Sheffield metal powder firm soars on investment

ASL's new apprentices, from left: Ashley Coe, Steven Parker, Natalie Galt and Ben Twomey, with managing director Simon Dunkley, centre.
ASL's new apprentices, from left: Ashley Coe, Steven Parker, Natalie Galt and Ben Twomey, with managing director Simon Dunkley, centre.
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A Sheffield metal powder specialist has hired 25 people in less than a year - nearly doubling the workforce - to cope with an increase in orders after ploughing hundreds of thousands of pounds into new equipment.

Atomising Systems in Darnall has boosted staff from 35 to 60 since September and is operating 24 hours-a-day to cope with an order book stretching into 2016, bosses say.

Atomising Systems gas atomising system.'A versatile small scale gas atomising system allows us to produce many alloys from solar alloys, precious metal and specialised trial  production lots

Atomising Systems gas atomising system.'A versatile small scale gas atomising system allows us to produce many alloys from solar alloys, precious metal and specialised trial production lots

The firm makes dozens of different powders by adding water or gas to molten metals - mainly alloys of stainless steel - as they are poured. It also sells ‘atomising’ systems around the world.

The operation was a division of Davy McKee until it was sold in 1992. Simon Dunkley took over management from his father, Dr John Dunkley, in 2010.

He said: “After some tough times, it is very gratifying to see our investment in plant and research at last paying dividends.

“It is particularly pleasing to be able to offer so many young people the opportunity to work in a leading-edge technical environment that allows so much scope for them to develop their talents.”

A £100,000 upgrade of the gas atomiser is underway, while a £100,000 sieving station has just been put into production. The firm has also bought a £25,000 laser diffraction unit to measure particle size and a £30,000 oxygen analysis instrument for the quality control department.

Four new apprentices have been taken on to join several that were hired two years ago and who are now finishing their training “and making a major contribution to the workforce,” Simon Dunkley added.

The recruits will be working in production, quality control and maintenance before they start college day-release courses in autumn.

ASL’s powders are used in a host of industries to create items as diverse as dental amalgams and vehicle cam belt pulleys.

They can be 3D printed, injection moulded, welded, spray deposited and die press and sintered.

Technical sales manager, Dr Peter Rose, said the firm was having its best period since he joined in 1988 due to investment in equipment and targeting specific customers.

He added: “There are lots of other companies in Sheffield with great technology and you have no idea they are there.

“Maybe some of the manufacturing has moved away but the knowledge of metal processes is still here.”

ASL, based on Coleford Road, produces more than 2,500 tonnes of metal powders a year. It has five furnaces including two 500kW melting furnaces, currently operating at maximum output.