Chris Lightfoot: Creating the superhero

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Who would have thought that so many people wanted to become superheroes? When Chris Lightfoot was inspired by a Lego figure staring him in the face and a 3D printer to the side, he had no idea what was about to happen. But when he managed to find a way to create an individual’s face, the size of a pea, and put it on a Lego superhero figurine, the product went viral. Funky 3D Faces received 6,000 orders in just one week and didn’t have enough staff to cope with the interest.

Having a business idea go viral from the moment that it enters the market is a hard task to keep up with, especially when it’s not even the original business idea. Chris had been working for a medical company when he invested £65,000 in a state of the art 3D printer that could use Plaster of Paris so he could create lifelike bones for surgeons to practice with, reducing the time spent in theatre by nearly two-thirds, thereby reducing surgery costs.

This feature interview was first published in issue 87 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.


However, after putting it into practice, neither the NHS or private hospitals wanted to invest in the additional money that it would cost to incorporate the product.

“The main purpose and the reason for the business starting in the first place was to make bones for the medical industry,” Chris explained.

“Unfortunately, the NHS is currently broke and in order for you to increase the cost of a procedure, which is what it would be, you have to do a full health economics model and justify why that surgeon would want to spend more on that extra bit.

“All surgeons wanted it, but when it came to the hospitals actually paying for it, there was no market. That’s why I very, very quickly had to start looking for different things.”

Every day Chris would come home and tell his partner Colette about a new business idea. He wanted to create something that was truly personal and there is nothing more unique than a person’s face.
First he thought of greetings cards for various occasions, where he would incorporate a 3D printed face into a scene. After mocking up a few of these, he realised that it was not financially viable as a product. But one day, when he saw one of his son’s Lego characters on top of the computer staring back at him, he had a sudden rush of inspiration.

“He had lego everywhere. We were always finding it all over the place. I was just sitting by the computer and there was a little mini figure there. It was staring right at me. That’s when we came up with the idea of putting a face on one.”

Chris Lightfoot, Founder of Funky3DFaces. Photo: Steve Smailes

Chris Lightfoot, Founder of Funky3DFaces. Photo: Steve Smailes

A viral venture

Chris wanted to test the market. He took his new product to a Comic-Con event in November 2015 and found that it received a lot of interest. His next stage was to get it ready for release in time for the Christmas rush.

“We had to develop a website and there was still product development and lots of issues that we needed to overcome in order to make them properly so they fitted. We only actually launched the website the day before Christmas Eve. Obviously completely missed the Christmas rush. In a way, I am very glad about that.”

Chris put the 3D printed Lego heads on Etsy to continue to test the market with the anticipation that he and his partner Colette would be able to create 300 a month. The first week of January they received 6,000 orders from across the globe.

Continue reading the full cover interview with Chris Lightfoot in issue 87.

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