Armour plant opens in Newport
3:21pm Thursday 17th October 2013 in Gwent news
HIGH-TECH: David Willis, left, production manager at Kennametal Manufacturing of Newport with the ceramic armour production machine
A £2 million plant for designing and making armour opened in Newport today, sustaining 50 jobs for seven years.
This could see armour from Newport worn by soldiers in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as the new plant will be the UK’s first ‘centre of excellence’ for developing ceramic armour.
Funded jointly by Kennametal Manufacturing Ltd and Dstl, part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the plant has extended operations at the existing business on Leeway Industrial Estate in Nash.
The managers invited the Argus in to see the new furnace, the only one of its kind in the UK, which reaches temperatures of up to 2200°C and has a maximum pressure of 250 tonnes.
It passes a current through powdered ceramics such as silicon carbide at such high heat and pressure that they turn to solid plate, which can then be used for body armour and armoured vehicles as it is lighter than metal armour and so easier to wear.
Once a ceramic plate sample is created it can be subjected to tests, including being shot at to see how much it will take before it shatters or breaks.
Professor Bryn James, head of Dstl's Armour and Protection Science and Technology Centre, said the new plant will makes designing and testing armour much quicker: “It used to take about six months, and then another six months to get another sample [after testing]. Here you could do it on the same day.”
Neil Adams, 47, a CNC machinist, has worked at the plant for 14 years. He said: “I’m very pleased. The work load had dropped off a little, but we’re hoping this new influx is going to turn things around.”
The £2 million investment was split 50/50 with Dstl (Defence Science & Technology Laboratory) covering capital costs and Kennametal paying for running costs. Dstl’s current contract with Kennametal Ltd will run for seven years.
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