I’ve spent the last two months with original Machines Room cohort Julien Vaissieres at Batch.works, here’s the story of how Julien first came to Machines Room, the growth of Batch.works and what they are doing in today’s uncertain times to support the NHS and the PPE crisis in the UK.
In 2014 Thomas Ermacora (@termacora) founded Machines Room, a maker space for designers, thinkers and creators in the heart of East London. It has played an important role in many designer’s careers and is where 3d printing studio Batch.works began.
Julien joined machines room first as a member and then later joined Cohort the incubator program. During cohort Julien launched his Plyset crowdfunding campaign and developed the auto print technique for 3D printing multiple lamp shades. I’m an origami backer and still have his lamps shades on my lights! — Gareth Owen Lloyd
Julien would spend hours learning the ins and outs of the CNC and 3d printers, he was as interested in tool paths as much as the finished outcomes. It was at Machines Room he met Dylan who was working for plywood furniture designer and maker’s Lozi.
I was on a tour of the space and saw on the spoliboard of the CNC a someone had been experimenting with a really unique cut pattern, a way to bend ply. I asked who it was and Voila — I met Julien. — Dylan Bahnan
After a (slightly too) successful Kickstarter Julien and Dylan had orders in excess of 200 PLYSET lampshades to fulfil. Batch.works was born from designing a way to meet growing production within the confines of FDM 3d printing.
At this point, many makers might outsource production, but Julien and Dylan decided to design around this. And this was the key to Batch.works, an automated printing system that meant the machines could print continually, and completely un-aided. Leaving Dylan and Julien to continue to develop the next product without being bottlenecked by a slow, labour-intensive production.
With Dylan deciding to head back to furniture Batch.works was formally incorporated by Julien Vaissieres in January 2018.
Since then, Batch.works has continued to innovate and when it was time for Machines Room to move out of Vyner Street and into Containerville, Batch.works followed. By now Batch.works was receiving orders from across the UK and Europe. A single shipping container was converted into a 3d printing factory, capable of churning out hundreds of units per day.
A collaboration with Paperchase saw 30,000 units produced in just 2 months from a range of 3d printed biodegradable stationary. Since then Batch.works has designed and manufactured products and experiences for the London Design Festival, The Pompidou Center and the VandA. Alongside working with commercial clients to manufacture everything from Kombucha draft tap handles to wheelchairs for kids toys and designing and selling Batch.works own range of products digitally collaborating with global designers.
At the start of this year, Julien took over the running of Machines Room’s machines and an extra shipping container so that it could remain open for people to make, hosting the 3d printer, laser cutter, vinyl cutter and tools to users, making the space into a hybrid 3d printing factory and maker space.
Since March that has, of course, all changed. Situated in the middle of London Batch.works was well placed to produce and supply 3d printed face shields to London hospitals
In just one weekend Batch.works collaborated with designer Milo Mcgloughlin-Greening and healthcare design studio Cellule to come up with a face shield design that could be manufactured in Batch.works 3d printing factory.
What started as a gofundme working with an original design, snowballed into collaborations with Queen Mary’s University and Barts health, consultations with British medical supplier H4, the London Ambulance service and requests from Hospitals and front line institutions across London and the country.
What has become clear when I started working with Julien on this project was the speed and flexibility at which we had to work. For the first week all plans would seem to change hourly or daily as new information, collaborators and designs emerged. As well as coping with the changeable and unclear government advice.
There are so many people out there designing and making with 3d printers, what makes Batch.works unique is being able to dramatically reduce print time through designing with the restrictions and advantages of a 3d printer in mind. What this means is an outcome similar to how you would make a coil pot, ensuring the printer continually prints as it travels and has next to no travelling outside of this within the job as this is what adds hours to most printing times.
In addition to the Batch.works fully automated printing so that the machines can produce batches of up to 20 at a time without the need for someone to intervene and reset the print. There are a few other secrets to the process that I will have to take with me to my 3d-printed coffin that make the Batch.works printers quick on the draw (or print rather). The Batch.sheild light edition as pictured below, for example, can be printed in just 10 minutes.
The design we are working with at the moment came from Professor Shakeel Shahdad who had collaborated with Queen Mary’s University and started to print his own design in his bedroom due to the lack of PPE in the hospital. The problem was that they were unable to meet demand, with each headband taking 2 hours to print. For the last month, we have been helping to produce this design. Julien and designer Milo Mcgloughlin-greening optimised the job so that it could be printed in just 30 minutes, designing custom bumpers and travelling so that the printer could automate its own print removal.
The importance of using this design over the quicker BSL and BSH was that it was already approved centrally at the Royal London Hospital so that once printed the design could be distributed to where it was needed most. From working on this I learnt quickly that each design had to be tested and approved by each hospital individually and it wasn’t a one size fits all situation, each one had their own procurement team, budget and contacts with medical suppliers. That's why it was so vital for us to work with these key partners that would be able to ensure that once our prints were delivered, they would be then sent where they were needed by the Royal London Hospital.
Batch.works have been partnering with pedal.me for this project, a bike courier service that means the masks can be transported to the hospital within 30 minutes.
The distribution of products can contribute so much to an object’s carbon footprint yet is often overlooked. Especially in the age of e-commerce as a consumer you often don’t think about how the product has arrived at your doorstep. We prize convenience over sustainability too much and this partnership with pedal.me was an opportunity to stand by the environmental principles of Batch.works at every stage of the product’s life cycle.
Working with pedal.me has been a great partnership for fast, safe and carbon-free delivery to the Royal London Hospital. Just a single bike can take all 1000 of our headbands safely.
We made sure to consider how the headbands and visors are to be packaged. We looked at a range of recycled cardboard box options before realising that none of this additional material or waste was needed. Instead, the standardised stacking euro crates that we were using within production became the packaging. Each tray of both headbands and laser-cut visors is disinfected and labelled with the quantities and date during production and these trays are simply taped up and loaded on the bike courier bases creating a sealed environment. These trays come back to the factory where they are disinfected and re-used again.
Home - Pedal Me
Our riders generally have experience cycling in an urban environment, where the ability to navigate safely and…
In a project such as this, where production is time-sensitive it was essential to secure the material quickly, especially as every decision or material change needed to be signed off by medical professionals as fit for purpose. However, this is no excuse not to carefully consider the environmental impact of the product you are putting into the world, especially when that product needs to be plastic.
Regular supplier of Batch.works, re:flow, started in 2016 as a kickstarter to make 3d printed filament solely from recycled plastic, working with developing countries where waste and unemployment were both high, teaching people how to make both the machines and the filament to earn a living.
Whilst this lengthy supply chain is not ideal, re:flow creates social value in the creation of jobs and reduction of waste where it is needed most. In addition to the filament itself, the spools are also made from recycled cardboard, with every single spool being sent back to be re-used or re-cycled again. The filament that reflow produce is rPETG, which has a lot higher printing temperature and durability than PLA meaning it is better suited for producing headbands. It is intended to be able to be reused so must be durable and able to withstand an autoclave, which is pressurised steam 121 degrees centigrade for at least half an hour.
The acetate we are using was also PET-based acetate, meaning we can save all the excess material used from making the visors and be able to shred them and recycled them back into 3d printing filament.
In the middle of this mammoth project Batch.works moved out of a shipping container into a bigger warehouse space, with 10 new printers on the way production is continuing to expand. Almost 8,000 face shields have already been supplied to the NHS and the batch.shield lite will be available to buy soon. Contact Julien at Batch.works if you are interested in putting in orders or commissioning a bespoke design to fit your organisation.
Keep your eyes peeled on batch.works for more!