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Prodrive to double workforce at Milton Keynes composites plant

ProDrive : 12 September, 2012  (Company News)
Technology consultancy and precision-manufacturing specialist Prodrive is nearly doubling the size of the workforce at its composites plant in Milton Keynes. The company is actively recruiting now and will take on a further 80 people during 2013, making it one of Europe’s largest composites specialists with close to 200 employed in its manufacturing operations.
Prodrive to double workforce at Milton Keynes composites plant

The recruitment drive follows the award of significant new business from the automotive, aerospace and defence sectors. These include the supply of cosmetic and large structural components for a new European supercar and highly specialist applications such as components for a space telescope. Prodrive has already increased the factory’s floor area to more than 32,000 sq ft (3,000 m2) after winning contracts for high quality trim components from three premium vehicle manufacturers and is already planning a further phase of expansion.

Composites manager Ian Handscombe explains: “We are making big investments to increase the efficiency of what are, essentially, craft processes but we still need our people to have very high skill levels. Our training programme is based on capturing the skills of the best people in the industry and transferring them to newcomers to our business. Our recruits will have the chance to work alongside some of the world’s foremost experts in producing composite components for super cars and Formula One.”

Finished diffusers for a British supercar manufacturer, awaiting packing and shipmentTo help increase efficiency, Prodrive is making substantial investments in process automation and other systems that allow their craftsmen to focus their time on high value-adding activities. Using a new £500,000 five-axis milling machine, it now takes just 20 minutes to trim a large post-mould component that previously took four hours by hand. A new NC (numerically-controlled) machine allows automated cutting of thicker pre-preg material (up to 2mm) to reduce the number of layers required. “This is one of the enablers for the manufacture of body-in-white (vehicle body) components,” says Handscombe. “It’s more efficient and gives us a surface that is ready for painting.” Other equipment purchases at the Milton Keynes site include two additional high-specification autoclaves, together worth around £1 million. The larger unit accepts parts up to 2m diameter by 4.3m long. Both allow substantial panels to be manufactured in one piece; and with temperatures of 350oC and pressures of 200psi now available, the manufacture of advanced thermoplastic composites becomes a possibility, with much faster cycle times and easier recycling

Finished diffusers for a British supercar manufacturer, awaiting packing and shipmentProdrive designs and produces structural, semi-structural and cosmetic composite components for the automotive, defence, aerospace and other industries. “We expect world demand for composites in automotive alone to be worth around £5.5 billion by 2020,” says Handscombe, “with increasing volumes also coming from sectors such as  aerospace, defence and marine where weight reduction is becoming increasingly critical.” Composites engineering manager Gary White says that Prodrive is structured as an engineering consultancy that also has manufacturing. “Much of our highly specialist aerospace and defence business has been won not just because of our top-quality processes, but because we can help our clients take full advantage of the remarkable properties of the material,” he explains. “Our engineering team will help them with the new science of designing for composites, not simply designing in composites.”

Quality standards held by the company include AS9100 – the international management system standard for the Aircraft, Space and Defence industry – and TS16949 for the design, development and production of automotive-related products.

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