The Makers: Champion 3D

The Makers is a series of short films and interviews that aim to tell the story of some of our talented members at Peckham Levels. It may not always be open to the public but Levels 1-4 is a bustle of activity, collaboration, making and creating. ‘The Makers’ is an exclusive peek behind the scenes to meet the people that make Peckham Levels and to take a look inside their units.

How did you go from web developing to 3D printing?

I grew up in Peckham, I didn’t have access to this stuff but I there were a few people who gave me access and I taught myself. You couldn’t learn this stuff at University when I was a teenager. I was going to go to Goldsmiths in 2001 but instead I accepted a role as a Junior Web Developer. I wanted to build things that you can see.

I’ve always kept up to date with the latest technology. I had a good job in central London building websites, but I was made redundant during the recession in 2008. I went to Greece, then they had their crisis. I survived by knowing how to build websites and offering it to people. That skill that was useful.

I’d always been aware of 3D printers. My girlfriend was studying neuro imagery and she needed a model of a brain. We thought, how do you convert an MRI scan into a model? We didn’t have the skills or time to sculpt it, so we bought a second hand 3D printer, fixed it up and managed to print the brain. Solved that problem. That’s how it started, out of a need.

That printer was in my bedroom in Camberwell, perched on my underwear drawer and it used print next to me while I slept. I offered the resource to people locally and called it the Sock Studio. I loved it. It’s technology but it’s also physical.

I like that I can make things digitally but still have the fun of constructing a model or building something because 3D printing is only part of the process, sometimes you have to mix it with other materials.

How do your customers find you?

There’s only about five of us in London. This studio is large in terms of what’s in London for 3D printing. I only offer one type of 3D printing – material extrusion – you take the spool and heat it up, layer by layer to build up the object. It’s affordable 3D printing and that’s what I wanted to do. Whatever age you are, whatever demographic, if you want to learn about 3D printing, I want you to be able to. Affordability but also accessibility.

Are there benefits to being in Peckham Levels?

Yeah, of course. Before this studio, Champion 3D was just me in my living room. The name comes from my street, Champion Grove in Camberwell. I’ve met all these amazing people in the building now, I’ve collaborated with a lot of other studio members.

What’s your favourite thing to make?

I like challenging things to print, like organic models. We often print miniature versions of a sculpture before the artist uses that as a reference to sculpt from. I get artists sneaking in here asking how they can incorporate 3D printing into their sculptures.

What about the material?

The material we use is called polylactic acid (PLA), it’s mainly derived from cassava and it’s 100% biodegradable.

All the materials we get are recycled. The company we get it from, based in the UK, is a sustainable 3D printing company that collects leftover material. 3D printing is so new, we always saw it as technology to recycle, reuse and repair because it means you can repair broken objects, you don’t have to buy new ones. I get vintage car restorers coming to me that can’t get the parts anymore. It’s creative and it’s fast iteration for product designers.

Do you have any tips for others looking to start their own business or studio?

Get out of the studio and go meet your customers. I used to have doubts about being able to deliver what my clients wanted. I hand delivered every order with a thank you note and got to know each of my clients. It gave me confidence and it developed relationships with loyal customers that I still have to this day.

You have a lot of printers in your studio, what are your plans?

I had a big order last year, I used the payment to fill my studio with printers and now I’m ready for whenever another big order comes in.

Stay tuned with Champion 3D on Instagram.