Martin Jonsson is the CEO and Founder of Mitekgruppen, a model-making company located in the center of Stockholm, Sweden. Since 1986, they have been making models and miniatures for architects, photographers, production companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers and similar clients. Together with his partner and several other model makers, they made the models in the traditional, tried and true fashion – manually.
All that changed in 2005, when the company was commissioned by the city of Stockholm to construct a scale model of the city of Stockholm to be used for an exhibit. It was clear to Jonsson from the very beginning that the scope of the project, combined with its tight deadline, would require a significant, if not radical, departure from their manual methods of model making.
Furthermore, there was an additional requirement for this project that made 3D printing the obvious choice. Their standard models were made from wood and paper since they were only meant to be used in the design phases of their clients’ projects. However, the Stockholm model was not only meant to be part of a 6-year exhibit, but it also had to be updated every 6 months! Clearly, the model needed to be made from a much more durable material.
Why Stratasys 3D Printers?
Once the necessity and additional benefits of 3D printing were evident, there was still the issue of selecting a 3D printer vendor and model. Jonsson decided on a Stratasys Dimension Series FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D Printer. Not only was the quality of the 3D printed parts suitable for the demanding model project, but Jonsson was also impressed by the price-performance provided.
Already in the evaluation stage, Jonsson was so confident in the Stratasys 3D Printer that even though this was their first foray into 3D printing, they purchased the 3D Printer for themselves, rather than renting one or working with a service bureau.
“While price was the major factor in selecting the Stratasys 3D Printer, we also very much liked the fact that it is very quiet and clean. On top of that, it looks great – even in our office environment,” Jonsson said.
According to Jonsson, the Stockholm model project was so successful and cost-effective for his company, that the revenues from the project covered their purchase cost of the Stratasys 3D Printer.
Surprises and Lessons Learned
Although Jonsson had no doubt that 3D printing was the way to go for the Stockholm Model project, he was still fully aware of the challenges and risks involved. He realized that although he and his team members were very experienced model makers, building the models with 3D printing required a completely new way of working and several new skill sets. They allocated nine months before starting the actual project in order to be capably prepared. They spent this time learning new tools, technologies, workflows, and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software and techniques. The vast scope of the project also demanded a lot of pre-project planning.
There is no doubt that the project was a resounding success. Jonsson said that he is truly surprised by how popular the Stockholm city model was and still is – even today, more than seven years after its unveiling. Until recently, the 157 square-foot replica (scale of 1: 1000) exhibit was on display at Stockholm's Kulturhuset (The Culture House) in Stockholm's city center and consistently attracted large numbers of visitors to the exhibit every year. The model is currently being stored and prepared for shipment to another, currently undetermined, location within Sweden.
That is not to say that the development of the project was totally smooth sailing. Since this was their first project with 3D printing - as well as other new technologies such as using Google Earth where aerial photos and drawings weren't available – some things took longer than expected. Also, the volume of model parts to be produced required them to rent a second Stratasys 3D Printer for this project. In order to meet the 6-month development schedule, the two 3D Printers were running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Looking to the Future
Today, Martin Jonsson’s business looks and runs very differently from how it did before the Stockholm Model project. One year ago they upgraded their 3D Printer to a Fortus 250mc from the Stratasys Production Series. Today, all projects at Mitekgruppen begin with 3D printing, after which it is decided which parts will ultimately be 3D printed and which ones will be done with laser cutting, milling, etc.
To sum it up, Martin Jonsson credits Stratasys 3D Printers with changing their work life: “We can be more profitable while offering our clients lower prices. Best of all, we no longer have to work 12-hour days!”