Case studies - Facilities, equipment and workspace

Enterprise Solutions works with a variety of businesses in a number of sectors to address their needs. 

Find out more about some of the businesses we've helped, right here.

Alpha Contract Engineering: The unknown bonding material

Industry sector: Micro-electronics

This Torquay-based engineering company needed to identify the bonding materials used in fixing the active component of a medical device (i.e. reverse engineering).

Finding out that the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) offered 12 hours of free support, Larry Clarke, Director of Alpha Contract Engineering sent the sample in for analysis. This was turned around very promptly with the results presented in a format that could also be shared with their own customer, helping to strengthen commercial relationships, aiding new product development.

'I would have no hesitation in using this facility again in the future, and will certainly be looking at the other services the University offers.' Larry Clarke, Director.

Solution: Facilities

Artemis Optical Ltd: Defect analysis

Industry sector: Optical equipment manufacturer

Plymouth-based Artemis Optical Ltd, a centre of excellence for the design and manufacture of high precision, technically differentiated optical thin film coatings, visited the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) as part of an event facilitated by Francis Clark (accountants) in April 2014. When Simon saw the capabilities of the PEMC, he knew that Artemis could utilise the facilities to analyse various different types of process and product issues.

In August 2014 the PEMC were able help investigate one such unresolved issue.  By analysing and imaging surface defects at high magnification, the PEMC was able to give Artemis Optical Ltd new information which is enabling them to solve the issue with their customer. 

'Working with the PEMC helped us to gain a much better understanding of this issue, which enabled us to eliminate several potential root causes and thereby focus our investigations accordingly. Should this issue be resolved and yields improve significantly, there is a very good opportunity for Artemis Optical Ltd to win additional business from this particular customer and new business from others.' Simon Schad, Development Manager.

Solution: Facilities

Ed Fagan Ltd: Partnership approach to supply

Industry sector: Metals wholesaler

Material had been supplied for many years by Ed Fagan Europe Ltd to DCE Holne Ltd, Buckfastleigh to a very loose ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) specification supplied by the end user. A recent batch of material that was supplied to the end users’ purchase specification became an issue as it was identified as too soft and not fully homogenised causing lengthy and costly machining cycles. 

Thanks to the free support provided by the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC), a tighter purchasing specification could be developed, saving money in processing and enabling tighter control over quality assurance and the final product. 

'PEMC’s quick service enabled the removal of all material from production and quarantine of the problem. We were also able to develop a tight purchasing specification for the end user as part of a continuous improvement program and identified cost savings in time and rectification expense.' Chris Mahn, Director.

Solution: Facilities

Forest Secrets Skincare: New product development

Industry sector: Cosmetics

As a cosmetic company committed to scientific research and to the use of natural botanicals Forest Secrets Skincare wanted an answer to a burning question: are herbal hair dyes damaging to the hair? To answer this question in a simple and visual way they chose the powerful and high tech tool that is electron microscopy. 

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) happened to have the cutting edge equipment they needed to produce the images of their research samples, so the company was delighted to work with the PEMC to receive beautiful and insightful images that gave them the answer.

Solutions: Facilities

"Beautiful and scientific evidence such as that provided by PEMC is of great value for new product development at Forest Secrets Skincare." 

Babara Olioso, Director.

Peter Day Precision Engineering Ltd: Quality control

Industry sector: Precision engineering

Peter Day Precision Engineering discovered Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) when looking for a service to test plating thickness on some parts. PEMC were sent the parts for checking and verification of plating thicknesses under the electron microscopes. The results were given back to Peter Day in a very easy and clear to read presentation. This presentation was used to determine that the plating thickness was fine, and the parts were consequently sent to their customers as finished goods.

"We found the service extremely useful. The communication was excellent; any potential problems were communicated to us for verification before PEMC carried out the work. We are extremely happy with the results and will definitely be using PEMC again for this type of work in the future."

Ben Daniels, Production Planner.

Solution: Facilities

SRA Developments: Purchaser power

Industry sector: Research and development engineering

A leading developer and manufacturer of ultrasonic medical devices for surgical applications, the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) was able to help SRA Development with two distinct issues; both involving a third party. Thanks to the prompt support of the PEMC, SRA Developments have been able to speak to their supplier to optimise the characteristics of the raw product they are buying, to fulfil their needs, and to also optimise the production process for the end component.

 'SRA values the results from the initial study very highly, and will certainly make further use of this powerful local resource.' Anton Slipszenko, Product Developer.

Solution: Facilities

Langage Farm Dairy Products: New product development

Industry sector: Food manufacturing

Paul Winterton and Angela Tucker of Langage Farm attended our 'Do My Ice Crystals Look Big in This?' Industrial Solutions event in July 2014, and realised that the technology we use to analyse ice cream could also be used on other dairy products. The company was having issues making a very smooth soft cheese product using their current equipment.  

“We asked for help from PEMC to look at the structure under the electron microscope to compare against different products that are currently on the market. I spent the day with Pete looking at different samples and we were able to compare and contrast competitors’ products with our own. We were also able to look at samples at different stages in the production process to match it with our competitors’ products.

By doing this work we have since adjusted our pressing time to make a more consistent product which is more in line with other products on the market. This is now available in major supermarkets (Sainsbury).”

“We found the day extremely useful and learnt a great deal about our own product. The pictures we received are amazing and we would be more than happy to use PEMC for this type of work in the future, in fact, we have just embarked on a KTP with the University, thanks to this initial investigative work with the PEMC.”

Becky Smith, Quality Manager

Solution: Facilities

The Provenance Company: New product development – Twool Woolly bag for Waitrose

Industry sector: Fabric and yarn manufacture

Twool products are made in Britain from the 'lustre' long wool of the Whiteface Dartmoor sheep indigenous to Dartmoor, one of Britain’s most ancient breeds. It is a soft and subtle British wool alternative to imported jute.

The company needed to compare their twine and cloth for strength and durability against the imported jute competition, for use in a wool shopping bag which they were developing for Waitrose. The Twool Woolly bag is now available in the following Waitrose outlets; Gloucester Road, Belgravia and Marylebone.

"PEMC produced outstanding clear evidence of our superior material on both counts and the photographic evidence was amazing. We have a large high street retailer looking at our products and these tests were absolutely vital to the credibility of them. The PEMC carried out the testing promptly and efficiently and in a format that we and our customer could understand."  

"We are delighted with the results and would use PEMC in the future to help us with on- going product development." 

Kim Stead, Director

Solution: Facilities

Nutshell Consulting and OpTek Systems – imaging at high magnification

Industry sector:  Laser micromachining

As an independent consultant, Nutshell is engaged to provide advice and support on business development in the field of laser micromachining. This inevitably involves the identification of new market and opportunities and the development of the means to promote the clients business within the target market. The client, UK based OpTek Systems, develops precision laser micromachining processes and transitions these into production line equipment and subcontract laser processing services.

Laser micromachining, as the title suggest, involves the application of precision laser processing to the creation of small scale features, typically measured in microns (a few microns to a few hundred microns in practise). With feature sizes at the level of the diameter of a human hair and tolerances of small fractions of this, the ability to generate effective images is a challenge.

Working with Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) we were able to study a wide range of laser machined components and identify a number of features that beautifully illustrate the client’s capabilities.

While this activity was primarily aimed at developing images to use for marketing, the work also highlighted the benefits of using SEM as an analytical tool. Laser processing often works with tolerances at the sub-micron level and the magnification and resolution of SEM allows us to analyse the very small structures that impact on these.

Solution: Facilities

"The time spent working with the team at PEMC proved extremely valuable to Nutshell and OpTek Systems. As a direct result of this work Nutshell was able to secure further activity with OpTek Systems and in 2014 this converted into a permanent position with the company. The staff and facilities at PEMC are excellent and we continue to look for opportunities to do further work this them."

Gideon Foster-Turner