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SME Implants New Technology

McKenna Precision Castings was established in South Yorkshire in 1983 as a specialist manufacturer of cobalt-chrome medical implants. A highly successful company, they acquired Finecast in Maidenhead in 2001, to secure a strategic and complementary capability in precision aluminium castings, primarily for the aerospace and defence sectors.

Rapid Prototype model which can be readily converted to a ‘sight housing’ casting for the Warrior family of tracked armoured vehicles (courtesy of Alvis Vickers Ltd.)

Companies in sectors such as medical, aerospace and defence are critically dependent on the supply of short-lead time components for development activities. Often required in small batches, the volume cannot justify the cost of conventional tooling even if the lead time allowed. Yet component integrity, dimensional accuracy, surface finish and other attributes need to correspond very closely, if not exactly, to those which ultimately would be achieved with a refined manufacturing procedure, otherwise the data generated during expensive and time-consuming performance analysis would not be meaningful.

McKenna Group is one of only a hand-full of UK companies capable of meeting such demanding market needs. Now, their performance has been enhanced by teaming with CT, which is the only agency in the UK capable of producing the models or patterns from which castings can be made to the necessary standard. While other agencies can supply the models just as rapidly (directly from 3D CAD data), CT is almost unique in its awareness of the specific needs of both the castings producer and the customer. CT can in turn, therefore, ensure that the model has all theattributes necessary to achieve the desired outcome through its detailed knowledge of casting design, materials and manufacturing techniques.

Don McKenna has no doubts of the value of this technical capacity at CT: Following CT’s investment in Rapid Prototyping technology a year or so ago, we immediately established a strategic alliance with them to underpin our ‘Fast Track Solutions’ initiative. We promoted this at the last two Farnborough exhibitions in a jointly-funded DVD. This is being up-dated for our stand at this year’s British Orthopaedic Exhibition, again on a shared-cost basis. The resulting business has required us to procure more than £100k worth of models from them and it has proved to be a significant advantage to have them on our doorstep. For 9 distinct product development projects, more than 800 rapid prototype models have been made to date for companies such as Thales, AMS, Siemens Magnet Technology Ltd and Sheffield Orthopaedic Innovations, generating £600,000 of business! Merging two businesses has been challengingand costly; more than £2m has been invested and without CT’s support we would have 6 fewer people working here.

The McKenna Group is a partner in a Dti-funded Aeronautics Research Programme, which CT is managing, and has considerable interest in CT’s activities on titanium castings. Don McKenna adds: it is comforting to know that someone is engaged in high-risk practical and relevant activities which we don’t have the time or money to do, yet which could have such a significant impact on our future.

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