Photocentric Ltd is formed in the summer of 2002 in a small room in Peterborough with no windows. The idea behind the company was to commercialise a patent on pre-packaging photopolymer to make stamp-making easier. A few months later the first imagepac packs of photopolymer are made- they leak badly and don’t make very good stamps, but they are at least simpler to use! It is the world’s first pre-packaged photopolymer printing plate. We make imagepac by folding plastic over on itself, sealing the edges, filling it with photopolymer, rolling the air bubbles out with a rolling pin and sealing the top- all by hand. It is a slow process and difficult to maintain quality, but we slowly improve it, ironing out problems and it steadily gains sales with UK business stamp makers.
We design our own exposure units to make stamps using imagepac and call it imagebox 1. It’s our first experience with the design and engineering of a machine.
We make a more sophisticated version of imagepac, which we call imagepac xtra. It has an integrated backing sheet in the pack. It is harder to manufacture and we don’t get it right, leaks and quality complaints increase.
We naturally sell overseas as the domestic market for our products is so small. Export sales grew to overtake UK sales for the first time.
We are a finalist in the HSBC Start-Up Stars competition- but annoyingly dont win it! We finally automate, design and make our first automatic filling and sealing machine. Quality slowly improves as we start to solve the leaking problem.
Filed patent on world’s first daylight activated photopolymer. We had commercialised the concept into a home stamp making product for craft, which we called imagepac daylight. It uses the light from a desk lamp, combined with a negative printed on a home printer to make a printing plate. It is the first application of daylight cured photopolymer, other than for dental fillings, in the world. It works well, as long as you don’t use it in front of a window as it was very sensitive to visible light! We sell a few thousand kits but eventually pull it from the market as using UV is just more reliable. However, many years later this novel chemistry will be the inspiration behind our 3D printing business. We have always had good reason to cherish our failures.
Launch A8 size, now we make imagepac and imagepac xtra in all sizes up to A3.
Filed patent on digital exposure of daylight activated photopolymer. Aimed at making flexographic printing plates using digital exposure from an LCD screen. It produces a poor image and never works properly, we never commercialise it, but elements of the work subsequently become the basis of our Daylight Polymer Printing 3D printer.
Filed patent on daylight activated photopolymer.
Made imagebox on an automated production line in China.
Start selling flexographic photopolymer.
Filed patent on a new method of photopolymer packaging enabling pre-packaged product to be used for flexographic printing.
Made a massive 14 x A4 exposure unit called imagebox 10
Production of A4 stamp sheets exceeds 1000 x A4 sheets per shift for the first time in the UK. We become the largest clear stamp manufacturer in Europe.
Export sales exceed 65% of total sales for the first time.
Invented Stampmaker, the lowest cost and fastest stamp making machine ever sold, we have now sold 30,000 of these machines.
We exhibit at shows around the world. We partner with the craft celebrity Theresa Collins in selling our Stampmaker kits.
We are now making imagepac and stamps automatically, in larger and larger numbers and when stamp makers change over to them, they don’t change back!
Purchased a new 6,000 sqft building in Peterborough.
We design and manufacture the first automatic inline stamp processing machine ever, which we call Costa. It processes imagepac on a large rotary cycle.
Start Photocentric Inc in Arizona to sell our craft products. After trying and failing at selling a lot of the products that we make in the UK, we end up starting to make stamps there and stop doing everything else. Finally, it is successful. After many revisions to Costa, we get it working and send it to Phoenix where stamp production now exceeds the UK.
Awarded UK Govt Innovate grant to develop a novel type of 3D printer based on daylight photopolymer.
File our first 3D printing patent.
We buy a 35,0000 sqft facility in Peterborough.
Launch the Liquid Crystal 10, the world’s first daylight hardening 3D printer. We invest heavily in Research and Development in 3D Printing, employing a total of 13 PhD chemists, engineers and scientists.
Awarded The Queen’s Award for Innovation for imagepac.
We move into a new 24,000 sqft building in Phoenix. We design and manufacture Costa II the largest automatic stamp processing machine in the world. It is a massive 120 ft long and processes over 2400 x A4 in a single shift.
Launch the LCHR 3D printer. This is an upgraded version of the LC10 in every respect (price included!).
Photocentric won awards for Innovation and R&D at the SME awards in Huntingdon. Also recieved the overall best business award for Cambridgeshire – the Winner’s award!
Photcentric are awarded with two UK Government Innovate Grants. Winner of Enabling Functional Additive Manufacturing with Novel Large Format Printer to develop our Liquid Crystal Colossus 3D Printer and awarded £681,487 for this project. The second grant being £75,000 for Optimisation of design of novel metal and ceramic 3D printer.
Photcentric are the recipient of 6 Innovate grants- one for £500,000 to create Colossus the largest 3D printer ever made.
Working with Universities and Businesses
Over the last four years we have perfected the concept, researching in the technology and investing in both product development and blue-sky research around it. We have linked up with universities and corporations and investigated the many new possibilities that daylight offers over conventional UV polymerisation. We are currently in partnership with;
Warwick University- Funding a PhD to synthesise and improve Chlorophyll A. Potential outcomes are increase plant growth efficiency and bio-derived photopolymers
Nottingham University- Funding a 6 month project to develop novel bio-compatible daylight active polymers with largest 3D research centre in Europe.
Case Western Reserve University- We are lending them a Liquid Crystal HR printer to use for the work in developing resins incorporating graphene and nano particles, in particular to improve thermo mechanical properties.