Tue, Nov

IR talks to… Simon Olley, MD, Stylographics

The Massivit 1800 large-scale 3D printer created a real buzz when it was shown at Drupa. And Watford-based Stylographics has done likewise by being the first UK printer to buy one. I met with MD Simon Olley to talk about the investment. 

By Lesley Simpson

PSPs aplenty are impressed with what the Massivit 1800 can produce, but what made you believe this was the right investment for Stylographics, especially at such an early stage of the product’s development?

We have always prided ourselves in being innovative within our market sector, trying to find the next technology that we can deliver to our customers - giving them the ability to display something new and outstanding. This is captured in our strapline ‘Create, Innovate, Print’.

We were the first UK installation of a DTM printer with the Zund UVJet back in 2001 and thereafter recognised with Queens Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. Since then we have been pushing the boundaries as a large-format production company in both 2D print and 3D production.

We started the journey towards 3D printing 18 months ago, investing in a full CAD department to support our 3D display division and to prepare ourselves for a large- format 3D print offering, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before it became available.

Our relationship started with Massivit last year. After extensive discussions we were convinced that they were the right company to help us realise our large format 3D dreams. Back in March - together with Doug Gilbertson of Papergraphics, which became the UK dealer for the Massivit - we visited their first production installation at Carisma in Brooklyn, New York, and immediately confirmed our order with Papergraphics to be the first European installation. We have had a long-term relationship with Doug and knew he was the right partner to work with in this new, exciting venture.

Where does this piece of kit fit into your overall business strategy? Is it about increasing profit, turnover, customers, markets?

We have always had a reputation for offering a very diverse range of services to the display industry, covering all aspects of production and installation. Over the last few years we have been advancing our 3D display, fabrication and production facility with significant investment both in our team and equipment including CNC, laser, vacuum forming and all manner of 3D fabrication kit to support a strong demand for 3D displays by our customers.

We see the Massivit as an exciting part of our offering, enabling us to produce more complex models to be used alongside and to complement our existing acrylic and timber fabrication, re-board, illuminated displays as well as providing a fast and cost effective tooling solution for our vacuum forming etc.

In terms of how this will benefit our business, our belief is that if we continuingly strive to improve our offer to our existing customers, they will continue to remain loyal and we are confident new customers will be interested in what we can do for them too.

We believe that innovative investment, like this, helps to keep Stylo fresh and gives the team here a boost and the pride of knowing that their constant hard work enables us to make these investments resulting in us being one of the leading UK production companies.

We also hope that this will continue to allow us to attract the best people in the industry to join our talented team.

You are a council member of the Shop and Display Equipment Association (SDEA). Has that had an influence on this investment?

I’ve been a council member of the SDEA for eight years and through my involvement with the association have been lucky enough to meet many inspirational and highly intelligent business people, making many good friends and contacts along the way. So I would, yes, this all helps to build and maintain the confidence required when making such investments.

How important was the rest of the Stylo team in this investment decision.

Absolutely fundamental! Our operations director Simon Wheeler took the lead from the outset, tirelessly researching 3D, and put such a compelling argument together for this investment that it almost became a no-brainer. We are also so lucky that we have such a strong, talented and adaptable team without whose positivity, this decision would have been much harder.

To what extend do your projections count on few other PSPs following suit?

We are a very early adopter of this technology and I’m certain others will follow suit. And to a degree - provided companies research the technology and understand what they are buying into and therefore don’t over-sell its capabilities - we will welcome these competitors. It will certainly take a few like-minded companies to help us all understand what can be achieved. For sure this is only the start of this journey and the full capabilities of this technology are yet to be discovered.

Whether this will be a ‘must offer’ for PSP’s, who knows? Some say that every home will have a 3D printer in daily use and NASA has just printed its first ratchet wrench in the international space station. Others would say that 3D print has been around since the 80’s and the Massivit has only just launched and is the first of its type. For us it’s just really exciting!

Do you think Stylo is any better placed than its competitors to offer a ‘3D build’ service?

It would be very arrogant to say that we are better placed than our competitors to offer a 3D build service, as there are plenty of extremely talented individuals working in some very clever companies who can already produce 3D models to extraordinarily high standards. We aspire to achieve their quality and genuinely believe that by approaching it from a technology perspective we will have a strong position in the market place in terms of physical size, production speed and economy.

What kind of learning curve are you expecting?

For certain it’s a steep learning curve but everyone here loves a challenge. We expect to our thinking to become more 3D and as a result more imaginative than ever before. We’re looking forward to 3D scanning and manipulating these scans to achieve printable models. We’re learning more than ever about drawing complex shapes from scratch, for example, Dan has just drawn the Barcelona Cathedral from scratch using only artists’ impressions and printed it for a product display launching in Harrods. There are huge opportunities in the way you finish the prints, with all different painted effects and we’re loving the artisan aspect of hand finishing our printed models, utilizing artistic skills and scenic artistry.

So, how do you get the message to market about what’s achievable with this new piece of kit?

Allow me to make an analogy. If you look at the quality of CGI’s in movie making now, everything has become so perfect that in some cases it’s becoming ‘not real’. Model makers for the film industry are being tasked to make props that look more real, thereby replacing some CGI work, so that viewers believe what they’re seeing is real.

We can see this thinking translating into the display industry through the UK’s highly talented visual merchandising designers, who are recognised as leading the world in their field. We want our customers and designers to be limited only by their imagination not by what is practical and easily achievable.

We are in a time where speed of delivery is critical, without compromising on quality or paying a premium. ‘Stopping power’ has always been everything for our clients, and we believe that our 3D production adds ‘staying power’ - where customers will want to stick around, share selfies, and share on social media their positive experiences.

Our 3D production meets all of these challenges and in time we expect this technology to transform the way marketers think about promoting their products

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