Friday, September 21, 2018

News: Ten year tannery deal for Xeros

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Xeros, the cleantech company based in Rotherham, has signed a ten year contract with Le Farc SA de CV (LEFARC) to convert its re-tanning operations in Mexico to use Xeros' patented polymer technology.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), Xeros is a Leeds University spin-out that initially focused on deploying its special polymers in the laundry industries. The next focus was the leather tanning industry, followed by the textile sector. In each case, the re-usable beads can massively reduce the amounts of water needed.

Targeting the $50 billion leather processing market, the contract follows extensive trials which demonstrated material reductions in process inputs and effluent production, radically improving the sustainability of production whilst maintaining high quality leather output.

Xeros signed a similar ten year deal in 2017 with Austrian leather producer, Wollsdorf.

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With a weekly production of 5,000 hides, LEFARC is a globally recognised tannery producing leather for shoes, supplying brands such as Timberland and Wolverine. The tannery is located in one of the world's leading tanning centres, supporting the major brands in the shoe and auto industries.

It is anticipated that leather produced by LEFARC using Xeros technology will be incorporated in consumer products after March 2019.

Mark Nichols, chief executive of Xeros, said: "This contract with LEFARC confirms that our tanning technologies are viable and play a valuable role in the production of leather. In partnership with our customers, we can radically improve sustainability whilst sharing in the value our innovative technology creates.

"We have successfully validated our technology through re-tanning trials for over 40 different recipes with multiple tanneries in Europe and Mexico.

"The considerable interest we are seeing from leading tanneries is a strong indication of the potential to increase rapidly the deployment of our technology in what is a global scale industry - we expect to secure further contracts into the future."

As judged in trials by Wollsdorf, leather produced by Xeros' technology was equivalent to that produced by its conventional process while reducing water consumption by approximately 60% and effluent mass by around 50%. Chemical consumption was also reduced by a material amount.

The technology works with existing wooden, stainless steel and polypropylene drums used in the tanning process meaning that expensive new equipment is not required. Xeros works with a tannery's preferred equipment or engineering partner to make the required minor modifications to the drums.

Xeros Tanning website

Images: LEFARC

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News: Sales at United Carpets hit by warm weather and World Cup

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Rotherham-based United Carpets, the third largest chain of specialist retail carpet and floor covering stores in the UK, has reported a dip in sales following a satisfactory period of trading in the previous 12 months.

Challenges in the retail market, and within the home furnishings sector in particular, have persisted since the Bramley-based, AIM-listed company restructured its business following a pre-pack administration deal in 2012.

The group uses a franchise model and the board said in its unaudited preliminary results for the year ended March 31 2018, that "recording moderate increases in revenue, level profits and positive like for like sales of 3.2% is therefore a satisfactory outcome for the year."

In an update to the stock exchange, the board reiterated that trading in early summer was difficult due to the exceptionally warm, sunny weather, and the World Cup, "which together had a significant adverse impact on the Company's sales volumes, as they had on the sector as a whole."

This resulted in a modest decline of 1.9% in like for like sales for the 24 weeks ended September 13 2018.

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The firm said that it had carried out increased marketing investment and that further costs had been absorbed during the period in supporting the franchise network and making additional investment in future business developments. It added that this would be reflected in significantly lower profit levels in the first half of the current financial year.

The update, which coincided with the firms' AGM, concluded: "Whilst comparatives for the balance of the year remain challenging, the Board believes the business is well positioned for future trading and is actively pursuing appropriate ways to respond in the second half of this financial year in order to reduce the impact on the full year results.

"In view of the strength of its store portfolio together with the abilities and commitment of the franchisee network, the Board remains confident that the Group will continue to be cash generative, with no borrowings, and able to support its current dividend policy."

United Carpets website

Images: United Carpets

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News: Rotherham shop keeper joins dementia fundraising campaign

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Rotherham businessman Kevin Holland is proving that even the smallest act of generosity can make a massive difference to a charity like Lost Chord.

Kevin, who runs Kev's Shoe Repairs in Maltby, always has a collecting tin on his counter in support of Lost Chord, the organisation that provides vital interactive musical experiences for people living with dementia in care homes and day centres across the region and nationally.

And in the five plus years he has been supporting Lost Chord, customer donations of just small change have raised an impressive £400.

"Lost Chord is a local charity that does some brilliant work for people with dementia," said Kevin.

"I'm really pleased that just those bits of loose change can make a real contribution to what the charity is doing."

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Helena Muller, chief executive of Lost Chord, added: "The smallest gestures can make the greatest difference.

"All Kevin's customers can be assured that every penny they donate goes direct to supporting people living with dementia, for whom music is often their only way of connecting with loved ones.

"If you think your customers could help support people with dementia why not contact us for a collecting tin and join Kev's campaign to help bring joy into the life of all those people out there struggling with dementia."

Starting out in Rotherham care homes in 1999, Lost Chord now produces more than 1,300 interactive musical sessions a year in 130 homes, designed to stimulate responses from people with dementia through the media of music, song and dance. Patrons include Sir Cliff Richard, Lesley Garrett and Dame Vera Lynn.

Lost Chord website

Images: Lost Chord

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

News: Supply chain soars with Boeing's Sheffield investment

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Leading companies based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham are set to supply Boeing's new £20m manufacturing facility in the Sheffield city region (SCR).

Announced last year, the 25,000 sq ft facility, to be named Boeing Sheffield, will enable the Seattle firm to bring the manufacture of key high-tech actuation components and systems used in Boeing's Next-Generation 737, 737 MAX and 777 aircraft in-house, enhancing production efficiency and reducing costs.

Liberty Speciality Steels will be supplying steel bar that will be used at Boeing Sheffield where operations are set to begin later in the autumn of this year.

Investment under previous owners Tata Steel in 2005 saw the Rotherham site at Aldwarke become the focus for steel making, casting and rolling of specialist steels. The steel is manufactured before undergoing further refining at the Stocksbridge plant or the Thrybergh Bar Mill to improve the quality. The South Yorkshire operations have been supplying steel for the A380 Airbus and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The bar business was moved to Speciality Steel in 2012 and a £2.75m investment was announced for Rotherham. In 2013 a £15m investment was announced to focus on high-purity vacuum induction melted (VIM) steels for the aerospace industry at Stocksbridge.

Under new owners, Liberty House, a multi-million-pound investment plan has seen the reactivation of the "small bloom" caster and the iconic N-Furnace at Aldwarke. Production of high-grade steels is up from 179,000 tonnes-a-year in 2016/17 to 292,000 tonnes this year. It is aiming to reach output of more than a million tonnes a year by 2020. It is almost all made from scrap metal.

For Boeing Sheffield, locally made steel will be provided to Maher, a first time supplier to Boeing, who will then supply bespoke steel bar and pre-machined components.

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Maher has a purpose-built head office and warehouse facility in Sheffield and an office at the AMP. A supplier of high performing alloys and machinist of finished components, specialising in nickel, titanium and copper-based alloys, Maher has been a tier two member of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing since inception.

Donna Saul, managing director of Maher, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for Maher to be part of the Boeing supply-chain, providing machined components and bespoke steel bar to the Boeing facility in Sheffield. The team at Maher are excited to work closely with Boeing and look forward to supplying the service and support required to make Sheffield a success story for both companies."

Boeing is undertaking a major Research & Development programme with the AMRC to develop new manufacturing techniques that can be applied in the new facility on the Sheffield Business Park.

MetLase Ltd has been confirmed as Boeing Sheffield's tooling and fixturing partner. The joint venture between Rolls-Royce and the Unipart Group is a mechanical engineering consultancy that specialises in increasing productivity by designing and manufacturing complex tooling, fixturing and components for a wide range of industries, often bringing lead times of months down to just days.

Taking space in the Advanced Manufacturing Park Technology Centre in Rotherham the rapidly-growing company is initially focused on aerospace, automotive, motorsport and the medical market sector and expects to create around 30 high-end, technical engineering jobs on the AMP.

Already announced, MetLase and Maher's neighbours on the AMP, NIKKEN Kosakusho Europe has secured a long term partnership with Boeing to provide high precision tool-holders, cutting tools and tool presetting solutions.

Boeing's first European factory will produce 7,000 actuation system components each month, which will be shipped for assembly in Boeing's Portland, Oregon plant in the United States.

Worcester-based Aeromet International Ltd and Mettis Aerospace in Redditch also take their place in the supply chain.

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Sir Michael Arthur, president, Boeing Europe and managing director, Boeing UK and Ireland, said: "In Sheffield we have an excellent local supply chain and Boeing is sourcing from these established companies because of their high-quality manufacturing capability and talented people.

"I'm delighted to bring Maher, MetLase and NIKKEN on board as new Boeing suppliers, and to extend our supplier relationship with Aeromet and Mettis. We look forward to working together."

Last year the US aero giant confirmed that direct spending with UK suppliers had tripled over the previous six years to £2.1 billion.

Boeing website
Liberty Speciality Steels website
Maher website
MetLase website
Nikken website

Images: Boeing / Finnegan

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News: Magtec changes track to convert diesel trains

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Magtec, the UK's largest supplier of electric vehicle drive systems, is working to deliver the rail industry's first conversion of a diesel-powered train to hybrid drive.

Founded in 1992, MAGTEC designs and manufactures electric drive systems and components for a wide range of applications including trucks, buses and military vehicles.

The expanding firm now has facilities in Sheffield and Rotherham and is working with train leasing company, Angel Trains and Chiltern Railways to convert a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Class 165 train. As part of the £3.5m project, the new "HyDrive" train is due for completion by late 2019 and will serve passengers on Chiltern Railways routes, including commuter routes between London Marylebone to Aylesbury.

In future, passengers using the Class 165 HyDrive could benefit from potentially reduced journey times, thanks to the improved acceleration offered by the hybrid technology compared to its diesel-only counterparts. Additionally, when the hybrid system detects proximity to stations or depots, it will turn the engines off and run on its battery, removing gaseous and noise emissions from populated areas.

Improved fuel efficiency means an increased range, making operation more efficient. Maintenance will also be reduced compared to diesel-only units, with remote diagnostics used to ensure that the hybrid system continues to operate smoothly.

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The completed Class 165 HyDrive project will have a positive environmental impact, most notably through a significant reduction in CO2, NOx and noise emissions. The new range-extender engines, designed to drive generators to charge the traction battery which delivers power to the traction motor, will be smaller and more efficient than the existing engines and will comply with the latest emission standards. The battery will be re-charged by the vehicles new regenerative braking system, increasing overall efficiency and reducing emissions.

The engines will be replaced after their life cycle providing an upgrade path to alternative power sources in the future. This offers the opportunity for incremental improvements in emissions and reduced operating costs as technology develops.

Kevin Tribley, CEO of Angel Trains said: "Angel Trains is delighted to be involved in this innovative Class 165 HyDrive project to deliver an industry-first transformation, alongside our partners Chiltern Railways and Magtec.

"Our £3.5m investment further demonstrates Angel Trains' commitment to investing in industry-leading innovations and decarbonisation initiatives, while continuing to deliver significant train upgrades to meet modern environmental and passenger expectations."

Marcus Jenkins, founder and managing director of Magtec, said: "This exciting project marks our entry into the rail industry and puts the UK at the forefront of innovation in the global sector. Repowering diesel trains as hybrid units will add decades to their life span, offering long-term commercial benefits for operators.

"Our innovative and elegant engineering is attracting interest from transport operators and innovators across the world."

Magtec is also a partner in a pioneering project with Unipart Rail and others which aims to reduce the weight and cost of a railcar by half.

Magtec website

Images: Angel Trains

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