The future looks decidedly rosy for rapid machine prototyping services and products provider SPEX Services of Dyce, Aberdeen, with turnover rising dramatically and investment in machining capacity generating further potential for growth.

Shrugging off the general malaise in the economy SPEX Services posted a 257 per cent increase in turnover at the end of its last financial year taking its sales from £2.1 million to over £7.5 million in 2011. Driven by demand for its speciality explosives services, rapid prototyping design capabilities and products for sectors such as offshore oil and gas, SPEX has also made major capital investment in order to enhance its offering to customers, in particular this saw the creation of a machining division, following the acquisition of Third Party Services (TPS) in 2011.

The products and services provided by SPEX include explosive cutters, which it describes as Energetic Technology Solutions, as well as other products for use in hostile working environments, such as the North Sea. The main function of these products is to assist exploration companies in maintaining control of oil flow in emergency situations. A good example of the work it undertakes for customers at its facility just outside Aberdeen was a recent project undertaken on behalf of a major international oil and gas operator. This involved SPEX taking innovative downhole and subsea tools from initial concept to final field trials in just over one year. Both tools relate to well closure in an uncontrolled spill scenario.

A major asset in this ability to deliver a total package was the integration of TPS into the business, as the addition of a full scale machining facility is integral to the company’s development as a turnkey supplier to its customers. The investment didn’t stop with the acquisition of TPS and its existing plant list as SPEX has invested a further £3 million on additional state-of-the-art machining technology. Included in this are two Mazak Integrex E-670 HII, five-axis multi-tasking machines with capacity to machine components up to 1 metre diameter and over 3.3 metres in length. Added to this is a Mazak H880 Horizontal machining centre.

“These additional machines have created additional capacity in order to meet the growing demand for our own products, as well as providing the opportunity to develop and expand our high class rapid prototype facility,” says Neil Munro Director “The investment in new machine tool technology was only part of our machine shop investment as we also reviewed other elements of the business and, given the emphasis that we place on health, safety and environmental care, which are integral to our culture, metalworking fluids were high on the agenda.”

The result was a switch from TPS’s previous supplier to Blaser Swisslube, in particular its Blasocut BC25MD soluble oil. A key factor in the decision to switch to Blaser, and work closely with its UK importer Jemtech (UK), was the credentials that the company had for its products being user and environmentally friendly. “At SPEX we are very proactive when it comes to health and safety and it is our policy to ensure that any product we use is to the highest standard with regards to the wellbeing of our people. In the case of coolants we demand the best in skin care and, where possible, eliminate any possibility of potentially harmful bacterial growth in the product. Beyond that, much as our own customers, we have to be aware of any possible consequences to the environment in case of accidental spillage, and also ease of disposal at the end of the fluids working life. Blaser and Jemtech give us all of that”

As part of its service contracts Jemtech makes regular site visits to its customers to provide both product support, but also to monitor the fluids to ensure that strengths and pH levels are maintained to maximise their operating efficiency. A benefit of this level of service is that customers are left to concentrate on their business and are not distracted by non-core activities. From a productivity point of view this regular fluid maintenance also ensures that the metal cutting fluid is delivering the performance expected and tool life at SPEX has seen improvement, with the time between tool changes increasing significantly. “We have only been using the Blaser products since March 2012 but the improvements are already having a positive impact on the performance of our machining activities,” says Neil Munro.