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Meet the Hubs Making London the Top 3D Printing City

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by Jen Botezat
Nov 5, 2017

Meet the Hubs Making London the Top 3D Printing City

According to latest data from 3D Hubs, London is the most active 3D printing city in the world. We speak to the local hubs driving this trend.

The latest 3D Hubs Trend Report shows that London has become the top 3D printing city in the world, based on output of 3D prints.

“This is the first time London has topped the city rankings and surpassed New York City as the top 3D print city,” says 3D Hubs Communications Manager George Fisher-Wilson. “Although we’ve seen both cities grow in terms of output this past quarter, London has been busier.”

“There is a real culture in London of not only making but also product development. We see an eclectic mix of users in London, from startups who are just making their first prototype or Kickstarter campaign to large corporations that are innovating and creating new products.”

Below, we interview four of London’s most buzzing 3D printing hubs. What are they up to, and how did they become so successful? Read on and find out.

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Best 3D Hubs in London CNCvac Hub

Image of Best 3D Hubs in London: CNCvac Hub

Dr. Georgios Ioannidis, a mechanical engineer with over 30 years of experience and trained astrophysicist, started business by providing CNC services to customers.

“With technology continuously moving forward, I realised that 3D printing was the biggest and most interesting market,” says Ioannidis. “Every day something new happens, new machines and materials, and I wanted to be involved in it.”

Now Ioannidis focuses exclusively on 3D printing. His first 3D hub based in north London’s Borehamwood has been around since 2015, with a more recent addition of a second CNCvac hub in Edinburgh, run by his son.

“A big part of our success is having face-to-face contact with our customers.”

Ioannidis prefers to use ABS filament because of the variety of post-processing options available with ABS and because you can print large models in pieces and stick them together easily with acetone. Ioannidis offers both FDM and SLA, with 80% of the orders being FDM.

Interestingly, CNCvac also offers post-processing services including acetone vapour smoothing and sandblasting. “Sandblasting creates a matte finish, which looks rough under the microscope,” Ioannidis explains. “It’s perfect for people who are planning to paint the 3D part.”

“A big part of our success is having face-to-face contact with our customers,” he continues. “We discuss a lot about how the customer will use the 3D printed parts. A part made for decoration has different requirements to a functional mechanical piece that needs to work properly inside a machine. We take the extra mile for the customer.”

Find them at: www.cncvac.co.uk

Best 3D Hubs in London Champion 3D Hub

Image of Best 3D Hubs in London: Champion 3D Hub
Third Thumb design by Danielle Clode.

“Champion 3D started as a hobby, because 3D printing was the perfect solution for a personal project,” says Champion 3D founder Josef Dunne. “I started by purchasing an inexpensive Witbox 1, which was a demo machine at a company that was going bust and have grown from there.”

Now in its second year of operation, Champion 3D attributes much of its early success to 3D Hubs. “I discovered 3D Hubs early on, while looking for the nearest 3D printer in our area. I started receiving orders soon after I put the machine on the platform. Initially, I would hand-deliver the prints and meet my customers in person to understand exactly what they wanted. Meeting with them educated me about how to provide a successful 3D printing service. This way, I could answer all their queries and concerns.”

“I don’t always ask questions about what I’m printing. When you do learn, that’s when the magic happens.”

Students are a big portion of the customer base and the variety in models is huge, says Dunne. “I don’t always ask questions about what I’m printing. You just print and don’t know how the individual parts fit together. When you do learn, that’s when the magic happens. Printing ‘The Third Thumb’ was such a project, but I focused on printing it the best I could.”

What started as a ‘bedroom project’ has now grown into a full-time business for Dunne, who now provides 3D printing services nationally and in Europe. “I am moving into a new studio in December, within the newly launching creative hub called Peckham Levels. I am particularly interested in having new people come work with me in the space.”

Find them at: https://champion3d.com/

Best 3D Hubs in London E8 Make Hub

Image of Best 3D Hubs in London: E8 Make Hub
Spaghetti Set design by Jihyeon Hwang.

E8 Make, now a successful 3D printing and design studio, was founded by fellow students Felix Manley and Sasha Bruml while studying Product Design at Central Saint Martins (CSM). It all started with the launch of their 3D hub about four years ago, in 2013, when few knew about the platform. And one printer.

“We had to use 3D printing for our university work, and we ended up printing at least a hundred models for other students in our year,” says Manley. “We later saw those 3D prints in their work at the CSM degree show, one of the largest in the world, and continued from there.”

“I spend my life in a mask and gloves. It’s messy, but I prefer it.”

They now work from the basement of a shared house and have expanded their array of printers to include MakerBot, Formlabs, and Ultimaker.

“We do a lot of work with resins these days – for jewellery, prototypes, and architecture,” continues Manley. “I spend my life in a mask and gloves. It’s messy, but I prefer it.”

The co-founders are now in the process of rebranding as “3D People” and launching a new website. They plan to move into a brand new studio space in the new year.

Find them at: https://www.e8make.co.uk/

Best 3D Hubs in London B3 Studio Hub

Image of Best 3D Hubs in London: B3 Studio Hub

B3 Studio was started a year and a half ago by co-founders Sersah Kombos and Arhan Karaca, who were architecture and design students at Central Saint Martins. When they required 3D prints for their projects, they at first ordered them from others, but they weren’t satisfied with the quality.

“We are designers, and we always want the best quality materials and machines,” says B3 director Kombos. “We think a big part of our success is that we have insider information into what our customers want. We can look at their project from a design perspective.”

The studio launched their 3D Hub in December 2016, and offers a physical location in Hackney where customers can collect their prints. They offer FDM, SLA, and SLS printing with the customers evenly split among the three technologies.

“We didn’t start this because of money. We wanted to make good models and give people good models.”

“We had to borrow money to purchase our first printer. We researched 3D printers for a month before purchasing an Ultimaker 2+,” explains Kombos. “Our customers are now mostly professionals – product designers, engineers, architects, and researchers. They are constantly experimenting.”

They now have taken on a third co-founder and angel investor and will soon be expanding to a new headquarters outside London. They plan to keep larger, commercial machines there.

“We are still deciding which technology to expand into,” Kombos says. “We don’t want the move to affect our customers. We didn’t start this because of money. We wanted to make good models and give people good models.”

Find them at: www.b3.studio

London

What Does London’s Success Mean for 3D Hubs?

In 3D printing terms, London is clearly buzzing. So what does the city’s success mean for 3D Hubs as a whole?

“We think the results of this quarter may be due to the large number of students prototyping well into the summer in London,” explains 3D Hubs Communications Manager George Fisher-Wilson.

“Although there are many design and engineering schools in both London and New York City, there was a surge in student activity in London during the summer months.”

“We expect that London and NYC will continue to battle for top place and that the gap will close again in the next quarter as student activity picks up in both cities. Students have a big impact.”

“Interestingly, we are seeing 3D Hubs spread wider than ever before, with popular hubs appearing in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. We are also seeing more activity on the African continent with growing adoption of 3D printing there.”

One thing is certain – 3D printing is spreading globally, and the race to the top is on. But this time around, it’s fair to say London deserves a big ‘cheers’!

Main Image Credits: Heikki Vesanto. All  images copyright their respective owners.

License: The text of "Meet the Hubs Making London the Top 3D Printing City" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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