Business finesse

Uploaded 09 Apr @ 08:07am

Following a change of ownership just over 12 months ago at Ilkeston-based Atlas Composite Technologies, there has been an extremely rapid and positive rate of change within the business. M&MT talks to Head of Business Development, Dave Gregory, and Managing Director, Lloyd Pearson, to find out more.
From its impressive 25,000 ft2 facility in Derbyshire, close to major road networks, Atlas Composite Technologies provides support for a diverse cross-section of customers. However, aerospace and defence, motorsports and automotive consume the majority of the company’s current capacity. Current because things are not staying static for long and the business is growing rapidly. In fact, it is looking to recruit additional lightweight materials skills and knowledge to add to the 70-strong highly capable people already employed.
As a key member of the Atlas team, with over 30 years composites experience, Dave Gregory confirms: “Following the change of ownership we have set out to become industry leaders in the development and manufacture of next generation composite structures. We will achieve these goals by investing in the very best equipment and attracting the very best industry talent to the team, such as the two CNC programmer/operators we have recently appointed with considerable composite tool and pattern design and manufacturing experience. Alongside the experienced staff, we’ve recognised the importance of investing in the next generation of talent with the addition of six apprentices to the already highly skilled and capable Atlas team.”
The plant capability and capacity has also been boosted with a new Zünd G3 digital cutting table increasing the speed and accuracy of cut kits, while an extensive 36 pallet capacity freezer ensures optimum material storage conditions and a 3D printer is used for rapid prototyping and creating small jigs and fixtures in such materials as ABS or PLA.
With extensive metallic machining capability through its partner business, J&A Engineering offers Atlas the extended metallic capability for the ever increasing customer demands for turn key solutions, with simple to complex fabrications, and with its extensive range of machining capability that includes CNC lathes, EDM processes, CNC milling with 3- and 5-axis, coupled with a ‘Fast Make’ approach suits Atlas’ business model. A New Plasma Cleaner has also been installed to prepare high performance metallic inserts for customers.
Accreditations include ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100 Rev D, prove quality is at the forefront of any decisions made by Atlas. The quality department has a Hexagon 3D laser scanning head CMM commissioned to provide rapid non-contact measurement and full traceability for customers in all industry sectors.
Civil works are underway to alter the layout of the factory to better suit a cellular manufacturing methodology, and a separate temperature-controlled bond area has been created in the trim and fit department. A silicone bagging system has also been introduced and the company is investigating a high-performance RFI tagging system that will support real time tracking of material from storage right the way through the business to shipping, even in the autoclaves. This will interact with a new company-wide ERP system that recently went ‘live’.
“We have not finished the investment programme,” states Dave Gregory. “There is a larger Fortus 450mc 3D printer on order to support all aerospace, motorsport and automotive programs and very soon we will take delivery of one of the largest autoclaves in the UK, with internal dimensions of 4m diameter by 7m long.”
Of course, business growth is not just a question of looking inward, as Lloyd Pearson points out: “Every positive change we have made to the equipment, facilities and staff at Atlas is customer focused and aims to go beyond the current demand through to the potential next phase wherever possible. As an example, we currently support the Formula 1 sector with a 24/7 service across all departments at seasonal peak times, and plans are well under way to make this a self-contained division of Atlas.”
He concludes: “As a business we consider the benefits of sharing knowledge with the whole high-performance lightweight and advanced materials industry sectors, which is why we are active members of the Nuclear AMRC and the only composite technologies member of the new Nuclear AMRC facility destined for the iHub on Infinity Park, Derby.”

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