Aston University: Aston University and Qualitetch develop novel steel-etching filtration system to increase turnover by £1.6 million

Aston University has completed a 24-month knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with precision steel-etching company Qualitetch Components Ltd (QCL), resulting in a novel in-line filtration process. The unique system has resulted in a better-controlled manufacturing process, reduced core manufacturing costs, increased productivity and a projected turnover growth of £1.6 million over the next three years.

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified graduate, known as a KTP associate. The UK-wide programme helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills.

Aston University is the leading KTP provider within the Midlands and the project with QCL was awarded the highest grade of ‘Outstanding’ by the Innovate UK KTP Grading Panel.

QCL, which is based in March just outside Peterborough, creates customer-specific, precision-etched manufacturing solutions for the aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical devices and aesthetic/decorative sectors.
The company has had a long-term issue with the accumulation of carbon particles inside etching baths while producing high-quality etched components using photo and chemical etching processes. Through the KTP, the company sought to solve the problem through Aston University’s knowledge and skill in developing in-line membrane filtrations, allowing greater machine capacity, more consistent manufacturing processes and improved competitiveness.

Dr Qingchun Yuan, a lecturer in chemical engineering with rich experience in solving engineering processing problems, led the academic team from Aston University. The project saw Dr Yuan jointly publish a paper with KTP associate Soroush Mehdizadeh, who now works full-time at QCL as a process development engineer.

Dr Yuan was joined by Dr Zhentao Wu, an expert in the application of hollow fibre membranes to commercial sectors, who said: “A KTP is a great mechanism for engaging with industry, while at the same time boosting teaching and research at the University. It is very exciting to see our research excel in real-world situations.”

Alexander Craig, QCL managing director, said: “The KTP process is an ideal way for SMEs to climb the ladder of development. The collaboration with Aston University has allowed us to grow our business in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.”

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