Strip Tinning reveals ‘European first’ with new solar production line
The future of solar powered technology was unveiled in Birmingham last week when one of the City’s fastest growing manufacturers showcased the results of a €1million European Commission Research Grant.
Strip Tinning, which employs 39 people at its Arden Business Park facility, invited Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid and prospective Northfield MP Rachel Maclean to officially open a new prototype line for producing the next generation of photovoltaic ribbon.
The recently appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Maclean were given an insight into the ‘European first’, which has the potential to create 300–750MW of the critical interconnecting material used in solar panels across the globe.
If the prototype line goes to plan, the firm will invest a further £500,000 into fully automating it for volume production capable of generating €6m of additional export sales and creating ten to fifteen new skilled jobs.
Steve O’Connor, Commercial Director at Strip Tinning, picked up the story: “It is extremely rare for a Small to Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) to secure a European Commission ‘FP 7’ Grant and we are naturally delighted to bring such an important project to Birmingham.
“We have had to bring together a real cross-European partnership, featuring material and engineering companies in Austria, Italy, Sweden and metallurgy specialists at the University of Birmingham.”
He continued: “The prototype line we have developed allows us to create solar ribbon that is placed as interconnectors between the blue wafers used in photovoltaic panels you see fitted to a wide range of premises across the world.
“There is a demand for these wafers to be thinner and subsequently this can lead to them breaking easier. What this state-of-the-art line gives us is the opportunity to test technology that we believe will produce softer ribbon with advanced performance characteristics.”
Sajid Javid MP added his support: “This is fantastic news for the West Midlands and highlights exactly the type of innovation we need to encourage.”
“Strip Tinning is already a world leader in automotive connectors and heated glazing and this new production line will strengthen its position even further, creating new employment and wealth within the regional supply chain.”
2013 has been a major year of expansion for Strip Tinning, with 20% growth in export turnover across its solar power and automotive markets.
Products for the latter include busbar, tungsten wire and flexible flat connectors for use in heated windscreens that are eventually fitted to carsproduced by Ford, Hyundai, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volkswagen.
To keep up with increased demand, £160,000 of investment has been channeled into new automation and a company-wide development programme that ensures all staff develop critical lean manufacturing and six-sigma technical skills.
Richard Barton, Managing Director of Strip Tinning, continued: “Whilst automotive remains our largest market, the new prototype line has the potential to really accelerate our expansion into the solar panel sector.
“It is our fantastic team that is driving our business forward and this gives us the confidence to follow JLR to China, hence the opening of a sales office and distribution centre in Shanghai.”
Rachel Maclean concluded: “Strip Tinning has made a demonstrable commitment to sustained growth over the next few years, not just expanding its production facilities but also investing in the training and development of its staff.
“These are highly skilled technical and engineering jobs. The company is actively examining how best to train its current employees, as well as planning for its future staffing needs. It is a laudable example of sustainable job creation the region can be proud of.”
For further information, please visit www.striptinning.com or contact 0121 457 7675
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russ Cockburn .