Jeff Dawkins is Spacemaker’s production manager, handling the materials needed to create our bespoke furniture and more.

A big part of Jeff’s job is to 3D print parts for our furniture builds. These parts are made of 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable, plant-based plastics.

We caught up with him to have a conversation about 3D printing and his job as a whole.

Interview

Hi Jeff! How long has Spacemaker been 3D printing their inserts for, and what was the reason why Spacemaker decided to delve into 3D printing?

We’ve been printing since July. We’ve always hankered after one, as we needed to produce those elusive components where the ‘off the shelf variety’ doesn’t quite meet our requirements and of course to bring those big ‘free thinking’ design ideas to life.

How many prints do you make roughly in a day/week/month?

We’ve probably run around 300 components so far. We’re not really planning any mass production as the machine is quite slow. Our aim would be to purchase a more industrial machine, should we no longer be able to cope with the demand – financing allowed of course. Now we’re confident with the print that we can just leave the machine whirring away doing its thing on the desk between Mike and I. We’re not brave enough to do overnight prints yet, but we are setting up a camera so we can monitor ‘out of office prints’ and switch off the machine remotely should there be any ‘incidents’.

What exactly is the process when making your prints?

We use both Turbocad Professional and Solid Works to produce the initial 3D models. This is the easy bit for us as we’ve been producing models for years albeit the drawings were for pretty pictures previously. Drawings now have to be 100% accurate to be used for 3D printing. We save them off as an .stl file which we then enter into our Flash Print slicing software. This is a very basic freeware program which we aim to upgrade as we gain confidence.

Do you see Spacemaker printing larger objects in the future? Could we print a wardrobe for example?

We are limited by the size of the bed. As it’s a dual head machine, we tend to only use half the bed anyway to gain a duplicate or mirrored part – which equates for a  ‘two for one’ print – time wise.

What is the most complex thing you’ve had to 3D print?

Mike has printed a holder for the guys barcode reader in the factory. It locates the charging port when the device is placed in the holder. I’ve started a support guide wheel for Spacemaker sliding doors, which is three separate components – only prototyped so far, but it looks promising.

Do you 3D print anything in your spare time?

Yes, I have my own single head machine with quite a large bed – I use it to repair stuff at home rather than throw it away. It’s very satisfying. I also have started to print those hard to get trim bits for my MG.

Lastly, do you enjoy your job?

On the whole, yes. One thing with Malcolm, over every other business I’ve worked in, is that he’s not afraid to invest in new technology – as long as we make the right case for it. We have top spec’d machines and software which makes a whole world of difference. We’re approaching the end of developing a new database system that is custom designed for our business with tons of flexibility to cover off future demands – But DB3 is maybe for another time.