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Cambridge Precision Ltd to expand as manufacturing innovation earns engineering award



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Cambridge Precision Ltd (CPL) is plotting significant growth in the coming year to build on innovation that has earned it a leading industry award.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) announced CPL as the winner of its E&T magazine’s 2021 Innovation Awards.

Andrew Barnard, of Cambridge Precision Ltd, receives the International E&T Manufacturing 4.0 Award, for innovation in manufacture from Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of the Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell
Andrew Barnard, of Cambridge Precision Ltd, receives the International E&T Manufacturing 4.0 Award, for innovation in manufacture from Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of the Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell

CPL won the Manufacturing 4.0 category in recognition of its progressive digital manufacturing hub and ongoing programme of development.

The company manufactures precision engineered parts for critical technologies across a range of sectors, from medtech to forensics, imaging to robotics and scientific instrumentation to aerospace.

One of its messages to clients is: “If you can imagine it, we can engineer it.”

It is able to machine complex shapes in a single set-up, ensuring optimum quality control as it manufactures small but critical components used in applications such as robotic surgery, surround sound and airport security technology.

Its 70 staff operate about 50 CNC (computer numerical control) milling and turning machines at full capacity around-the-clock, seven days a week.

And it has now created the first multi-axis machining centre with automated cobotic (collaborative robotic) loading.

Cambridge Precision Ltd Andrew Barnard milling supervisor works with 'Derek' a cobot ( the robot arm ) . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632181)
Cambridge Precision Ltd Andrew Barnard milling supervisor works with 'Derek' a cobot ( the robot arm ) . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632181)

Nick Raven, CPL’s operations manager, explained: “We wanted to increase both capacity, to do more work, and capability, to do more complex jobs and ensure consistent quality. And so we started to explore automation of the ‘simpler’ jobs in order to free up highly skilled team members, combining this technology with the very latest Doosan CNC machines, which are setting the standard in terms of build quality and offer additional functionality that our operators can exploit to support ever more technically demanding product designs.

“We have pioneered the development of a cobot / five axis ‘set and run’ system working with our supply partner Mills CNC and are the first precision engineering company in the UK to be using Doosan cobots in the way we are.

“This innovative project has been interesting for our team and our supplier. The learning curve involved in setting up our first cobot to operate with the full five axes was sizeable, but has paid dividends, and as we have rolled out our second cobot, we have been able to improve and expand on the range of products that can be manufactured this way.”

He added: “The lead engineer on this project, Andrew Barnard, has learnt about the capabilities of the cobot and designed systems and processes to enable reliable operation; this has resulted in a unique and state-of-the-art solution.

“Issues have arisen such as the style of the loading bench, the automation of coolant supply to the CNC machines, the payload capacity of the first cobot, which required the best of Andrew’s engineering brain to overcome.”

At Cambridge Precision Ltd are, from left, Andrew Barnard, milling supervisor, with Nick Raven, operations manager, and Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of the Combined Authority, with one the cobots. Picture: Keith Heppell
At Cambridge Precision Ltd are, from left, Andrew Barnard, milling supervisor, with Nick Raven, operations manager, and Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of the Combined Authority, with one the cobots. Picture: Keith Heppell

After learning of the award win in a virtual ceremony hosted by IET in London, Andrew was presented with the Manufacturing 4.0 Award – one of 17 categories – by Dr Nik Johnson, the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, who visited the company’s manufacturing site in St Neots.

And the company – which has distribution and storage partners in the UK, Germany, France and Singapore – is not stopping there. Following the success of the programme to date, CPL plans to grow in 2022.

Nick said: “We have been delighted with the results of this project, which is revolutionising the way we operate.

“Our prototype cobot was soon joined by a second and we are now looking at significant investment and the development of an entire unit, to house what is being recognised as a market-leading manufacturing innovation.

“Our new unit will be opening in St Neots in 2022, to support increasing demand for complex precision engineered components.

“We want to grow our workforce by more than 20 staff – skilled engineers, trainees and apprentices, and we believe that this award illustrates the quality, innovation and national significance of our business.

Cambridge Precision Ltd . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632706)
Cambridge Precision Ltd . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632706)

“We could not be more proud or delighted. It has been a difficult time for all in business and we are pleased to be able to share a little positivity and to encourage others to be upbeat and ambitious as we approach 2022.”

Dr Johnson was impressed by CPL’s success.

“CPL epitomises everything which makes Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s economy one of the most dynamic and exciting in the UK and the world,” he said. “I’m proud that a local company at the cutting edge of manufacturing innovation has been able to compete and win on the global stage.

“This is a company with an exciting present and future, with plans to expand and create more high-skilled, high-value jobs in the region.

“The Combined Authority and Business Board have a strategy to support our region’s advanced manufacturing sector and it was great to see first-hand why CPL is at the very forefront of innovation in its field.

“It was a real privilege and a delight to be able to hand over a much-deserved trophy to Andrew and the CPL team.”

Cambridge Precision Ltd . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632710)
Cambridge Precision Ltd . Picture: Keith Heppell. (53632710)

Also present were key supporters of CPL, Alan Downton, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s deputy chief officer for business and skills, Kevan Reade, Department of International Trade (DIT) export growth trade adviser, East of England, and Nitin Patel, member of the Combined Authority Business Board.

The company, which also has offices at St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge, is also keen to spread its knowledge.

It serves on the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group and acts as a mentor to other companies seeking to export as a DIT Trade Export Champion.

While encouraging all staff to acquire new skills and qualifications, via everything from short courses to prolonged study for MBAs and further degrees, it also has a networking and outreach programme with local education providers and schools.

This year, it contributed to the development of the OVSI Oxygen Concentrator, working with the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Global Equality, as well as collaboration with Lucy Cavendish College and the Judge Business School to deliver the Lucent Enterprise weekend and awards.

It holds numerous ISO accreditations, and is among a handful of UK companies recognised with the Sony Green Dragon award, recognising its environmental standards.

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Enter the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2021-22



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