Paul and Jan have been involved in the dog agility arena for over 10 years competing mainly in regional shows. As a result of spending a lot of time training, it became obvious that there was a market for training aids. That is when Agilitum was born.
Like all sports, most of a competitor’s time is spent in training with only a small part in competition. Training requires practice and equipment. Some of that equipment is in the form of specialist training aids which aren’t readily available to the public and those that are can be very expensive eliminating the amateur agiliteur.
Training aids are generally fabricated in rubber or plastic for use in all weathers but machining costs can be quite high. At the elite end of the market price is not an issue but as techniques become more well known the demand for consumer level versions has increased so Paul decided to design and make many of his own.
Paul researched several options but soon realised that 3D printing was going to give him the best solution for both flexibility of manufacturing and cost. “I looked at injection moulding but even with a commitment to 5000 parts, the overall costs were scarcely different to 3D printing. The tooling costs associated with our variety of parts and the volumes we deal with, was always going to prevent us from utilising the economies of scale with technologies like injection moulding. Even without setup costs the unit cost was not significantly below that of 3D printing until you really scale up to 100,000 or more parts”. Shared Paul .
Image above is an example of the gorgeous ‘Tara’ using the Weave Guides, components printed with recycled white PETg by Midlands 3D – a push to fit system to guide dogs the correct way through a slalom of poles.
Agilitum Ltd make many products for canine agility training including timing equipment, beep mats, mats with lights to show where they have been touched, physical guides to avoid shortcutting, feeders to reward desired behaviour and so on. They work with, and have supplied services to, most members of Team GB but their most popular product to date has been something called a Stride Regulator – its basically a clip on bar which sets a dog’s stride pattern such that it doesn’t collect and jump the designated contact points (a fault under competition rules). They have sold several thousand of these over the last couple of years to budding competitors.
Prior to working with the team at Midlands 3D, Paul at Agilitum had used Prusa desktop 3D printers creating prototypes and small batches of parts, but demand for his products soared so he realised he needed to outsource the printing to meet customer demand.
They contacted many 3D print companies but Midlands 3D gave him the best turnaround and consistent quality. The team at Midlands 3D have always responded quickly and nothing is too difficult to discuss. Paul states “I never feel like ‘just anther client’”. They have developed a process that allows Agilitum to build and ship a consistent product in the 1000’s at an acceptable price for the average consumer.
Agilitum Ltd plans to use Midlands 3D for some time yet. As fashions change, so do the product requirements. Paul and Jan intend to outsource part manufacture to companies like Midlands 3D allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them. “I want to work with top trainers and be known for my innovation. I love engineering a solution to a problem and to do so in the Agility forum means I’m combining my passion of innovation with my love of dogs. What more can I ask more in my working life?” says Paul with a smile.