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Nick Allen 3D printerNick Allen demonstrating 3D printing in a GadgetsBoy video.
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3DPRINTUK Pricing structure
One of 3DPRINTUK's biggest unique selling points is its pricing structure. Nick Allen explains how it works in this video and why it separates 3DPRINT UK from the rest of the industry.
He explained: "By pricing a swept XYZ volume, we can make it much cheaper for people to buy their 3D prints, as they can cram in as many as they can into a single STL file. They've paid for the volume, so they may as well use the space!
"This means that instead of paying for just build material, they pay the total swept volume, but at a tenth of the cost per cm3. This means that you don't need to make walls really thin and weak to make parts cheaper, and you can squeeze loads in for free!"
When TCT Magazine and Personalize went up to the capital earlier this month we did as much homework as possible ahead of our packed schedule of meetings, but as always, getting to know the people behind the companies is far superior to any About Us page.
This was, essentially, the point of our London mission and when it came down to getting to know Nick Allen, the mastermind behind 3DPRINTUK, our face-to-face meeting could not have been a more valuable experience.
Londoners say that Bermondsey is the new 'up and coming' neighbourhood south of the Thames and it was there, in a dusty industrial park on a hot day after two trains and a minicab, that we sniffed out 3DPRINTUK's headquarters.
Young team for a young industry
We were greeted by the energetic presence of Allen, who bounded up to us and made us feel like we had known each other for ages. A couple of studious designer-types were stationed around the good-sized workshop, which showcases 3DPRINTUK's broad repertoire.
One of these startlingly youthful professionals was Mark Little of product design business Luma 3D Print, which operates out of 3DPRINTUK, with Little taking on the role of on-site designer and CAD professional.
It is easy to understand why experts like Little, and the other young designers who were hard at work in the same room, have chosen to work with Allen. Even before our meeting, a couple of the other 3D printing professionals we met to had dropped his name here and there. Slowly but surely, the designer is gaining a reputation for being something of a major character in the industry - even appearing on the One Show in April of this year.
One thing Allen is certainly not short on is opinions. Following pleasantries, our meeting practically began with the statement: "I don't want to tell people the same thing over and over again about 3D printing. That's definitely not the way we want to do it."
"It's not an inkjet printer"
What Allen is fanatical about is understanding how to use 3D printing technology for the appropriate applications and getting the message across that it is not a push-button revolution.
"I get people phoning me up that are 2D printing companies and they want to know about 3D printing and how they can do it when all they know is inkjet printers," he lamented, explaining that - although it is good people are interested - the concept of technical skill is still passing many by.
"And it's annoying when we have people ring up with a project and they want the print back in the afternoon. I keep saying to these people that it's not an inkjet printer."
Allen even went as far as to say he wished the industry was called additive manufacturing 3D printing to differentiate the technology from 2D printing.
He revealed he has been drafted in to do a talk about the industry at an upcoming event and said he was keen to use the opportunity to "dispel some of the hype".
"I want my information to come across right. Don't get me wrong - I love 3D printing - but we have to know what we are getting and what it's about."
Allen studied aerospace engineering at Manchester University and product design at the University of Salford. It was during this time that he first discovered 3D printing, when the traditional manufacturing routes proved too expensive and time-consuming for a particular project.
He revealed that he managed to track down a 3D printing company that could build his model for £500 and have it sent over by the end of the week, which was music to the young designer's ears after receiving quote upon quote for figures as high as £12,000 and timescales going beyond weeks into months.
"I was sold. And then I had plenty of time to research the best machine and how much the materials cost."
But while Allen has been getting to grips with the full potential of 3D printing, the rest of the media has not been able to keep apace with developments.
"Because of the force of 3D printing interest, I wanted to bring people who are interested back down to earth. I wanted to make a website to show everything as it develops," he remarked.
And so, after a quick domain name availability check online, 3DPRINTUK was born and rose swiftly to the top of the Google rankings. Naturally, big-name clients followed suit.
"I want to be good at what I do"
But even though the professional is working with some of the most famous brands in the world, he does not feel like rivalry within the 3D printing marketplace is something that affects him.
"The thing I like about the industry is there's no competing. Nobody is stealing other people's clients."
Indeed, Allen said sometimes he gets calls about printing certain items that he knows could be produced better by somebody else, and he is contacted occasionally by individuals looking for help with their CAD files who are then directed to the experts.
"We can help them or I can tell them where to go [for help]," he stated.
Nick Allen's passion is to do justice by both 3D printing and his clients and he is keen for the rest of the industry to adopt this state of mind as well.
"What I want people to know is that I just want to be good at what I do."
So, in addition to some of the standard-issue workshop dust that coated the leather couch we were sitting on, we felt some of Allen's zeal had rubbed off on us as we made our way blinking out of 3DPRINTUK into the midday sun. And we know there are more exciting things to come from this busy corner of London.