Prototype manufacturer invests over £800k in metal 3D printer

From left - Robert Stark and Clark Campbell

Stirling-based CA Models has invested £805k on the UK’s largest commercially operated SLM metal 3D printer with funding support from Clydesdale Bank.

The firm’s new SLM 500 3D printer was manufactured in Germany and is the only machine of its kind in the country available for commercial use.

The acquisition was supported with funding from Clydesdale Bank in a deal facilitated by Relationship Manager Robert Stark from the Stirling Customer Banking Centre.

Printing 3D bespoke designs in aluminium up to 500 x 280 x 365 mm³ in size, CA Models is now offering a service previously unavailable in Britain.

The business supplies products for nine Formula 1 teams as well as the aerospace, automotive, defence, oil and gas, medical device and product design industries.

Purchasing the new equipment is part of a wider growth strategy the business is embarking on as Owner and Managing Director of CA Models, Clark Campbell, explained: “Over the next 18 months the target is to implement ISO 9001 accreditation which will elevate our existing status as a supplier to the aerospace and defence industries, and attract new customers requiring ISO 9001 approved components.

“Formula 1 is a sector we expect to see growth in too. We’re already getting orders in for components for next year’s cars which are even more technically advanced than this year’s.”
Clark left school at 15 to become a professional football player with stints at both West Brom and St. Johnstone before an injury cut his career short. He then took up an engineering apprenticeship as a pattern maker before founding CA Models in 1983, aged 25.

Discussing the capabilities of the firm’s recent investment, Clark said: “The new metal 3D printer helps us to create components in a quicker, more cost effective and precise way than traditional machining. This sets us apart from our competitors and provides a solid platform to build future growth.

“Previously companies looking for prototypes or parts would send designs to machining firms who could take weeks to return the finished article, but with our new equipment, we can generate a physical model from its design within a day or two.

“The precision offered by the SLM 500 printer means we can make products that simply could not have been made by other means. For example we can incorporate hidden holes in a model which can drastically reduce weight without compromising strength.

“We can print 3D metal models directly from a design which makes the possibilities of this technology almost endless.

“We are in a good place financially with 34 very talented employees and a strong order book. We’re always keeping an eye out on where we can improve and develop the business.”

Simon Kerr, Head of Clydesdale Bank’s Customer Banking Centre in Stirling, said: “CA Models is an excellent example of a business targeting growth through innovation.

“Having only the second machine of its type and the only one available for commercial use makes the firm’s offering unique and stands them in good stead for future growth.

“Clydesdale Bank is proud to support CA Models and look forward to continuing to support Clark and his team.”