CEL is the manufacturer of a range of low-cost power tools and the hugely successful POWER8 Workshop, an award-winning cordless benchtop power tool innovation originally featured on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. As a manufacturer, we did all the CAD work but, like most, would outsource the manufacturing of the prototypes to 3D printing service bureaus or contract manufacturers.
After growing increasingly frustrated with the high costs and delays experienced with outsourcing, we made the decision to bring prototype manufacturing in-house by developing our own 3D printer with help from open-source RepRap designs from the University of Bath. We developed and added new technologies and features to work with these designs, sourced the highest quality components, and, after many design iterations, we decided to bring the 3D printer we developed to market as a new product itself: Robox.
As a small, resource-limited manufacturer, we certainly didn’t want to develop a 3D printer that was time-consuming to start, operate or maintain. To us, a 3D printer isn’t a gadget, novelty or toy; it is a manufacturing tool whose sole purpose is to bring virtual designs into physical reality. Since deciding to bring the 3D printer we initially developed for ourselves to market, we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort streamlining the software workflow and developing automatic hardware calibrations in our efforts to make the 3D printing process as simple and fast as possible (Robox 3D printers have won several awards for their user-friendliness).
We’ve benefited hugely from taking the decision to bring both the design and manufacture of our prototypes in-house. 3D printing technology has dramatically reduced our costs while improving our rate of innovation and, ultimately, the quality of our products. With Robox, we wanted to show other manufacturers that they too can take full control of prototyping and reap these same benefits.
Beyond business, we have a stake in British education as a British manufacturer. We can use the Robox brand to help the next generation become world leaders in design and manufacturing, by empowering young people to think creatively and not be afraid to make mistakes through the iterative design process. Anticipating Robox being used in education, we included an interlocking mechanism in the door as a safety feature in the original Robox model. Astonishingly, Robox 3D printers are still the only desktop 3D printers that include this critical safety feature.
We use Robox 3D printers in our work with the James Dyson Foundation and partner schools around the country to help improve learning outcomes in STEM. We want to do what we can to play our part in helping Britain grow as a world-leading source of innovation and inspiration for young people.
Since launching the original Robox model, we released an upgraded dual extrusion version, RoboxDual, in early 2017. RoboxDual can print with two colours or materials at the same time while still running on the same award-winning hardware and software platforms. We’re now excited to be launching a new, ground-breaking 3D printer, RoboxPRO, at Bett that offers considerably more advanced capabilities. We look forward to showcasing RoboxPRO and the other 3D printers in the Robox family at Bett 2018 and invite visitors to come to stand B470 to learn more. The show takes place in ExCeL London between 24-27 January and is free to attend.