Direct Investments

Midlands manufacturer opens doors to world’s first hot aluminium-forming production line

A Midlands manufacturer that has developed a cost-effective way of forming high strength aluminium is opening its doors to the world’s first Hot Form Quench™ (HFQ®) press at a new factory in Coventry today.

Impression Technologies Ltd is marking the occasion with a formal ribbon cutting by Councillor Lindsley Harvard, the Lord Mayor of Coventry, and an inaugural speech from the former Director General of the CBI, Lord Digby Jones. The event takes place at Impression Technologies’ brand new facility, located on the former site of the Jaguar factory in Lyons Park.

Councillor Harvard said:

“It’s fantastic to see new technology coming to Coventry, especially when it’s the first of its kind in the UK. I’m so pleased to see that the former site of Jaguar is once again bringing business, skilled jobs and technology to Coventry.”

Impression Technologies has grown significantly in the past 18 months, with the new facility marking another milestone in the company’s progress. It will now work toward meeting increasing demand, and is also preparing to license HFQ® to manufacturers worldwide.

The HFQ® technology, which is based on research from the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London, is a new and disruptive hot forming process, in which complex aluminium parts are pressed and quenched within a matched die tool. The result is a high strength, low weight, cost-effective component for structures within car bodies, rolling stock and aircraft assemblies.

Using HFQ® technology enables the replacement of steel with aluminium in critical applications, including those where complex geometries would not otherwise be formable in high strength aluminium grades. Parts produced using HFQ® are already receiving industry recognition, with Aston Martin recently announcing that it had used HFQ® parts for its DB11 model.

Jonathan Watkins, Chief Executive of Impression Technologies, said:

“Impression Technologies has a unique technology that addresses the economical, technical and environmental needs of the huge automotive, aerospace and rail sectors.

“HFQ® has the potential to be the dominant light-weighting technology for vehicle structures, bringing highly skilled jobs and investment to the region, as well as significant earnings from strategic and rapidly-growing global markets.”

In July 2015, Impression Technologies received a £4m investment from Mercia Technologies PLC and Imperial Innovations plc, which assisted in the development of the new facilities.

Matt Mead, Chief Investment Officer at Mercia Technologies PLC, said:

“We’ve seen a considerable increase in Impression Technologies’ progress in scaling the business as it works to expand its relationships with key customers.

“We would like to congratulate the company on the launch of its new facilities, which we believe perfectly demonstrates the manufacturing potential that still resides in the Midlands.”

Robert Bahns, Director of Technology Ventures at Imperial Innovations plc, said:

“We are delighted to see the progress the company has made and the contribution it is already beginning to make to the automotive industry. This facility will position the company firmly on the map as a technology provider that can reduce the weight and cost of components across a range of transport sectors.”

Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency that funds and supports science and technology ventures, has also supported Impression Technologies in the commercialisation of HFQ®. Innovate UK, along with co-funding from the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), helped the business to first take the HFQ® technology from the science base at Imperial College towards commercial success via a project that started in 2013 and included Lotus Cars. Innovate UK is now working with the company on a second project: a three year, high value manufacturing project known as Lightblank.

Neale Ryan, Innovate UK’s Portfolio Manager for Low Carbon Vehicles, said:

“This is a significant milestone for Impression Technologies as they continue to innovate and grow their business. Innovate UK is proud of its ongoing support for the company and we look forward to their continued growth.”