Based in the UK—with offices in the US and Asia along with distributors around the world—Raplas is an additive equipment manufacturing company whose sights are very much set on production and overcoming the hurdles that are slowing the industrialization of AM down. You may not yet have heard about it as much as other industrial SLA system manufacturers, but Raplas is emerging as one of the hottest realities in the global AM scene. The company has been experiencing a period of rapid growth, with a large number of clients and a considerable installed base of industrial SLA systems aground the world. Now Raplas is scaling even further, with a new state-of-the-art facility and gen 2.0 of its industrial SLA hardware systems.
At this pivotal point for the company, and just ahead of its appearance at AMUG 2022 in Chicago, we had the opportunity to speak with Raplas’ Chief Revenue Officer Martin Forth and Vice President of Sales Darrin Dickinson. They tell us more about the company’s innovative solutions and Raplas’ vision for production additive manufacturing.
A bit about Raplas
Raplas head office is in London with manufacturing facilities near Cardiff Wales and R&D in Wales and Germany. The company was started by a team of experienced AM specialists with the aim of bringing to market production-ready solutions. “Our goal was to use our practical experiences in AM and manufacturing to overcome the challenges of production,” Martin explains. “We have focused on reliability, consistent accuracy and production-intent materials.”
Darrin elaborates on the company’s initial motivation, saying: “One of the things that were at the forefront of our minds was that there was a huge focus from manufacturers to lock people into very old ways of working, which was stagnating the market and limiting possibilities.”
To solve this challenge, Raplas focused on developing its production-ready 3D printing hardware and placed significant emphasis on developing a robust software solution to underpin its production systems. This is the Integra+ platform, a processing environment that connects Raplas machines with third-party platforms and hardware for seamless production processes and workflows. The software also controls Raplas printers to achieve consistent and high-quality results.
“Our control system Integra+ is at the heart of all of our products and processes intelligently based on each vector of original geometry,” Martin says. “This is calculated from the original data and our sophisticated algorithms provide the perfect build strategy for the parts’ geometry and the material properties.”
Industry-leading industrial SLA portfolio
The Integra+ solution is a key asset for Raplas entire lineup of industrial AM hardware, starting from the industrial SLA offer, one of the largest anywhere in the world, all the way to upcoming metal PBF technology. Integra+ provides a stable control platform that talks to the hardware within Raplas’ machines and integrates with external third-party platforms and hardware. This unique system allows a programmable bridge between different systems to seamlessly control the processes needed within complex environments.
The company’s industry-leading stereolithography portfolio currently consists of five systems: the PR450, with a build volume of 450 x 450 mm; the PR700, with a build volume of 700 x 700 mm; the PR800, with a build volume of 800 x 700 mm; the PR1600, with a build volume of 1600 x 800 mm; and the largest system, the PR2400, with a build capacity of 2400 x 800 and three lasers for increased productivity. Raplas’ resin production systems can be equipped with removable tank options for easy switching between materials and feature a custom Build processor developed with Materialise and are integrated with Materialise Magics data preparation software.
“A number of things set us apart from others in the market,” Darrin states. “And there are some common elements that are in all of our technologies. We are an open company that chooses to offer open machines. We also work in a different way with each of our customers; they are the key to our success.”
As previously mentioned, Raplas’ is also working on an upcoming metal AM hardware series, which will reportedly target large build volumes. “Based on the success with our resin systems, we have developed technologies with Integra+ at their core, so that large build volumes can be controlled,” Martin tells us.
“Metal introduces a lot of new dynamics to our offering,” Darrin adds. “We are trying to ensure that when we launch, we can provide differentiation in this space because there is no benefit to customers if we are simply providing a ‘me too’ technology.”
UK-made with a global presence
Raplas prides itself on manufacturing all its 3D printing systems in the United Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have global ambitions. Currently, Raplas works with clients all over the world and in many industries, particularly automotive, defense and medical.
“We are open to customers’ needs and often have been the manufacturer of choice for companies that have been stifled in the past by other manufacturers’ offerings. With many of our customers, we work in a way that leads to developments outside of the mainstream. A lot of these customers require confidentiality, and we are happy to support this,” Darrin explains. “A number of our customers have locations around the world and our Integra+ platform allows them to accommodate this with workflows that give them confidential control of their data and production processes.”
To increase support for its clients and expand its operations, Raplas recently inaugurated a new facility in Wales. The site spans 25,000 square feet and houses multiple elements, including Raplas’ production operations, R&D and its new customer experience center. This facility will play a vital role in enabling Raplas to pursue its short and long-term goals.
“By supplying best-in-class production-ready AM systems, we want to be recognized as industry leaders in a number of different markets,” Martin says. “It would be great to say we will be the leader in defense and aerospace within five years, however, we are in a very fluid market. Our real priority is to continue to grow and within 10 years to have established our new hybrid technologies as the established AM technologies for production.”
Darrin emphasizes how the company’s agile customer-first ethos is also playing a role in its continued growth. “We are a manufacturer of production additive manufacturing systems and we will continue to push forward with the technologies we have as well as the products being developed by our R&D team. It is going to be an interesting journey as we see more and more market consolidation with mergers and acquisitions happening more often. However, customers are looking for established but more agile suppliers who can work with their needs in a way that often large public companies are unable to do. We feel we fit this market need very well and will continue to do so.”
Raplas at AMUG 2022
Raplas will be attending AMUG 2022 this week in Chicago alongside its American distributor RP America. Understandably, the company is eager to be present at the large industry event after the hurdles caused by COVID-19. “AMUG is going to be a great event this year,” says Darrin. “We have waited a long time to attend the event due to the pandemic—in fact, the day I was due to travel to the US for AMUG in 2020 was the last day of flights from the UK before lockdown.”
Coinciding with AMUG, Raplas will be announcing a complimentary five-year extended warranty program for its second-generation machines. “We are so pleased with the quality of the 2nd generation machines from our new facility that we are announcing a new support option,” Martin concludes. “Stop by at AMUG for further details. We will be there supporting our Distributor RP America and will be there for the duration.”
AMUG 2022 is being held from April 3 to 7 at the Hilton Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. Raplas will be supporting their Distributor RP America exhibiting in Booth P15.