Century-old Yorkshire military uniform manufacturer secures future through 3D printing

Winder with the new plastic 3D printed paper cone holder, right

A Yorkshire military uniform manufacturer with a 100-year heritage has embraced advanced technologies to repair parts of its legacy equipment to secure the longevity of its machinery and the future of the business.

Wyedean is a Haworth-based manufacturer of military uniform regalia and accessories that has been supplying a vast range of products to the Armed Forces for over a century. Wyedean approached the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in Huddersfield when a cast iron Leesona winder part broke. Made out of cast iron, spares were impossible to come by, and it needed to be identical to fit the seventy-year-old machinery.  Although a small part, without it the machine wouldn’t work, and production would come to a halt.

The 3M BIC’s in-house design team scanned the broken winder part and manufactured a replacement part in polymer that was lightweight yet potentially strong enough to undertake the same function and fit. The winder part is currently on a trial period and the intention is to 3D print a replacement in stainless steel and introduce other improvements if the polymer version is the correct form but does not wear well in regular use.

Robin Wright, managing director of Wyedean was introduced to the technology available at the 3M BIC while visiting the University of Huddersfield hosted by fellow Deputy Lieutenants of West Yorkshire, Colin Blair MBE, the University’s director of Estates and Facilities, and Professor Bob Cryan CBE, the University’s Vice-Chancellor.

Realising a need for additive manufacture, the company was able to access the technology through the Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project (HIIP), which was funded through a £2.9m grant from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal – a £1bn package of government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

The HIIP has allowed the University of Huddersfield to purchase a range of transformational technologies, from scanning and design tools; additive manufacture (AM) in polymers and metals; inspection equipment; virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), and eye tracking capabilities. Managed through the 3M BIC, SMEs across the region have the opportunity to assess and adopt these technologies to develop new and improved products and increase productivity and growth.

Robin Wright, managing director of Wyedean, said: “Other than one broken part, the winder machine is in good shape so by replacing the broken part it will probably be good for another 70 years. Leesona winders are quite versatile, being able to wind many different yarn compositions. Modern day winders, albeit much faster, are not so versatile so we prefer to continue using the Leesona winders.

“I think it’s crucial that businesses with deep roots in the region’s industrial heritage, like Wyedean, embrace new technologies. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and established companies need to exploit them to stay in the game.”

Michael Wilson, centre manager at the 3M BIC, said: “This is a great example of how modern technology can be used to secure the future of legacy equipment to replace parts that can’t be replicated easily today. Additive manufacture allows us to customise products, trial them and amend them if necessary, so we can produce a final product or prototype that is the perfect fit for purpose.”

“The region is rich with manufacturing businesses that have been around for hundreds of years, but in order for them to survive they need to innovate. The hardest part is trying to engage with these SMEs to take the plunge with many simply unsure of what innovations are available.”

Two more winder parts have also recently broken, and the 3M BIC design team will create replacement parts using the same process, once it has been determined whether the polymer version will suffice or a stainless steel version is needed.

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