As the first major investment in AME Group’s 20-year history, the money will enable the company to hire new staff, acquire new equipment, and launch two new brands, the first of which is AME-3D.
AME-3D will focus on providing 3D printing manufacturing and prototyping services to UK businesses, and will also expand into low volume production and direct manufacturing with dropshipping services.
“New technologies such as 3D printing have opened up new possibilities in product development and testing,” said Ian Jones, AME Group Founder and Finance Director. “As a result, the rapid prototyping market is expanding year-on-year. With the new AME-3D brand fully dedicated to unlocking the potential that 3D printing and low volume production offers, our team can support UK businesses with longer-term growth and with their post-Covid bounce-back plans.”
AME Group’s history
Jones founded AME Group in 1996 to offer 3D printing services to manufacturers based in Sheffield, UK. Since then, the company has expanded to offer low volume 3D printing services to manufacturers, engineers, industrial product designers and blue chip companies across the UK.
The company originally started with wax-based additive manufacturing machines used to create tools for casting, before adding other 3D printing equipment to offer SLA, SLS, vacuum casting and RIM casting capabilities. Early hires included Paul Howell, Director of AME and CEO of Arquella, Lee Taylor as Production Manager, and Keith Hadfield as Casting Technician, who played key roles in securing the new investment and launching AME-3D.
“AME has performed strongly since its inception and established itself as one of the leaders in its field,” said Maurice Disasi of Mercia. “As the company embarks on a new period of growth, this funding will enable it to take advantage of the exciting opportunities in the rapid prototyping market and to widen its customer base.”
Investing in 3D printing
The recent investment is the company’s first major investment north of £600,000 which will enable it to invest in more jobs, equipment and services for its customers. According to AME Group Managing Director Rich Proctor, NPIF Mercia approached the team after working with a shared contact and being impressed by the firm’s 3D printing capabilities. After learning more about the company’s 3D printing processes, the conversation turned to investment talks.
Despite substantial investments in 3D printing bureaus and similar services over the past year, Proctor believes AME-3D will be able to stand out amongst its competitors.
“The relatively crowded market is indeed a challenge, but while services may be similar, hard-earned skill and finely tuned craftsmanship can’t be replicated,” he said. “Our early-hires like Lee Taylor and Keith Hadfield have been honing their skills in 3D printing, model making, product finishes and low volume production since AME’s beginning. They’ve selected and trained the team up based on product and model related skills, overall technical abilities and the willingness to learn and build on existing skills.”
AME-3D’s additive manufacturing services
AME-3D’s workshop team is capable of considering and selecting resins for SLA and casting processes, fine-tuning powder mixture processes, delivering informed CAD reviews and providing a wide array of different finish options.
The 3D printing bureau will house two SLA High-Resolution Vipers and two SLA 3500 machines running a combination of Xtreme grey, clear and Xtreme white resins. The bureau will also run Vanguard SLS services with standard PA12 and glass-filled nylon with another fully digital upgraded SLS machine on the way.
“The investment will enable us to invest in more 3D printing equipment which we will be excitedly announcing later this year,” said Proctor. “This is going to include increasing the build volume and speed of the SLA machines and new resin offerings.”
During the height of the pandemic in the UK, AME Group gained a new customer, electrical goods manufacturer VAX. VAX was experiencing supply chain issues from its usual 3D printing and prototyping provider and turned to AME to plug the gaps. According to AME, VAX was impressed by the higher quality 3D printed parts compared to their previous provider.
“Hiring for our workshop is quite a challenge as we look for people with a great attitude, excellent attention to detail and the ability to learn and be part of a team,” continued Proctor. “Our ability to train them and develop the required skills helps us ensure we delight our customers with the high quality they expect from us. While it’s relatively straightforward to get into 3D printing, gaining, maintaining and growing a positive reputation that champions quality is an achievement.
“One of our recent investors recognized and decided to enable us to take it to the next level.”
The launch of AME-3D will mark an important turning point in the company’s overall journey, with the investment enabling the firm to implement key growth plans such as hiring additional staff and offering new services in direct manufacturing for dropshipping.
“AME is a growing Northern business working with a strong portfolio of respected brands across a range of sectors,” said Sean Hutchinson of British Business Bank. “NPIF is proud to play a part in helping businesses like AME reach the next stage in their growth journey. By investing in ambitious successful companies, we are helping to create new jobs, safeguard others and support regional economic growth allowing business communities to fulfill their potential.”
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Featured image shows 3D printed parts in AME’s workshop. Photo via AME Group.