Laser ablation system and micromachining company win Queen's Award

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Several UK photonics companies have won Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, recognising a strong photonics sector in the UK.

Among the recipients, which included Gooch and Housego, M Squared Lasers, LEW Techniques, and Specialised Imaging, was Winbro Group Technologies, which won for the development of its HSA5 laser ablation system, and laser micromachining company Optek Systems, which was recognised for international trade.

The HSA5 system integrates post processing, ablation and inspection technologies within a single machine for the manufacture of complex shapes in turbine components.

Established in 1992, Winbro provides manufacturing solutions to the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries, based upon its core laser and high speed EDM cooling hole machining technologies.

Aero-engine manufacturers aim to increase operating temperatures of turbines and, in doing so, fuel efficiency, which requires effective cooling of components located in the hottest part of the engine. Winbro’s HSA5 system can machine cooling hole features in high performance alloys, with both metallic and ceramic coatings.

The company now operates from five factory units in Coalville, and also recently relocated its Winbro Advanced Machining business to a new 28,000 sqft facility in Shepshed. Winbro Group Technologies now has a total of 220 employees across the UK and USA operations.

Abingdon, Oxfordshire-based Optek Systems received its Queen’s Award for Enterprise in international trade.

The company supplies laser micromachining and optical fibre processing equipment, and since winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for the first time in 2011, its export business has doubled, reflecting significant growth in US and Asian markets.

Optek’s micromachining business provides laser systems for many markets – one example is the production of a medical device that has more than 140,000,000 holes per part, with each hole drilled to a precision of 1µm.

Since 2011 OpTek has augmented its overseas operations, adding offices on the US West Coast and facilities in Hong Kong and Dongguan, China.

Mike Osborne, founder and technical director at OpTek Systems, commented: ‘International trade is central to our business and this award recognises the investments we’ve made in developing our network and the hard work and dedication of all our staff and partners.’

Also winning a Queen’s Award was LPW Technology, which supplies metal powders for 3D printing with lasers.

The company, based in Runcorn, Cheshire, supplies and develops specialist materials for additive manufacturing for the aerospace, F1 and medical implant industries. LPW’s overseas sales have grown by 300 per cent during the last three years with the proportion of sales exported increasing to 70 per cent of total sales.