ACE celebrates its 15th birthday with £1m investment

A Shropshire manufacturer is celebrating its 15th birthday in style after putting the finishing touches to a £1m investment that will propel it towards £5m sales.

Advanced Chemical Etching Limited, which offers precision 2D and 3D components, prototyping and volume manufacture, has just completed a major expansion plan to more than double its Telford factory to over 20,000 sq ft.

Established in 2000 by Alan Rollason and Chris Ball, the company is expecting that the additional installation of two new large etching machine lines – plus advanced measuring equipment – will help it build on an influx of new orders for parts used in aerospace, automotive, electronics, Formula 1, medical, heat exchanger and fuel cell technology.

“This expansion plan has been a long time coming and has taken a massive effort from all of our 35-strong workforce to make it a reality,” explained Alan, now Chairman of the firm.

“We now have an excellent platform and the right capacity to go after new work and there is plenty of that around as companies are increasingly looking for that complex component or alternative use of materials.

“We’re at over £3 million turnover now and I see no reason why we can’t achieve £5million in the next couple of years…the pipeline certainly suggests it is possible.”

He continued: “15 years has flown by and it’s great to see how we’ve progressed from a small business employing just three of us to one of the sector’s leading providers of photo-etched components.

“Despite our growth, we still operate to the same principles we did when we spotted the niche in the marketplace…fast turnaround, customer service, quality and always looking at the next innovation.”

ACE, which is a member of the successful Midlands Assembly Network (MAN), has recently developed two new processes using unique etching chemistry.

ACmE (Aluminium Compliant molecular Etching) and TiME (Titanium Molecular Etching) are the result of years of R&D, which culminated in the company embarking on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Wolverhampton.

It was able to tap into the expertise of PhD qualified chemical engineer Dr Eesa to come up with two chemical solution developments that offer exacting tolerances and world class repeatable quality…attributes very much sought after by the automotive and aerospace sectors using Titanium and Aluminium.

Ian Whateley, Managing Director at ACE, went on to add: “In addition to the new machine lines, we are now planning to invest significantly in expanding our specialist laboratory so we can continue to push the boundaries of etching technology.

“We see this as a major opportunity and gives us a fantastic competitive advantage over our rivals, especially those from low cost countries. The KTP went so well that Dr Eesa has been employed as the head of our R&D team.”

ACE’s management team also points to its involvement in MAN as a key driver in its recent success, citing the collective’s ability to deliver every manufacturing discipline imaginable as fundamental in winning new contracts.

The firm, which is joined by Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, Grove Design, Mec Com, Muller Holdings, PP Electrical Systems and SMT Developments in the Group, believes it has won more than £2m of work since it became a member in 2009.

Alan concluded: “The commercial benefits are naturally important, but there are a lot of softer tangibles you can take away from being part of MAN.

“There is best practice sharing, mentoring and, by pooling our resource, we can punch way above our weight when it comes to PR, marketing and exhibiting at key industry events.

“We look forward to the next fifteen years and know that our involvement in the Midlands Assembly Network will play a strong role in helping us achieve our growth plans.”