Sonic Communications - Case Study

Published on : 8 December, 2023

The Customer

Sonic Communications is a global supplier of specialist equipment that provides solutions and services for the police, military, government, and industrial sectors. Their clients include the UK Ministry of Defence, the Royal Navy, and police forces from all over the world. The business was established in 1977 and is based in Birmingham, UK. It currently has more than 100 staff members.

Sonic designs products that are specialized in audio and surveillance equipment. These products are made directly to technical specifications. Customization has always been an essential part of their design process. Sonic adapts their customer's 2D technical specs into 3D designs to manufacture fit-for-purpose products.

The company specializes in designing and manufacturing communication accessories for radio and mobile equipment, supplying body-worn mobile and static video surveillance equipment, and installing technical equipment in vehicles.

The Challenge

In 2018, Sean Watson, a design manager, brought his hobbyist 3D printer to explore the potential of additive manufacturing for the business.

“As a proponent of 3D printing, I knew the best way to prove its worth was to get others involved in the process first-hand,” explained Watson.“It started with me printing a few basic design prototypes in bright orange PLA. I would then send them externally to recreate the products and use them to test new ideas and designs. It escalated from there.”

Before acquiring their 3D printers, Sonic used to outsource their 3D printing jobs. This experience allowed them to appreciate the benefits of Markforged technology. The basic PLA prints served as a foundation for scaling up industrial 3D printing during Sonic's part and product design process.

“I’d heard about Markforged through LinkedIn and the internet, but the first time I saw a Markforged Onyx Pro in action, I wanted one,” confessed Watson.“I loved the simplicity of it. I could use Eiger easily to vary the layers and get the shape, look and feel that I wanted, print them in a matter of hours and create parts in a finish I could actually use.”

Sonic had been outsourcing their 3D printing needs due to the unavailability of in-house machines. However, when Kevin McDonald took over as the Managing Director in 2022, he realized the importance of investing in Markforged 3D printers for the company's growth and efficiency. Despite this, Sonic had yet to invest in their in-house machines at that time.

“Between the thousands of pounds we were spending on outsourcing prints — and the week-long lead times on parts we were producing through our machine shop — it made sense to buy our own machines to speed up production, help us to develop new products, and circumvent supply chain shortages and delays.”

The Solution

In 2022, Sonic Communications acquired 11 Markforged printers. Five Onyx Ones, four Onyx Pros, and two X3s are constantly in use.

“It is all about starting an additive revolution in the business,” said McDonald. “We invested in 3D printing with Markforged to open up what we can do and allow us to be more creative, they are not only saving us time and creating efficiencies, but allowing us to customise designs to create better products.”

With the advent of 3D printing, Sonic Communications has been able to create audio equipment housings that are not limited to the squared edges produced by CNC milling or injection molding. Using Markforged, Sonic Communications can now develop lighter, more aesthetically pleasing, and ergonomically designed parts. Additionally, the use of Onyx materials has made Bluetooth transmission possible, which is a significant advantage for audio accessories, and was previously unattainable with machined metal.

One example of their new EHIU3 application box for law enforcement is connecting a headset to a radio. The new model is made of Onyx, making it lighter and easier to handle than previous versions that were injection-molded.

“The curves and texture make it easier to handle and more ergonomic. The customers love them,”said McDonald. “Once they see and feel a 3D printed part, they want a second one.”

“Thanks to Markforged, the product went from design to main production in only three months, where it could have previously taken up to a year,” he said.

Markforged offers not just new products, but also flexibility. In the event of supply chain delays, Sonic can modify its designs to include available electronic components and avoid delays. For instance, due to the current shortage of chips, it is easier to source larger circuit boards for audio or surveillance equipment, instead of waiting up to a year for smaller standard boards to become available. By modifying the casing design to accommodate available electronic parts, Sonic can retain the functionality of the product and customers can receive the final product in weeks.

“Using Markforged we can create the best possible fit because it’s customised,” explained McDonald.

The printers at Sonic have made their selling process more efficient. When a potential customer comes in for a meeting and discusses their requirements, Sonic can provide them with a physical prototype of the part they want to purchase. Afterward, Sonic can design and print the final part based on the technical specifications provided by the customer.

“Markforged is helping us turn ideas into reality for our customers. They come in with an idea of what they want and leave with a realization of what we can do. Having an actual prototype of the parts we can create for them builds momentum, interest, and a passion for how we can help them.”


In just six months, Markforged has helped Sonic create various products, such as the EHIU3 application box and their new In Line Nexis push-to-talk button that connects a single or dual radio to a headset. The time taken to create these products has been reduced to a quarter of what it would have taken using the traditional machine shop method.

Thanks to the speed and agility of 3D printing, Sonic can now offer new product variations and families that cater to the specific needs of their customers.

To manage an increase in customer orders and ensure timely fulfillment, Sonic is running its fleet of Markforged printers 24/7.

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