A firm which has diversified from pig feeders to plane parts has invested £3.2m and created 27 new jobs as it moves into the global aerospace industry.
Established in 1971, SJC Hutchinson Engineering started life as an agricultural fabrication firm and is now one of Northern Ireland's leading laser-cutting manufacturing companies. It is also moving into the offshore renewables market, manufacturing parts for wind turbines.
The company has now launched its specialist division, Hutchinson AeroTech, which will supply stainless steel and titanium processing for the aerospace sector, and is currently working with a number of academic institutes and aerospace companies to research the effects of processing aerospace materials using a laser.
As a result, 27 new jobs will be created – 14 will be based in Kilrea and the remaining 13 at Hutchinson's new premises in Antrim, which was officially opened this week. In August, the Belfast Telegraph revealed the firm had secured the 10,000sq ft site and had purchased machinery, including the Trumpf Trumatic 6,000, one of only three in the world, and the only one in the UK which allows materials to be cut with zero 'splatter', resulting in a higher quality processed edge.
The UK aerospace sector, second only to the USA, generates over £24bn of UK revenues and Northern Ireland contributes nearly £1bn to this total, making it one of the top regions in scale.
In Northern Ireland over 8,000 people are employed directly in the sector, which accounts for around 14% of manufactured exports.
Mark Hutchinson, managing director of the firm, was recently named as the Institute of Directors' Northern Ireland's Family Business Director of the Year.
He said that the firm is building on over 40 years of experience of working with clients who demand the very best in precision and accuracy.
"Our investment in researching the effects of laser-cutting on aerospace materials should differentiate us from our competitors and allow us to offer customers higher quality components for precision applications," he said.
Invest Northern Ireland has offered SJC Hutchinson Engineering over £686,000 to support the investment, including £349,000 towards its research and development activities.
Dr Leslie Orr (left), manager of ADS in Northern Ireland, a trade body for the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, added: "It is great that companies like Hutchinson AeroTech are using their expertise in manufacturing to offer this sector machining and fabrication services."