Sep 7, 2016
When Stacey McLeod started her cookie baking business two years ago, she had no idea it would lead to an entirely new field: tailor-made cookie cutter production. Now with the help of her Ultimaker 2, she’s in full production mode, narrowing her focus and expanding to online sales of her creations.
3D printing helps cutter designer break the mold
Manager, mom, and cookie-fanatic Stacey is breaking the mold in the cookie cutter world. It’s not uncommon to find designers creating cutters for their own use, but it’s rare to find a designer that is also producing them for sale. We caught up with Stacey to find out how 3D printing has enabled her to expand her business from cookies to cutters.
From corporate to cookies
Stacey was born in Toronto, received her Bachelors of Commerce at university and launched a successful career in management. She eventually settled into suburban life in Mississauga, Canada. After her children were born, she focused on being a mom. She decided to start her own business making cookies two years ago.
The cookies are very popular in her local community. It started as a side business where she only took as many orders as she could manage around her other jobs and activities. Every cookie was a special order.
Special cookies require special cutters
But her special cookies required very special cookie cutters. Stacey would spend hours searching online and driving between stores in search of specific cookie cutters. She found herself ordering cutters from the US more and more. This required her to hassle with exchange rates, duty, shipping and taxes. And the cutters still weren’t quite exactly what she wanted...
What she really wanted was to be able to perfectly create the cutters she envisioned. Designing cutters and 3D printing them allows her to realize this. She started 3D printing cookie cutters in December 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. In addition to making her own cutters, she quickly found herself doing the same for other cookie makers. “They have an idea and I design and print it. I am inspired and awed by the limitlessness. I can make anything”.
3D printing to the rescue
Stacey’s super-techie husband first introduced her to 3D printing. He showed her YouTube videos of time-lapse prints and was soon designing pieces and printing them at the local library. When they realized they could use 3D printing to make custom cookie cutters they knew they had to purchase their own printer.
Stacey received her Ultimaker 2 as a Christmas gift in 2015 and it hasn't stopped printing since. Of course, her very first print was a cookie cutter. She admits “My first cutter was small, too thin, and it quickly broke, but I was absolutely thrilled to have created something on my own.”
While the cutters she prints today are strong, sharp, and durable; she still has that very first cutter.
Her initial prints were from Thingiverse and other pre-designed files. She graduated to designing her own cutters using the website CookieCaster.com. Stacey’s husband walked her through designing the first cookie cutter in AutoDesk Fusion. She’s been easily improving and advancing her designs through trial and error using her Ultimaker.
The entrepreneurial life
Like most people running a business, Stacey finds her biggest challenge is time. 24 hours a day just doesn’t seem to be enough to do everything she needs to do. “I'm a work-from-home mom. My kids are young and busy. I also volunteer at their schools and I work part-time as a lifeguard. I'm trying to do it all while building a business.”
With her Ultimaker, she can start a print, check the time it will take to complete, and then run errands until it's time to start the next one.
I never have to worry that my print is going to pop off if I leave it unsupervised. It runs 24/7 and I'm not always around, so I need to be confident that I'm coming back to a perfect cutter and not a filament nest.
The cutting edge
Stacey says her printer is “fine-tuned to print flawlessly”. She designs anywhere from 20 to 40 cutters each week and prints each one in 3 to 4 sizes. The rate of successful prints she gets from her Ultimaker exceeds 95%. She isn’t ashamed to admit, “My Ultimaker is a very busy machine! It's had to take trips to the cottage with us in order to keep printing without missing a day. I listen for the builder plate to lower at night so I can start a new print overnight.” Stacey may sleep but her Ultimaker does not.
The future looks bright
After a crazy summer, Stacey is narrowing the focus of her business. 3D printing and Ultimaker will continue to play a major role. She will no longer create custom design cutters for others. Her new business model includes selling pre-designed cutters that are printed on her Ultimaker. Instead of producing loads of cookies and custom cutters she will design and produce 8 to 10 cutters per month. As she sees it, “It makes much more sense to design a cutter once and sell it a hundred times over. I'll keep making cookies forever because I love it so much”. Keep an eye out for Stacey’s Etsy store.
Stacey will also be busy spreading her love of cookies, cookie cutters, and 3D printing. This fall she will be teaching cookie decorating courses at the community center. Since there is a 3D printer available, she’ll be taking her classes to design their own cutters on the library computers, printing them, then using them in class.
Cookie cutters are a very accessible way to introduce people to 3D printing, they're totally relatable and practical.
Stacey’s story is just another way in which 3D printing can give you the ability to physically make something that would otherwise be just an idea. The result is a wide variety of creative and ingenious ideas coming to life. Stacey says that it has changed the way she thinks and solves problems. In her own words, “You're able to do so much more simply because you can.”
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