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The way we worked - how times have changed

I recently had a ‘sort out’ of all the archive articles I’ve written since I started my first additive manufacturing company - nearly 30 years ago now. What a trip down memory lane! I thought it might be fun to share some of the memories...

Twenty odd years ago I was quoted in an interview as saying, “We haven’t followed technology, we’ve driven it. We haven’t waited for others, we’ve taken the lead.”  It’s a philosophy we still live by today, but believe me, “taking the lead” in the Rapid Prototyping industry back in the early nineties was hard work! We encountered challenges on a daily basis that aren’t even a remote concern these days, thanks to advances in technology.

Today we’re sent into a fury if our mobile phone signal is weak or an email gets lost in the ether. Back in the nineties when the only means of communication was by telephone, fax or by post, we often resorted to hopping in the car to collect a customer’s data as it was quicker than putting it in the post. The definite upside to that was the fact we had more face-to-face communication with our clients, but when you consider the speed at which we can turn jobs around these days, I’m pretty confident our clients are happy not to see us quite so regularly!

Tim Plunkett and Julian Wooster

A few years ago an old colleague of mine, Julian Wooster, came back to work with me. Today he is Plunkett Associates’s Design Solutions Engineer. Talking to Julian about the ‘good old days’ reminded him of how he used to have to transfer data by floppy disc or reel-to-reel tapes whilst trying to decipher which formats the client had chosen to use.

Twenty plus years ago Julian would produce his drawings on huge sheets of paper, which we then had to cut up into A4 sized pieces in order to fax them through to the client. The client would then have to piece the jigsaw together in order to see the whole picture.  As you can imagine, getting the designs right was a constant challenge!

Today, optimising design data is an intrinsic part of the way we work. Utilising the latest CAD and simulation software means we are able to provide a precise quote and a perfect part with far more ease. As a fully certified Solidworks professional, Julian remembers when CAD was a one-machine option and everyone involved in the project would have to gather around the huge PC in order to have any input. It certainly made for lively discussions!

We’ve always strived to do whatever it takes to get a job done. Mobile phones and the internet have made this a lot easier, but there are always new challenges. One of our biggest trials today is keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in processes and materials. The industry is moving at such an incredible pace!

Tim Plunkett Julian WoosterOur priority is always creating the perfect part. Selecting the right material and the most appropriate process requires a lot of knowledge and consideration. This is definitely one area that was far simpler twenty years ago. Back then, material options were extremely limited – often it was almost a case of ‘take it or leave it’ in terms of colour and finish. Today’s choices can be overwhelming, but that’s why we invest so much time in researching the latest options. It means our customers can be confident that they will always be advised of the best solution for their part.

Another strap line I adopted back in the early nineties that I stand by today was promising my clients, “speed without sacrifice”.  With the arrival of the internet and the massive opportunities it brings, supplier options are now truly global. The vast network of production methods and supplier contacts that we have made, both in the UK and overseas, enables Plunkett Associates to deliver within the tightest timescales, without ever compromising on quality.

There’s no disputing that the way we work has changed dramatically over the last two decades, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our company philosophy. Dedication to our customers’ needs remains our winning formula.

I still get a buzz from this industry. Of my first company I said, “We are proud of our achievements to date and confident of our future...” Plunkett Associates was that future, and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved. Over the years we have identified some rather unconventional processes and technologies to address very specific manufacturing issues for our clients. Thinking ‘outside the box’ is what we do best!

For some of you this will have been a trip down memory lane, for others a jolt as to how much things have changed! Whichever it has been for you, feel free to pick up the phone and talk to us. We would love to hear from you, and even more so if you have a problem for us to solve!

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