Category Archives: News

SAM News posts

Heliguy SAM Project support

Tech investment leaves Heliguy flying high

A North East drone specialist is scaling new heights after investing heavily in its own manufacturing facility.

heliguy™, based in North Shields, has established itself as a go-to drone supplier for clients across the globe since its launch in 2006.

The company started life as a retailer of remote-controlled helicopters but has since grown into a full-service drone specialist, providing drones, bespoke accessories, servicing, repairs, custom integrations, product development, drone pilot training and end-to-end workflow support.

Over the past two years, this diversification has seen the company secure contracts with 38 police forces across the country, as well as the London Fire Brigade, Port of Tyne and a host of personal and commercial clients.

One recent project, for a police force in the South East of England, saw the company’s design experts produce a bespoke drone mount, allowing officers to test mobile phone and radio signal strength in hard-to-reach areas such as farms and rural roads.

Another design and manufacture project, working with a commercial client – Aerial Ashes – resulted in the team developing a safe, sensitive way of scattering ashes at beautiful and memorable locations, such as out at sea or on mountain peaks.

This expansion of its services – and the establishing of a dedicated manufacturing hub at its Orion Business Park base – has not only led to the company onboarding more clients, but also more staff, with its headcount in North Shields now at 28.

Ross Embleton, custom integration specialist at heliguy™, said: “We identified a gap in the market – quite early on – when the drone market was just maturing and swiftly established ourselves as one of the UK’s leading independent providers of drones and accessories.

“Since then, we’ve continued to invest in the business year-on-year, ensuring we continue to service our clients to the highest possible standard and continuing to create job opportunities for local people.”

Central to bringing product development and manufacturing in-house and growing the business has been a suite of state-of-the-art 3D printers that has allowed heliguy™ to design and produce parts at its North Shields facility, helping to slash lead and prototype times while reducing costs.

Ross Embleton from Heliguy based in North Shields has purchased equipment with support from SAM project. Photo with Carl Gregg (SAM Project)

The company purchased the printers after receiving technical support and a grant from the £10.9 million Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project, which is a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), University of Sunderland, the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes.

The funding supported the purchase of a market leading Markforged X7 3D printer, which allows the company to print parts in reinforced carbon fibre and Kevlar and will work alongside its selective laser sintering (SLS) machine and a Formlabs Fuse 1 3D printer.

The firm also purchased a Form 3L SLA 3D printer in November and aims to acquire a number of surface finishing machines over the coming months as it continues to invest in its design and manufacturing capabilities.

Ross added: “Bringing the production of our components in-house was key to us broadening our horizons and expanding into new markets and the support we received from SAM has been key to helping us do that.

“Carl [Gregg] was fantastic as he really bought into the concept. After working with him to identify which areas of our business could benefit from additive manufacturing and which 3D printers would be best suited to our needs, we went on to buy a state-of-the-art Markforged composite printer that has helped us significantly slash costs and lead times.

“It has massively reduced design times too. Now, if the managing director or a client has an idea, we can create a physical, working prototype within a week as there’s no waiting around for third party suppliers.

“Aviation parts also need to be strong and light, therefore being able to print parts in carbon fibre and kevlar on the Markforged printer is a huge benefit to us. It’s really helped us to step our business up a gear and we can’t thank Carl and the team enough for all of their support.”

Carl Gregg, product and process design specialist at the SAM Project, said: “As a team of engineers who thrive upon helping businesses overcome challenges to growth, it was fantastic to work with heliguy™ and to become so involved in helping them plan for the future as they continue to innovate and grow and create jobs here in the North East.

“The SAM Project was set up to help the region’s SME manufacturing base improve products and processes by adopting new technologies such as additive manufacturing and heliguy™ is a prime example of just how much of a positive impact the project can have.”

How tech can help plug the manufacturing skills gap

How tech can plug the manufacturing skills gap

Much has been made of the skills gap in the UK manufacturing industry in recent years and there are a number of factors contributing to this, including a lack of investment in new technology.

The manufacturing industry is heavily influenced by evolving technologies and new techniques are constantly helping to improve processes and the quality of end-products. There’s also no hiding from the increasing amount of computerisation involved in production processes, as well as the need for bespoke software solutions to meet growing demand, utilise different materials and manage workload.

As someone who has spent over 30 years’ in the industry, I’ve witnessed this first-hand. After working at one of the earliest adopters of industrial robots in the UK, Tallent Engineering (now Gestamp), I have seen the first robots they installed in the early 1980s grow to a robot population of over 1,200 at its Aycliffe site, with the pioneering technology helping bring continued success to the company and making it more competitive on the global stage.

Fast-forward 30 years and we have seen many more of the region’s manufacturers invest in emerging and mature technologies, such as AR/VR, which has been embraced by the likes of Caterpillar in Peterlee.  However, technology advancement isn’t unique to large companies, despite the many pre-conceptions of such technologies being too expensive. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Recently, we have worked with scores of North East SMEs to help them embrace new technologies, including companies such as Kail &Co, Heliguy, and AR Controls. Additive manufacturing in particular is increasingly competing with traditional manufacturing techniques even outside of prototyping and is a fundamental part of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This is why, when reading the latest ‘Addressing skills and labour shortages post-Brexit’ report by the CIPD, I was surprised to see that only 9% of UK businesses plan to invest in technology as a way of addressing skill or labour shortages over the coming years. Technology is such a key driver within industry, which is why it’s now as important as ever to support businesses and employers to increase the adoption of new technology and support the skills development of staff.

Many SME manufactures are facing staff shortages and short-term interventions are needed in the way of quality business support and funding to overcome this crisis, making the investment in skills and technology more manageable and paving the way for long-term success. This support is exactly what the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is here to provide, by helping SME manufacturers to innovate, grow and diversify.

Backed by ERDF, the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and the University of Sunderland, the SAM Project has a team of dedicated technical experts who work alongside the region’s SME manufacturers to support the implementation of product and process development, as well as the introduction of technology, at absolutely no cost to businesses. We also have matched-funding grants to help make the investment in new technology as affordable as possible.

Over the past few years, I have seen with my own eyes the many benefits that investing in technology can have on SMEs through some of the incredible projects we have been a part of, helping manufacturers embrace new technologies such as robotics, automation, design software, 3D printing and augmented and virtual reality. It’s technologies like these that open new doors for businesses and provide their employees with the capability to build upon their skills and ensure they are employable for years to come.

One such business that we were proud to support is specialist metal fabricators, Almet, who we helped explore the use of robotic welding technology through live demonstrations, showcasing to the team what they could achieve with this type of machinery based upon their specific needs. The Washington-based company has now increased its factory size by 12,000 sq ft and is investing in the technology itself to enhance processes. Not only did this safeguard jobs, but it will also create a number of highly skilled roles.

Another company we supported was precision engineering specialist, Ashgarth Engineering, providing funding to help with the purchase of a 3 axis vertical machining centre with a 4th axis attachment. This allowed the company to branch out into new markets and offer their current clients additional processes, leading to an increase in turnover and the creation of jobs.

However, tackling the skills and labour shortages post-Brexit and post-pandemic will take time and will also need to filter down to education, increasing awareness in schools about careers in manufacturing and increasing the number of manufacturing apprenticeships to help bridge the skills gap.

The manufacturing industry can provide employees with limitless potential to grow and learn as technology continues to advance. After all, just because someone lacks a certain skill, or the knowledge to operate new machinery, doesn’t mean they won’t pick it up quickly. If you have the willingness to learn and explore the opportunities in front of you, the skills shortage can be reduced, and your business can thrive.

For the SAM Project, we will continue to encourage the regions SME manufacturers to explore the support on offer and get in touch to find out how we can help. Our objective has always been the same, to build resilience among the region’s SME manufacturers, increase productivity and help not only safeguard, but also create jobs for the generations to follow.

Theorem-XR webinar

Theorem Solutions. Theorem-XR for Industry: latest advancements in data optimisation and XR visualisation

An introduction to the latest advancements in data optimization & XR
visualization capabilities for full-scale spatial context collaboration.

This event has now passed: SAM Project hosted Theorem Solutions for this live workshop event at The Industry Centre, Sunderland on Wednesday 1st December 2021 9.30 to 1pm.

If there is anything you would like to talk to 
us about in relation to enterprise XR solutions, please email our SAM expert Roger Thomas.


Join us for a morning of education, insight, best practice and thought leadership around the latest Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality technologies for engineering and manufacturing, in collaboration with the ERDF funded SAM Project at the University of Sunderland.

We will introduce our fast, efficient, flexible and secure, XR visualization capabilities of our Theorem-XR Suite enabling full- scale, spatial context collaboration; and show how to automate and process all CAD, PLM and visualization data, using a simple drag and drop application.

There will also be live demonstrations that will enable you to try the devices* that will help to define use cases.

To attend, please register your details here.**

*in line with COVID-19 guidelines, all headsets will be sanitised in between uses using Cleanbox UV technology. Other precautions will be taken- more details will be given upon registration.

**please note, your registration data will be shared with the SAM Project and where appropriate applied within its monitoring process –  but will not be shared with any 3rd party organisations.

This is part of the regular programme of events Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project run spanning a range of technologies across the manufacturing process. This is part of those events looking at Virtual & Augmented Reality and how they can be applied and bring benefit to manufacturing and industrial contexts. Major solutions providers, are sharing insights into best practice, pathways to successful adoption whilst also demonstrating real-world case studies.

Robotics Specialist

Breaking down the barriers to robotics

Neil Taylor, Automation & Robotics Specialist, explains why embracing robotics is key to ensuring SME manufacturers remain competitive.

When I was first appointed Robotics Programmer at the then Tallent Engineering, back in the early 1980s, the technology was often seen as somewhat of a threat to jobs, and a far-fetched concept by many others.

Based out of Aycliffe Business Park, in County Durham, Tallent Engineering, now Gestamp, was one of the first non-OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to embrace robotics, and as a result grew from being a multi-product manufacturer with just a single site, which had a handful of robots, into one of the world’s leading automotive Tier One suppliers, specialising in specifically in chassis and suspension products in just a matter of years.

Having started out as a welder, my role as robotics programmer initially saw the company invest in 10 robots, which at that time, none of the staff had even heard of and saw productivity increase significantly, helping us ramp up the output of parts we were producing for the Ford Sierra, improving quality and drastically reducing lead times.

Fast-forward 40 years and Gestamp now has over 1,200 robots operating at its Newton Aycliffe site alone, (the largest none OEM population of robots on one site in Europe), with tens of thousands more in operation across the globe – ranging from robotic welding, both MIG & Spot, machine tending, bushing, inspection and palletising. Robots have been key to that growth and success, along with challenging the norms of traditional production.

However, despite the rapid advancement of robotic technology over the last few decades and the heightened adoption of automated processes by the majority of automotive OEMs and Tier One suppliers, many manufacturing SMEs are still yet to harness and embrace the potential of robotics within their operations, often believing them to be out of reach price wise or technologically challenging.

For many, their reservations are predisposed to thinking that they would unable to afford the technology, that the costs will far outweigh the business benefits, or that the skills required are out of reach, however this couldn’t be further from the truth in the majority of cases, especially with the emergence of technology such as collaborative robots (cobots).

Here at the ERDF-funded Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project, we have a team of technical experts working shoulder-to-shoulder with the region’s SME manufacturers to help break down the barriers to embracing new technology and improving processes.

One such company to benefit from the support is Almet.  The Washington-based specialist fabrication business is set to increase its factory size by 12,000 sq  ft over the coming months as it invests in robotic technology in a bid to enhance its processes. Working with the team at SAM, Almet was able to explore how the use of robotic welding technology could benefit its business, as well as tapping into the funding required to support the purchase of its new equipment. It was also able to weigh up the various alternative and benefits of deploying either cobots or traditional industrial robots based upon their specific applications, needs, volumes and repeat orders.

Another success story to arise from SAM’s fully-funded support is Pilgrim Spirit. Based in Alnwick, the premium brand gin producer was able to receive an in-person proof of concept demonstration of state-of-the-art cobot technology. This demonstrated that manual handling errors could be significantly reduced and even eliminated by using an automate process, whilst allowing them to increase productivity and utilise what would otherwise be downtime by extending operations to a 24 hour basis. This is subsequently to be deployed in their facilities following on from the engagement with the SAM Project. Initially they had paid a visit to our home at the University of Sunderland’s Industry Centre to find out more about 3D printing, but following on from this and seeing the potential after paying a visit to our six specialist factory areas, which have seen over £1m invested in new technology, they broadened their thinking and looked at how automation could benefit them.

Boasting everything from robotic welding cells to palletising robotics, collaborative robots, sensors and automation, latest virtual/augmented reality technology, sophisticated 3D printers, including metal printers, plus much more, the factories provide the region’s SMEs with an opportunity to test out advancements in their sector prior to making substantial financial investment and has been well received by the industry since its launch in 2018. 

Not only do these facilities allow companies to fully-understand how the technology works and how it is relevant but, similar to Almet, it also allows the companies to access matched-funding grants to support the purchase and installation of these technologies for their business.

Recent independent reports show that companies who engaged in the first phase of the SAM Project reported significant growth and improvements, including such things as improved layout, increased productivity, being more competitive through adoption of latest technology and increases in quality.

Companies such as Almet and Pilgrim Spirit have seen business skyrocket, creating new jobs and winning numerous new clients or opening up new markets as a result of technology adoption, and specially robotics and automation.

Yet, despite a recent report by the British Automation & Robotics Association (BARA) revealing that UK industrial robot sales were up 7.5% in 2020 on the previous year, there are still scores of manufacturing SMEs across the North East that are yet to have their eyes opened to the huge, somewhat untapped potential of robotic technology and the support on offer to help them steal a lead on the competition.

While it’s pleasing and reassuring to see sales of industrial robotics increase, we must continue encouraging more of the region’s manufacturers, particularly our SMEs, to explore all of the avenues of support available to them as we look to step out from the pandemic on the strongest possible footing and ensure UK manufacturing becomes more and continues to remain competitive on the global stage.

It is significant to note that the UK lags behind other major manufacturing economies in its use of robotics, so not only can SMEs increase local market share, but they can also explore wider markets and bigger potential that have previously been untapped.

Not only do robotics help significantly improve productivity, but they can also lead to reduced operating costs, improved quality and less material waste and in order to further build on this heightened demand for industrial automation, we must continue to champion projects such as SAM.

So, if you’re a small to medium sized manufacturer, or even a business looking to begin manufacturing, talk to SAM today to find out how the support could benefit your business.

It could be just the push you need to step your business up a gear, be that via automation or any of the other technologies or product and process design support on offer from within the SAM team…

Almet using robots

Rise of the robots aids Almet expansion

ROBOT-tech is boosting business at a North East metal fabricators.

Specialist fabricators, Almet, is expecting turnover to increase by 40%, as it prepares to invest in state-of-the-art robotic welding technology and increase its factory size.

The Washington-based business is laying the groundwork to increase its factory size by 12,000 sq ft as it invests in technology to enhance processes, following support from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

The company, created in 1995, started out supplying large businesses in the region with general metalwork requirements and soon expanded into the automotive and yellow goods industries. From one-off bespoke prototypes to batch production items, Almet manufactures and supplies a diverse range of products to customers including Nissan, Komatsu and Caterpillar.  

As the business developed, Almet built an in-house paint plant as well as launching their sister company Temla Laser, which is ran by Paul’s daughter Hayley and son Paul, providing the latest in laser cutting technology keeping up with the demand for services with a quick turnaround.

Working with manufacturing experts from the SAM Project, Almet explored the use of robotic welding technology sooner than anticipated, as well as receiving funding that will support with paint plant machinery and the purchase and installation of a cure oven.

Paul Almond, director at Almet, said: “The SAM Project has helped us with several programmes, the latest one being robotic welding. The support is invaluable to us, as we didn’t know the ins and outs of robotic welding, or if it would suit our process. SAM was able to show us live demonstrations and explore what we could actually achieve with the machines.

“We may have invested in this technology in the future, but it would have taken us considerably longer – probably another couple of years – to get there without the support from SAM. Now we’re looking to invest in robotics within the next six months, so they have really sped up the process and allowed us to get there faster, which is important to stay competitive within this industry.”

Almet is also expanding into the adjoining unit, increasing its current 17,000 sq ft factory to 29,000 sq ft. This will allow the business to move and expand its paint plant – currently based across the road – keeping everything under one roof.

Paul said: “The expansion will see us move our paint plant into the new factory so that we can take in higher quality paintwork and attract additional business. SAM is also helping us in the form of grant assistance to purchase a new oven and spray booth.

“Now that we’re getting the facilities in place, as a target within two years, we’d like to increase the turnover for both Almet and Temla by 40% and this will without a doubt create new, highly skilled jobs.”

He added: “The SAM team couldn’t have been more helpful. The main thing is the support and the feasibility study. They look at products and business to help implement technology much faster. They’re on the money and really know their stuff.”

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is a £10.9m collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting the implementation of product and process development and the introduction of technology within the SME manufacturing base in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area.

Roger O’Brien, head of AMAP, said: “It’s a pleasure to work with Paul and the team at Almet to help them explore how new technology such as robotic welding can improve processes, as well provide access to grant assisted funding to support business growth.

“The SAM Project was set up to help the region’s SME manufacturers improve processes and unlock potential in terms of innovation and growth. Almet is a great example of this in action and we wish them all the best as they continue to grow.”

Steelcraft and SAM

Steelcraft shows true mettle to diversify and grow

AN ARCHITECTURAL metalwork specialist is forging ahead into new markets, after receiving investment and technical expertise from a team of manufacturing experts.

Steelcraft Ltd, based in Chester-le-Street, is expanding its product offering and launching a new brand, after securing a five-figure funding grant and support from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

The company, which up until last year specialised solely in the production of metalwork for housing developers such as Bellway and Miller saw its business almost grind to a halt after the closing of construction sites due to social distancing restrictions.

However, having launched its first ecommerce platform, Forjj, just prior to the pandemic, the company was not only able to diversify and sell its products directly to consumers, but also capitalise on the rise in housing restorations during the pandemic, leading to a 900% uplift in online sales during the crisis.

Liam Armstrong, operations manager at Steelcraft Ltd, said: “Forjj had been a work in progress for some time, but it never really received the attention it deserved until the pandemic hit.

“Once we saw our order books dry up during the Covid crisis, we dedicated most of our resources to pushing that side of the business and we couldn’t be happier with how it has improved our business.’’

While the launch of Forjj allowed Steelcraft to pivot during the crisis and carve out new business opportunities, it’s success also resulted in the company running at full capacity, once lockdown measures were eased and the UK embarked upon ‘project build’.

This led to Liam and the team tapping into further support from the SAM Project for grant funding – having already worked in partnership helping the team improve the management of its factory – and exploring how its different avenues of support could help sustainably increase output, while keeping costs at a minimum.

“The team at SAM were absolutely amazing,” he added. “Prior to engaging with them, our factory hadn’t changed in 20 years and we were struggling to see how we could scale up our operations while keeping costs and disruption at an absolute minimum.

“Using simulation software, they were able to create an identical, computerised model of our workshop and working closely with our production manager, identify which machines and processes could be altered and moved to make space for the new machinery and improved workflow.

“We’d never have even thought about using digital twin software to visualise and improve our shop floor and – as a family-business – we could never have accessed something like this without the support of SAM.”

The tube bending machine allowed Steelcraft to not only create jobs and increase output, but also bring the production of its bent metal components in-house, which the company previously had to outsource, leading to increased costs and lead times.

Liam added: “Like many manufacturers, we were hit hard during the pandemic and would never have been able to purchase the new tube bending machine were it not for the 40% funding grant that we received from SAM.

“Not only has it allowed us to create new jobs, it also allowed us to be more competitive. Prior to this, we had to buy in many of our metal components however now that we’ve brought production in-house, we are more cost competitive, and we’ve never been busier.”

Looking to the future, Steelcraft is now on the verge of launching a third brand, the Newcastle Locker Company, which will see the firm produce military-grade lockers for the armed forces and other specialist users.

“If you’d have asked us a year ago where we’d be today, there’s no way we could have envisaged this,” Liam added. “We couldn’t be happier with the direction we’re going in and we can’t thank the team at SAM enough for their support over the past 18 months or so. I couldn’t recommend the project enough.”

Michelle Hambleton, business development manager at the SAM Project, said: “It was a pleasure working with Liam and the team at Steelcraft and we’re delighted to have been able to help them not only explore how new technology such as simulation software could help improve processes, but also access the funding required to take their business to the next level.

“The SAM Project was set up to help the region’s SME manufacturers innovate and grow by exploring the benefits of – and implementing – new technology, and we’d encourage any business interested in scaling up to get in touch and find out how they could benefit.”

Ashgarth Engineering

Investment gives engineering firm the tools to grow

A COUNTY DURHAM precision engineering specialist is proving it has the talent to turn tools into takings, and grow the business.

Ashgarth Engineering, a subcontract precision engineering specialist based in Consett, has reported a 40% increase in turnover over the past year after seeing demand for its services skyrocket.

Ashgarth Engineering has continued to grow, invest in new capital equipment and created skilled jobs despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The company, which supplies high volume precision machined components to customers across the UK, has benefited from a surge in orders from the automotive and medical industries following fresh investment into the business over the past 12 months.

The investment, which included funding from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project at University of Sunderland, saw the company relocate to a new, larger workshop in February and invest in the machinery required to ramp up output and cater for the increase in demand for its services.

Co-founder and director, Niall Ash, said: “We’ve grown year-on-year since our launch in 2017 and we’re delighted that – despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic – we’ve been able to continue on this upwards trajectory over the past 12 months.

“Central to this has been the move to our new premises in February, which gave us the capacity required to really ramp up production supported by the investment we secured from the SAM Project.

“After engaging with the programme, we were able to secure a five-figure matched funding grant towards a 3 axis vertical machining centre with a 4th Axis attachment. This allowed us to offer an additional process to our current clients and also branch out into new markets, which previously we’d never have been able to cater for.”

Over the past year, this continued investment has directly led to the creation of three jobs – taking the company’s headcount to nine – and will see the company continue to invest in its team over the coming months.

“We’ve taken on two new skilled machinists on the shop floor as well as a sales specialist to help with business development and if all goes well, we’ll be recruiting for another two roles over the coming months,” Niall added.

“While the past 12 months has undoubtedly thrown up challenges, we’re delighted to be re-emerging from the crisis on such a strong footing and we can’t thank the team at SAM – as well as Business Durham which introduced us to the initiative – enough for their support.

“Although our business growth has been organic over the past four years, we would never have been able to scale at this rate of pace had it not been for funding schemes such as this and I’d urge any business going for growth to see how they could benefit.”

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is a £10.9 million business support programme led by the University of Sunderland and backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supporting the implementation of product and process development and the introduction of technology within the SME manufacturing base in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area.

Ken Teears, project manager at the SAM Project, said: “It’s fantastic to see innovative, forward-thinking businesses such as Ashgarth Engineering continuing to invest in new technologies and creating highly skilled jobs in the region.

“SAM Project’s objective is to support  the region’s SME manufacturers to increase productivity, automation, diversification and resilience through our fully funded technical support and large grant fund. Ashgarth Engineering are a great example of a ‘SAM SME’ that is  scaling up their operations following our support. We urge other manufacturers to do the same. We’re delighted to have supported Ashgarth on its journey and would like to wish them the best of luck for the future.”

Shooting Target

Target manufacturer has new markets in its crosshairs

A BRITISH soldier is proving to be a sharpshooter in business as well as the bunker, after taking his battlefield skills into the boardroom.

Northumberland-based Tactical Shooting Solutions was set up by a British soldier with almost two decades’ service, after he identified a gap in the market for UK-manufactured, military-grade shooting targets.

Three years on, the family-run company is now exporting its products to customers across Europe and the USA and has outlined bold ambitions to further expand its global footprint, with the launch of a ‘revolutionary’ new product.

Working alongside the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project at the University of Sunderland, Tactical Shooting Solutions has developed a new range of heat-sensored shooting targets, specifically designed for snipers and marksmen to train at night.

Launching early next year, the company believes the product range will be a ‘first-of-its-kind’ not only for the military, but also consumer markets such as pest control, and will help position it as a ‘leader in the next-generation of target technology’.

The company’s founder said: “Having served in the British military for the best part of two decades, I knew the market well and had often felt that it was one that hadn’t really moved with the times and had failed to innovate, especially in comparison to other industries, so I decided to develop something which I thought was more suited to the needs of military personnel.

“Initially, we started off producing targets, but as soon as we secured orders and customers began to realise the quality of our products, we sharp began to receive enquiries for other shooting solutions and today produce a wide range of items from targets, to gun cases and bags.”

Prior to the launch of Tactical Shooting Solutions, the shooting target market was dominated by manufacturers in the USA and reshoring production to the UK was something he was keen to explore.

“UK manufacturing is esteemed the world-over due to its exceptional standards and its commitment to innovation,” he said. “Not only has this helped us secure contracts, but it has also helped sustain jobs in the supply chain and tap into some of the brightest brains in the industry to take our products to the next level.”

Having already developed a market-leading product with no prior experience of running a business, the company’s founder began thinking of new ways they could increase their market share and devised the idea of producing a target that would allow military personnel – especially snipers and marksman – train at night.

This led to him being introduced to Richard Eynon, the Industry 4.0 and Electronics Specialist at the SAM Project, a £10.9 million business support programme led by the University of Sunderland and backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which helps SME manufacturers innovate and grow.

Richard, alongside experts from the University of Sunderland, worked closely with the firm to explore the electrical requirements that would be needed to develop heated targets, as well as identifying UK factories capable of developing the technology at scale.

He said: “Over the years, I’ve witnessed first-hand how difficult it is for military infantry such as marksmen and snipers to practice at night and have been drawing up ideas for some time to develop something that could fill the gap.

“We knew it had to be heat-powered, however we didn’t have any idea how to make it happen. Thankfully, we were introduced to the team at SAM and – with their technical expertise and funding – were able to not only design a product that was viable, but also establish a sustainable UK supply chain to bring the product to market.

“As a small, family business, the ability to tap into such free, specialist support has been amazing. We would never have been able to tap into such technical expertise had it not been for the SAM Project and we can’t thank them enough for their support.”

Richard Eynon of the SAM Project added: “It was great working with the team at Tactical Shooting Solutions and helping them design, source and implement the bespoke heater pads required to bring this game-changing technology to market.

“The SAM Project was set up to help unlock innovation among the North East’s SME manufacturing community and Tactical Shooting Solutions is a perfect example of how such collaborative working can help make the region’s manufacturers more competitive and increase productivity.”

 

Manufacturers OGLE on TV show Dragons Den

Dragons Den Date for North East manufacturer

A North East manufacturer is set for a face-off with TV’s most feared business leaders, as it enters the Dragons’ Den.

The founder of innovative building company, OGEL will appear on the hit BBC programme on July 8, 2021, as part of the new series currently airing.

Having already won over technical experts at the SAM Project, OGEL’s founder, Gary Giles, will face Dragons, such as Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani to pitch a block-like system that turns waste plastic into anything from flood defences to humanitarian shelters and garden offices.

Gary said: “We have been developing our product over six years, and a glowing endorsement, and potentially the offer of investment from one of the Dragons could give us the kick start we need as we launch across the UK from July.”

Despite the challenges of 2020, OGEL still managed to work on developing its unique invention, which scored the business a place in the final of the European Recycled Plastics Awards, before being approached by the BBC to appear in the 2021 series of Dragons’ Den.

Working alongside E3 Design, which is also based in the North East, and RAM Extrusion based in the West Midlands, OGEL have developed the system to use 100% recycled polystyrene as its source material – the first ever to be globally patented.

Manufacturers OGLE ON DRAGONS DEN

Gary said: “A project of this size and scope requires a wide collaboration and luckily we’ve achieved this with a brilliant group of companies, coming together to turn a good idea into a fully working, game-changing product.”

OGEL launches with two products, TASKPOD, a home office designed for the new ‘work from home’ employee without the space for a dedicated room elsewhere in the home, and GARDEN LIVING, a series of flexible garden buildings to enable families to maximise their outdoor areas with the option to change the layout or dismantle and transport it if they move house.

“The system is designed to be simple, fast, light, and reusable, and the final OGEL buildings are significantly warmer than similar structures made of wood and brick” he added.

The SAM Project previously supported OGEL with design, material studies and simulation to evaluate and refine their products to optimise performance, strength, and overall cost. 

Gary said: “It was absolutely great to work with the SAM team, who are professional yet friendly and fully understanding of the technical and commercial requirements of the testing we required.

“Based on the positive experience of this part of the OGEL project, this won’t be the last time we work with Ian, Richard, Roger and the rest of the staff.”

Roger O’Brien, head of AMAP and technical lead on the SAM Project, said: “It has been a fascinating project to be involved with, and we were struck from day one as to the unique and clever thought process that had gone into Gary’s product.

“The SAM Project have thoroughly enjoyed helping him on his journey to create what should become a world leading, innovative product with vast scope for application.

“The work undertaken by the team, including Ian and Richard, has given Gary even more solid foundations to further build his product portfolio, and we look forward to continuing to work with him as his company grows.”

Gary added: “2021 and beyond look very promising for OGEL with a number of orders already in place, and interest from Russia and Africa as well as UK markets.

“A good performance in the Den and who knows where this could go?”