Merger creates new force in additive manufacturing

L to R: Mike Kelly (i2M) and Steve Shadwell (Progressive Technology).
L to R: Mike Kelly (i2M) and Steve Shadwell (Progressive Technology).

The merger of Newbury-based Progressive Technology and Birmingham’s Innovate 2 Make (i2M) has created a new manufacturing powerhouse in precision machining and metal 3D printing.

The new business, Progressive Technology – Advanced Manufacturing, has reportedly created the largest single source full service machining and metal 3D printing solution in the UK.

The firm is targeting more than £2m of additional sales in its first 12 months, with the possibility of 10 new jobs being created.
The firm is targeting more than £2m of additional sales in its first 12 months, with the possibility of 10 new jobs being created.

The deal, which completed this week, will see the firm target more than £2m of additional sales in its first 12 months, with the possibility of 10 new jobs being created.

It offers an end-to-end supply solution for customers looking for low to medium volume production of complex components typically used in high performance environments such as Formula 1, aerospace, and medical.

Managing director of Progressive Technology, Ross Pinchin explained: “The merger is a natural progression of a working relationship that has been in place for a couple of years now.

“We have a number of shared customers who use us to manufacture parts for F1, with i2M providing the metal 3D printing expertise and our multi-axis machining capability delivering the secondary operation.”

Pinchin continued: “By bringing the two firms together we’ve created – what we believe – is the largest single source full service machining and metal 3D printing solution in the UK.

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“It’s a bold move, but one that is already creating significant demand from customers who want easier access to this new technology, as well as the ability to reduce logistics costs, minimise supply chain disruption and shorter lead times for parts.”

Director at Innovate 2 Make, Mike Kelly added: “When we first started talking about 3D printing [additive manufacturing] it was about replacing traditional manufacturing processes.

“That’s no longer the case, as on its own it just doesn’t meet what customers are asking for. It is an extremely valuable discipline for manufacturing short batch, complex parts, but will always require secondary operations like CNC machining to give you the tolerance or finish you are after.”

Progressive Technology

Established in 1977 by Pinchin’s father, Progressive Technology has grown from a small toolmaking business into a critical supplier of components to Formula 1 teams, supplying 80% of the grid.

By combining metal additive manufacturing with multi-axis machining, Progressive Technology is able to produce highly engineered lightweight parts, whilst eliminating cost-intensive tooling.
By combining metal additive manufacturing with multi-axis machining, the firm is able to produce highly engineered lightweight parts, whilst eliminating cost-intensive tooling.

The company, which operates 24/7, has invested more than £2m this year into creating a world class machining and composite centre in Hambridge Lane and in recruiting some of the sector’s brightest minds and budding engineers.

This approach has paid dividends with sales rising to £6.8m in 2015 and expected to reach £9m by the end of this year.

Innovate 2 Make

Birmingham-based Innovate 2 Make has enjoyed a similar period of growth after launching in 2012.

Led by Mike Kelly and Ian Campbell, the firm has transformed an industrial unit in Kings Norton into a metal 3D printing centre, supplying prototype and low volume production capacity for aerospace, automotive, defence, F1 and medical sectors.

It is one of the few businesses in the country to have access to two EOS M280 400 watt laser melting platforms, along with full materials laboratory and inspection unit.

Mike went on to add: “In the short-term we will continue to operate out of Birmingham, but there may be opportunities later on to consolidate all of our activities under one roof.

“Importantly, we had seen a huge amount of work offshored due to a lack of capability like the one we’ve just created. We’ll now be working extremely hard to bring those contracts back home.”

Metal additive manufacturing

Progressive Technology – Advanced Manufacturing will use the combined capacity to secure additional work in F1 and to open doors into new markets, such as automotive, aerospace and renewables.

It has already taken measures to make inroads into the cycling sector, with Ian Campbell leading on the launch of Mirada Performance Products, a spin-out company delivering design innovation and production grade components.

By combining metal additive manufacturing with multi-axis machining, it is able to produce highly engineered lightweight parts, whilst eliminating cost-intensive tooling.

This is ideal for using new materials to create bespoke bike frames and associated components that would previously have been unimaginable using traditional processes.