When the NASA Mars InSight spacecraft landed on the surface of the red planet last year, some 34 million miles away from earth, it did so with some help from a company in Bridgend: Spectrum Technologies Ltd.
2019 marks a milestone for the firm - it’s 30 years since it was established as a subsidiary of BAE systems in Filton. The company was the subject of a management buyout in 1994 and exports high-end laser marking equipment to all the major aerospace, space and defence organisations across the world from its headquarters in Bridgend.
The process, developed by long-time CEO Peter Dickinson in the 1980s, was revolutionary. “Previously, aerospace wires were marked with a hot stamp – but this degraded the wires, and actually caused aircraft to crash,” says sales and marketing director Colin Faulkner. “What was discovered that you can change the pigmentation in the wire insulation with a laser which produces a permanent mark without any degradation to the insulation properties of the wire.” The process, which is much better for maintaining the quality of cables and wires, has been adopted by all the major manufacturers, airlines and defence organisations. The company’s client list includes Airbus, Boeing, BAE Systems, Safran, Fokker, Qantas, Air Canada and British Airways with over 95% of systems exported.
The company has been quick to adapt to changes in the marketplace, and is constantly introducing new technology to improve its products, including making maintenance easier. “The old lasers tended to be water-cooled, and rather cumbersome,” says Faulkner. “The new DPSS air-cooled lasers are much more efficient and require less maintenance.”
The company has recently utilised robotics in its downstream automation Pegasus system and has also introduced a 2D matrix code to its marking technology, which affords the capacity to hold much more data than traditional barcodes and is being utilized in Industry 4.0 initiatives across the world. The company’s first 30 years have been highly successful, but for it to continue to flourish, it needs to recruit the right people.
“It’s a challenge to get the right calibre of software, mechanical and electrical engineers”, says Faulkner. “It's a challenge faced by other engineering organisations within South Wales”. “We are currently recruiting in all areas of our business and we are working closely with universities, colleges and local schools to fill the gaps."