Founded in the 1970s to develop and license spray-forming technology, and later acquired by Sandvik AB of Sweden, Sandvik Osprey Ltd has become a major supplier of fine gas-atomized powders to the MIM industry. With continuing rapid growth, the company has branched out into manufacture of related high-tech products. Consulting editor Joseph Capus reports on a visit to the company's facilities in Neath, South Wales.

Of the thousands who travel each day on the train-line from London Paddington to South Wales, very few if any would realize the significance of the pale blue buildings bearing the name of a mysterious bird, visible from the tracks just before the train pulls into Neath station. The home of Sandvik Osprey Ltd in Milland Road houses a very busy operation engaged in the production of advanced materials and products that go into a vast array of applications. These applications range from consumer products like computers, mobile phones and car radiators, to defense, aerospace, and even a highly scientific project to explore the origin of the universe.

History

Founded by three post-grads from Swansea University more than 40 years ago, the company has become an outstanding success story in the fields of powder metallurgy and advanced materials. After filing a patent on a process to produce metal pre-forms by atomizing and spray-deposition, the company was set up in 1974 as Osprey Metals Ltd to develop and license the process (actually named after the sea-hawk, whose image forms part of the company logo). The first license was sold to Sandvik AB, of Sandviken, Sweden to make spray-deposited pre-forms for tube production. Sandvik later acquired 51% ownership of Osprey Metals (in 1979) and eventually 100% in 1984. The company name was later changed to Sandvik Osprey Ltd. The company's gas atomization technology was also applied to the production of specialty metal and alloy powders with the technology for both spray-forming and metal powder atomization being licensed in previous years. A Powder Group was established in the 1990s to manufacture and market very fine gas atomized powders, principally for metal injection molding (MIM). The first inert gas atomization plant using Osprey's unique fine powder technology was started up in1995.

Today, Sandvik Osprey is not only a major supplier to the global MIM industry but has branched out into related technologies such as the production of spray-formed controlled-expansion alloy components for electronics packaging and other advanced high-tech applications. In July this year the opportunity was taken to visit Sandvik Osprey's factory in Neath, South Wales, and sit down with Richard Park, Managing Director (Fig. 1) and some of his senior managers, to get an update on the company's progress and learn something about its future prospects.

This article appeared in the March/April issue of Metal Powder Report.

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