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Digital Readiness


Cutting-edge automation boosted our handcrafted processes

Peter Saunders, Mackinnon and Saunders, embraced the opportunities for automation
Peter Saunders works with 3D printing bureaus to access the latest technology

Name: Mackinnon & Saunders
Location: Altrincham
Employees: 52
Founded in: 1992
Tip: “Don’t be afraid of new technology. Keep an open mind about the potential it could give the company.”

The problem

Puppet makers Mackinnon & Saunders have built up a reputation for quality by designing, moulding and painting the models by hand for the last 27 years. 

However, with rising demand in the international market – its customer base includes directors Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro – the firm needed more efficient processes to stay competitive.

The solution

Mackinnon & Saunders started looking into the capabilities of 3D printing. As co-founder Peter Saunders explained, the firm has always wanted to be early adopters of technology, providing the technology was advanced enough to meet their standards of quality.

The team attended the TCT Show in Birmingham, which showcases the latest in 3D printing, manufacturing and product development. In the first year the team attended, it still felt like there was a long way to go before the printers met their standards. However, as Peter explained, it’s a rapidly evolving industry, so the improvements over the last few years have been incredible. 

This year, the firm finally invested in 3D printing capabilities. The printer could match their abilities, and save time on moulding and construction by printing out a digital design. 

For projects that required even more attention to detail, Mackinnon & Saunders built up good working relationships with 3D printing bureaus. This meant the team could access cutting-edge technology to construct models they couldn’t make by hand.

The results

The adoption of 3D printing has preserved the company’s quality and made their processes much faster. It’s also easier to work with international clients. Rather than shipping the puppets and risking delays or damage, the team attach digital moulds to emails. The client can then print them out when they need them. 

“We love new technology, but we didn’t want to use machines when they were producing mediocre results,” Peter said. “We could have jumped in earlier with 3D printing, but we wanted it to come up to our level.”

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