Scaling up to New Dimensions

There’s a new member of GEZE UK’s technical engineering team, sitting quietly in a corner going about his business – problem-solving and creativity are among his strengths.

Issak maybe "useless at making the tea" but he is helping his colleagues to be more responsive to changing times, adapt and improve products, and help produce new ones – cutting time and costs in the process.

Issak is a 3D printer and is currently in the process of producing an enhanced security component for a new GEZE product solution.

"We needed a way of developing a solution that would allow us to produce a series of prototypes which we could test and adapt if required."

It has to be said that Issak is probably not at the forefront of cutting edge 3D print technology. In recent years, the power of 3D printing has seen the creation of ‘giant’ industrial-sized printers capable of creating the fabric for buildings and bridges. Plans for the first 3D-printer produced skyscraper have even been announced! GEZE UK’s technology is more understated – the CTC MakerBot Clone is a desktop work horse, silently helping solve problems and gently innovate.

Traditionally, new products are developed and tested by GEZE’s parent company in Leonberg, Germany. Its subsidiaries have always been involved in the ‘product definition process’, contributing ideas, assisting in standardisation and transitioning products for project implementation within their domestic markets. But the boon in technology has allowed GEZE UK’s team to work with greater fluidity and develop products to meet the requirements of specific markets in the UK.

Using a 3D printer is a cost-effective way of developing and creating prototypes. Each piece costs less than £2 to make, so if modifications need to be incorporated another piece can easily be produced. It uses 1,75mm PLA filament, which is heated by lasers to 70 degrees Celsius and pushed through a 0.4mm nozzle on to a glass plate. An adhesive is used to ensure that the piece does not move through vibration as the nozzle moves across the bed. The item is then cooled by fans that allow it to be removed from the plate cleanly.

The new components are produced using CAD, then imported into a slicer software to create the ‘G code’ which is then sent to the printer. As an example, for a relatively small component it would take about an hour and 40 minutes to produce. Without the ability to produce the prototype in plastic, the team would have had to find a suitable manufacturer, pay for necessary tooling and a test piece to made, probably in metal. The 3D printer also has the advantage of being able to produce items with moving parts.

GEZE UK’s Technical Manager Paul Carroll says that the team’s work emanates from all sides of the business – with new products coming from Germany, service and sales teams and based on customer feedback and new requirements.

The Printer allows us to generate and put forward ideas to evolve current products and also ideas which will be shared with GEZE GmbH to offer more global-based product solutions

The 3D printer was purchased because Technical Product Manager Darren Buchholz was starting to take work home with him. Technical engineering is both his passion and his job.

"I have all sorts of gadgets at home," he admits, "including 3D printers and laser cutters. I first started producing some of the pieces that we needed by producing them at home and bringing them in the next day. But it’s far more convenient having a printer in the office. It allows the team to exchange ideas, develop them and then see them in reality."

When GEZE UK first bought the equipment, the team trialled its capabilities with a test piece – a skeletal fish with moving joints. The complex nature of this ‘toy’ allowed the machine to properly calibrate…and led to it being christened Issak – after the famous Staffordshire angler Issak Walton.

Issak is now an essential member of the team. He may not be very good at making the tea but his output ensures that GEZE UK’s technical demands, will never be "the one that got away".