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AFAC are growing and it’s good news for customers!

AFAC has undergone some changes over the past 12 months, starting with the retirement of Director Lee Mullins. Son Ryan has stepped into his shoes after 25 years of supporting his father and learning the ropes.  AFAC is the end to end silicone rubber specialist and specialist rubber manufacturing.

Ryan brings a fresh approach and the enthusiasm to build further on his father’s years at the forefront.

So what does this mean to you?

On March the 1st, the full operation comes under 1 roof with a brand new custom built warehouse facility with additional staff to help support the growing and changing needs of our customers.

This means even more flexibility in service, product and provision with:-

  • Extended last order hours for next day delivery*
  • Collections available 6 days a week
  • Lower minimum order quantities
  • Reseller starter boxes
  • Selection packs
  • Over 1 million products in stock
  • Convenient location between the M1 and A1

Our bespoke facility enables us to customise orders, big and small whilst also speeding up turnaround times. Product ranges are already developing and expanding to meet the growing needs of the individuals. Be this health & safety officers, schools, researchers or specialist manufacturers.

Possibly our most exciting development is the addition of an in-house product designer who brings with him years of experience along with a 21st century approach to design and technology. The benefits of a custom design include:

  • Increased lifespan due to fit for purpose design and decreased wear and tear
  • Lower end product wastage
  • Improved labour efficiency and speed
  • Reduction in bottom line costs

In fact it’s something we do for customers all over the world already.

With over 35 years experience AFAC is the owner managed business you can rely on.

I’m sure you will agree it’s a very exciting time here at AFAC! With great strides however comes the inevitable disruption and we ask all our customers to bear with us through the move. Service continues as normal but there may be a bit of a delay in response times as we take extra care to make sure everything is in place and working efficiently.

And in the run up? Our biggest sale in history! See our promotion for details.

You will find out new facility at Unit 2 Caxton Road, Bedford MK41 0HT

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UK Inventors of the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug

Inventing the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug

It may be a cliché that need is the mother of invention but, in the case of the Bakewell Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug, it’s certainly true. As powder coating took over from wet paint spraying in the early 80s, a new need was identified. AFAC, or Applied Fastenings and Components as the company was then known, devised the perfect solution – The Bakewell SIlicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug—and it’s still selling strongly to this day!

Back then, the company’s business mainstay was supplying fasteners to sheet metal workers. If a customer required a female thread, either a weld nut, rivet bush or self-clinching nut would be supplied. Once assembled, these solutions provided a far stronger captive thread than simply tapping a hole through the sheet metal.

Happy clients all round? Well, no! There was still an issue. Sheet metal components tend to need protection from oxidization. In other words, they are painted, plated or given an electro-static powder coating. The problem with this is that exposed threads can become contaminated by the coating process, leaving them unfit for purpose when it comes to the final assembly.

AFAC had already solved this problem with regard to male threaded studs, so it was natural we should start casting around for a way of protecting the female threads. The existing solution of using PVC tapered plugs was fine for wet painting—but they couldn’t take the heat generated during powder coating. Diligent research suggested there was a material that would be just perfect for the job—silicone rubber. Able to withstand temperatures of up to 315°C while remaining flexible, it made the perfect solution for thread masking.

Careful thought went into the design of the new plug. Tapered in shape, it had a cylindrical head for easy handling. It was trialled in a range of sizes to ensure it sealed the thread, while leaving approximately one third of the plug out of the hole. This allowed electro-static attraction to draw the powder under the cylindrical head to cover the component right to the very edge of the hole. With generous help from a local powder coater, the new plug was tested and declared a success!

The Bakewell Silicone Rubber powder coating Plug has now been in production for over 30 years, in a range of colour coded sizes, and it continues to be an invaluable masking tool for all powder-coating operations. It’s the original hole-masking solution—devised and designed by AFAC!


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AFAC taking flight in the 1980s

As a keen engineer with a love of all things aeronautical, it was never going to be long before Lee Mullins combined his two passions to take to the sky. So, as if building up a fledgling business wasn’t enough to contend with, he found a new hobby to potter with in the shed. But his shed was a little larger than most people’s—it was a warehouse owned by his business. And his hobby? Rebuilding two written-off Auster aircraft!

Lee started his career in aviation—he was an apprentice at Westland Helicopters—but his abiding interested in planes and flying dates back even further. As well as being a Royal Marines Commando during WW2, Lee’s father, Cyril was a member of the design team at Fairey Aviation after the War. This shared interest between father and son meant that Lee spent much of his youthful spare time spotting aircraft. Living near Heathrow might be some people’s idea of hell, but for a young aviation enthusiast it was heaven—and this was in the golden years of civil aviation before the jet age.

Lee’s love of aircraft went from strength to strength and he got himself involved in aviation projects whenever he could. One such undertaking involved volunteering to help rebuild and restore the Sea Hurricane now kept by the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden and their Cierva autogiro, now in the hands of collector, Kermit Weeks in the USA.

Lee wanted more—so far his aviation hobby had been confined to the ground. Finally, by the time he was in his mid 30’s, he was able to fund flying lessons in a pre-computerisation 1946 aircraft called an Auster. The bug bit—he took to flying like a duck to water and he joined various groups that shared ownership of planes, until the momentous day when he was finally able to buy his own.

But there was one small snag. The plane he bought wasn’t airworthy. It was a written-off Auster and his intention was to rebuild it as quickly as he could and get it airborne. However, these sorts of projects have a habit of taking on a life of their own. He bought a second written-off Auster to harvest for parts but that, too, became a rebuild project.

Throughout the 80s, the restorations continued and his restored wreck finally left the runway in 1986. And as for Lee? He may no longer be rebuilding or flying aircraft, but his interest in aviation continues to this day!

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Turning back the AFAC clock

It’s been 34 years since Lee Mullins established a fledgling business in his spare bedroom. Now AFAC is about to celebrate its 35th anniversary. So what was life like in those dim and distant days at the start of the 80s? We’re turning back the clock to when there was just one man, a borrowed Triumph Herald (or 2) parked on the drive and a four-year-old more interested in his imminent first day at school than what than what would become an enduring family business…

On the home front

Something mysterious was happening in the spare bedroom. The door was usually shut but when four-year-old Ryan sneaked a peek, all he could see were stacks and stacks of small cardboard boxes…

For his father Lee, starting up AFAC from home was the realisation of a dream—he used his experience in the captive fasteners market to establish an off-the-shelf supply for small engineering businesses. But of course, with a young family to support, it was not a venture without risk. Happily though, the business took off and as young Ryan discovered the delights of play school, Lee was able to move the business out of the spare room and into new premises in Letchworth Garden City.

Making the news

While the establishment of a small business in Hertfordshire might not have hit the headlines, 1980 was a year with plenty going on. Vintage actor Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, while here in the UK Margaret Thatcher went head-to-head with striking steel workers. Taking a humorous view of politics, Yes, Minister had its first airing, while Imagine topped the charts in response to John Lennon’s murder in December. The first Ford Escort Mk3 hit the roads, MG production ended, a UFO was sighted near RAF Woodbridge and, during the Conservative Party Conference, Margaret Thatcher famously declared, “The lady’s not for turning!”

What were you doing in 1980?