in Aerospace

Fine Tubes celebrates its 75th anniversary

Posted 11 December 2018 · Add Comment

Plymouth-based manufacturer of high-precision, high performance tubing products, Fine Tubes, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Fine Tubes supplies a wide range of advanced stainless steel, nickel alloy and titanium tubes for the most critical applications in the aerospace, medical, oil and gas, and energy industries.

Founded in Surbiton in 1943, Fine Tubes began construction of a 51,000-sq-ft production facility in the northern part of Plymouth back in 1960 and then moved into its new factory in 1962. Fine Tubes has been a major local employer in Plymouth ever since and can look back on several key milestones.  Since 2016, Fine Tubes has been part of the Specialty Metal Products division of AMETEK Inc., a leading global manufacturer of electronic instruments and electromechanical devices with annualized sales of $4.8 billion.

Its early success in the aerospace market began back in 1957, when Fine Tubes started to supply tubing for the Vickers Viscount aircraft. Fast forward to 1965 and the company was manufacturing advanced stainless-steel alloy tubes for the Concorde, the world’s first supersonic airliner. By 1999, the company was manufacturing titanium tubing for the hydraulic systems aboard the Eurofighter. Today, Fine Tubes is one of the few suppliers qualified to produce the high-pressure titanium tubes used in the hydraulic systems of the Airbus A380 and A350 and has recently won a significant extension of its contract to supply the full range of Airbus aircraft.

In the medicine and health care, having already developed profiled implant tubing for medical applications 18 years ago, Fine Tubes began manufacturing advanced titanium tubing for femur and tibia bone nail implants in 2004. For the nuclear power industry, Fine Tubes began developing specialised tubes for the UK’s first generation of gas-cooled reactors back in the 1970s. As nuclear power evolved, so has the company’s expertise. Fine Tubes’ products are now found in AGR, Pressurized Water, Light Water, Heavy Water and Fast Breeder reactor plants across Europe, the United States, Canada, India and China.

From the technological advances that came with early subsea drilling in the North Sea in the 1970s right up to the present day’s deep-water challenges, Fine Tubes helps the offshore oil and gas industry with the high-pressure tubing required to extract subsea oil and gas from some of the most hostile downhole conditions.

Always ready to respond to unique technological challenges, Fine Tubes was the company chosen to supply 130km of cooling tubes for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which is operates at the furthest boundaries of scientific knowledge. In 2013, the company delivered the corrosion-resistant heat exchanger tubes for Spain’s ground-breaking Gemasolar power plant, which is capable of absorbing 95% of radiation in the solar spectrum and transmitting this energy from the Sun for storage in a molten salt compound in the plant’s interior.

Staying with the Sun, Fine Tubes also was contracted to supply the specialist titanium tubing for the Chemical Propulsion System aboard the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter that  fly to within 45 million kilometres of the Sun, enduring powerful bursts of atomic particles from explosions in the solar atmosphere, to capture images of the solar poles for the first time and help to explain how the Sun generates the magnetic fields that can have such a dramatic impact on Earth.

“Fine Tubes can look back on a truly impressive history of technological achievement on an international stage,” commented Dave Cawse, Operations Director for Fine Tubes. “With so much of that achievement generated from our facility in Plymouth, Fine Tubes can claim to be a significant player in the story of UK manufacturing success. I look forward to the next 75 years.”  


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