founded by a family of engineers, is thriving as our strong focus on technical solutions, that make good business sense, has empowered businesses to make good on the, sometimes unpredictable, promise of 3D printing.
Go Big or Go Home
It’s at this juncture, in 2014 that Rapid 3D JV (PTY) Ltd was created as a subsidiary of Kemtek Imaging Systems.
Backed and supported by Kemtek’s nationwide logistics and support infrastructure, we have been able to grow our offering in line with our vision; Professional 3D Printing solutions that make good business sense.
The ability to always offer the best solution to clients was often marred by the fact that 3D printing technology is perpetually developing across such a wide array of applications.
Different industries require different solutions. Solutions that are seldom covered by one primary equipment manufacturer. At our last count, there are 119 3D printer manufacturers.
Our partnership with Kemtek opened the doors to the resources needed to reliably represent and support proven technologies from different manufacturers. For us here at Rapid 3D, this was a great win, because the real win is for our clients.
We are now able to design professional 3D printing solutions from a much bigger palette of options.
Done for You
While the professional 3D printer sales were growing steadily, the original dream of running a 3D printing bureau service had grown alongside, under the capable and determined hand of Bryan.
Spun off as Rapid 3D parts, the 3D bureau service has expanded to include the gamut of 3D printing technologies. Rapid 3D Parts was spun off into a separate business and rebranded as Akhani 3D Printing Service bureau.
It presently offers the following technologies:
- Stereolithography (SLA): The SLA process utilizes a vat of liquid photopolymer resin cured by ultraviolet laser to create solid 3D models.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS employs a high power laser to fuse plastic powders into finished prototypes and functional end-use components.
- Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF): Another additive manufacturing technology, FFF (similar to Fused deposition modeling (FDM)) uses a plastic filament, unwound from a coil to supply material to produce a part.
- ColorJet Printing (CJP): Using an inkjet-like printing head to selectively deposit a colored liquid binding over a bed of powder material we are able to create full color finished parts. (Read More)
- MultiJet Printing (MJP): An additive manufacturing process that prints thin layers of UV curable liquid plastics and wax support materials to create high resolution fully cured plastic parts.
- Direct Metal Printing (DMP): Direct Metal Printing uses additive manufacturing technology. A high-precision laser is used on metal powder particles, producing horizontal metal layers.
(If you are looking for a consolidated and updated resource on the various 3D printing technologies, you can find one on 3DHubs.)
With all these technologies at our fingertips and a continuous stream of projects – covering the straightforward, all the way through to imaginative, boundary-pushing designs – we’ve lived the 3D printing dream, warts and all.
For our clients, we can truly say, “We do this stuff”. And because we do this stuff day-in and day-out, we can call it like it is, complete with our trained-this-way engineering practicality.
Is 3D Printing for Me?
Having lived with the real and unfulfilled promised of 3D printing these last 15+ years, we are constantly looking to the developments in 3D printing. Carefully sorting the hype from the real-world. It’s from this basis that we engage our clients in paid consultation, helping them see and understand the developments over the horizon.
Developments that will force them to reconsider their existing business models or join the dinosaurs as they face irrelevance and ultimately, extinction.
Industry 4.0, a term that encompasses a range of technologies, is real. A revolution is taking place right under our noses. A revolution that will disrupt strong, established businesses if they do not embrace those technologies and gain an understanding of how to deploy those technologies in their industries.
3D printing is one of those technologies. Join us as we embrace the future. Our future.