The UK has been advancing more and more with regards to 3D printing services, and it looks like the government wants in on more 3D printing action. In London this month the national mail service, Royal Mail, has teamed up with iMakr to offer in-store 3D printing and delivery services at one location. This is just a month-long test run, but there is little doubt they will continue the partnership since there is a growing demand for 3D printing services there.
Another big boost to 3D printing services has just been announced, as nationally-backed Business Growth Fund (BGF) is investing £7 million to expand Hobs Reprographics and Hobs Studios locations across the UK. BGF has been around since about when 3D printing really began to take off, founded in 2011 with the distinctive mission of funding small- and medium-sized business ventures. BGF initially targeted £10-100 million mid-range investments, however, they opened the firm to even smaller investment opportunities after seeing the strong need in the smaller business sector. It looks as if BGF has found a strong business partner in Hobs Reprographics to exhibit its commitment to smaller business investment, as Hobs plans national expansion of 3D printing services using BGF’s backing funds.
Liverpool-based Hobs began in Manchester in 1969, specializing in reprographics, and it grew a successful name for itself offering graphics-based design services. They offer construction and bid solutions, printing, document management, visual communications, marketing tools, and office supplies and stationery for all business needs. The company has only offered its 3D printing services for one year in the form of Hobs Studios, which function as kind of a one-stop shopping spot for designers, offering 3D printing, animation, virtual reality, and CGI services. It now wants to further expand its studio model –using BGF’s backing funds — nationally.
This partnership makes sense considering how expensive the establishment of 3D printing services can be. Hobs Founder and CEO Kieran O’Brien explains:
“Our first Hobs Studios have been highly valued by our customers and we now want to replicate this model across the country. Equipping the studios is capital intensive and so it made absolute sense for us to find a long-term equity partner that could help us achieve this.”
BGF also views the investment as a natural extension of their desire to partner with an expanding market that uses the latest technology; 3D printing is such a market and it appears that, based on Hobs’ experience offering 3D printing services this past year, there’s enough of a steady demand from engineers, architects, engineers, and product and construction designers to move forward. As part of the deal, BGF’s senior investment manager, Neil Inskip, joins Hobs’ team as a non-executive director; Inskip managed the investment agreement with David Colclough.
Inskip summarizes his enthusiasm for the partnership, citing Hobs’ firmly established relationships with its customers: “We are delighted to be supporting the business as it continues to retain and build a loyal customer base.”
It looks as if 3D printing in the UK is taking off with this recent announcement. We will see 3D printing services further expand as the UK government has clearly seen the wisdom in investing in a new technology in it ascendance. Let us know what you think about this latest major investment news in the BGF Backs Hobs forum thread over at 3DPB.com.