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An Interview with Ed Tyson, rigid.ink
April 10, 2015
Likely many users who have tried 3D printing have experienced the frustration of an end product that does not live up to their expectations. This can, of course, be for multiple reasons, however one of the most likely aside from design errors is an error or issue with the filament one is using. Not all spools of filament are created equal, and there can be some variability in quality between vendors or even in two rolls of filament from the same one. Unhappy at this prospect and wanting to deliver exceptional products every time, one company has invested in the technology to produce filament that deviates in thickness by 0.03mm or less at any point on its spool. That company is rigid.ink and they are based out of Wetherby, a town on the River Wharfe, nestled between Leeds, York, and Harrogate, in the United Kingdom. We were able to connect with Ed Tyson to discuss the evolution of the company and development of their product among other things. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.
1) How or what made you decide to get into 3D printing? How long have you been "in the industry"?
2) When was rigid.ink founded and why? Who are the key members of your team and what are their responsibilities?
After doing research, I eventually started working with some trusted associates to produce a filament to a very high spec. This was no mean feat, turns out it’s inherently difficult to produce a spool nearly 340 meters in length that only deviates by 0.03mm in thickness at any point. And then do that consistently enough to hinge your business on the boast that the diameter only varies by 0.03mm.
We’re a small team at the moment—there’s me, two very technical guys who I can’t divulge their names (let’s call them Tom 1 and Tom 2) and the girls — Steph and Lynn. If you’ve got any customer service queries, it’s likely they’ll be the ones putting a smile back on your face.
We’re very customer service orientated like that.
3) The current iteration of rigid.ink came about in 2014, but before then were you using other 3rd party filament?
4) How universal is the 3D printer filament you produce? Could it be run through almost any 3D printer?
5) If you can disclose this, what type(s) of printers do you test your filament on before launching to the public?
6) What do you think are the most key elements of high-quality filament? What can you tell us about the process of developing your filament and what goes into every spool you sell?
I think ultimately when you’re creating something with your 3D printer, you want to know two things: that it won’t jam during a 10 hour long print (and let’s face it, who has time to stick around making sure it doesn’t jam) — and that if your print does finish successfully, that the thing you’ve made has printed well.
You want to be confident after all that, the detail is consistent and it’s strong enough to not break apart in your hands.
I think poor quality filament is just a false economy.
7) Which are the industries you are aiming for with your current batch of filament?
8) In the article in TCTMagazine and on 3DPrint.com, it indicates users can expect to see more colors and materials in the future, do you have a rough timeline you would be willing to share or what these new colors and materials might be?
As for what colours we’ll be launching, they won’t be disappointing. I’ll let the images do the talking, words won’t really do them justice.
9) Where do you think 3D printing will be 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Will we get to a point where it is as ubiquitous as an inkjet or laser printer is today?
The dream of a 3d printer in every home? I’m not convinced. I am confident a time will come where most people will know someone who owns their own 3D printer (we’re not far away) but ultimately if someone wants something prototyping or a replacement vacuum cleaner part, they’ll just pop down to their local 3D Service centre.
10) What do you think schools and universities can do to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
As for novices getting involved, I think the main areas are confusion as to which printer to buy and how to actually get the best out of it. Then they’re thinking; should they wait for the model that’s 12 months down the line that could be cheaper, more accurate or faster?
Once you solve those 3 factors, 3D printing explodes.