Fostering innovation: HLH Rapid’s High-Mix/Low-Volume Approach to Manufacturing
HLH Rapid Limited is a comprehensive rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing solution provider for innovative companies, engineers and designers looking to source custom mechanical parts fast and reliably.
HLH works across a number of industries, from automotive and aerospace, through to robotics, consumer electronics and medical. Its global appeal stems from its efficiency of output without compromising on quality, offering lead times as short as 2 days for 3D printed parts, 4 days for CNC machining, and 2 weeks for rapid injection molding.
Interview with James Murphy, Co-Founder and Director of HLH RAPID.
Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?
James Murphy: Although we have been involved in many large-scale projects over the years, our main area of focus is on high mix, high quality but in the low to mid volumes in terms of quantity.
Many subcontractors and manufacturers often don’t want to deal with quantities below a certain level as they find profit margins to be slim, but this doesn’t change the nature of the problem. R&D expenditures have substantially increased over the last two decades, and production life-cycles are shorter thanks to heightened demand for customization and optimization. Overall, there is a greater need and demand for one-offs and small batch sizes of 10,000 parts or fewer.
We’ve found that the appetite for low-volume work, coupled with our speed of supply, has proven to be lucrative for us, especially in our core markets, which include the UK, North America and Europe, where the competition for such a niche is minimal.
E.E: What’s the news about new products?
J.M: Earlier this year, we began offering 3D scanning services in the UK. Our facility in China has also undergone construction in the summer and we’ve made space for additional SLS 3D printers, injection mold machines and CNC machines.
E.E:What are the ranges of products?
J.M: We offer a wide and comprehensive range of manufacturing solutions that enables us to fulfill one-off prototypes as well as series production of parts. Our full-range manufacturing service includes rapid tooling and injection molding, CNC machining, plastic and metal 3d printing, die casting, sheet metal prototyping, vacuum casting, carbon fiber solutions, 3d scanning, and post processing.
E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?
J.M: Manufacturing is a very mature market obviously but within this there are emerging niches and technologies which are newer and still maturing. As a business HLH combines both legacy technologies and higher tech processes such as additive manufacturing which allows us to offer our clients a great mix of resources. Also, we have always tried to remain open to incorporating technology into our work flows to help us do things better.
E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?
J.M: The industry is always exciting as we are working with companies in the R&D stage, so we constantly see new markets and industries as they emerge. Over the last couple of years, both robotics and green tech have been exploding and we expect these industries to continue to grow in the short term. It is really exciting to see these new industries emerge and the companies within them.
E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?
J.M: The projects we work on with our clients are confidential. I can however reveal that there are many exciting innovations within the life science, green tech and robotics spaces. There are always new companies and startups emerging challenging the world with new ideas and technologies, this is what I love most about what we do. Helping these companies to change the world, hopefully for the better.
E.E: What estimations do you have for the rest of 2023?
J.M: Our UK team has doubled in size in the last six months and growth among our main markets is looking promising. But obviously the current situation in the middle east and the ongoing war in Ukraine are both incredibly tragic and create a lot of uncertainty for the future. The world seems to be in a precarious place at the moment, but I read a lot and one thing that does is allow you vicariously to live in other times and places. I think there have always been challenges and somehow, we seem to muddle through.
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