After six years in the engineering sector, it’s not often that I visit a show for the first time anymore. Having attended events such as Southern Manufacturing, Subcon and TCT Show multiple times, 2018 was the first year I visited Advanced Engineering at the NEC in Birmingham. That’s not to say that Advanced Engineering was unknown to me. In fact, I had heard extremely positive reports from a number of people who have either visited or exhibited previously, meaning that I was especially looking forward to attending their tenth anniversary event and seeing the show in action.
Advanced Engineering is an extremely well-established event within the engineering industry’s calendar, rivalling similar shows in terms of prestige and reputation. It is also one of the most comprehensive, bringing all aspects and subsectors of engineering together under one roof. With a focus on different manufacturing industries such as aerospace, automotive and nuclear, as well as materials such as composites and performance metals, Advanced Engineering leaves no stone unturned for visitors requiring a myriad of engineering solutions.
In fact, the sheer size of the show is difficult to convey. After walking through an arch made from balloons - a nod to the poignancy of this year’s event as a landmark anniversary - I picked up a show guide to fathom out the floor plan. Comprised of dedicated ‘zones’ which allow visitors to prioritise exhibitors that meet their needs, Advanced Engineering has a well-considered layout that ensures exhibitors meet potential buyers who have an active interest in their services.
Qimtek & the UK Contract Manufacturing Zone
This year, Qimtek partnered with Advanced Engineering to promote the use of UK supply chains. As the UK Contract Manufacturing Zone Partner, we exhibited alongside a range of distinguished companies to showcase national subcontract engineering solutions. What’s more, as the first day of Advanced Engineering coincided with Halloween, we also took the opportunity to ply visitors with as much sugar as possible (because, if you can’t eat your body weight in sweets on Halloween, then when can you?).
I made the Qimtek stand my first port of call and was pleased to see a number of visitors already engaged in conversations, despite the doors only having been open for half an hour prior to my arrival. It also appeared to be a similar scenario for neighbouring stands, who were busy chatting away to potential buyers about their services.
It’s really positive to see that Advanced Engineering are supporting UK industry by introducing a committed zone. Although nestled amongst much larger zones, hopefully this section will continue to grow year on year, bringing more and more UK subcontract engineering companies along with it to exhibit.
There really is so much to see at Advanced Engineering that it’s hard to know where to begin. From live-action vacuum forming demonstrations given by Alan Harper Composites Ltd, to seeing a rather beautiful McLaren car in the flesh, the miles of floor give way to interesting stands at every turn.
It took a considerable amount of time to cover the vast expanse of the show, making my way from zone to zone and taking in everything that each one had to offer. With so many approachable exhibitors, I was lucky enough to have some very interesting conversations over the course of my journey and the feedback regarding the success of the show seemed very positive.
Exactaform are a UK-based PCD tooling specialist that work alongside some major names within the aerospace and automotive spheres. Subsequently, their sizeable stand was situated within the Aero Engineering Zone and by the time of my passing, was awash with visitors. I spoke with intern Amrit and aerospace sales manager Martin Burns, who were upbeat about the time at Advanced Engineering thus far.
‘We’ve exhibited here before, but as an intern, this is my first-ever exhibition,’ Amrit told me. ‘The footfall has been increasing every hour and we’re expecting that it’ll continue to do so.’
‘We’re here at Advanced Engineering to network and establish contacts that could be beneficial to both parties in future - it’s one of the major shows that we exhibit at and it’s been great so far.’
Making my way down into the Connected Manufacturing Zone, this sentiment continued to preside. I stopped to speak with Nick McGladdery, consultant at ERP software manufacturer E-Max Systems. Unlike other ERP solutions providers, E-Max Systems have tailored their software specifically for the engineering and manufacturing sectors, meaning that their alignment with Advanced Engineering - and the Connected Manufacturing Zone as a niche - is extremely prominent.
‘This is our third year exhibiting here,’ explained Nick. ‘Two years ago, we shared a cluster stand and after a very positive experience, we decided to take a stand on our own. We feel that we’re in a good location for our business and the volume of visitors has been really encouraging.’
‘Our primary aim is to generate new contacts - it’s a great chance to meet with both existing and potential customers, as well as to scope out our competitors!’
Finally, I spoke with Tim Dalton, account manager and technical sales at Gesipa - fellow newcomers to Advanced Engineering. Gesipa specialises in the manufacture of rivets and rivet nuts, with 95% of production going into the automotive industry. In light of this, their stand was located within the Automotive Engineering Zone, although Tim was impressed with the diversity of visitors they had received.
‘The footfall has been brilliant - not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the cross-section of industries represented,’ he elaborated. ‘We’ve had visitors from aerospace, automotive, nuclear and small companies; all of them use our products and are interested in hearing what we’ve got to say.’
‘It’s a fantastic exhibition - we’re showcasing some of our new process control equipment on the stand and meeting new and old customers alike.’
Conferences & Seminars
During my visit to Advanced Engineering, I was keen to attend some of the seminars being given by industry experts. Having studied the conference programme in the run-up to the event, I was astounded by the amount on offer, with many of the zones having their own dedicated seminars about topics specific to the respective industry.
On the day, I didn’t have the chance to attend as many as I would have liked, owing to the magnitude of the event and the time taken to simply walk around it. However, I did manage to get myself a front-row seat for the space engineering conferences, which took place within the Aero Engineering Zone. I can honestly say that I have never found a set of seminars so fascinating - after all, space engineering is such an interesting topic and it’s not every day that you get to hear from industry experts.
It Is Rocket Science! UK Space Engineering for the New Space Economy - Dr Alex Brinkmeyer - Oxford Space Systems:
First on the agenda was a talk given by Dr Alex Brinkmeyer from Oxford Space Systems. Founded in 2013, Oxford Space Systems has won multiple awards for its contributions towards satellite technology. Dr Alex Brinkmeyer’s presentation centred on the latest innovations within the field. With over 1700 functional satellites in orbit and growth expected to triple over the next five years, it’s crucial that satellite technology continues to develop in line with demand. Alex explained that due to limitations in payload space on a rocket, satellites need to be as streamlined as possible whilst still able to meet their end objective. Oxford Space Systems have engineered a range of deployable antennae, booms and panels that save much-needed space within the rocket and have also set two new world records. Not stopping there, their booms are now being developed for a mission to remove space debris, which - if growth follows predicted trajectories - will be much-needed to prevent cluttering.
Why It’s Important to Improve the Public Engagement in Space - Chris Isaac - Festomane:
Next up was Chris Isaac from Festomane - Festival of Manufacturing & Engineering. Festomane is committed to increasing interest surrounding engineering and manufacturing, whilst encouraging the younger generations to consider a STEM-based career. As operations director of the charity, Chris outlined the reality that the public aren’t necessarily interested in space exploration, whilst a shockingly high percentage of people feel that space exploration hasn’t been of benefit to them personally. He proposes that the industry as a whole needs to do more to engage the public and that by introducing a ‘common language’, as well as taking steps to increase space education within schools (the curriculum dedicated to space at Key Stage 3 is worryingly small), the space technology sector will become more accessible and understandable to the general public, who will in turn, become more supportive of space exploration as a whole.
SABRE: A New Approach to Space Access and Hypersonic Flight - Mark Wood - Reaction Engines:
As the final instalment in the space technology series, Mark Wood’s presentation on the SABRE engine brought to life the possibilities that await the industry in the near future. SABRE - an abbreviation of Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine - is a reusable engine that could revolutionise space transportation and travel. Capable of 0-Mach 5.4 acceleration, SABRE uses an intake to capture air, which is then rapidly cooled from 1000 degrees centigrade down the subzero temperatures in milliseconds. This air is used to drive the turbines and propel the craft, whilst SABRE also has a traditional ‘rocket mode’ which can be used for space exploration. Although this technology is still under development by Reaction Engines, it has the potential to markedly cut the cost of space launch, therefore supporting and revolutionising the increasing growth of the industry.
Advanced Engineering 2019 - Should I Attend?
As a complete newcomer to Advanced Engineering in 2018, I cannot recommend it enough for engineering and manufacturing buyers and suppliers. The scale of the show is so vast that you’re bound to come away with plenty of ideas and inspiration, as well as a host of new industry contacts. The atmosphere at Advanced Engineering is extremely positive, making it conducive to effective networking and exchange of ideas. What’s more, you’re able to plan your visit effectively due to the use of dedicated zones, making your time at the show much more productive and streamlined.
Whether you’re an engineering services provider, a manufacturing purchaser, or someone who has an active interest in these areas, then I thoroughly recommend that you earmark Advanced Engineering 2019 as an event that is guaranteed to refresh and inspire you.