Running a marathon can be a life changing experience. For Jody Mitchell, of Tumbler Ridge’s Filaprint, it was a career changer.
Mitchell was looking for a way to become self-employed and work at home so she could also take care of her children. She took her business plan for a 3D printing company based in Tumbler Ridge to Community Features Peace-Liard, and got a loan to start the company.
Since launching in Feb. 2015, the company has grown significantly and has won Small Business BC awards for Best Concept last year, and is nominated for Most Innovative this year. Mitchell started printing a variety of items, but has now focused on printing large scale 3D maps.
“I’ve got clients from all around the world,” says Mitchell about her company. “Most of my clients are from large industries like LNG, tourism, and anything land related.”
Her basement is now lined with industrial sized printers, and is able to produce individual prints eight feet long by five feet wide, and then combine those to create giant works of art. All of the printing materials she uses are eco-friendly and are sourced through another B.C. business.
“I was training for a half-marathon called the Emperor’s Challenge, and inspired by the beautiful terrain of Canada’s largest Unesco Geo Park, I wanted to try and print the run,” says Mitchell. “The group organizing the marathon said that if I could do it they’d pay me.”
“That was my first 3D map, and that changed the direction of what I was doing with Filaprint. That map is now on display at Tumbler Ridge’s visitor’s centre, and I got a bronze medal in the race.”
To get the most accurate readouts to build her maps, Mitchell has special permissions to access satellite data. After printing and assembling the maps, she then hand paints all the details: rivers, mountains, and highways. From start to finish, the whole process takes 6 – 12 weeks to complete.
“The maps are great to show off tourism hot spots, like all the runs on a ski-hill,” she says. “They’re also great in meetings where there could be language and education barriers. Not everyone can understand topographical maps. But with these maps, the whole landscape is right there in front of you to see.”
Mitchell is slowly expanding the business, and is now experimenting with drones to get high density scans for even more detailed maps.
“I still haven’t pushed it to the limits,” she says. “But I’m excited to see where that is when I get there.”