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Getting the best performance out of a product can often rest on the very first step of the manufacturing process… selecting the right material.
“We don’t profess and have no desire to be designers,” stated Andrew Du Plessis, Technical Executive at Alloy Wire International (AWI).
“However, we are increasingly playing an important role in advising our customers on the technical specifications of our wire and this can play a telling role in the design process that delivers a final product/material that has the desired performance when it is in operation.”
This approach is nothing new for AWI, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of round, flat and profile wire in High Performance alloys.
The company, which employs 29 people across dedicated factories in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, has enjoyed significant growth over the last three years and the management team puts this down, in part, to its ability to offer more than just off-the-shelf material.
It is a course of action that sees the firm approach its 75th birthday in good shape, recording annual sales of £11m at the end of 2019, split across thousands of clients in 20 different sectors and 55 countries – all numbers that are growing by the week despite the global pandemic.
“We often find ourselves involved at the very start of a project, whether that is helping to develop wire for springs used in aerospace or fasteners to support nuclear power generation. Regardless of the sector, we have to be in a position where we can provide support and advice to our customers,” continued Andrew.
“This starts with understanding what the end application will be and what will be expected of the wire. Does it need to withstand high temperatures, will it need to resist corrosion from a specific gas or liquid and are there any particular safety-critical measures it needs to adhere to? These are all questions we need to ask before suggesting material from our range of 60 exotic alloys.
“For instance, Monel 400, K-500 and Inconel 625 are good choices for parts in sea water, whilst Hastelloys, Colbalt and Titanium alloys have all been developed with superior corrosion resistance in mind, making them versatile alloys in a range of environments.”
Alloy Wire International has invested heavily in testing and can produce wire to achieve the mechanical properties required by the customer, even after it has been processed and heat treated by the spring maker or fastener manufacturer.
This is done by modifying the wire drawing process and then age hardening a sample piece of the wire, which is then tested in the laboratory to confirm the exact properties the finished parts will ultimately achieve.
Supporting the NHS
Alloy Wire International has been commissioned to produce more than 5 kilometres of material that will be used to produce crucial parts for use in life-saving equipment destined for the groundbreaking Nightingale Hospital in London.
The company, which holds more than 200 tonnes of EU/DFARS compliant stock at any one time, put its Emergency Manufacturing Service (EMS) into action to meet the urgent requirements of a spring maker that is supplying into the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium to assist in the ramp-up of Smiths and Penlon Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems.
Interest has also come from Australia, North America and South Korea, with AWI supplying urgent quantities of custom-made Inconel spring wire and 316LVM Stainless Steel to spring makers.
“We work with over 5000 customers every year and we knew a lot of them supplied into critical sectors that deliver essential services,” explained Mark Venables, Managing Director of Alloy Wire International.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this sharply into view and, over the last six weeks, we have been busy manufacturing a range of wire for companies that are playing a crucial role in supporting the frontline, often meeting extremely demanding timelines in the process.”
He continued: “This has included supplying a customer that had to remake springs destined for ventilator production due to an untimely power cut, whilst another client made a 280-mile round trip to collect the order from us. In both cases, we did our bit by making the wire in just 2 days.”
Alloy Wire International is working around the clock to meet the requirements of existing and new customers, with material available from 0.025mm (.001”) to 21mm (.827”) in small batches or medium/large volumes.
In addition to the projects it is completing for ventilator production, AWI is also providing wire that goes into electric heating elements used for medical plastic forming and for the critical sterilisation of vital medical equipment.
Other customers still placing orders are involved in the detection of gases for hospital incubators, dental products and power generation.
Mark concluded: “We are very proud of the heroic actions of frontline NHS, social care staff and key workers – this is our own small way of supporting them to help save lives.
“Our staff have been fantastic and really embraced our role as a key manufacturer, adopting the Government’s social distancing policies whilst still delivering wire that is going to be used in increasing the number of ventilators in the UK and supporting other crucial medical equipment.
“AWI is ‘at the source’ of many first steps in creating life-saving equipment and we are committed to maintaining this supply throughout the pandemic.”
For further information, please visit www.alloywire.com or follow @alloywire on Twitter.