UK-made intelligent fixturing wins landmark Boeing deal

Posted on 1 Oct 2018 by Jonny Williamson

Leading mechanical engineering specialist, MetLase, is celebrating a record-breaking year after securing a landmark contract with the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer.

L to R: Sam Simpson (MetLase), Steve Dunn (MetLase), James Needham (Boeing Sheffield) & Richard Gould (MetLase).
L to R: Sam Simpson (MetLase), Steve Dunn (MetLase), James Needham (Boeing Sheffield) & Richard Gould (MetLase).

MetLase has been announced as the tooling and fixture partner for Boeing’s new Sheffield facility in a deal that is expected to initially increase its workforce by 15%.

MetLase is a 2015 joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Unipart, and specialises in the manufacture of tooling, intelligent fixturing and components, bringing lead times of months down to hours or days.

The company will use its 3D design capabilities, high-precision laser-cutting technology and patented assembly and joining systems to create lightweight and optimised machining fixtures that will precisely hold 11 different castings used in the production of actuation system components for the 737, 767 and 777 passenger jets.

Its contract with Boeing is the latest in a line of new business wins that include strategic partnerships with blue chip companies in sectors such as automotive, aerospace and energy – marking a 70% annual increase in sales for the Sheffield-based firm.

MetLase, which employs 25 people at its 12,500 sqft cutting-edge facility at the AMP Technology Centre, is due to start delivering the first fixtures this week as part of a three-year contract.

“This is the first stage of what Boeing wanted. The next phase is to develop intelligent fixtures that provide real time data on performance and will either alert engineers if an issue arises or correct it automatically.”

Boeing’s first European Factory 

Boeing has backed up its 80-year presence in the UK and faith in UK manufacturing by building its first European production facility in Sheffield.

The new factory is expected to produce around 7,000 actuation system components each month, which will be shipped for assembly in Boeing’s Portland (Oregon, US) plant.

Learn more about Boeing’s ‘faith in the UK’ by reading The Manufacturer’s report on the Sheffield project.

Alongside MetLase, the other confirmed suppliers are:

Aeromet International – a Worcester-based supplier of advanced aluminium and magnesium cast parts with three sites across the UK.  Aeromet will supply Boeing Sheffield with high-strength, complex and multi-core aluminium cast parts.

Maher – an established Sheffield material distributor of high performing alloys and machinist of finished components, specialising in nickel, titanium and copper-based alloys. Maher, a first-time supplier to Boeing, will supply bespoke steel bar and pre-machined components – made of UK-sourced steel from Liberty Speciality Steels – from its facility located three miles from the new Boeing facility.

Mettis Aerospace – a designer and manufacturer of precision forged and machined components from Redditch that has supplied the global aerospace and defence industry for more than 70 years.  Mettis will supply Boeing Sheffield with steel alloy precision-forged components.

Boeing has already announced an agreement with NIKKEN Kosakusho Europe in Rotherham to provide high precision tool-holders, cutting tools and tool presetting solutions for Boeing as part of a long-term technical partnership.  Nikken will work closely with Boeing’s engineering team to support the optimisation of manufacturing processes to achieve production goals.