As visitors to my blog will probably know/realise I teach Design and Technology at Clevedon School in the UK…. my year 12/13 students study AS/A2 Product Design. Studying this course not only requires students to design and make products but also to know how they would be made in the “real world”… And many students incorporate 3D printing in their designs, so what could be better to combine all of this into a visit to 3D Systems (Bits from Bytes).
So earlier today we took the students to “BfB HQ” to have a look round. The guys from BfB did a fantastic job of making us welcome with Annabelle introducing the students to the factory with a brief history of how the business was set up and it’s development from the RepRap project at Bath University. Iain then gave the students a tour of the facilities including the business side of the company, how it fits in as part of the 3D Systems global company, how sales and marketing are managed and of course a tour of the production facilities. The students were able to see both the RapMan and 3D Touch production systems and how these differ due to RapMan being sold as a kit and the 3D Touch being sold as a “ready to print” machine. It was brilliant for the students to see all this happening “for real” and how the things we have studied such as “Quality Control and Quality Assurance” really do make a difference to the manufacture of products.
From a personal point of view it was also great to meet up again with the guys from BfB… Amazing how many were previously students at my school!
And finally a huge “thank you” to Iain, Annabelle and all the others at BfB for making us so welcome and for sparing their precious time especially when they are in the middle of the rush to get machines out to their resellers in time for Christmas.
Here’s what my students had to say…
Bits from Bytes visit
Bits from Bytes are a UK based company owned by 3D Systems. They design and manufacture low cost 3D printers for rapid prototyping. The company was started in a garage, and has now progressed to two warehouses.
We were first met by Annabel, who told us briefly about the history of the company. After that we met Iain. He first spoke to us about the marketing aspects of the business, and the admin and finance elements.
We then went through to the board room, and saw how the machines have evolved and some examples of what could be produced on the 3D printer. This included some alternative materials such as ceramics.
Following on from this we went down to the factory floor, and observed the different processes involved in production of the Touch 3D machines. He spoke about the different methods they have produced for storing materials, and how they buy materials using the “just in time” method. We also saw the jigs they have produced to make the production method more efficient. Iain also told us how they had recently had seasonal workers in due to a high volume of orders. All of the employees at Bits from Bytes who assemble the machines are trained in all aspects of production. They each have a trolley which they wheel around the factory floor, and they are responsible for the completion of the machines they are working on.
To show us a contrast to this, we saw how the kits are put together for the RapMan 3D printers. These are produced in batches and the put in shrink wrap. One employee then moves along the shelves and puts the required quantity of each part into a box, ready to be shipped out.
At the end of the visit we were given the opportunity to ask any questions we had. We learnt about future plans for the business, and how the company plan to expand as the market does.
Overall it was a valuable trip, and gave all of us the experience to see what we’ve learnt in our theory lessons in a real life situation.
Year 13 students