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Fast growing SME UK manufacturer secures its biggest ever contract win through new invention

Surface Generation, an SME composite equipment manufacturer based in the Midlands UK employing 20 people, has invented a new unique and innovative solution focused around ‘intelligent’ moulding which helps manufacturers to truly tailor the thermal resources they need to make their goods and become much more efficient. The company says the technology can reduce cycle times by up to 95% and produce energy savings of over 90%.

Based on its invention, which has enabled the company to build a suite of new technologies, Surface Generation (which has been turned down for credit by the main high street banks and had to rely on funding from private investors) is predicting its revenue should double this year.  This will be helped by its biggest ever contract win just secured with IHI Corporation, the Japanese engineering giant. It will use Surface Generation’s new patented process to create lightweight jet engine parts for a major next generation single aisle commercial aircraft programme. IHI has signed a multi-million pound five year contract with Surface Generation.

Deals with two other conglomerates are close to being completed in the next few weeks, and the company is looking to employ an additional six people.  It is planning to open demonstration centres on the West and East coast of America, and has recently secured a partner in Taiwan.  Around 90% of its revenue comes from overseas.

In total, Surface Generation is currently in talks with 12 manufacturers around the world about possible new contracts worth up to £15 million, and is predicting annual revenue of £2 million for the financial year 2014/ 2015 (1st March to 31st April).  This would be a rise of around 233% on its performance for 2012/13.

The company’s patented Production to Functional Specifications (PtFS) solution encompasses a range of thermal management technologies, allowing temperatures to be dynamically controlled to the exact requirements of each mould area and process stage. This uniquely allows manufacturers to continuously adapt heating and cooling levels in real-time, assuring quality and maximising throughput.

Ben Halford, Chief Executive, Surface Generation and a former racing car engineer said: “We have been operating since 2002 and have spent some £7 million on research development and intellectual property rights since then, so it is incredibly satisfying to have created something that can genuinely help revolutionise manufacturing.  Our new contract with IHI is a very strong endorsement, and we are in positive talks with other manufacturers around the world.  We have never been more optimistic about our future.”

What Surface Generation does

Surface Generation specialises in composite manufacturing.  This is where you mix two or more constituents, giving them mechanical and thermal properties which can be significantly better than those of homogeneous metals, polymers and ceramics. The company targets manufacturing sectors that are focused on reducing weight of mass produced products.  There are not many of these OEMs in the UK, so it primarily focuses on overseas markets.

By integrating its patented suite of technologies, Surface Generation has transformed mass market composites manufacturing beyond its existing disparate collection of elements into a unified, information driven model, centred around an ‘intelligent moulding environment’.  This has created a paradigm shift in cost, quality and delivery at all production stages.

Growth in the composites markets

The global composite materials industry was worth around $20.9 billion in 2012, and it is expected to rise to $29.9 billion by 2017.

There are a number of factors fuelling growth in the composites market.  These include:

  • Major industries that use them are growing e.g. aviation, automotive and consumer electronics
  • New infrastructure projects
  • Population growth
  • Increase in middle class populations
  • On-going environmental influences
  • Growing desire for manufacturers to conserve energy, reduce pollution and reduce costs – composites can help in all of these areas.  Carbon fibre for example, is increasingly being used in the automotive and aviation sectors and because it reduces the weight load, it can lead to impressive fuel savings.
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