3DM Worldwide, the UK company attempting to commercialise a new plastic moulding process, claimed it is in good shape despite delays to completing its new manufacturing facility.
The company is developing a process called Powder Impression Moulding (PIM) which it claimed will allow large moulds to be created using a wide range of thermoplastic polymers.
The company’s turnover more than doubled to £0.8m in 2004 as royalty revenues from the PIM process grew, but 3DM admitted last year was ‘challenging’ after the project to set up a crucial manufacturing line turned into a longer haul than expected.
Pre-tax losses widened to £4m from £2.2m in 2003. A development line designed for experimental work is up and running in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and a larger Beta line is also now fully operational. However, building a large fully-robotic Alpha Line in Caerphilly, Wales, proved more problematic than expected, said 3DM. The original site chosen proved unsuitable, meaning specifications had to be changed and extra costs added. But the company said the A-line is now completed with final trials proceeding satisfactorily.
As a bonus, it is able to cope with multiple products rather than just one as originally envisaged. This left 3DM ‘in a much stronger position to exploit the process commercially,’ it said. The company will use the Alpha machine for development and demonstration purposes to prospective licensees, and will soon be able to offer ‘toll manufacturing’, 3DM told its investors. It added that successful demonstrations of PIM’s potential would be crucial in securing licensing deals for the technology.
3DM said it has now ‘simplified’ its US business arrangements and claimed the North American market would present significant opportunities for PIM. ‘The main focus of development continues to be the automotive sector, though by its nature this tends to be slow,’ the company said. ‘The key developments concern magnesium encapsulation, both for chassis and truck beds.’