Expansions: Victrex to upgrade tech centre in China with a focus on 3D printing; Beck Automation opens new production site in Portugal

Victrex to upgrade tech centre in China with a focus on 3D printing

PEEK materials firm Victrex is investing US$1 million in a significant expansion of its AITC (Asia Innovation & Technology Centre) in Shanghai. It adds that this “important financial injection” will help accelerate innovation and enhance customers’ ability to turn ideas into prototype parts for testing and evaluation, speeding time to market and vitally enhancing the design-to-mass production workflow for advanced engineering design in China and Asia generally.

Andrew Storm, General Manager China, commented, “Investment to support our customers with PEEK expertise to accelerate their speed to market has always been key. Since the AITC opened in Shanghai in 2006, as a 2,000-sq m technical centre of excellence, the facility has undergone dynamic growth and development offering injection and compression moulding, thermoforming and analytical capabilities. With this current upgrade, we can now offer a 4-axis CNC machine for part prototyping, part and tool design advice and process validation, as well as supporting Additive Manufacturing capabilities, supporting innovation for process and material development for 3D printing.”

This further commitment to the AITC will provide customers with facility for total solutions, from Material Selection to Part Prototyping, and beyond, with the capability for advice on part design and injection moulding tool design, as well as the capability for part FEA (finite element analysis) and additive manufacturing equipment. This will significantly reduce the lead time for prototype sampling while providing data-based quality inspection before sampling and concept-proof decision-making prior to committing to large investments for the customers.

The AITC has assisted in the development of solutions for the Automotive and Aerospace sectors - where the goal is to reduce emissions and weight while maintaining the equivalent strength of metals and offer enhanced performance. These benefits can lead to improved fuel efficiency and total system cost reduction for the end-user and is vital in a situation where China is driving the production of electric vehicles (EVs) and New-Energy Vehicles (NEVs), for which powertrain architecture and energy-efficiency is a crucial design factor.

With a global shortage of silicon chips, then the hugely important field of semiconductor chip fabrication is also a key focus of the AITC, to offer solutions to help enable faster silicon chip manufacturer, more uptime of semi-con fabs, and enhance yield as the node size on chips reduces.

Central to the implementation of this latest operational upgrade is the addition of a 4-axis CNC machine, and part design and tool design capability, and Additive Manufacturing (AM) capabilities, with these hardware and software upgrades significantly enhancing the capabilities of the lab, particularly in terms of enabling component design freedom, prototyping, and CAD (computer aided design and engineering).

AM is increasing in China, as both a means of efficient prototyping and as a new manufacturing technique. Xinhua recently reported that the country’s “major additive manufacturers reported a total operating revenue of 7.5 billion yuan (about US$1.14 billion) in the first nine months of the year”. This figure was up 10.3% year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Beck Automation opens new production site in Portugal

Meanwhile in other news, Switzerland-based automation specialist Beck Automation is expanding its production capacity in Portugal. Since 2016, the company has been manufacturing IML automation solutions in the north of Portugal. Due to the increasing demand, on 3,000 sq m, the Swiss IML specialist built an industrial hall with 1,800 sq m of floor space for over 60 employees.

"On August 1, 2016, we established our manufacturing site in Barcelos, Portugal, with one employee. The long-term goal was to gain even better access to the European and South American markets, as well as a better management of the international purchasing. Today, we have 20 employees doing first-class work in Portugal. The development during the last years has been very positive since its foundation, so we decided to intensify our activities in Portugal," explains Nicolas Beck, Owner/Managing Director of Beck.

In the summer of 2020, the foundation stone was laid for the new plant, into which the company will now officially move at the end of March 2021. "Even in this difficult Corona time, we want to sustainably develop Beck Automation and invest in the future," Beck continues.

All the systems that are manufactured at the headquarters in Switzerland are also built at the plant in Portugal.

"With this location, we can further strengthen and expand our international competitiveness and at the same time secure jobs in Switzerland," Beck emphasises. This is particularly important to the company owner: "As a family-run, Swiss company, we have a social responsibility for our employees. The last few months have shown how important this social responsibility is, as well as solid corporate planning. That is why we need to be well-positioned as a company so that we can respond reliably to any changes in the market. The site in Portugal plays its important part in this."

Furthermore, most of Beck Automation's suppliers are located in the north of Portugal. In addition, many manufacturers of plastic moulds also settled in Portugal in the last few years.

Beck Automation also benefits from this. "In order to be successful in the packaging industry, a close exchange with all players is important for us. This is the only way we can continue to be highly innovative and develop effective and future-oriented IML solutions for our customers, because this is what our customers and partners expect from us," says Beck.


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