COMMENT: Is this a new chapter in our proud industrial history?

Component of the Year at William Cook Sheffield - and the 3D printer it started life on.
Component of the Year at William Cook Sheffield - and the 3D printer it started life on.
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Was I at the start of the fourth industrial revolution?

About 100 of us gathered in a tent outside Metalysis’ new headquarters on the Advanced Manufacturing Park to be told the news.

But only with hindsight will we know whether it was era-defining. And only with experience will we know whether the firm’s powdered metals processing methods will play a key part in the future.

But the signs are good. Metalysis says it can make any alloy out of any combination of every metallic element. That’s gazillions of metals, according to the boss, only a tiny number of which have ever been made. And thanks to 3D printing, they can be turned into just about anything.

Demand for powder is shooting up. Last year, US manufacturing conglomerate General Electric spent $1.4 billion on two European 3D metal printing firms.

But Metalysis is not the only company carrying South Yorkshire’s expertise in metals into the future.

William Cook Cast Products has reinvented itself as 3D printing specialist capable of producing the most complex cast parts the world has ever seen, at one tenth of the cost and in one tenth of the time.

The Parkway firm has already won the Cast Metals Industry’s Component of the Year Award for a valve cage used in the oil industry, that started life on the firm’s 3D printer. It follows a £6m investment in a new Precision Foundry, which opened last month.

These breakthroughs could help write a new chapter in South Yorkshire’s world famous expertise in metals.

And they come after McLaren and Boeing announced plans to build factories on the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Incredible. Can anyone remember a better start to the year?