Phoenix 15th Anniversary

As Phoenix enters its 15th year of trading in 2018, we would like to share with you some of our history and highlights, and how we have grown and developed from a small calibration services company into an innovative manufacturing business specialising in materials testing and assembly. Take a look at our history of Phoenix throughout the ages!

2003: Phoenix is formed

On 18th March 2003, Darren and Vicki Wilkes formed Phoenix Calibrations & Services Ltd; a UKAS accredited calibration company supporting machines built by its predecessor, ESH Testing Ltd. Over the next seven years, Phoenix continued to grow and develop its capabilities and became a manufacturing business, specialising in building bespoke testing machines, offering consultancy and technical support and continuing its original calibration services.

2005: We won our 1st international sale

In 2005 Phoenix won an order for a creep testing machine to be delivered to Malaysia, the business was not set up for manufacturing at that time so we managed to design, build and export the system from the office at our home in Wolverhampton and a garage facility in Bobbington! A far cry from the dedicated factory and offices we now occupy in Brierley Hill.

2006: Our 1st apprentice joins the team

As Phoenix grew we needed to recruit extra staff; we decided to try the apprenticeship route enabling us to train a young person in the skills required, while they developed the academic background through a formal programme. Both our current Operations Manager and Design Supervisor joined us after A levels and have successfully worked their way through Level 4 apprenticeships and part time degrees.

2007: We built our largest machine

Having bid on tenders via our local agents, and after nearly 3 years of discussions, we won our first major contract for Malaysia - a 3000kN Universal Test Machine! This project required us to work with a wide range of suppliers and associates, with the main frame being built in Korea due to material costs (to Phoenix design), and the controls and high precision parts being shipped from the UK. This made for a truly international Factory Acceptance Test in Seoul! The system has worked well for over a decade and marked the point where Phoenix moved into handling large, high value, projects.

2008: We developed our Alpha Digital Control System

Many customers were telling us there was a lack of choice in the market when it came to upgrading control systems on frames, so Phoenix decided to invest time and money in developing a system to give our customers more options. In 2008 we sold our first Alpha Digital Control system to Imperial College, fitted to a Phoenix bench top test machine.

This was a major step forward and only one year later we sold our first full multi-channel control system, controlling eight actuators on a strong floor in any combination required by the customer. The control system and software have been continually developed and improved to support the ongoing needs of our customers when developing and running R&D test programmes. 10 years on the original Alpha is still going strong at Imperial!

2010: Phoenix moves to a new site

Due to increasing demand from customers for larger items and complete testing systems, Phoenix invested in a new factory that would allow us the space to design and develop new products. Based on the Wallows Industrial Estate in Brierley Hill, the new premises would also allow us to begin development for our own in-house testing laboratory.

2011: Merlin Powder Characterisation Ltd is launched

In 2011 our sister company Merlin Powder Characterisation was established equipped with our latest Phoenix Compaction Simulator, focusing on tableting and powder compaction technology; measuring and characterising a wide range of powder properties before, during and after compaction, using unique technologies to enable a small amount of sample to reliably predict large scale behaviour. Although Merlin's initial focus was within the Pharmaceutical industry, we have now expanded our customer base to oil & gas, food, and chemical customers.

2012: We won our 1st UK tender

We bid for the AFRC tender to design and produce a Forge Simulator to a very demanding specification. This was our first major tender bid in the UK, and we were thrilled to be awarded the contract. This was a very challenging build, from high performance software and mechanical responses, and elevated temperature control, but we completed it successfully and it has been in high demand ever since. This project opened up Phoenix’s major interest in environmental and elevated temperature systems which we continue to pursue.

2013: Our 1st KTP Associate joins the team

As a small business sometimes you can see an opportunity to make a step change in your technology, but don’t always have the capacity or skills in house. The Government's Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme is the ideal solution to this challenge. We submitted a proposal to develop the next generation of control system, and it was approved. Phoenix worked with Wolverhampton University over the following two years to recruit Edison Owhonda as our first KTP associate and develop new cutting edge systems. Edison is still working at Phoenix and is currently leading our electronics design capability.

2015: Our sub-contract Testing Laboratory is open for business

Phoenix launched its own specialist in-house, sub-contract materials testing laboratory in March 2015. This gave us the ability to collaborate fully with our customers, offering ongoing development of testing techniques and technologies to suit a range of requirements and bespoke testing solutions. Phoenix is the only test machine manufacturer who not only design and builds bespoke systems, but can also offer UKAS accredited calibration as well as UKAS accredited testing for our customers.

2016: Phoenix joins the Rubery Owen Group

As a successful independent business, Phoenix wanted to continue developing cutting edge technology and innovative solutions for materials testing, and there was a need to develop a suitable partnership. Phoenix became part of the Rubery Owen Group; a West Midlands based business with a 130 year plus history in manufacturing and metal technology. As part of the Rubery Owen Group, we are proud to be working as part of a family with other successful companies including Rozone, Rotronics Battery Management, Merlin Powder Characterisation, Shukers, Techtron and Rotech Laboratories.

2017: We became Phoenix Materials Testing Ltd

We rebranded as Phoenix Materials Testing Ltd in July 2017, redeveloping our image to focus on the three key elements of our business; Design & Manufacture, Materials Testing, and Service & Calibration. Our new name allows us to showcase the full range of products and services available and demonstrate the wealth of expertise within our team.

2018: Our future

Looking back over the past 15 years makes us appreciate how far Phoenix has come, but we are always looking at what the next materials testing challenge will be. The move towards Electric Vehicles and battery development, more focus on understanding and predicting the influence of complex temperature profiles and environments on materials, miniaturisation and new manufacturing techniques are sure to keep us busy and innovative for the next 15 years and beyond.

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