Shaping up for the future

Visit any international plastics, printing and packaging exhibition today and you’re likely to come across a 3D printing demonstration, with a throng of onlookers ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over a device no bigger than a standard office photocopier that’s creating ‘life-like’ working parts right in front of their eyes. However, 3D printing is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been utilised in manufacturing for over 20 years and, once considered a high-priced medium used by an exclusive few, predominantly for rapid prototyping, it’s now becoming an affordable asset for creating final products for virtually any market. Recognising its huge potential, Kemtek has recently launched an exciting joint venture with KwaZulu-Natal-based Rapid 3D, to deliver leading international technologies and expert advice to industry players eager to benefit from 3D printing’s capabilities in packaging and beyond. Ten years ago, family team, Dave, Pauline and Bryan Bullock, established Rapid 3D with just one Z Printer 310 from US-Based ZCorporation (now part of 3D Systems), providing a bureau service in the Pietermaritzburg region. So successful was this fledgling venture that, by the end of 2005, they had entered into an agreement with 3D Systems to become its South African agent, supplying systems into the education, medical, industrial, automotive, footwear and jewellery sectors, to name just a few. Fast forward to the present and Rapid 3D’s repertoire has expanded to include advanced 3D printers and scanners from the world’s biggest personal and professional manufactures, including 3D Systems (incorporating Z Corporation, Rapidform and Geomagic), EnvisionTEC 3D and Vialux. 3D Scanning has become a significant part of the company’s complete 3D solution. Applications include re-designing of moulds, dies and mechanical parts, scanning and scaling up artworks and generating CAD models from hand-made designs and tooling. Rapid 3D has built on the Geomagic range of software tools provided by 3D Systems to be experts in this field. Like Kemtek, on-going success has also been achieved by focusing on service excellence. ‘We first touched base with the Kemtek team and Group MD, Gavin van Rensburg, after Euromold in 2013,’ commented Dave. ‘Kemtek recognises the huge impact that 3D printing is set to make in the manufacturing sector, and we’re delighted to be partnering with such a highly-respected packaging and printing industry player that shares the same business values and goals as ourselves.’ Likewise, Gavin van Rensburg is positive that South Africa’s printing community is ready and waiting to receive up-to-the-minute advice and information on the merits of adopting 3D printing. To kick-off the new partnership, Kemtek is hosting a special two-day open house at its City Deep head office on October 22 and 23, where local industry partners can view various 3D technologies in action. Dedicated Kemtek sales technicians, who have already undergone comprehensive training from the Rapid 3D team, will be on-hand to share their knowledge and inform and advise customers on the long-term benefits of 3D printing, including practical and profitable applications. Following the special event, a dedicated demonstration centre will be established in Johannesburg to provide on-going customer support and training. ‘We have numerous 3D printers available, ranging from R10 000 units to R10-million machines, depending on specific individual requirements,’ stated Dave. ‘And for those businesses wanting a bureau service, we can apply our technical expertise and comprehensive industry knowledge to take a project from design concept right through to prototype. Furthermore, we offer associated technologies and software tools to assist operators in getting the very best out of their chosen systems.’ International brands already integrating 3D printing into their manufacturing operations to create finished parts and/or products include General Electric, Boeing, Ford, Nike, Hershey’s, Hasbro, Mattel and many more. The proliferation of 3D printing in the manufacturing sector looks set to continue as more and more manufacturing companies realise the scope of its capabilities and, in South Africa, Kemtek and Rapid 3D are perfectly placed to offer forward-thinking printing and packaging specialists the right solutions to give them a head start.