Lancashire 3D printing firm gets a Boost

A fast-growing Lancashire business which supplies state-of-the-art 3D printers is set for further expansion after receiving free business support from Boost Business Lancashire.

Chorley-based Ultimaker (GB) Ltd has sold 500 of its ‘affordable and accessible’ 3D printers in the UK and taken on two new staff since being set up just six months ago by directors Paul Croft and Alex Mayor.

The firm, which has already enjoyed success in the engineering, design and architecture sectors, recently launched a groundbreaking initiative to promote the advanced technology in UK schools.

The company’s rapid growth has already seen it receive specialist HR mentoring support from Community and Business Partners through Boost – the county’s £7.2m business growth hub.

Funding from Boost’s sector support programme will help the company with further innovation and growth – it has qualified for part-funding to take part in the Design Council’s Design Leadership Programme.

The business is hoping to hit sales of 10,000 units in Great Britain over the next three years and create up to 20 jobs in the same period.

Paul Croft, director of Ultimaker, said: “3D printing is having an enormous impact on design and manufacturing in the UK. There is huge interest in our product because it is making the technology more affordable and accessible to businesses and organisations of all sizes, not just major corporations, which has been the case in the past. We’re taking 3D printing to the masses.”

Ed Matthews-Gentle, from Creative Lancashire, who has been working with Ultimaker, said: “3D printing is a game changing technology with huge companies like BAE Systems using 3D-printed parts on their fighter jets and smaller manufacturers now realising the benefits thanks to advances in the technology making it more affordable.

“The future of manufacturing relies on innovating through new products. 3D printing can potentially make complex parts more cheaply and could revitalise many manufacturing sectors. Ultimaker is a business with enormous growth potential and the support we are providing will allow it to go from strength to strength.”

3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. It is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of heated material are laid down in different shapes.

Billed as ‘the new kid on the block for 3D printing’ the Ultimaker printer is designed and manufactured by its Netherlands-based parent company Ultimaker BV. It started selling in May 2011 and more than 10,000 units have been sold across the world thanks to its ability to print large objects, while only occupying a small desktop space.

According to Ultimaker, its technology also has a major advantage over other types of 3D printers because it is ‘open source’, which means it supports a range of design software and print consumables, rather than being tied to a particular software programme.

Ultimaker’s CREATE Education Project is being rolled out during 2014 and will enable schools to provide students with the best current learning opportunities 3D printing has to offer.

Under the initiative, Ultimaker is providing a free no-obligation loan of an original Ultimaker to schools and is seeking 50 institutions across the country to be appointed as 3D Hubs to share the 3D printing with everyone.

Paul Croft added: “The CREATE initiative has already received fantastic feedback from teachers while pupils have been blown away by how easy the technology is to use and the subsequent opportunities it presents. This is all about enabling our children, who are the engineers and designers of the future, to be at the forefront of this technology.” Boost Business Lancashire is being delivered through a partnership between Lancashire County Council, Community & Business Partners, Lancaster University, Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Winning Pitch. £3.6m of funding has been provided by ERDF.