A spoon isn’t just a spoon, when it’s from Robert Welch Designs Ltd. At this UK-based home goods company, one piece of cutlery can be prototyped as many as 50 to 100 times. Every design is questioned, challenged, and refined until it meets their distinct standards of timeless, elegant beauty. Key to helping them meet these standards are MakerBot and Stratasys 3D printers.

As Senior Designer, Kit deBretton Gordon puts it, “The Robert Welch brand is contemporary classic design, so we design things that we want to last for years.” Typically, products in their catalogue feature a classic silhouette with a contemporary twist.

Be it cutlery in stainless steel, pitchers in silver, or carafes in glass, most of their products are affordably priced and can be found in stores like Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. With this output, the team of designers at Robert Welch Designs need to quickly work through variations on new designs and still get a real sense of the look and feel of what the product will be like.

“Using the MakerBot allows us to really get the shape refined, and make sure that it feels nice in the hand so that you can actually use it. It’s a 3D object so people can understand it”, according to Kit deBretton Gordon.

Early in the design process they use both the MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printer and the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer (5th Gen). They first purchased the Z18 because it could print a 1mm wall for a pitcher.

Later, when they want a polished model close to the final version, they 3D print again with the Stratasys Objet30 3D Printer. For Design Director Paul deBretton Gordon, the Objet30 “could handle the thickness of the bowls…It’s also the strength of it as well. It’s been an absolute godsend, because there’s no mess, there’s no fuss with it. It just prints.”

Just before production, their overseas factory send back design refinements as CAD files, which are discussed and validated in their UK offices with further 3D printing. This feedback can eliminate mistakes, speed up the manufacturing process, and drastically reduce tooling costs.

Even the operations of the company itself combine the classic-contemporary, the traditional with the new. Sixty-one years ago, Robert Welch set up shop in a room of an old silk mill in the tiny limestone-laden village of Chipping Camden. The company’s now expanded across the second floor of the silk mill and exploded as a world-class leader in flatware and knife design. Every company must remain nimble in the marketplace and adapt to change. For Robert Welch Designs Ltd., 3D printing is that contemporary twist.

Take it from Rupert Welch, Managing Director and Son of Robert Welch, on the decision to buy their first 3D printer ten years ago: “I have to say, unquestionably, I think it’s one of the best things we ever did.”

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