HOW, TOGETHER WITH FAB LAB WE CHANGED CROFT FOREVER
When Neil Burns founded Croft Engineering Services with his brother Mark 28 years ago, 3D printing was still the stuff of science fiction.
However, a chance encounter at The Manufacturing Institutes Fab Lab has changed their business forever.
“As Warrington has always been a wire town, it was the right place to set up our business,” explains Neil. “Whether it’s wire mesh filters for the food, power generation or construction industries – you name it, we do it. “
Croft was always looking for a way of getting the holes in their filters more aligned with better edges and had considered a variety of methods to achieve this – including laser cutting – but didn’t achieve the desired results.
The first time Neil saw a 3D printer in action was when he spent a day at a Fab Lab as part of a Lancaster University leadership course.
“I saw this machine at the side of the room and asked the team to show me what it could do. It was fascinating. It was the first time I had seen 3D Printing. After investigating the technology and finding out that Metals could be printed, I thought it might be able to produce the design that Croft needed to improve its filters. We asked Fab Lab to print a couple of the filters in plastic and they worked absolutely fine.
“Following this, we made the decision to buy a Metal 3D printer for €500,000 euros. We didn’t know what market was there.
Neil adds that there isn’t much awareness of the potential of 3D printing within the SME community as most people think small businesses could never afford the technology.
He said: “This investment has huge potential to be a game changer for our business. I always say that we have either half a machine too much or six machines too short. This is really going to take off when people realise exactly what 3D printing can do. SMEs can be involved in additive manufacturing.”
Neil continued: “We’ve always been an innovative company. One of my best ever days was when we had a very clever student with us and when he saw our 3D printer his jaw dropped. Like us he could see the possibilities ahead.”
“We’ve always been an innovative company. One of my best ever days was when we had a very clever student with us and when he saw our 3D printer his jaw dropped. Like us he could see the possibilities ahead.”
Neil Burns - Founder
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