Meet the man who won Robot Wars
Published: 25 Sep 2016
As a teenager Gary Cairns took part in the original series of Robot Wars and won the final series as the team driver for their robot Typhoon2.
With the return of the new series he couldn’t resist building a machine to take part and is using his expertise in 3D printing to take the technology to the Robot Wars arena.
Gary is originally from Edinburgh however he has lived and worked in Glasgow, the US and the Czech Republic along with Aberdeen and the shire.
The 29-year-old studied mechanical engineering at Strathclyde University and graduated in 2011 with a masters before working with BP as a drilling engineer for three and a half years. He now works in PlastiPrint 3D, which is his 3D printing company.
The company came about when he was sat in a meeting at BP, trying to find a pin hole hydraulic leak in a large schematic which was spread across a 12 foot table. An offhand comment from a manager in a meeting got Gary thinking about how great it would be if you could 3D print such a thing.
He said: “The meeting continued on but my mind went elsewhere. That evening I did a little research and found that no one was offering this service to the north-east of Scotland and to the oil industry in particular.
“I decided at that time that I wanted to be the go-to for any 3D printing requirements in the north-east. I did my research and purchased my first 3D printer. From there I have grown to have several printers all using different print technologies and materials to provide a comprehensive service to my clients.
“We can now offer a full CAD modelling service, mesh repair and preparation for 3D printing, a full 3D printing service and finishing of models with custom painting and mounting options. We also offer a 3D scanning service.”
Gary may be company director by name but he is hands on in the running of the business. No two days are the same and Gary can go from being elbow deep in a 3D printer to meeting clients. Some days involve building and testing the fighting robots for Robot Wars.
PlastiPrint has clients in oil and gas, but since the oil downturn they have created projects for a whole range of different clients, including fast prototype manufacturers, underwater ROV operators, dentists, electronics specialists, items for film and TV and even a custom wedding cake topper.
Gary said: “I always tell people to provide us with a challenge and we will find a way to make it happen.”
The downturn has meant that Gary and the company have had to change their original plan of offering services purely to Aberdeen.
They now have a national and international client base, including 3D printed jobs for toy makers in the EU. Gary feels that business in Aberdeen needs a shake-up after the oil industry dominating it for so long.
He said: “For too long the oil industry has been able to get away with continuing to do things the way they have always been done and has been slow to adapt to new technology.
“There almost needs to be a mindset change. If this happens then I believe that the future is bright.”
Another positive bright spark in the future is that Gary is confident there will be a second series of the new Robot Wars.
He and his team have started a kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which allows fans either their own piece of his robot that they have removed for upgrades or have their name laser etched on to the new spinning disk weapons that they will get made.
The robot, called PP3D, or Parts Printed in 3D, weighs 110kg and destroyed all of its opponents along the way in the first series.
With the new crowdfunding campaign Gary and the team want people to have a sense of ownership of the machine and allow people who wouldn’t normally have the skills to get involved, to feel a part of it.