Lightship Learning: One Year Old!

Estimated Reading time: 7 minutes

The month of May 2020 marks the first anniversary of Lightship Learning being an independent online store. It is remarkable to think how quickly time has passed by and, quite honestly, how far the store has come.

As Lightship Learning continues to evolve and grow I thought it would be interesting to draw back the curtain on what happens behind the scenes. As a starting point, I’ll talk to you about what has happened over the last year, some of the developments we are currently working on and what we are aiming for in the coming year!

Contents

  • Looking Back
  • The Power of Additive Manufacturing
  • Developments and New Releases
  • Looking Ahead
  • Round Up

Looking Back

The origins of Lightship Learning are nothing fancy. I purchased my first 3D printer as an item to learn and mess about with. One of my close friends had returned to nautical college to complete his Chief Mates Unlimited course and was preparing for his exam with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. As a challenge to myself and to show off my new 3D printer I decided to print him a set of buoys to use for revision. In the past, we used flash cards that were hand drawn on pieces of paper. So although these first set of buoys were very rough, they were a serious improvement over what we previously used.

And that was it! I took some pictures, handed them over to my friend and just as an experiment put the pictures up as a listing on Etsy. And I didn’t think anything else of it. Until, orders started coming in from the listing on Etsy. The first months were that of sheer panic. Trying to get the sets printed in time and sent out. I was grossly underprepared, I had no idea what I was doing but I enjoyed every second of it.

Lightship Learning now delivers internationally and the range of products just keeps increasing. The demand for customised orders and the constant improvements to current designs has meant that I have had to bring on board a number of Freelancers to help support me during this endeavour. A new and exciting arena of possibilities open up when you have a great team working behind you!


Our Cardinals with Magnetic Topmarks

The Power of Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Those first months I cobbled items together as quickly as I could and I honestly thought I was doing a great job at the time. However, I look back now and I cringe at the entire process. There was a lot of manual assembly involved, drilling, glueing, cutting… it was a disaster but it worked.

However, the beauty of 3D printing is that you can rapidly change designs and print out a whole new and improved model within less than 24 hours. That sort of ability has some very powerful applications and I credit the success of the company today on the ability to take suggestions and recommendations and turn them into reality very quickly. When I got frustrated with the huge amount of time I spent manually putting these models together I went back to the drawing board and found ways to make sure that the manufacturing process reduced this manual input as much as possible.

Nowadays, all our products are produced with almost zero human interaction. This is great as it has cut down our lead time dramatically but also means that every product is very accurately made to fine tolerances. More importantly though, if we find a fault or a way to improve a product we can implement that into the manufacturing process immediately.

Developments and New Releases

Improving the product is constantly on the forefront of my mind. If there is a way to ensure that the final product is of the best quality and best value to you, the customer, then I will pursue it.

Some of these improvements are subtle, for those who have shopped on the store more recently you will notice that some of our vessels have been re-designed and have more details added. We have also made a move to try and make all our vessels coloured, away from the standardised ‘grey only’ look.

As for new releases, we have taken on numerous ‘custom’ requests and we will be making these available for everyone on the store in the coming weeks. Some of these include a new COLREG Set that is made up of military vessels, different ‘styles’ of buoys and a new range of magnetic products. In all these cases we will offer a selection of bundles that offer the best value for money across the range of products.

Aside from products, we are working to improve the website, our packaging and our branding. We will also be opening a business to business section to the store. Essentially, we are completely re-vamping every aspect of the business - or at least it feels like it!


Our COLREG Starter Kit demonstrates our move to giving our models colour

Looking Ahead

Perhaps what I am most excited about are some of the avenues we wish to explore this coming year.

Someone asked me what does Lightship Learning do, and for the last year I have been used to saying “We design and manufacture 3D printed tools for seafarers”. I never felt that really fulfilled the description of what we are trying to achieve.

I believe that ultimately Lightship Learning wants to give individuals confidence. Confidence that they have the right tools to support their learning. Confidence that they have done everything in their power to ensure they have the knowledge to make informed decisions when the time comes.

That may sound very melodramatic. However, isn’t that why we strive to learn? To give ourselves the best advantage? To prepare ourselves? To be confident in our actions and decisions?

This vision opens up a new realm of opportunities to support seafarers. I am eager to explore as many options as possible and integrate them into Lightship Learning. The avenues include exploring e-learning packages, supporting some of our favourite charities and disrupting some of the more traditional outlooks present in the maritime industry. 

Round Up

Well, what a year it has been and I am more than excited for the next!

Of course, all of this would not have been possible without our customers and supporters. So thank you for being part of the journey. Your continued support does not go unrecognised!

Thanks again!

 
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