News

Future designers of Gordonstoun School visit Omega

Omega Plastics has taken a new approach to educating its future partners by inviting product design students from Gordonstoun School, one of few boarding schools in the UK housing a diverse range of students from over 40 nationalities.

On the 30th of January 2014 Omega played host to 18 students of Gordonstoun School whom study A-level product design. As part of the program all students are required to understand the materials and various manufacturing processes used to produce commercial products. Although the school facilities provide such machinery to demonstrate and create products as part of their assessed projects, there’s a gap between learning & studying design, to transferring the visualised concept into something tangible – especially the decisions made to achieve the required results. After being contacted by Richard Parker – head of Design & Technology at Gordonstoun School, the companies couldn’t pass up the opportunity to educate future design engineers and arranged a full day visit at the 10,000sq ft Blyth facility.

The students had to leave with a greater understanding of the material selection process and various manufacturing practices such as rapid tooling and plastic injection moulding along with techniques used to achieve high quality products. First of all the students were split into two equal groups which would be taken through a logical flow starting with the commercial side of the company, it’s delivery to the marketplace and most importantly to them; how we integrate design to manufacturing. This immediately brought a number of questions surrounding product purpose, complexity of build and how we enable manufacturability of concepts – expressing the need to demonstrate our tooling and injection moulding capabilities.

The students begin the tour in the tooling area of Omega’s facility in the experienced hands of Tooling Manager Steve Fairbairn, here demonstrating the use of electrodes and the input they have in the tooling process.

GSV_Tooling

Each group of students spent around 90 minutes in the tooling bays with experienced engineers such as Peter Gray, one of the longer serving toolmakers of Omega Plastics with over 20 years’ experience. Throughout their visit in this area they covered aspects including:

  • Tool selection
  • 5 axis CNC machining technology
  • Wire erosion
  • Spark erosion
  • Engineering changes
  • CAD data
  • Polymer shrinkage

After understanding how injection mould tools are formed, the group were passed onto the capable hands of Operations Manager Rob Gray, an experienced engineer in mould tool manufacturing to look into the moulding side of the business and the production of components.

GSV_Moulding

Moulding and material selection was the more anticipated part of the day for the product design students, trying to understand the processing of such tools and they’re functional use in producing the components used for products such as the LIFESAVER® bottle – a common theme used throughout the day. During their time in moulding, key aspects to assist the student’s educational requirements involved:

  • Anatomy of an injection moulding machine
  • Material selection
  • Tool set up
  • Pressures and timescales
  • Cooling and temperature control
  • Semi-automated and automated production
  • Clean room manufacturing

During the visit to moulding the students also got to question a number of key staff including Steve Jackson, responsible for project planning, another member of staff with experience in processing and polymer selection. The material selection part of the visit opened the floor to further questioning, most of which was based around the manufacturing of iconic and easily recognised products like the Lynx can. Others included LIFESAVER® Systems’ range of products and bac<, a recent turnkey solution provided by Omega Plastics in 2013.

Overall the day was a great success and a testament to the hard work of Omega’s staff and the learning efforts of the students. One of the visitors and key members of staff at Gordonstoun School Richard Parker expressed his gratitude to the company and found the visit very educating and relative to the student’s current learning program. When asked about the visit, Group Managing Director Dave Crone conveyed his positive message and extended an invitation to return to the facility the following year: “The catalyst for the visit was the relationship between Lifesaver systems CEO Michael Pritchard and Omega Plastics. Having experienced the evolution of product design through to manufacture and then to market, Michael was keen that the students of his old school should also benefit from his learnings in preparation for introduction into a post educational phase.

It’s vital for both education and industry that we create an awareness of the ever changing demands upon either party which in turn creates a solutions based mentality. The visit demonstrated the benefits and key techniques of producing real plastic parts capable of withstanding functional and physical testing in comparison to various others like 3D printing – more commonly used for visual and concepts purposes“.

GSV_Group

The day was a great success and Omega will continue to support Gordonstoun’s product design students as well as a number of national & international education facilities.

3D Printing for new projects?

It’s a month into 2014, what 3D Printed projects are we going to see this year?

As technology continues to improve in almost all areas, 3D Printing seems to be coming more popular as the financial demands and access to design resources become more accessible. This technology may have been available since the 1980′s, but only in the last two or three years has it really hit the headlines for consumers. Currently all the credit seems to go to the machine manufacturers driving the prices down to make them more affordable but without the software to enable access to design, they couldn’t be printed.

Recently Photoshop added their own tools to create, edit and export 3D designs – capable of being 3D printed. For existing designers using Adobe’s design suite, the additional features open another door to the output of their work and stated by Andy Lauda – Project Manager at Photoshop – “It takes the hard part out of 3D printing“.

3d printer

Did it start with the gun? This shows how easy it can be to produce almost anything! Some 3D printers are pushing the boundaries by using metals like steel and aluminium, layer by layer and using lasers to effectively glue them together. What does this mean with regards to the machinery used to 3D print?  After attending the latest Rise & Design event hosted by Design Network North, we seen two interesting presentations on 3D printing & Additive Manufacturing by 3D Systems and Europac. According to both companies; 3D printers can be classed in three different categories:

  • Personal – home & domestic use
  • Professional – low volume prototyping
  • Production – used for production runs

Everyone wants a bit of 3D printing, how much does it cost? In the UK now you can purchase your own [reasonable] 3D printer for domestic use with a budget of around £800 which will help you produce your very own custom parts. Anything you want, anytime you need it. In contrast we’ve seen the announcement from 3D printing company Stratasys on their first multi-colour, multi-material 3D printer, with a hefty price tag of over £200,000! So what does this mean for manufacturing companies like us?

Since the Rise & Design event two weeks ago we’ve spoken to a small number of companies offering Rapid Tooling services like ourselves, and some welcome this growing technology where as some oppose it strongly. At Omega Plastics we welcome 3D printing as it opens doors for more innovative people (especially product design students/professional) whom can use 3D printing to generate concepts of their work for aesthetics and partly functionality in a relatively cost effective manner before taking it to manufacture. “This is a great opportunity for us to be involved at such an early stage of their project(s) as we can help bridge that gap from design to manufacture whilst ensuring the design and future product(s) are fit for purpose – something we’ve accomplished with a number of SME’s over the year’s.” – Group Managing Director Dave Crone.

3D printed sphere

Since the 3D printing & Additive Manufacturing exhibition TCT last year, we’ve seen a 30% increase in enquiries from SME’s – of which we’ve been able to follow a large number through into Plastic Injection Moulding products now on sale. On the other hand 3D printing has its flaws; the production lead time is long, the cost of the materials are high & the structure of the product may not be fit for purpose but it certainly helps visualise and generate concepts to be tested and developed in manufacturing facilities in the latter stages. In summary there are arguments that 3D printing causes more issues and falsifies the educational aspect of product development or it can open doors and encourage innovation. Take your pick…

As a company which is open to 3D printing and see’s the added value to project development, we’d like to hear your thoughts and how it may impact your business? Feel free to comment below or email us at marketing@omega-plastics.co.uk. Alternatively if you’re an SME with 3D printed parts and need to understand the bridge to manufacture, contact us at sales@omega-plastics.co.uk and we’ll get your enquiry to the relevant person.

New Year New Exhibition

Happy New Year to all, we hope the festive break has been an enjoyable one!

A kick start to the new year for Omega Plastics is the announcement of the trade show we’ll be exhibiting at in 2014. After taking part in 2013′s TCT show at the NEC, we’ve recognised the effectiveness of such smaller events covering the fast-paced 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing sector. 2013′s TCT show was the first of what could be many for Omega as the show brought a much larger and targeted list of potential business opportunities and strategic partnerships, adding further solidarity to the 2014 campaign.

Interplas-announcement-700px

However for 2014 we’re taking a slightly different approach by exhibiting at the NEC from the 30th September - 2nd October at the prestigious Interplas show. The three day event which is the UK’s largest plastics industry exhibition and the only event to cover all of the manufacturing processes, technologies and services within the plastics industry. The previous Interplas event took place in 2011 with over 300 companies setting up stands in pursuit of potential custom, some even placing orders on the stand. In addition the exhibition will be hosted in conjunction with:

  • TCT Show + Personalize
  • Sensing & Instrumentation
  • Micro Nano Mems
  • PPMA Show

Having five shows (Interplas being the largest) co-exhibiting at the NEC, a 30% increase on square footage and an estimated 12,000 in footfall, in our eyes Interplas is a must this year.

Across the three days our specialist team will be available on stand H12, a floor plan can be found at the Interplas website and will be posted via our networks closer to the event. Due to the busy nature of the show if you have any specific requirements you’d like to discuss, I’d encourage you to book a time slot to speak to our team. To get in touch please email us at exhibitions@omega-plastics.co.uk or call us on +44 (0) 1670 541 890. For now all the best for 2014 from the Omega Team!

Back to British Manufacturing

There’s a constant battle ongoing for the British firms whom turn to low cost manufacturers in the Far East, indicating that UK manufacturing companies simply cannot compete. There’s no short fall in studies to show why British companies compete, so why do we go to China?

As times are tighter for businesses and strategic business functions to effectively squeeze what they can from their purchasing budgets, the Chinese manufacturing route becomes so much more attractive if you can deliver on three key factors: time, moneyquality. In an ideal situation the customers demand their product(s) as soon as possible at the cheapest price with the highest quality. There’s a simple trade off between the three influencing factors but can they affect your business moving forward?

In 2011 a luxury goods producer Patrona began with the Shirt Shuttle, a plastics travel case designed to keep shirts from creasing. Today they develop a string of products including magnetic mobile phones cases which integrate a detachable wallet. The company began their manufacturing of products in China with their attractive prices, but found that the cost was more than they thought they had to write off almost £250,000 due to faulty goods – an incident which almost bust the company in 2012.

Since the incident Patrona have returned to the UK for all the manufacturing demands, re-establishing the high quality image the company portrays through its products. An initially unexpected turn shows that the choice to return to cutting edge British manufacturing has reduced their overall cost as their new service provider to have helped to reduce wastage by 20%, reduce the pre-production phase by six months and still maintain higher quality products than before.

qualityassurance-news

Another example could be ECOEgg [a product to replace washing powder], the tools designed in the UK, made in china. The result being that the tools were returned to the UK due to a number of manufacturing problems.

Through the GTMA UK tooling alliance – a UK toolmaker was sourced. Although the initial pricing structure made it attractive to place the tooling in China, the resulting higher costs of reworking the tool in the UK was unexpected and also seriously delayed the completion of the project. This is also before assessing the possible added concern of IP issues with product design being sent to China.

Unlike UK toolmakers, the Chinese generally do not provide feedback on tool design improvements or mould validation. Couple this with the additional task and cost of travelling to witness tool trials, making economic sense for the tool being designed and made in the UK from the beginning.

Contrasting stories? Both generally provide a cheaper beginning and a costly end. It would be detrimental to say all far eastern manufacturing projects don’t work out, as that’s not true – but why not maintain a good balance between cost, lead time and quality by keeping it British? Omega and other UK manufacturers pride upon the skills, knowledge and latest technology – much like the companies whom need our services…

TCT Show + Personalize 2013

Omega Plastics attended the UK’s leading 3D printing, additive manufacturing and product development show a little over two weeks ago. We’d like to report, how it helped us as a company and the events behind it.

TCT Logo 225px

The TCT Show + Personalize took place on the 25th & 26th of September at the UK’s largest events venue: the NEC in Birmingham. As demonstrated by so many of companies at the show, it ‘inspires creativity, encourages learning and helps develop business‘ – in our eyes the statement couldn’t be more accepted by everyone visiting the show. Stats from the previous TCT event shows an increase from almost 5000 to 6000 attendee’s from 48 different countries over the two day event.

We went to the show to carry out one key aim: ‘to develop new and existing relationships with people in the product development sector’. Our representative were Dave Crone (Group Managing Director), Jonathan Galloway (Marketing Officer) along with Chris Sipos & Michael Winship – our Business Development Managers. Across the two days we managed to generate an additional 60+ contacts and/or enquiries as well as engage with some of our existing customers. “Within the first two weeks we’re seeing visible results and a potentially large ROI in the exhibition” – expressed Jonathan.

Although the show went very well for us overall, there had to be a few disastrous events to occur along the way! Here’s a look at what happened…

After spending the Tuesday prior to the show setting up, cleaning the stand down and organising the product samples ready for visitor use the following two days – our stand decided to convert into a ‘collapsing unit’ during an electrical check minutes before we were due to leave the NEC.

Standdown1

After our new ‘collapsing stand’ is returned to it’s almost original structure, as Jonathan & Michael attempt to retain it’s original detailing.

Standdown2

Believe it or not: the finishing touches to restoring the eye-catching artwork which was damaged after only a few hours of being up.

After a completed stand is restored [and secured], we had ourselves a glance at the finished product. All it needed was visitors – and my did they arrive in numbers!

TCT MW & CS 700px

We’re glad Michael seen the funny side of the events, and performed exceptionally well at the show along with Chris to the right.

Only five hours into the event we’re running out of these…and very fast!

TCT brochures 700px

Finally we reach a conclusion with a very tired Omega team and only a handful of brochure’s left!

TCT MW & DC 700px

Perhaps next time we’ll consider the pros and cons of locating so close to a seminar zone which housed 2000 people and 20 world class speakers!

To conclude; we thoroughly enjoyed the two days at the TCT Show – speaking to industry leaders and new product development companies from around the world. “We met existing customers, were introduced to new prospects and arranged meetings for the following weeks. As a team we generated between 15-20 solid enquiries each day which will hopefully develop into new business opportunities and partnerships for Omega” added Group MD Dave Crone.

Growth on apprenticeships at Omega

Omega Plastics have recently introduced a new tool-maker to the company.

Justin Fairbairn from Ashington has joined the Omega team as an apprentice toolmaker. After leaving his local school, Justin’s looking for an engineering career beginning with tool-making working alongside some of the most experienced engineers in the industry: Ian Dolmahoy and father Steve Fairbairn. Although in the three short months Justin’s had with Omega he’s only worked on understanding key concepts in the design of Injection Mould Tools, he’s contributing as much as he can to the team behind him. So far Justin’s been involved in three key projects with three experienced members of staff in the toolroom at our Blyth facility, all of which he’s understood and gained experience of his own – so much so that’s he’s landed himself a full-time apprenticeship scheme in collaboration with Northumberland College.

Justin Fairbairn

The course which Justin has enrolled on is General Engineering Level 3, at which he can take his theoretical knowledge to the workplace allowing a greater learning experience not only for him, but for the already well-equipped staff at Omega. We’ve already seen the great work completed by other student engineers like Daniel Grey – who joined the company earlier in the year.

Profile:

  • Name: Justin Fairbairn
  • D.O.B: 16/02/1997
  • Hometown: Ashington
  • Interests: Music & Design
  • Work: Omega Plastics – Blyth Tool-making Facility
  • Education: Northumberland College – Level 3 General Engineering

In a few short questions with Justin: he’s looking to cover and learn all of the basics engineering processes found in a Plastics Injection Moulding facility before tackling some of the upcoming projects himself. He also went on to say: “I’ve really enjoyed my short stint here. I use the best equipment available, gain experience from the best tool-makers and see myself continuing this field of engineering and with Omega.”

“Collectively we wish Justin the best of luck within his new role at Omega, and hopefully he’ll continue to enjoy, learn and serve the business with his new skills for the foreseeable future.” added Quality Manager Paul Anderson.

Omega Plastics Teesside – one year in with RGF

Over one year into our on-going expansion, we’re glad to report a very early success for the newly established Teesside factory (based in Hartlepool). With a large number of people having a negative outlook on the potential of the UK’s manufacturing industry – so far we can say we’ve ‘bucked the trend’.

As the business has grown organically at a constant and stable rate since 2006, Group MD Dave Crone recognised the need to expand the business into new areas. After seeking RGF (regional growth fund) funding [which was agreed in February 2012] the purpose build facility in Hartlepool was erected and functional by the end of May that year. “We base the business around the people and we’ve previously had staff travelling from Teesside to Blyth. In addition to the Enterprise Zone, it’s perfectly situated for our customers, staff & suppliers.” After reaching full capacity in Blyth, with the help of RGF funding – Omega can report a successful first year trading from Hartlepool as more projects are operated on a full turn-key solution.

When the RGF funding was initially applied for, Omega intended to create 16 jobs, and additional upgrades to the number of Rapid Tooling & Injection Moulding machines. To date Omega have employed an additional 10 members of staff – of which most are based full time at the Hartlepool factory. In total Omega have employed; four toolmakers, two business development managers, two mould setters, one operator & a marketing officer. Two toolmakers now working for Omega at the Teesside factory [who had a 14 year long stint at another local company] are employee’s Stephen Shipley and Martyn Musgrave – two members of staff who’ve played a vital role in the first year’s success at the Hartlepool establishment.

SS and MM

Both Martyn and Stephen joined the company with the input of the RGF funding along with: Dean Conley, John Berry, Steve Shanley, Daniel Gray, Justin Fairbairn, Jonathan Galloway, Michael Winship and Chris Sipos – all who play a pivotal role in the delivery of growing service capabilities at Omega Plastics. Further investment upon the Hartlepool opening surrounds the machinery available for Tooling, Moulding and Assembly capabilities – from CNC Milling machines to 330 tonne Negri Boss Injection Moulding machines.

New Mould Machines Hartlepool 700px

In addition to growing number of staff at Omega Plastics, the service capabilities continue to increase with the introduction of certified ESD (electrostatic discharge) assembly areas in early 2013. “With the ESD areas being located at Hartlepool, we can add value to the end-to-end service requirements some of our clients need. Being able to mould medical products with a Class 8 Cleanroom is great, but the additional capabilities of moulding and assembling [food contact] products which need special equipment to prevent electro static discharge – is invaluable.” adds Quality Manager Paul Anderson.

ESD area

With the continuous investment in the latest machinery, on-going growth of an experienced and highly-skilled workforce we’re putting more products into the market place than we targeted this year. Concluding this year’s success, we are focusing on maintaining and surpassing capacity at the Teesside factory with the help of the RGF funding. “With the input from RGF, we’re still aiming to reach our target by creating another 7 positions within the work force in every department between now and 2015″ reports Office Manager Michael Hanley.

If you have specific product development requirements or simply need help on taking your product to market, check out our Hartlepool factory by contacting us at enquiries@omega-plastics.co.uk to book your appointment. Our experienced team of engineers can assist you no matter how big or small the project.

The Omega Team

New Month – New website – New Brand


It must be obvious? Surely you’ve noticed…?

It’s no secret it’s been an activity going on for a number of months now at Omega Plastics to change the website, branding and message. We have a large range of people from around the world engaging with our website on a daily basis but we want to make it work for as many people as possible by delivering content relevant to our business, sector and (customer) products.

The original Omega brand has been around for over seven years now and has most certainly done it’s job but a ‘refresh’ of the brand will help develop our business and it’s exposure to our customers and potential customers. In the past there’s no doubt it’s been a struggle being able to maintain our image in the market place when we’re busy working on our key focus…our projects. Now we have extra hands on board with the connections to great local business’  we finally have the capabilities to showcase our true potential.

New branding

The previous brand image for us gave a positive image to our audience but it’s time to improve. “We’re a key market player in Plastic Injection Moulding therefore our brand needs to represent” expressed Group Managing Director Dave Crone. “It’s time people knew our real service capabilities, we have them we just don’t show them!” The company is continually investing in new machinery and qualified staff members in various departments to join and contribute to the current success of the business, the brand now represents that continual growth presents a very positive image to our key audience.

brand development

Over the months to achieve this newly refreshed image for Omega we have to thank local design agency Sheridan design for their efforts and on-going contribution to our branding materials.

New website

Our previous website has been up for a number of years with very little alterations but has served it’s purpose letting our customers know what our key services are. We recognise that people look for development in all areas of the business which is best going to suite their product and our old website didn’t showcase that, but now we have the capabilities to engage our audience with content delivery relating to the industry and our business as it develops over time. “We intent to make sure our new website portrays the correct image, message and service capabilities to our customers” (Marketing Officer – Jonathan Galloway). “We don’t just have the site, we have our specialist and experienced team to help our customers take their product to market so this is a great portal to introduce customers to our team – giving them the comfort and confidence to query our services”.

 Site development

As displayed above the different from old to new is drastic but necessary. We should thank Cargo Creative & Mediaworks Online Marketing for their on-going efforts in developing our online platforms.

Over-time we will be improving our online delivery by adding featured content from various areas of the business like project case studies and specialist area updates of the business. Any questions using our site? Contact marketing@omega-plastics.co.uk

Thanks

The Omega Team

What are we up to? April Updates

Maybe we’ve been a little quiet, maybe we’ve been a little busy…not a bad excuse if you ask anyone here!

Behind the scenes we’ve been working on a number of things from Branding to Web platform’s and how do we best serve our customers. We don’t want to be able to reach our customers by bombarding them with messages, but rather speak to them and engage in a two way conversation. Not that we aren’t good at it already, but there’s always room for improvement! We’re not giving everything away but here’s a few things you can expect to see come April:

  • Refreshed Branding
  • New Website
  • Project Delivery
  • Social Communication
  • Trade Show Activities

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Confirmed – TCT 2013 Plastics Trade Show it is!

Well it’s took time but we finally got there in the end. We all knew from the get go that we wanted to attend another Plastics Trade Show this year due to the success of our previous attendance at the Interplas show in 2011.

As we previously posted: the Interplas show in 2011 at the Birmingham NEC brought us great success in terms of getting in front of our existing clients, creating further interests and developing new relationships with other companies. This was something which is still paying dividends for us and relationships have developed so far as to having a number of solid customers utilising our Rapid Tooling and Injection Moulding services.

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