'Hang Out and it Will Happen!' ADMG - How GROW Helped My Start-up

Making Diverse Connections

ADMG is a Digital Fabrication Consultancy specialising in 3D printing and laser cutting; we are a 3D printing bureau and build bespoke 3D printers.

GROW is a great hub to make connections in the tech/digital sector in Reading, some through the many meetups hosted at GROW eg Internet of Things (Thames Valley)Data Science (formerly Big Data)Google Developer Group,  and Design Disrupt Do (a meeting ground for the collision of techies and creatives).

GROW helped me connect with local, like-minded technology evangelists and led to mutually beneficial projects which would not have happened otherwise, many benefitting the wider community. Notable examples are Reading BusesThingitude who run The Things Network - Reading and Think Engineer.

Collaboration and Community

One of my current strategic collaborations was inspired by meeting John Bickerton, Head of Engineering & Innovation at Reading Buses, at the Internet of Things meetup.

John had been investigating 3D printing to fabricate bespoke vehicle body parts to embed sensors, part of a wider IoT initiative to monitor wear on buses and collect transport data. The data can be applied in different ways e.g. if a location is identified where buses consistently sustain damage, the reason can be rectified. This could mean changing the position of an obstacle or even modifying the shape of the bus by 3D printing body parts.

I’d developed a concept to design a particularly large 3D printer with a print area approximately 1.2m x 0.6m by 2.4m, but I needed a project for which it could be commissioned. This presented an opportunity to build the printer with immediate functional intent.

In collaboration with Reading Buses I have installed the 3D printer at the bus depot in Great Knollys Street and 3D print parts for the vehicles.  The printer is available for public viewing, too.

Because of the public visibility and extended volume of the printer, I hope it will allow me to connect with new audiences; the large print volume has already led to projects with local artists, an entirely new customer base.

Another interesting connection made at GROW was with Thingitude, who requested a 3D printed case for a ‘Venue Occupancy’ monitor on The Things Network - Reading (TTN-Reading runs on LoRaWAN, a long range, low power WAN, providing the Reading community free wireless access to connect IoT devices and web applications). This activity also led to GROW becoming a hub for The Things Network - Reading.

Scale-up, Growth, Job Creation and Skills

When GROW first opened it had a small makerspace which was perfect for setting up assembly of 3D printers. I was able to set up production much sooner, while simultaneously being in a professional space to develop the business. I could run clinics with clients, invite the curious to ask questions, showcase and demonstrate 3D printing.

Being at GROW lent credibility to my business; I was confident to invite serious institutions for meetings and it was instrumental closing my first substantial contract with University College London.

Production has moved to my newly built Home Office/Production Studio, but continued presence at GROW proves invaluable. I have set up in a ‘pod’ which serves as a permanent space to meet clients and a public ‘show and tell’ booth, presenting educational opportunities to evangelise digital skills and 3D fabrication.

I am also able to offer work experience opportunities which would not be possible in my studio.

Community Support and Inspiration

Projects have been forthcoming from the GROW Community. I’m often approached by residents with a range of requests; cooker-hob knobs, a hat for Ascot, corporate brand logos, prototypes, hardware projects and scale models for architects using 3D printing and laser cutting techniques.

I’ve benefitted from support within the GROW community to develop and improve ADMG business operations. Holy Brook Associates have offered invaluable advice through their ‘virtual finance team’ service, improving management accounting and allowing me to make more informed strategic business decisions.

GROW is a diverse community of businesses across industries, offering mutual support, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. This has inspired new projects and services at ADMG, now under development (watch this space!).

Being able to turn to co-workers who build trusted relationships, simply by taking part at GROW, has had great impact in the development of ADMG; it has helped shape its future - and have fun along the way!

GROW has been fundamental to the success of my business and I would encourage start ups and small businesses to get involved and see what happens, GROW is a place where the collision of tech, digital and creative minds seeds grass roots innovation. ‘Hang out and it will happen’!