Our next stop was at Bromsgrove-based Central Scanning. Our MD, Carl Futcher and Marketing Account Executive, Will Clarke met with company Director Nick Godfrey, who offered an insight into the world of 3D scanning and additive manufacturing.
Central Scanning was founded in 2006 by Nick Godfrey, starting with one scanner in a small business unit. The company has enjoyed steady growth ever since, now housing fourteen 3D printers of various sizes and specs, as well as fifteen scanning systems.
Three focuses within the business show the breadth of expertise that exists within this small manufacturing company. Firstly, as the name suggests, Central Scanning is known for its 3D scanning services. They offer a fast and efficient process to collect 3D point cloud data for the creation of 3-dimensional models, which can be rapidly processed into a triangle mesh or STL file. This work can be done in-house, using the vast array of scanning systems on-site. They can accurately model different sized components, ranging from tooth-sized to a plane or a building! Alternatively, Central Scanning visits customer sites to perform scanning in-situ while offering training and advice to clients.
The most significant growth area is in their comprehensive 3D Printing services, which allow customers to create components in a variety of polymer-based materials. These include ABS, PC-ABS, PC, Nylon, Carbon Fibre, PLA, Polyjet resins and Polyjet ABS in full colour or with multiple materials, as necessary. Central Scanning house a variety of printers, each offering a different scope or scale. Ranging from small tabletop Prusa, MarkFoged and Ultimaker, to the Stratasys J750 full colour, multi-material printer. This allows true Pantone colour capability, with texture mapping and colour gradients, enabling unmatched aesthetic performance.
Central Scanning also provides pre-sales advice, demonstrations, installations, training and ongoing support for Artec 3D and ZEISS 3D scanning equipment, acting as an authorised distributor for both companies. Central Scanning has the highest level of accreditation (Gold) and is also an Artec 3D Ambassador, of which there are only 3 in the world and only one in the UK at the time of writing.
In keeping with offering support at every stage of the process, Central Scanning also provides the associated software for the 3D scanning and printing processes via their website.
It only takes a few moments of exploring Central Scanning’s site to see the variety of products and applications that make use of 3D scanning or printing services. From fully functional parts through to recreating bespoke sculptures for artists and museums, the range of industries served by 3D scanning and printing services is vast. We even saw one printer creating spare parts for another printer that had broken down!
“We work with a huge number of industries, including aerospace, automotive, plastics, medical, toolmaking, filmmaking and creative, to name a few,” continued Nick. “It really shows the scope for additive manufacturing technologies, and it keeps our day-to-day very varied!”
We asked Nick about the relationship between 3D printing and injection moulding, and if both processes can work together:
“I see the two processes as complementary, not competitive. Fortunately, we have good working relationships with local moulders. We can assist them by providing initial prototypes and parts for them to use while in pre-production, and while their steel tools are being built.
“If we receive an enquiry that is not cost-effective for 3D printing, if the volumes are too large to be feasible, we would refer the customer to an injection moulding company, who could provide a more cost-effective solution. Similarly, if our injection moulding partners received an enquiry that wasn’t suitable for that process, we would investigate if additive manufacturing could provide a better alternative.”
We then asked Nick what factors determine the suitability for each process:
Nick continued “The obvious factor is volume, if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of items, injection moulding will likely be favourable, but there is no hard cut-off. It can depend on the size, shape and complexity of the product being produced.”
“For low volume production runs, prototypes, or highly complex parts, then additive manufacturing is more likely to be the better choice. AM also benefits from having a much quicker turnaround time, so can be useful in time-sensitive situations, or situations where a prototype need to be verified and designs improved upon, in a short period of time.”
What is clear from spending an afternoon at their site, is that Central Scanning is a truly customer-focused business. When asking Nick the reasons for expanding into new areas and services, invariably, the idea started with a special request from a customer.
Nick commented “3D printing is an area we have invested heavily in over the last few years and is really beginning to grow. It started as a request from one long-term scanning customer and has been evolving ever since. We now own fourteen printers, and printing accounts for around half of our business activities.”
We asked Nick what sets Central Scanning apart from its competitors:
“Our experience in all aspects of 3D scanning and printing. We offer a turnkey solution for both services, and our expertise in one field enables optimisation in the other. For example, we can validate our 3D prints using our in-house scanning facilities and inspection capabilities. This complements our digitising and reverse engineering abilities, and through our relationship with third-party moulders and toolmakers, we can offer our customers a full-service solution, with one point of contact.”
Next, we asked Nick about the company’s plans for the next twelve months:
“We’re looking to continue our growth and expand into new regions of the UK. We’re also investigating selling 3D printing systems, to complement our range of scanners, which furthers our aim of providing a complete scanning and printing service.”
Finally, does the company have a philosophy or manta?
“To create a profitable, sustainable business, employing local people, which goes beyond our customer’s expectations by providing a highly efficient professional service, combined with high-quality deliverables and competitive advantage.
“We 3D Scan, We 3D Print, We 3D Care.”
Thank you to Nick and his team for providing us with a fantastic insight into this rapidly growing manufacturing sector.
Look out for the next edition of ‘PlastikCity on Tour’ to learn more about our excellent UK based partners.
There are now well over 200 active partners represented on the PlastikCity site, many of which offer highly specialised products or services to our sector.
During our everyday course of business, we’ll be making a point of visiting as many of these partners as we can and using the time to better understand what they offer the market. We’ll then showcase them through this ongoing series of articles.
Maybe you can benefit from their services!