Metal in Motion

Perfect way to bring theory into practice


I was fortunate enough to be invited on a factory tour to Aldermans near Plymouth. They are a leading metalwork manufacturer specialising as a one stop shop for metal assemblies. I was soon to learn they also turn, press metal and powder coat in-house.

This visit came soon after my previous tour at the injection moulding company Hymid. I was excited to continue see another and very different manufacturing process first hand. Visits like this are proving to be the perfect way to bring theory into practice.

Design theory to manufacture
During the first and second year of the Product Design course I studied at Bournemouth University .We study Materials and Processing but this does not prepare you for the reality of the shop floor.

As I walked onto the shop floor I physically felt the work going on there. Stamping machines made the air reverberate and the sound of grinding and the buzz of everyone working made it all come to life. Plain steel strip entering one end and parts falling out the other was mesmerising.

Barry McGough (Technical Engineer at Aldermans) escorted me round on the tour and talked me through their capabilities and how they have developed as a business during their 47 years of trading. I was introduced to a range of machines which seemed like a walk through time from the hand operated presses to their latest fully automatic punch laser cutter machine.

Progression Metal Pressing
Barry explained the processes of progression metal pressing and showed how a coil of steel is automatically fed through the punch and die to form a continuous profile or how it can pierce out complex and fully formed parts.

Various metal processes
I saw many other processes including CNC turret punching, welding, brazing and laser cutting. In the tooling workshop, I was greeted by CNC lathes and many others which were familiar to me from university.

Something not so familiar was their in-house powder coating facility. This process involves powder coating a metal product and then baking it for a set period of time in an oven at 180 degrees centigrade. The oven was bigger than I had imagined and visually complimented the theory I had studied on my course. 

Client Meeting
After the tour, I was invited to sit in on a client meeting with Karen Friendship (Managing Director at Aldermans) and Chris Howsam (Managing Director at Hillside Product Design). Being able to sit in made being a designer feel more real. Listening to the design process in action in the context of real life business considerations made me more aware of the elements that combine to develop even a relatively simple part.

Thank you Karen and Barry for your time and hospitality. I had a great time at your premises. Thank you for having me Aldermans.

By Quy Te

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