Renishaw financial results 2014

Business focus: 3D printing spells success for UK firm

A leading precision engineer receives an unfair pounding, while fuel cell innovators seek a research boost.

British precision engineering firm Renishaw has enjoyed an eventful 2014, winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the innovations category and acquiring a US company, Advanced Consulting & Engineering.

Renishaw is the UK’s only maker of metal 3D-printing machines, also known as metal-additive printing, and it showcased its products at this year’s Farnborough Air Show, where the use of such technologies in aerospace manufacturing received a high profile.

However, posting its latest annual results, Renishaw - which also makes a range of precision-measurement, metrology and motion-control products - admitted that it took an earnings hit in 2013 because of the strength of sterling. This is because most of the company’s products are exported overseas.

While revenues for the year rose 2 per cent to £355.5m compared with 2012, profits fell 11 per cent to £70m. Nearly 40 per cent of revenues come from the Far East, followed by Continental Europe at around 30 per cent and the Americas at 24 per cent.

Renishaw said it had seen a strong performance at its 3D-printing business as demand has hiked among manufacturers. It also saw good growth in its measurement automation and motion control encoder products.

While still a small part of its overall business, healthcare is seen as having strong potential too. The company produces medical devices, surgical robots and planning software for use in neurosurgery. Renishaw also provides automated medical diagnostics systems for disease detection.

The Queen’s Award this year was won for the development of its inVia Raman microscope, which uses a form of light (Raman) scattering to analyse the chemical structure and composition of materials. The technology can be applied to sectors such as pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and forensics.

Renishaw has now won 17 Queen’s Awards since its formation in 1973, but the latest award was its first outside the field of industrial metrology.

The Gloucestershire-based company, which has subsidiaries in China and Poland and assembly plants in Ireland and India, said it had increased its global headcount by 257 to almost 3,500, including 43 apprentices and 59 graduates in the UK.

Its chairman, chief executive and co-founder Sir David McMurtry said: “The Group strategy to invest for the long-term, expanding our global marketing and distribution infrastructure, along with increasing manufacturing capacity and research and development activities continues.”

Renishaw says its printing and metrology products are ideally placed to take advantage of demand in this sector. However, it may face stiff competition from major aerospace companies such as BAE Systems, which is developing this technology. 

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