Our tech start-up of the week is Inspire 3D, a new 3D print bureau based in Ashford, Co Wicklow, that is aiming to make 3D printing more accessible in Ireland, especially for designers and modellers and those looking to create product prototypes.
Having had more than 40 years of experience in the printing trade, digital printer Terry Rowan set up Inspire 3D in early 2011 after researching the potential for 3D printing. In addition to offering 3D printing services, the company sells 3D technologies, such as printers and scanners.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making a three-dimensional object from a digital model. The industry is starting to gain pace for industries that want to create prototypes quickly. Another advantage of 3D printing is that it reduces waste in contrast to conventional manufacturing.
The 3D printing technology turns 3D digital designs made using computer-aided-design (CAD) or other modelling software into physical objects. The technology can be used for the prototyping of products that are in design and in architectural models, the dental and medical industries, and even aviation.
Future of manufacturing
"I originally started following this revolutionary technology about 10 years ago and finally decided it was time to go into business in 2011," explains Rowan.
Over the next 12 months, he set about researching machines and material advancements, visiting exhibitions and manufacturing operations in Europe and further afield.
"I saw the potential in 3D printing and the future of manufacturing, with its cost efficiency, speed of producing one-off and low-volume products in many materials, from ABS plastics to resins, powders and metals."
Rowan explains that 3D printing is a process where a material is laid down layer upon layer to build up a 3D object.
"It’s bit like building a house out of LEGO, row upon row of bricks, to produce your desired house," he says. "With 3D printing, you go from design straight to production at the click of a mouse."
As for Inspire 3D, the company offers one-off production of designs, rapid prototyping and low-volume production. The latter service is often used by artists and designers who need to produce a limited number of items for product development and testing or to sell.
"Currently, our target markets range from craftspeople, product designers, jewellers and architects up to industrial applications for full-scale production of parts that are too complicated and costly to produce using conventional means," says Rowan.
Online file up-loader
Inspire 3D now has an online file up-loader system that allows people to send the company their digital files. People can choose from more than 20 materials for their products, including aluminium, a cobalt chrome alloy and casting waxes for jewellery and metal work.
Via this new system, Rowan says a client sets up an account, fills in his or her details, selects the desired material, finish and quantity needed and attaches the file.
"We aim to reply to all uploads within six working hours with a quotation and estimated delivery time. Once the client is happy and the order is confirmed, the file is sent to print."
He says the online system has cut Inspire 3D’s processing of orders from an average of 75 hours down to a day.
"It allows us to get a client’s order into the print queue earlier, giving them a faster design-to-production time."
In addition to its bespoke printing service, the company sells a range of 3D printing and scanning equipment. For instance, it is a reseller for Fabbster, a 3D printer for home use to enable people to create objects out of plastics.
Right now, Inspire 3D employs five people, three in sales and service and two in production. Rowan says the goal is to increase staffing levels as demand for the company’s services continues to grow.
For the remainder of 2013, he says the plan is to launch an online web store to sell a new line of 3D products.
"We also plan to expand the range of materials and finishes available to our clients on the online uploader, along with the range of machines we sell," he affirms.