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3D Printing Blog

Video Interview: 3D Print Manufacturing Unpacked

Recently I headed up to Stone in Staffordshire,  to catch up with my brother and Midlands 3D founder, Paul Moloney.  As I’m new to the world of 3D print manufacturing, or additive manufacturing as it’s more formally known, we decided to take the opportunity to record an interview so I could ask a lot of those questions that Paul is often asked. You can watch the video on YouTube or right here by clicking below or, if you prefer to read, I’ve captured the main points of our conversation in this post.

Enjoy!

YouTube video

The Genesis of Midlands 3D

Paul starts off by giving us a history lesson on how Midlands 3D came to be. Back in 2017, he bought a second-hand wooden-framed 3D printer and started printing items in his garage. Initially, it was just for fun—making toys and small items, sharing images on Instagram. Out of the blue, a local person asked if Paul could create a custom bracket, leading to the first paid project.

From Garage to Full-Fledged Business

Paul’s early success led him to buy another six machines, moving from a side endeavour in his garage to renting a unit for production. By 2018, the demand had grown so much that Paul’s wife, Deb, left her full-time job to join the business. They also hired Phil, a technical expert, transforming the venture from a side hustle to a full-scale 3D print manufacturing operation.   “It was never supposed to be serious, you know, 100%. I never intended it to become serious. It was more that the demand started to grow and grow, and before I knew it, I was producing enough to warrant a unit just around the corner from where we are here on the Whitebridge estate in Stone.”

Why Choose 3D Printing Over Traditional Methods? 

The decision between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing methods like injection moulding hinges on several factors, such as cash flow, volume of demand, and the flexibility to iterate or customise designs. 

  •  Cost: While injection moulding requires significant upfront investment in tooling, 3D printing allows for more affordable, on-demand production without the need for expensive moulds. 
  •  Flexibility: 3D printing offers unparalleled customization, making it ideal for scenarios where designs frequently change or require personalisation. 
3D Print Manufacturing discussed

MJF Technology: A Step Forward 

The Power of Powders 

Paul introduces Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), HP’s proprietary technology that uses a powder-based approach to produce parts. Unlike FDM, MJF builds parts within a block of powder, eliminating the need for support structures and resulting in stronger, more precise parts. 

Versatility and Efficiency 

One of the main advantages of MJF is its ability to print multiple parts in one go. This makes it highly efficient for batch production. The technology’s strength and durability also make it suitable for a wide range of industries, from automotive to consumer electronics. 

Practical Applications and Case Studies 

Custom Solutions for Various Industries 

Paul showcases several projects where Midlands 3D’s custom 3D printing solutions have made a significant impact. For example, they worked with a local company, Synetica. Delivering both outer case and inner chassis, each build can be customised based on component availability.

Supporting Supply Chain and Sustainability 

The ability to print parts on demand also helps mitigate supply chain disruptions and reduce carbon footprints. During the Suez Canal blockage, Midlands 3D received an influx of orders from companies struggling to get parts from traditional suppliers.   “I’ve committed to stock over there. I’ve committed to this amount of stock that’s on the shelf and that’s now running thin and everything else is on the water. And aside from the fact that you’re thinking, well, you’ve spent a lot of money on stock you haven’t even seen yet, you’ve just been caught out by the fact that that supply chain is actually pretty fragile.” 

Future of 3D Printing 

Industry Growth and New Opportunities 

The adoption of 3D print manufacturing is only expected to grow as new generations enter the industry. Their fresh ideas and inclination towards digital manufacturing will see demand skyrocket. Technologies like MJF will continue to advance, expanding the possibilities for additive manufacturing even further.  “The younger generation are coming through the education system. They’re getting into positions of decision-making power. If you like, mainstream. It becomes the first point of call when you think about manufacturing.” 

Sustainability and Digital Warehousing 

Digital warehousing—a concept where 3D models are stored and printed on demand, could revolutionise how products are maintained and end-of-life parts are managed. This approach offers potential cost savings and environmental benefits by reducing the need for large inventories and minimising waste. 

Conclusion 

3D printing is transforming industries by offering flexible, cost-effective solutions for everything from prototyping to mass production. Midlands 3D exemplifies how embracing this technology can lead to innovative products and efficient supply chain management, all while supporting sustainability goals. 

For more information or to explore how 3D printing can benefit your business, arrange a visit to Midlands 3D or give them a call. Whether you are looking for custom solutions or just curious about 3D print manufacturing, Paul and his team are ready to help.