After a few years spent working with resellers across Europe, Phil Craxford returned to Laser Lines to head up its sales team
I have been back at Laser Lines for the best part of a year now. I was here for seven years last time around but left to work directly for some 3D print OEM’s.
They were great jobs, which gave me opportunities to travel, learn new skills, and get a deeper appreciation of how different businesses work. That kind of knowledge is the perfect complement to the long-term experience that a lot of my colleagues have, many of whom have been at Laser Lines for many years.
My key role is managing the sales team, but I get involved and help where I can in many aspects of the business. Having learnt how a lot of different distributors and resellers operate across Europe, I am able to offer different perspectives to our customers here in the UK.
Our industry is always evolving, so we get a lot of our leads organically. Back in 2007, I was working within a design and development department, which I had been doing since I finished my engineering apprenticeship. We used a range of traditional and modern technologies, which eventually included 3D printers.
We had been buying 3D printers since the 1990s, and I became the in-house expert. We had a close working relationship with Laser Lines via the sales, support and also the applications team, so when an opportunity arose to join the sales team it felt a natural progression into a newly emerging market. Looking back, it is amazing to see where we are now with the technology.
Already having a thorough grounding in 3D printing made me a little unusual as frequently new recruits have a background in engineering or product development rather than 3D printing. It meant that I could hit the ground running.
Dealing with our customers is what makes a good day. There have been a few changes since the first time I worked here, and it has made the company much more flexible and dynamic. That is a good thing, as this is such a fast-moving industry so you need to be able to improvise and adapt.
We are always looking at new products, software and materials. Fresh technologies that are replacing the old-school ways of doing things and there is always something new to look at or learn about. Now there is much more focus on applications and materials as the market becomes much more aware of what the AM technology can do.
Metal 3D printing has been around for some time, but it is really just coming of age now and is going to bring about some big changes. Printers like the Desktop Metal system are making the technology more accessible to a wider range of users, rather than just the high-end corporates that have the facilities and capital to buy the really big systems, but also partnering with companies such as Additive Industries who have developed a fantastic modular system where all activities in the process has been carefully considered and executed to a very high standard.
These new technologies, paired with their lower prices and easier ways of working, makes innovative means of production more accessible to SMEs. There is a massive market there for a lot of business over the next five years. And who knows what we will be dealing with then? There are so many different companies – in so many countries – working on new technologies. I am looking forward to seeing what is around the next corner.