Lifesaving innovation

Posted on 27 Aug 2013

Sheffield steel vehicle suspension manufacturer, Tinsley Bridge Group, are helping to save the lives of soldiers by improving the suspension of the Army's Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The Sheffield-based firm was approached by defence company BAE Systems with an urgent need to increase the protection weight, raise the rise height and maintain the mobility of the infantry vehicle.

“They were increasing the weight of the vehicles and the suspension couldn’t cope. They came to us because we are experts in this field – but we needed funding for research and development – and we needed it fast as ongoing deployment necessitated a fast upgrade,” explains Mark Webber, managing director of Tinsley Bridge.

The army needed a tougher torsion bar, a long steel rod that acts as a spring in many truck suspension systems.

Tinsley Bridge had been developing a new material called Extralite for use in high strength springs. Extralite had taken ten years to develop as it needed to stay ductile and not shatter at high strength levels.

The company required funding to go from lab trials to the manufacturing process, so they applied to the Grant for Research and Development from the Technology Strategy Board’s (TSB) Smart scheme.

Tinsley Bridge received £100,000 worth of funding allowing them to develop and test the torsion bar in five months.

“That research and development funding was vital because it facilitated the whole project. We were able to engage on the development work and do all the testing and development. It was a huge success in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Webber.

The innovative vehicle component has received praise from the Army for the number of lives it has saved in Afghanistan.

Peter Luff, minister for defence equipment and support, said: “The family-owned Tinsley Bridge Group may be a long way from the front line in Afghanistan, but their innovative work means the Warrior vehicle will be tough enough to cope with the rockiest terrain and protect its crew from Improvised Explosive Devices.”

The steel vehicle suspension manufacturer suffered along with the the rest of the truck market, which saw a 75% reduction due to the global financial crisis, with Tinsley Bridge losing money through the whole of 2009.

Managing director Webber recognised the importance of help he and his company received from the TSB.

“The Technology Strategy Board supported us at a time when we had no work. It also gave us vision about what we could achieve through product innovation. It renewed the belief in ourselves and demonstrated that the ideas we had were deliverable in a short timescale. It stimulated our appetite for developing new products that would give us a competitive advantage.”

This article was reproduced from the original on the Technology Strategy Board’s website, linked here –