Case study

BullShift – Fast time to market and low barrier to entry

Executive Summary

Working consultatively with Midlands3D, enabled BullShift to dramatically cut time to market, reduce costs of market entry and provide the ideal technology upon which to constantly evolve their product designs based on customer feedback.


After almost 40 years of bringing large scale, highly technical products to market, in 2018, Bullshift founder and Managing Director Ian Blakeman decided the time was right to break out on his own with innovative new designs in a market he was passionate about – off-road motorcycling. Suffering a few false starts, working with Midlands 3D through prototype and into manufacture proved invaluable in solving a myriad of challenges in bringing his products to market.

The Challenge

Ian’s products make changing gear on a motorbike much easier in off-road situations where the rider is more likely to be standing and/or being thrown around more as the trail bumps and turns. “It’s a tough environment” comments Ian “so the products were going to need to be equally tough and would need extensive testing”.

Unfamiliar with the use of 3D printing for batch manufacture Ian and his then product designer set out on a route to design and have made a tool made for injection moulding. “It was quite a big risk – around £20,000”, explains Ian, “and, of course, if we had the design wrong there was a risk the investment would be completely wasted. I’d even placed a deposit down for the tool when I started to have serious doubts about the decision to fix the design”. At this point that his designer suggested exploring 3D Printing. “We initially looked at a metal sintering process to make the products in Aluminium, but the range of suppliers in the UK was really limited. Also, the unit costs were high. It really didn’t feel like suppliers were interested in our business or working collaboratively with us”. 

A Google search quickly turned up Midlands 3D and the MJF process using Nylon as a potential alternative approach.

Working with Midlands 3D

From the initial meeting at Midlands 3D, it was clear that the relationship would be very different.

“Reviewing the designs for our product with Paul and his team was pivotal for us in creating a product that could be made and would work well. Based on his knowledge and input we modified our designs so that they would be better suited to manufacture in Nylon and the MJF process. Unlike other suppliers and other processes where prototyping could cost up to ten times the final product cost, the set up at Midlands 3D meant we were able to produce single prototypes for a fraction of that, to test and iterate our designs. We really reduced our time to market and the costs to get there dramatically!”

Before very long we had our first product – the Soleshiftr and could take it to market.

Iterating the design based on customer feedback

It’s great to be able to immediately respond to real world feedback. For example, recently three folks in the US reported that they’d managed to break theirs while doing some extreme off-roading. Quickly we replaced them, iterating our design to strengthen it further. We were able to print a few test products and send those out to these customers. We gave them instructions to break those too – if they could! So far, they’ve not managed to, but if my product design had been fixed in a £20,000 mould, and I had thousands of products sitting on the shelf ready to sell, I would have been in a real pickle. Instead, I can discard the much smaller stock of end product I was holding and immediately move to the new design. It’s a game changer at this stage of the growth of the business.

The Future

“There are over 60 million bikers in my target market around the world”, comments Ian.”So even if we got to 1 or 2% of that we’d be shipping some pretty large volumes. In the short to medium term though, with the realistic capability to produce batches of thousands of parts on-demand, printed parts from Midlands 3D will enable us to scale the business in a way that’s manageable We can then make a smooth transition to a moulding process at a much later date for products that truly hit the mass market.

“I also have three or four more ideas that I’m keen to get working on, now I have found my ideal team of product designer and manufacturer. With these guys in place I think the time to get from concept to market entry can now be measured in weeks and months, rather than months and years, which is really exciting” comments Ian.

With these guys in place I think the time to get from concept to market entry can now be measured in weeks and months, rather than months and years, which is really exciting”

Ian Blakeman

Managing Director, BullShift Limited

Could we do the same for you?

Midlands 3D’s collaborative and consultative approach to working with customers is a godsend for entrepreneurs. This coupled with ground up 3D Print technologies designed for batch manufacturing, such as HP Multi Jet Fusion can massively accelerate product realisation process from design to prototype to production.

Talk to Us Now.

Contact the Midlands 3D team now to arrange a no obligation consultation and see if your next innovation or invention could also benefit from adopting this innovative approach to bringing products to market.