Posted on

3D Printing for rapid prototyping

It was inevitable that 3D printing would become part of the service AFAC would provide for prototyping parts. For some time the compromise on quality against cost of equipment was too great for the company to bear. As with all technology, the investment costs have been reducing and the quality of outut has been improving.

Recently, a new customer to AFAC contacted us about multiple problems they were experiencing with their existing masking solutions. As with any customer experiencing issues, AFAC set about understanding the causes before proposing solutions.

One of the problems being experienced was a component with a bore to be masked through a plating process. Not just any bore though, this was more complicated than anything the standard ranges could mask efficiently enough to avoid post plating rework.

Working from drawings of the component, AFAC has designed a plug specially for the application. Due to NDA we can’t publish any images. Because of the same NDA, releasing drawings to the mould maker and parts manufacturer in the far east isn’t an option.

For this customer and it’s likely many others, reaching the point of having a final product design and prototype before anything is sent for production is desirable. It protects secrecy, speeds up the prototyping process and enables product modifications more easily.

3D printing a working sample has long been practice in many industries. The products AFAC makes are elastomeric or rubberised. The properties of rubber are built in to designs to improve seal, fit and usability. A hard plastic solution wouldn’t be a satisfactory solution.

Finally, there is a product that reports to have the accuracy, finish and output properties required to prototype simple and complex rubber components for manufacturers.

AFAC is pleased to be running live trials of this solution with the customer mentioned above. If you’re interested in finding out the outcome please get in touch.

Have you got a finishing issue that you’re finding tricky to resolve? Speak to the experts. We’ve been doing this 40 years!

Posted on

AFAC Lockdown Move

The plan had always been to be in the new premises for April 1st. The plan was not to move everything on my own in my van! That’s how it turned out though…

Beginning of March my wife and I self isolated for 2 weeks in accordance with advice having travelled from Italy. Just as we were coming to the end of this, the government closed schools and lockdown began. Mid March, country in lockdown, new premises to move to, old premises to get out of.

Had no choice, I had to start loading up my van and getting on with it. I’m so glad I’d put in the time to planning what was going where some time in advance…

It probably took 15 van loads in the end and a lot of lifting. Knowing where everything was going and having extra space to spread out actually made the move pretty painless. By April 1st I was sat at my desk. Patchy internet and phone coverage but that’s to be fixed.

I’m pleased to say, just as manufacturing demands have started shifting, the business is in its strongest position yet to be able to service new customers with urgent supplies.

The website also had a large overhaul before the move to make finding products and options easier than ever.

Posted on

Huge Systems Upgrade at AFAC

For the past 12 months, AFAC has been going through a business streamlining process in order to bring its infrastructure systems up to today’s demanding digital standards. The company had been running on legacy systems inherited when the business transferred over to the founder’s son 5 years ago.

What that means is things were taking longer than they should do and communication between systems was limiting. This had no negative impact on AFAC’s outstanding quality record but it limited opportunities for business growth. These challenges, we’re aware, affect many small businesses, particularly those with long trading histories.

AFAC celebrates 40 years of trade this year to give you some idea. Today’s market is a completely different landscape to 1980 when business began. Computers weren’t a luxury back then. Communication was pretty much limited to the telephone and handwriting. Imagine that! How would young people of today cope?

Well similarly, how do old businesses cope?

Change! That’s the method. Adapt! That’s the strategy. AFAC has always aimed to provide a brilliant user experience. By phone and email the company’s been able to service quality conscious manufacturing business nationally and internationally. Through growth come challenges though. Skills availability is limited. Technology investments are usually front loaded. The odds of being able to do it all are somewhat stacked against the micro-business. The skills needed are so wide it’s very difficult to keep all the work in-house.

Ryan, the business owner, set about putting a plan together that would enable AFAC to communicate essential information with its customers, avoid unnecessary replication of information, limit human error as much as possible and integrate with wider business systems to open untapped markets. Quite a list! Luckily, we’ve been able to do it all in-house so far.

Well we’re pleased to announce the first major milestone has been reached. It’s taken for granted in businesses where it works but cleansing a 40 year old system with accuracy and migrating all information into new stock management, accounts and website systems has been an arduous task.

Now, all stock products are listed on our website with real-time stock levels. OK so there’s a bit of cleaning up to do but if stock is showing it’s definitely on our shelves!

Posted on

NEWS: AFAC signs lease for new premises!


AFAC has been growing consistently and the time has come for new premises. The company is very pleased to announce, after a lot of searching, a new home has been found! Based in the villages to the north of Bedford, still with easy access to the M1 and A1, the new premises are located on an idyllic farm.

What does this mean for AFAC customers? It’s good news all round as the warehouse space and office space increases. Current stocks normally sit at around 2 million parts. The new building will enable the business to up this to somewhere around 8 million should we need to.

Our in-house production facility for self adhesive shapes will also be improving. With a dedicated clean room housing our machinery and preparation areas, custom cut shapes will be produced in dust free surroundings enabling us to maintain strict quality standards.

Ryan Mullins, Director

With future plans for further investment into rapid prototyping, the new premises provides sufficient space for those plans to be realised too.

In terms of schedule, the lease has just been signed with a start date to coincide with the new financial year. Hopefully keys will be received prior to this but that’s the official date. As customers will appreciate, there’s a lot to be done between now and then in terms of preparation.

A full stock check will take place on arrival to ensure stock levels are correct. This is in preparation for plans to take all products online. The company website will be improved as well as opening up sales channels into EBay and Amazon.

Aligning our stock system to work properly with our website, Amazon and EBay has been a challenging feat. Over the years the stock management system has inherited various anomalies that have had to be cleansed completely to allow the business to run efficiently in today’s market.

Ryan Mullins, Director

The new premises will also house dedicated photography and videography equipment to enable supporting media for the companies online activities. AFAC is headed up by Ryan Mullins whose background is marketing and media. The business has strong plans to utilise enhanced technology to further improve customer experience.

It’s exciting times for AFAC and the owners are delighted to be improving their ability to service UK manufacturing to the highest standards. AFAC is a primary supplier of masking systems into the Aerospace, Electronic, Automotive and metal finishing sectors.

The company has come a long way since I started 40 years ago. I’m delighted to see the business flourishing and this move is an exciting time for the family. The location is wonderful and I look forward to spending some time with my son at the new unit.

Lee Mullins, Founder
Posted on

The London to Brighton Off Road Cycling Event

London | Brighton Off Road

Company Director, Ryan Mullins has just signed up for the London to Brighton off road cycling event. This charity event organised by the British Heart Foundation stretches over 71 / 74 miles (depending what page you read). That 3 mile difference will probably feel like the length of England on the day……

Ryan is the son of company founder Lee Mullins and has been in charge now for nearly 3 years. Lee has taken retirement and now spends most of his time either at the local aircraft museum or tinkering with cars in his garage at home.

So why did Ryan decide on the London to Brighton off road?

Ryan is a keen cyclist and a British Cycling qualified level 2 coach. Not only does he ride bikes but he enjoys building them too. His main passion is mountain biking which he said this about.

I love getting out in the woods at the weekends. It’s so peaceful and I get a mix of adrenaline, fitness and general wellbeing. Ryan Mullins

When Ryan heard about the London to Brighton off road he had immediately said he would like to take part. 2018 seemed the perfect year for it with a combination of fitness and equipment that would form a great foundation for working up to the 70+ mile adventure. The fact it’s for a good cause too just makes it all the more worthwhile.

Ryan will be knuckling down with a training regime over the next few months which includes a 50 mile off road event more locally at Milton Keynes in the summer.

Visit Ryan’s Just Giving page here if you’d like to make a contribution to the British Heart Foundation and sponsor Ryan’s London to Brighton ride.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

If you’re interested in taking part, visit this link: BHF London to Brighton Off Road