A few years ago TCT reported on a breakthrough technology that had the potential to revolutionise engineering for industries the world over. In what founder and Managing Director, Stuart Burns describes as a true light bulb moment, Rotite was introduced in 2012 as a scalable fastening technology employing a rotary interlocking system, based on a mathematical principle, with the ability to fine tune to any specification.
Of course, if you are fortunate enough to be the brains behind a unique invention like Rotite, the go-to strategy would be to keep it on the quiet and get the idea patented. Patent they did but Stuart says the company is now much more enthusiastic about giving potential users the opportunity to play about with Rotite and discover its possibilities for themselves.
“We’re happy to have this culture of people investigating it,” Stuart comments referring to the slew of interesting projects from aerospace, defence and even quadcopter design that have utilised the provision of Rotite’s free 3D print files to experiment and evaluate the technology. “They’re not normal products, they’re hybridised by people and Rotite has had an awful lot of interest in that. It’s nice that other people have latched on to it. It’s proliferation and helps get the technology out there.”
A lot has changed since TCT last met with Rotite Technologies. The company has grown through investments and partnerships and Rotite has become a substantiated technology with interest from huge names in the aerospace and automotive sector. Even more impressive, working closely with the University of Manchester they have managed to do what many thought was impossible by proving the ability to injection mould Rotite.
“We know where we’re going now,” Stuart explained. “People want to try and find a use for Rotite because it’s an elegant solution, not a complex system. People can very easily perceive it as a solution to what their requirements are but what they need is quantification, facts and figures.”
This increased interest has meant the business focus of Rotite has also taken a new direction. Early on, the idea was to patent and license the technology but now as a technology business, it’s much more focused on engaging with people and developing through technical consultancy partnerships where the individual benefits of Rotite like light-weighting, faster assembly and enhanced consumer experience, can be explored.
As a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and product designer, Stuart is well versed in the technologies that Rotite supports and now boasts an enviable contact book bursting with high-profile names in various levels of industry.
“It’s not the classic success, from rags to riches story. I’m lucky to have had a good foundation and knowledge of these technologies as a product designer,” Stuart explains. “Who we are as a business has been shaped by the people we’ve consulted, leading industry experts who have seen Rotite, given us advice to shape our pitch, material and even our funding applications. The success that we’ve afforded hasn’t just come from my hard work, its from the technology’s simplicity, its not complicated - people believe in the technology and can see its got applications.”
As a self confessed opportunist, silver-lining kind of guy, Stuart says many doors that were once closed to the company have now been flung wide open, leading to some pivotal chance meetings and being scouted onto prestigious technology programmes. Perhaps the biggest news for Rotite is that the company has been invited onto the 18-month National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP), which supports grassroots technology in the aerospace sector, funded by the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) set up by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.
As the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens, the result of a failed funding application led to an introduction to the robotics laboratory at UCLAN where the company was put on the radar of NATEP. Within a matter of weeks, Rotite was presented to some of the world’s leading aerospace companies where a strong consortium was created working in conjunction with the likes of Airbus Group Innovations and Sigmatex. Working with the North West Composites Centre, Rotite aims to develop the use of Rotite in high strength lightweight composite materials and make structures stronger and simpler by removing traditional metallic fasteners, reducing both weight and magnetic signatures.
In the early days, Rotite gained its notoriety, primarily for being such a ground-breaking system but also for its connection to 3D printing led by strong relationships with names like additive manufacturing giant Stratasys and UK-based 3D printing bureau IPF. Now Rotite has plans to invest in its own Objet 30 Prime and RGD525 material.
Stuart Burns, Founder and Managing Director, Rotite.
“There’s a real synergy between Rotite and 3D printing,” Stuart explained. “3D printing for me has always been something very different to most other people. For us 3D printing has always been a way of speeding up that developmental process.”
Determined not to be bound by the past, since those first 3D printed prototypes, the company has achieved major funding milestones from the likes of the Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) Smart award and the UK Manufacturing Accelerator. Rotite’s Technical Project’s Manager, Cat Silva has been instrumental in Rotite’s funding success having her work recognised and noted by Innovate UK and NATEP programmes and securing a funding total of around £250,000. The story really has come full circle with government funding gaining Rotite the credibility it needed which later gained them investment. Now that investment is gaining even further credibility and it’s not showing any sign of stopping.
“Where we are as a business is not just a product of my efforts, its come from the support from people in industry, universities, Innovate UK, NWCC. It’s s team of people that have brought us to where we are.”
You can hear more from Stuart Burns at the TCT Show + Personalize Conference at 3.05pm on 30th September when he presents ‘Beyond the Hype and into Space’. REGISTER FOR FREE.