NAAME 2018: The East Anglian companies leading the way in next-generation manufacturing

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark.

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark. - Credit: Archant

Some of the region's most innovative manufacturing businesses are at the NAAME 2018 conference today. We take a look at some of the companies using technology to break new ground.

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark.

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies. Picture: Bethany Whymark. - Credit: Archant

• Prodpoint

Based in Clopton in Suffolk, Prodpoint is interested in expanding the capabilities of 3D printing.

It uses its services to produce workable prototypes for products ranging from custom-made insoles to components for games console controllers.

The company works with many materials, from flexible plastics to incredibly rigid polycarbonate.

Director Felix Fried said the company works with a lot of product designers who request product prototypes to show to their clients.

'Whereas before it would take time to get products manufactured, which would cost a lot of money, we are in a place between prototype and mass manufacturing.

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'Some companies are finding we are cheaper and faster than manufacturers in China, and clients can meet us face-to-face.'

He added: 'Our quantities generally go up to 10,000 units – that is when it becomes more cost-effective to use injection moulding.'

• Pathfindr

Norwich-based Pathfindr designs and makes a navigational tool which uses satellite and Bluetooth technologies for businesses to track their assets.

It requires no special infrastructure, using a web and mobile platform which collects and presents real-time data on the location and movements of items, which is stored in a private cloud-based system.

Its primary customer is Rolls Royce, which requested help from the company to develop a navigational system which would help it to trace assets including tools and materials on its sites.

Chief technical officer Ben Sturgess said a prototype of the system has been tested with Sainsbury's to track customers around its stores.

'We have built a great relationship with Rolls, both with senior members of the team and people on the shop floor who can tell us what problems they are coming up against,' he said.

Before coming to Pathfindr Mr Sturgess worked for creative digital agency Bigdog, helping to set up its Lab division which worked on technological and virtual reality products for companies including Sony and Mazda.

• Festo

Festo is a German company which designs and supplies automated industrial systems to businesses, and to education providers to train engineers in automated processes.

It is in talks with the University of East Anglia and West Suffolk College about supplying its systems for training in their new engineering and manufacturing departments.

At the Evolution conference it was displaying a distribution and sorting mechanism, which can be programmed to sort objects by a range of criteria. The display model was sorting a selection of small cogs by colour and by material.

Babak Jahanbani, UK didactic manager at Festo, said the systems can be used in food manufacturing to find and dispose of contaminated products, in mail sorting offices to sort different sizes and weights of packages, and in baggage handling.

'We can scale down the production units, so universities and colleges end up with an industrial product at their disposal,' he said. 'It can be used in post offices, recycling centres, as quality control for food.'

He added: 'We are quite active in the UK with colleges and universities, university technical colleges and industry.'

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