Journalism portfolio of Alistair Welch

Month: August, 2017

3D printing in metal

Interview with Gordon Styles, founder of rapid prototyping company Star Rapid, exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with metal additive manufacturing. First appeared in issue 129 of New Design magazine.

Gordon Styles’ message is clear: metal 3D printing is an amazing technology, but the design and manufacturing industries need to be realistic about its application. “There is no point considering metal 3D printing for a part that is price sensitive,” he says. “The only time you use metal 3D printing is when you are trying to manufacture something that simply cannot be made by any other manufacturing process.”

Alongside more traditional manufacturing techniques such as CNC machining and injection moulding, Styles’ company Star Rapid is equipped to offer clients Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) 3D printing. Star Rapid’s factory in Guangdong Province, China has a Renishaw AM250 machine that enables the printing of metal parts directly from CAD data.

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Gordon Styles (second from right) with the Star Rapid team

Styles has been involved in the engineering industry since the age of 18 and in 1993 (at 28) he was running Styles RPD, an early adopter of 3D printing, and eventually the company grew to become one of the UK’s largest rapid prototyping companies. He sold the business in 2000 and set up a new company, this time specializing in low-volume production. However, the timing was unfortunate: by 2003 low-cost Chinese manufacturing was undercutting the UK market and the company found contracts hard to come by. When two months elapsed in 2005 with no new work whatsoever, Styles made the decision to close down the business.

However, rather than dwelling on adversity, Styles saw opportunity in China. In May 2005, he travelled to China to assess the market and by July 2005 he had established Star Rapid (then called Star Prototype). Setting up in China was, Styles admits, a leap of faith, but his ambition paid off: Star Rapid now employs 250 people and engages with clients throughout the world.

After building the business predominantly around CNC machining and moulding, Styles decided to develop a metal 3D printing offer as he felt it would provide significant added value to the company’s business model.

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Re-inventing the wheel?

Feature for New Design magazine on IDEO’s thinking around the circular economy

How might design thinking change our approach to consumption? Alistair Welch speaks to IDEO’s circular economy expert Chris Grantham

What do we mean when we talk about the circular economy? If anyone is equipped to answer this complex question it is Chris Grantham, the circular economy portfolio design director at IDEO. “For me, it is a system that enables the re-use of materials enabled by services and data across biological and industrial materials. It’s an economy that’s designed to be regenerative,” he says. Clearer now?

In exploring the potential of the circular economy, IDEO has considered the role that design might play in ‘closing the loop’ of production and consumption – that is moving from the traditional linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model to an economy where materials, nutrients, and data are continually repurposed.

In collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, IDEO recently launched ‘The Circular Design Guide’. This online resource, developed with input from leading businesses, students, and specialist design institutions, is intended to drive awareness of the circular economy and offer a practical guide for the application of circular principles to organisations.

Grantham explains that IDEO’s thinking around the circular economy is in line with its broader work as a global design consultancy addressing the future of products, services, and systems. “We want to help organisations adapt to the right mindset and develop the creative capacity to be good at innovating within the circular economy,” he says.

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Chris Grantham, IDEO

IDEO is building on the stated aims of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation around inspiring a positive future through the framework of a circular economy. Many of the ideas have their roots in MacArthur’s sailing career. During her 2005 record-breaking circumnavigation MacArthur needed to account for every gram of equipment and food on board her yacht. This experience made her question prevailing attitudes towards consumption and disposal. Her Foundation brings together work in areas such as ‘cradle to cradle’ design strategy and biomimicry under the umbrella of circular economy.

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