Sheffield firm's new rock smasher set to take chunks out of £1bn market

A Sheffield engineering firm has invented a rock smasher set to crush the opposition and claim a chunk of a £1bn-a-year market.

Sunday, 1st December 2019, 9:50 am

Webster Technologies has launched the ‘Rock Hit’ which bosses say can destroy huge boulders quicker and quieter than rivals.

The eight-strong firm spent 15 years and more than £400,000 on the tool and it has had an “overwhelmingly positive” reception from excavator operators who are “quite a hard crowd to win over,” according to business development manager Belinda Naylor.

Targeted at the £1bn-a-year mining, quarrying, construction and demolition markets, it could transform the company and create jobs, she added.

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Ian Webster, right, with son Matt and a Rock Hit.

“It feels amazing. Innovation is fantastic but it comes at a cost financially and in energy. There have been a few setbacks but it’s been worth it. A small family business shouldn’t be bringing out a product this good.

“It’s been a labour of love for Ian Webster who is a very driven and amazing engineer. I don’t think he realises how good he is.”

Traditional hydraulic hammers have been around for 50 years and are notorious for loud, rapid impacts. The Rock Hit uses a motor and a catapult action to hit almost four times harder, at the same volume but less frequently. Operators can endure it much longer and neighbours are happier, Belinda said. Tests with Highways England and construction giant Balfour Beattie had been positive too.

A Rock Hit in action.

The firm, which has two UK patents, has a Rock Hit for hire now and will demonstrate it over the next 12 months. They are made in Germany. A piling hammer version is in the pipeline.

Webster, based Holbrook Industrial Estate, invested £229,000 of its own money. It had two grants from the Government totalling £187,000, the latest from Innovate UK.

Ms Naylor said she would encourage ambitious firms to apply.

“The process is time consuming and the bids are competitive but a lot of help is available. An Innovate UK grant can give you discipline because you have to report every quarter, have a project plan and stick to it.”

Sheffield firms that have received Innovate UK grants include Zoo Digital, The Floow, SleepCogni, Ioetec, and Elements.

Ms Naylor added: “The Sheffield Growth Hub have also been a fantastic support – we have taken advantage of several initiatives including the most recent scale up initiative – this has really helped by providing practical support and peer learning to develop our growth strategy.”

Webster is seeking projects in the Sheffield City Region to demonstrate their new breaker, she added.

“The region has some really exciting construction projects and while we are exploring opportunities outside the region; we have already caught the interest of Highways England, it would be great to see our new product put to work in the Sheffield City region”