A specialist Barnsley silversmith has used 3D printing for the first time to create a piece of military silverware in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Traditional silversmithing business Silver Lady has worked with Barnsley DMC 02’s MakerLab to complete its commission for the Royal Logistics Corp.
The company, based at The Business Village has been manufacturing and maintaining commemorative silverware for the British armed forces since 1973.
The opportunity to use cutting-edge 3D printer technology for the first time was sparked by an invitation from The Business Village to attend an open day at the MakerLab, based at The Seam – Barnsley’s Digital Campus.
The Makerlab is funded by the Digital Innovation for Growth (DIfG) programme, an ERDF funded service to help SMEs in the Sheffield City Region make the most of digital technology, to grow their business, improve their products or services, maximise efficiency and adopt new ways of working.
Silver Lady Managing Director Rick Jennings said: “We were very impressed with the digital technology we saw in the MakerLab, and it was great to talk to the experts about its potential uses in our business.
“We’ve been wanting to explore using 3D printing to turn our intricate designs into models for quite some time but never known where to start or who to talk to.
“It’s not a capability we want to develop in-house so we were looking for a collaboration with someone we could trust to deliver the extremely clean-cut models we need for our high-quality work.
“Silver plate is very fine and shows every imperfection, so the core models it is applied to have to be absolutely perfect with smooth, pristine finishes.”
Rick met one of the MakerLab’s associate experts Kevin Askew, of Additive-X, who helped him connect with a digital designer who could write a detailed CAD software programme for Silver Lady’s new 3D crest design. Kevin then oversaw production of the resin-based model in the MakerLab’s state-of-the-art 3D printer. This model was then silver-plated using traditional techniques.
Previously, all the models for Silver Lady’s ‘silver hallmark filled’ pieces have been made by hand, with the forms crafted in wax; then moulds made from these to create resin models for repeat orders of popular designs.
Rick estimates 3D printer technology has shaved approximately four to six weeks off the process of model-making and hundreds of pounds off the price of production. He says the technology will be part of the company’s design-and-make strategy going forward.
Rick said: “Once we have the CAD programme written for a product, 3D printing offers a much quicker and more cost-effective model making process which will enable us to deliver more orders without compromising on our essential quality requirements.
“We will still commission some handmade models, especially for bespoke items, but 3D printing will be particularly useful for creating the models we need for repeat orders of popular designs.
“We are absolutely delighted with this successful collaboration with the MakerLab, and it just goes to show that Barnsley has the people, the skills and the high-tech facilities needed to deliver 21st century solutions for local businesses. The MakerLab at DMC 02 is an excellent addition to our business community.”
The Makerlab at DMC 02 is a newly-opened digital facility which individuals and businesses can access to create, make and test new concepts, prototypes and products.
DMC manager Tracey Johnson said: “It’s been wonderful to see Silver Lady using the digital technology and know-how we provide in the MakerLab to achieve the company’s ambition of using 3D printing to enhance production processes.
“This is exactly what we are here for – bringing business support programmes like DIfG to businesses in our region to help them innovate and develop new ways of working using digital innovation.”
Dan Jarvis MP for Barnsley Central and former soldier in the Parachute Regiment, was invited to unveil the new piece at Silver Lady. He said: “Silver Lady has an excellent nationwide reputation for keeping the British forces’ commemorative silverware collections in good condition and up to date with new pieces.
“It’s fantastic to see the newly-opened MakerLab already making a difference to an established local business like this and see how traditional heritage and digital innovation can go hand in hand to support business innovation in Barnsley.”