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SDE Technology invests £1m in revolutionary new process
A Shropshire-based manufacturer of pressings and assemblies has signalled its intentions to be a world leader in lightweight components by investing £1m in a revolutionary new process.
SDE Technology, which prior to a recent rebrand was known as Salop Design and Engineering, is the first company in Europe to hold a production licence for Hot Form Quench (HFQ®), a game-changing hot forming process for producing high strength aluminium parts for use in the automotive, aerospace and renewable sectors.
The new technology gives designers the freedom to create parts that offer significant weight savings, yet still deliver higher structural strength, with improved formability in six and seven thousand series alloys, that cannot be formed cold. In some instances, it can also reduce the part counts from multiple components to just one.
Because HFQ lends itself to higher strength aluminium, it is ideally suited for the vehicle safety cell in the automotive sector and has also been used to develop a prototype aircraft armrest.
The initial investment of £1m in 2019 enables the laser profiling of HFQ blanks, with a multi-million pound investment scheduled to be in place at its Shrewsbury facility over the next eighteen months.
Richard Homden, CEO of SDE Technology, said: “This is a real gamechanger for our business and industry as a whole – thanks to HFQ® we can now offer new and existing customers a lightweight solution for making complex parts in one pressing, reducing weight, time to manufacture and cost in the process.
“HFQ® was developed by Impression Technologies (ITL), who industrialised research by Birmingham University and Imperial College London. This is a great example of British research being utilised by British manufacturing.
“You simply cannot form this high-strength aluminium in any other way, unless you use a Super Plastic Forming process. Even then, SPF makes one part every 15 to 20 minutes, where the cycle time for our technology is one part every 15 to 20 seconds. That is a design and manufacturing dream. This is the start of an ambitious growth and investment strategy that positions us as the first production intent company for this process in Europe.”
SDE Technology is currently in talks with a number of OEMs about the Hot Form Quench offer. Initial feedback from clients highlights that exchanging steel parts for aluminium and achieving part integration and less weight as some of the key drivers for adoption. The ability to remove reinforcements and replace extrusions and castings with HFQ® pressings are other big wins.
Christopher Greenough, chief commercial officer, added: “As a company, we are focused firmly on how we can deliver lightweight manufacturing solutions that can help solve a lot of industry’s current and future requirements.
“The government is obviously pushing hard for electrification and this is something that our technology can assist with and we believe this will be a big driver in helping quadruple our turnover over the next 5 years. We are looking to be at the forefront of the emerging EV and lightweighting markets, whether it is through HFQ or other innovative processes for joining different materials, battery technology and surface coating.”