Barnsley-made innovative material could find its way to the front line
16 November 2015
An innovative super strong material developed by a Barnsley company created to make the manufacture of pottery more cost-efficient is also being evaluated for use as an armour material supported by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The process of using the material, a sialon-bonded silicon carbide, to make parts was discovered by Sheffield Hallam University material scientist Dr Hywel Jones and ceramics expert Dr Anthony Pick, who set up XeraCarb in 2011. The company is being supported by Enterprising Barnsley, a business support programme delivered by Barnsley Council.
The multi-use material can withstand extreme heat, up to 1500 oC, and possesses great strength. It was originally designed to produce thinner space saving shelving in kilns which last longer than traditional materials and is currently being supplied to a number of major tableware and ceramics manufacturers.
In addition, it is now being assessed for use as personal body armour with the research sponsored by the MoD. Prototype armour components are undergoing full ballistic trials because the material offers significant advantages over existing armour in terms of the cost, shape and size of components as well as total system weight.
The MoD supported the development of the technology in its early stages through its Centre for Defence Enterprise and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The technology was awarded the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize of £25,000 in 2011.
XeraCarb’s novel manufacturing route allows them to manufacture at lower temperatures meaning less energy is used and less CO2 is produced, making it an environmentally-friendly product.
XeraCarb plant manager, Roshan Aucklah, said: “The product could reduce the burden on the infantry soldier, which is especially important in hot environments, and has the potential to be used in a number of armour systems, including vehicle armour.
“We have been able to demonstrate that we can make armour that can curve, can be formed into any shape or dimension and is able to stop a variety of military threats. The trials place us well on the path to full commercialisation with our material being used by police and military alike.”
XeraCarb is also supplying kiln furniture to UK pottery manufacturers.
Dr Aucklah, a ceramic engineer, said: “The tableware industry is growing in the UK and innovation in kiln furniture is required to ensure the production of tableware keeps improving. XeraCarb continually delivers such innovative products.
“Kilns can be heated up to 1450oC in tableware manufacturing, which consumes a lot of energy. Our material is very strong but much thinner than traditional materials so it can increase the capacity of kilns, reduce energy wastage and improve profitability for manufacturers of tableware and other ceramic components.”
XeraCarb is also looking at other applications for the material, such as in wear resistant components and burner tubes, with the latter required to withstand thermal shocks.
Dr Aucklah said: “There is a great amount of potential for the use of the material. In the next 12 months we plan to achieve continued growth in armour and kiln furniture as well as support customers with products designed to their specifications. We will continue to carry out research and supply the highest quality products to our customers to be competitive in this market.”
Enterprising Barnsley has helped XeraCarb to find premises, access funding, has provided coaching and training in sales and marketing and has assisted the company with job advertisements and recruitment.
Enterprising Barnsley’s Angela Pedley said: “We helped XeraCarb locate the 6,000 square foot premises it occupies at Darton Business Park. We have continued to support the company and have witnessed it secure research grants and business contracts.”
Enterprising Barnsley will continue to support XeraCarb. Angela said: “Recently I have helped XeraCarb with job advertisements and looked into the idea of taking on apprentices. The company already employs five people and has plans to take on more in the future.
“Our aim is to help Barnsley-based businesses to develop and expand which helps create new local jobs and generate economic growth.”
Enterprising Barnsley offers a wide range of free business support to small and medium-sized businesses with growth potential.
Notes to editor
Attached photograph shows Roshan Aucklah of XeraCarb.
For information about Enterprising Barnsley go to www.enterprisingbarnsley.co.uk or contact Angela Pedley on 01226 720700 or at AngelaPedley@barnsley.gov.uk
Additional media contact: Steph Pollard 01226 766900 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0776 196 4492.
This press release was prepared by Capital B Media, a public relations and media training agency based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. For more details about our PR services, please visit www.capitalbmedia.co.uk