Clevedon, UK – Back in 2014, teenager Callum Winspear had two passions – LEGO and military history – and was keen to combine them. But discovering he couldn't get his hands on official LEGO Minifigures with historically accurate military uniforms, he decided to create his own, for himself and for a community of like-minded enthusiasts.
He launched a company, United Bricks, which began by outsourcing work to a third party who would pad-print a 2D image onto a 3D object, a process that could take more than a week owing to ink-drying times, and limited colour choices to just five – nowhere near enough to provide the detail demanded by his customers.
Having researched equipment that would bring printing in-house – literally, since United Bricks started life in Callum's family home when he was just 15 – he bought a Roland DG VersaUV LEF-12 desktop UV printer immediately after seeing it at a trade show.
"It's the perfect size for small LEGO Minifigures," says Callum. "It's the best way to print fast, onto different materials, so you can print directly onto the LEGO elements."
Since then, United Bricks has moved to its own premises in Dumfries and Galloway and has three full-time staff members, including founder and CEO Callum. There are now two Roland DG VersaUV LEF-12 printers working to meet demand, doubling the company's ability to print finely detailed designs, logos and more onto 2D and 3D objects up to 100mm thick.
The CMYK UV ink accurately reproduces colours directly onto the LEGO, and is durable and resistant to scratches and sunlight. This is ideal for United Bricks's customers, some of whom are happy to play with the LEGO as toys, while others build and photograph large battle scenes straight out of WW2 history books.
"Historical accuracy is essential," says Callum. "We use reference books and cross-reference them with online research to ensure everything we do is accurate down to the smallest details. It's been well received by people who are interested in war gaming and by those in the online LEGO community."
While battle dress has made a name for United Bricks, the company also uses its digital VersaUV systems to produce one-off, customised LEGO figures for individual customers and corporate clients.
"Our customers order personal LEGO figures for friends or colleagues, or provide their own designs, perhaps for their own sci-fi or military fiction," explains Callum.
Now aged 18, Callum says United Bricks will be a lifelong passion. "I think this is a career for life," he says. "I love what I do and am really glad to have the opportunity to do it."