Automotive and motorsports heat management specialists Zircotec, based near Oxford, is set to grow significantly this year, with a 10-fold increase in capacity. This follows a £2.5M investment into much larger premises and new equipment. The workforce is also increasing to meet the exceptional demand. This comes after having to overcome some unexpected hurdles over the last 18 months.
The company is an expert in plasma-spray processing and thermal barrier solutions. It develops and produces industry leading high-performance surface coatings and finishes and bespoke heat shielding solutions. It works with most F1 teams and many other motorsport formulas, as well as several supercar and other performance car OEMs.
Zircotec now plans to build and grow on business established in other sectors, such as electric and hybrid vehicles, oil and gas, marine, power generation and aerospace, which the company believes offers excellent growth opportunities. These industries have stringent emissions targets and heat management requirements and Zircotec’s technology can provide a solution to manage heat, without adding excessive weight; key characteristics highly sought in these industries.
Graeme Barette, Sales Director said: “The new and expanded facility means we can actively develop other sectors, where previously we were constrained by our capacity. Our success to date has largely been in automotive and motorsport, however we know our technology is valuable to many other industries too, particularly in the hybrid and electric vehicle markets. We know that light-weighting and heat management are critical issues in this industry and Zircotec has a solution that can solve these heat management issues.”
Zircotec offers a range of industry coatings with different performance characteristics, ideal for many different applications. This includes the plasma applied ceramic coatings, a flexible heat shield material, carbon composite coatings, anti-wear coatings and ceramic fabrications, as well as industry leading heat shielding solutions.
The company has also developed a conductive ceramic battery coating that provides RFI shielding with a weight saving of up to 4kg/m2 compared to aluminium. This enables manufacturers to use carbon or plastic composite battery casings for hybrid and electric vehicles rather than the much heavier aluminium solution.
In July last year (2019), a fire destroyed the previous Zircotec home. A disaster recovery plan was put in place and within days Zircotec was back up and running in a temporary facility nearby. The new permanent home was found, just 300 yards from the old facility. This was a huge 20,000 square feet location, compared to the previous site, which was only 9000 square feet.
By October (2019), following extensive adaptions, the company re-located to the new building. The facility was fully operational by the end of the year.
Barette is extremely proud of the company’s efforts in recent months, he said: “Back in July (2019) we were all devastated, and the whole workforce really pulled together. By the end of the year we were in this much bigger and better facility, ready for expansion, to meet anticipated growth…then COVID-19 happened. You couldn’t make it up. Thankfully the workforce is back, with even more staff than before, and we’re still recruiting to increase our headcount by almost a fifth because the demand is there. This has been an exhausting but rewarding period for all of us and we’re really excited about the future.”
The new purpose-designed building is set to accommodate planned growth. The amount of specialist equipment has in some cases, trebled. This includes the addition of a bespoke heat shield facility. A team of specialists can create unique heat shield solutions to meet a customer’s specific requirements.
Some of this specialist equipment has also been automated. Previously there was one automated booth used for plasma spraying. This is being increased to five, significantly increasing the available capacity, to meet growing demand. Automation will reduce downtime, delivering extremely consistent results at the same time as massively increasing production output. This is in line with OEM requirements and mass production programmes.
Barette added: “Light-weighting and temperature management are becoming increasingly important for manufacturers across several different industry sectors. Our plan is to position ourselves as thermal management specialists. We’re working towards becoming IATF 16949 certified and a tier one supplier. We want to be a supplier of thermal management solutions for OEMs, where we can offer solutions from the outset, involved at the design stage.”
The focus today is very much on continued innovation and Zircotec has a five-year plan in place to grow the company by 400%. This will be achieved by moving into new markets and an ongoing investment in the skilled workforce.