Plymouth engineering firm helps shape future of University facility

One of Plymouth’s leading engineering firms is helping to shape the future of its local University’s research facilities. The Barden Corporation has joined the advisory board for Plymouth University’s Centre for Advanced Imaging Analysis and Characterisation, which is used by University researchers and industry.

The facility includes Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC), which offers a comprehensive suite of light microscopes and electron microscopes, equipped with cutting edge image processing and analysis software. Barden started working with PEMC 20 years ago, to conduct quality control checks on its products. Now the company is training its precision engineers to use the centre and is using it as its own ‘outsourced laboratory’.

The Barden Corporation is a world leader in the design and manufacture of super precision ball bearings, which are used in all kinds of sectors including aerospace. Based in Plymouth, Barden is part of the aerospace and super precision division of leading automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler and employs in excess of 400 staff.

Gary Hughes of the Barden Corporation said: 

“Working with PEMC has always been a really positive experience. Over the last 20 years I’ve seen the equipment come on massively and there is a very high level of expertise at the University. Being part of the advisory board has allowed us to understand better the overall package the University can offer us relating to our products, along with identifying new opportunities for the University to develop their capabilities to support us further.”
A new member of Barden’s Quality and Manufacturing team, Ancuţa Baciu, is one of the engineers who has been trained to use the facility. She said: 

“Although Barden has used PEMC for many years, it has now become a reliable resource for in process analysis to ensure quality and future improvement. With quality control, it’s important to be able to carry out regular checks and now that more of our engineers are trained to use the equipment, we can do this. We see PEMC as our outsourced laboratory.”
Established over 30 years ago, PEMC was recently transformed as part of a £1.3 million project, funded by the University, JEOL (UK) Ltd and a £579,960 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which gave businesses free access to its state-of-the-art facilities.

Claire Pearce of PEMC said: 

“We have a long-standing working relationship with Barden so it is great that they are now getting even more involved in the facility. Having them on the advisory board will help ensure we keep meeting the fast-changing needs of industry, attracting more companies to work with us and ultimately helping our students’ employment prospects; we look forward to working more closely with Barden’s engineers.”
Barden accessed PEMC’s expertise, through GAIN (the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network). GAIN is enabling Plymouth University to work with partners across the South West to help businesses achieve their growth potential.

Adrian Dawson, Head of GAIN at Plymouth University said: 

“This partnership is good news for The Barden Corporation and for the University. We really need input from the region’s leading businesses, so we can ensure we continue to meet their needs in terms of support, but also skilled graduates. We are proud that a global business like Barden sees PEMC as its own facility.”