This week we have been talking to another of our Affiliated Resellers Kitronik – a company which specialises in targeting the education market predominantly, but also the hobby market. Kitronik chose to invest in the Robox above all other 3D printers on the market, read below to find out why.
Tell us about Kitronik – when did you set up the company and why?
We (Kevin Spurr and Geoff Hampson) started Kitronik in 2005. At the time we working at the same company designing wireless alarm systems after graduating from Loughborough University, where we both studied electronics related engineering degrees. Geoff was designing electronic kits in his spare time to use at a ‘Scout Technology Camp’ he helped run each year. At the time Geoff couldn’t find that many interesting projects on the market so he decided to design his own. Some teachers took an interest in them and their clearly written instructions.
What are you better known for selling to hobbyists and teachers?
The majority of Kitronik’s sales have been into the education market. We sell to many UK schools and in addition to this we have distributors selling our products in lots of countries around the world. We are increasingly seeing more sales into the hobby market. Our simple instruction and resources mean that anyone can have fun learning about electronic circuits.
We have tried to create a range of products that students or hobbyists would want to use once they have built them. For example we have a wide range of amplifier kits that you can use to make your own speaker dock. Our newer amplifier kits use modern ‘Class D’ amplifier ICs and can be powered using a micro-usb power supply (which you get with most mobile phones).
Kitronik is a unique brand, as it supplies directly to 3,000+ secondary schools in the UK, in addition to selling online. What are your relationships like with the schools / how closely do you work with them?
Kitronik has now sold to over 3,000 schools in the UK. The education market has a particular set of needs. Products need to be supplied quickly and in the kind of format that is needed for a classroom environment. Key to this is having well written support material, which we have for all of our products. This material includes the vast majority of what a teacher would need to deliver the project in a classroom and can easily be tailored to their particular needs.
The way the products are designed is also very important. The need to be easy to assemble and parts need to be well spaced. As we design our own circuits we can use teacher’s feedback to make improvements to our designs.
When teachers do come across something they don’t understand it is important to have staff who can support them straight away so they can quickly get back to teaching.
Why did you decide to enter the 3D printing arena?
Design and Technology is a fast moving subject. When we started Kitronik most students made the cases for their project using hand tools. Then laser cutters and milling machines started to become really popular. In recent years 3D printers have started to become more popular as the cost of these units has fallen. As a result we started to get asked about how to use them with our range of Kitronik kits, so we thought it was probably a good idea to start selling one.
The Robox is the ONLY 3D printer you stock, why is this?
We looked at lots of printers before selecting the Robox. It had all of the features you would expect from a 3D printer, but it also had a few key ones that we thought were essential for schools.
The most important of these was the fact the case locks while it is printing. The nozzles and bed get very hot during the print process and we didn’t want an opportunity for students to get injured if the printer was left unattended.
In addition to this the automatic features such as bed leveling and filament recognition mean teachers and students can produce prints with minimal input (and time).
How do you think the Robox compliments your existing range of products?
By adding the Robox to our range we can now offer a complete project solution to our customers. They can design / build a circuit and then design and print a case for that circuit all using products from Kitronik.
What are you trying to achieve as a reseller within the 3D printing arena?
We want to use 3D printing as a medium for allowing users to be even more creative in the way they house our range of kits. 3D printing should allow users to create fantastic looking products that are unique to their own requirements and style.
What can you offer a customer / teacher / student / hobbyist that other resellers can’t?
Kitronik will be providing a wide range of resources and support material specifically designed for use with our products. We aim to supply 3D CAD models of our kits so that the user can use these as a starting point for their design. We are also looking to create a number of ‘inspirational’ designs that will hopefully show users what is possible. In addition to this we will tailor a range of resources to fit the requirements of the school curriculum.
We have just hired our own CAD designer so that we can create a large range of printable models based around our kits.
In addition to this we have been working with My Mini Factory to create a range of printable designs based around our kits. You can find these models at https://www.kitronik.co.uk/3dprints
You are currently in the process of putting together a 3D Printing Kitronik University course – tell us more about what the course will entail –
We are currently putting together a set of 3D Printing resources that will form a ‘Kitronik University’ course. This will explain subjects such as how 3D printers work and how to create designs that can be successfully 3D printed.
Part of the reason you attended the Robox Affiliation Programme is because you have a great relationship with your customers, and provide after-care support. What other resources do you have on offer aside from your product offerings?
In addition to the ‘learning’ resources that we are creating we also wanted to create some Robox specific tutorials and guides. The resources we have created so far (more to come) can be found at https://www.kitronik.co.uk/3d-printing.html
We are always happy to speak to customers and help them out with any questions they might have, both before and after purchasing.
What would be your one piece of advice to anyone considering buying a 3D printer?
I would start by looking at what you want to use a printer for, where it will be used and who by.
For example if you want to leave it unattended around children then a looking case is probably a must have feature. If you have lots of different users using the printer then auto setup features are helpful. Lastly if you don’t want to just be stuck printing PLA material then a heated bed and enclosed case are essential. These are just a few examples and price doesn’t always relate directly to quality.
To watch Kevin Spurr demonstrate the Robox visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HiHUDqqtek