Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena

Springing into action
European Springs & Pressings, supported by its parent company Lesjofors, has invested a million euros in a new spring coiling machine, the first of its kind in the UK. The Wafios FUL166 is one of the latest large-scale, high-end spring coiling machines to come out of Wafios’ German based powerhouse and European Springs & Pressings is one of only two manufacturers in the world to have one.

Michael Gibbs, Managing Director of European Springs & Pressings in Cornwall noted that investing in this quality of machinery is testament to the company’s dedication to being a world-class spring manufacturer. “Lesjofors, our parent company, is committed to investing in the UK and has consistently recognised the forward-thinking nature of our management and the unrivalled quality of our production and lean manufacturing processes,” he added.

John Murley, UK Sales Manager for Wafios concluded: “This level of machinery investment is unprecedented for most. European Springs & Pressings and Lesjofors engineering excellence has secured their heritage and will continue to un-lock growth opportunities as they harness technology allowing them to remain competitive and deliver the highest quality products. Our machines are unparalleled. The state-of-the-art control technology offers interactivity at a level which is similar to an iPad and the machines are designed with maximum productivity and quality in mind.”

Robust & reliable
Additive manufacturing/3D printing company FELIXprinters has recently expanded its extensive 3D printer portfolio with the new Pro 3 system, which comes loaded with automated and intelligent features to maximise productivity and efficiency. The importance placed on intelligent 3D printing is really at the heart of the Pro 3, with functionality that removes many of the tedious and time-consuming hurdles that characterise many 3D printers. To this end, the Pro 3 incorporates automated motorised calibration; an innovative quick-swap print-head solution; extremely fast rotation of print-heads in the dual head configuration (less than ten seconds); and a dedicated flexplate, supplied as standard to easily and quickly remove printed parts.

Among its multitude of benefits, the Pro 3 also offers extremely quick heat-up and cool-down of the print heads, meaning that the dual head print times are reduced by a factor of two.

Guillaume Feliksdal, Founder and Director of FELIXprinters added: “Our team at FELIXprinters all have technical engineering backgrounds, so we know that ‘quality in’ equals ‘quality out’! We have sourced extremely high-quality components to ensure that the Pro series of printers are both robust and reliable – and these are the cornerstone of the new FELIX Pro 3.”

Factory expansion plans
Narrow Aisle Ltd, manufacturer of the Flexi range of articulated forklift truck-based intralogistics solutions, has announced a major investment strategy that will allow the company to significantly increase output at its UK production site over the next three years.

The extra capacity is required to meet the sustained and growing demand for Flexi trucks from third party logistics specialists as well as own-account warehouse operators across a diverse range of industry sectors – both in the UK and worldwide.

Narrow Aisle began warehouse truck manufacturing operations in Great Bridge, Tipton, in the late 1970s. The current Victorian-era site was earlier used for the production of industrial railway engines and steam-powered narrow boats. The planned refurbishment work at Great Bridge will ensure that many of the building’s original structural features are maintained but the modern factory will optimise quality and production processes.

The project will also include the overhaul and extension of the site’s production and spare parts operation, to allow an increased stock handling and pick and pack capacity to provide same-day dispatch of spare parts to UK and overseas distributors.

In addition, loading facilities are to be upgraded to deliver extra capacity for sea-containers into which Flexis are loaded for shipment to overseas clients. The company currently exports to over 60 countries worldwide and international sales now account for some 40 per cent of Narrow Aisle’s business.

“The Flexi articulated forklift truck concept is now well established and as sales continue to grow we have to ensure that our production facilities are able to keep pace with demand. The investment in our UK manufacturing site is a reflection of our confidence in our business and our products,” commented John Maguire, commercial director of Narrow Aisle.

Smart engineering solution
Work has started on the brand-new £65 million research facility for digital aviation at Cranfield University with support from the Birmingham office of built environment consultancy Curtins. Curtins is providing structural, civil and geo-environmental services for the project. The team’s main focus has been on the creation of a large canopy that will provide protection for an air-craft whilst making it accessible and aesthetically in-line with the adjacent building.

The new Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) will develop ways for aircraft to monitor, test and upgrade their own systems and structures, as well as looking at the future of the passenger experience from airport through to flight.

Associate Matt Woodhall is leading the design of the project from Curtins’ Birmingham office. He noted that the structure of this new research centre is really interesting with a unique roof design: “This project represents an important investment at Cranfield University, ensuring that it is a leading centre for aviation technology,” he added.

Digital experience showcase
Siemens has opened a fully refurbished ‘Digital Experience Centre’ designed to practically illustrate how its industrial customers can successfully embark on a digital transformation journey.

Located at the company’s Manchester headquarters, the demonstration centre showcases fully operational examples of transformative digital technologies which can enable industrial users to enhance productivity, support flexible manufacturing objectives, optimise performance and even open up new business models.

Visitors can see for themselves the merging of virtual and physical worlds with demonstrations of ‘digital twin’ simulation technology that can save manufacturers cost and resource when it comes to design and engineering processes.

Other open interface technologies, such as augmented reality, 3D modelling and virtual reality, which offer integration with Siemens’ industrial applications, including Mindsphere, Siemens’ open IOT operating systems for the cloud, are on display.

Mindsphere showcases how simple, secure and encrypted connections from machine to machine are possible to help transform IoT data to deliver productive business results and offer opportunities for product and business model innovation.

News in brief
UK’s best employer
In the prestigious British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) awards scheme Gripple, the employee-owned and celebrated manufacturer of the iconic wire fastener, was named the UK’s Best Employer and also selected as a regional winner in the High Growth Business of the Year category.

Gripple is a 100% employee-owned company with every new employee required to buy £1,000 worth of shares after 12 months of employment. Managing director, Ed Stubbs commented: “This award is well-earned by our people and we are all delighted with this prized accolade. Employee-ownership is a fantastic model to drive long-term performance in a business and to properly reward and engage employees. We all thank the BCC for this prestigious recognition.”

Brand repositioning
Birmingham-based Precision Micro, Europe’s market-leading photochemical etching company, has rebranded following its recent management buyout (MBO). The new brand image will reflect the role that the business’ technology plays in creating a ‘better today’, enabling customers to make medical devices used in life-saving operations, components used in more fuel efficient and cleaner vehicles, and the manufacture of computer chips that facilitate modern-day communication.

Ian McMurray, managing director of Precision Micro, noted: “We wanted to give the business a refreshed identity to reflect the next phase of our growth journey, and the rebrand will help us continue to pave the way as a market leader in our field with a new purpose.”

Prestigious contract
Bolton-based Silcoms, a niche supplier of complex aero-engine ring components and assemblies including seals, shrouds, segments and casings, has secured a £340k asset finance facility from the Barclays Northern Powerhouse Fund, helping it secure a prestigious new Rolls Royce contract. This new contract is to supply parts for two new Rolls Royce engine programmes and will provide an additional £3.5m revenue for, at least, the next four years.

John Cottam, Finance Director at Silcoms is looking forward to working with the Barclays team ‘as we continue our growth journey and take the business to the next level of our trading ambitions.’