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alexyellop@gmail.com, Author at NCA Ltd | Precision Engineered Plastics & Acrylics | Chromatography columns
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A kaizen approach to engineering

A Kaizen Approach to Engineering

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Welcome back to the NCA blog where we bring you the latest developments from our company and offer insights from our experienced teams. In today’s blog we examine a topic that helps define our philosophy as a business – the ancient Japanese concept of Kaizen.

Kaizen is a concept that refers to on-going or continuous improvement. The definition of kaizen comes from two Japanese words: ‘kai’ which means ‘change’ and ‘zen’ meaning ‘good’. The Japanese philosophy was first introduced by Toyota over three decades ago in the 1980s and has since been adopted by thousands of businesses around the world. This streamlined transformation encourages a culture of improvement that gradually increases quality, efficiency, and profitability.

So, what is kaizen exactly? In many industries, Kaizen can be traced to statistics – the all seeing metrics by which one can measure the efficiency and effectiveness of a business. Through careful and continuous monitoring of production it is possible to create a baseline to use as a foundation upon which to improve results. Whatsmore, employees are given the tools to be able to take real ownership of their tasks and can feel empowered to suggest ideas that deal with common problems and offer improvements.

Because executing Kaizen requires enabling the right mindset throughout a company, 10 principles that address the Kaizen mindset are commonly referenced as core to the philosophy. They are:

  • Let go of assumptions.
  • Be proactive about solving problems.
  • Don’t accept the status quo.
  • Let go of perfectionism and take an attitude of iterative, adaptive change.
  • Look for solutions as you find mistakes.
  • Create an environment in which everyone feels empowered to contribute.
  • Don’t accept the obvious issue; instead, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause.
  • Cull information and opinions from multiple people.
  • Use creativity to find low-cost, small improvements.
  • Never stop improving.

Central to this concept at NCA Ltd is, quite literally, the idea that each and every team member is a cog in the bigger workings of our company. We believe that those closest to each job or task are ideally situated to understand how the work can be improved and made more efficient.  We believe that by tackling issues head-on, they aren’t allowed to persist and grow into bigger challenges. This grassroots approach delivers incremental improvements that add up to big wins. And it is the incremental gains that are so important when providing our range of services to companies. Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of how we work can lead to both a reduction in turn around and costs. 

Recently, we were awarded ISO 9001 certification. which further demonstrates our commitment to Kaizen. A key component on which the standard is issued is based around the streamlining of processes throughout a company, with the objective of bringing down costs, creating new opportunities, meeting regulatory requirements, and helping our team to expand into new markets in which clients demand ISO 9001 certification.

Marginal gains and constant improvement are at the heart of NCA Ltd and our commitment to providing the very best precision machined pieces. From R&D to full scale production and machining, our experienced teams are on hand to assist you with your projects. For more information and to discuss your requirements, contact our team on 01928 790209 or via nca@ncaltd.co.uk

What is an OEM

What is an OEM And Why Use NCA Ltd as Your Supplier?

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Welcome back to the NCA blog where we bring you the latest developments from our company and offer insights from our experienced teams. In today’s blog we examine a topic which is often discussed amongst suppliers and clients – that of an OEM.

What Is an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)?

An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can be defined as a company whose goods are used as components in the products of another company, which then sells the finished item to users. Traditionally speaking, an OEM will produce parts for business to business commerce. Often the parts purchased from an OEM will be more expensive than those purchased from another company who can reproduce the same components. 

In recent months, NCA Ltd have seen an increase in businesses turning to our suite of services (including acrylic engineering, plastic machining and our CNC Routing services) when looking for replacement parts. OEMs in the industries in which we operate are usually based in Germany or Europe and, with Brexit and an increase in custom delays, are making it increasingly difficult for UK businesses to acquire the parts and components needed for their businesses. 

Why choose NCA for your replacement parts and engineering needs?

As an engineering firm that holds  ISO 9001:2015 NCA Ltd meet the international standard and our company’s management system conforms to the requirements specified in the standard. This means that as a company abide by the rules of the standard to create efficiencies by aligning and streamlining processes throughout our company, the objective of which include: bringing down costs, creating new opportunities, meeting regulatory requirements, and helping our team to expand into new markets in which clients demand ISO 9001 certification. 

What does this mean for the end users?

Changing supply can be an intimidating task with many factors to consider. At NCA Ltd our experience and knowledge of our work enables our team to support any company (both large and small) to make the switch from one supplier to ourselves. As such, we are able to effectively and efficiently create parts and components that conform both to the highest regulatory standards to ensure the smooth and seamless integration into your business. For more information and to discuss your requirements with a dedicated member of our team, contact NCA Ltd on 01928 790209 or via nca@ncaltd.co.uk

ISO 9001:2015

The Importance of Holding a Quality Certificate

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Welcome back to the NCA blog where we bring you the latest developments from our company and offer insights from our experienced teams. In today’s blog we examine a topic which has become increasingly visible within the last few months – the importance of holding a quality certificate.

A quality certificate is of great importance to both the vendor/ supplier and to the purchaser – sourcing company. Independently assessed and granted, a quality certificate is both a reward to the maintenance and implementation of high standards to the producer and offers assurances to the buyer.

As one of the leading providers of plastic and acrylic engineering, it is of great importance to both our teams and clients to ensure that the work we provide is certifiable to industry standards. As such, quality management certification has assisted our teams to implement systems and controls that help to ensure fewer defects and more, high-quality consistency in our methods of production. Central to our approach is our commitment to each client to uphold scalable, manageable and consistent standards.

Within most industries there are certification programs that set the standards of quality and management – the industries that we work in are no exception. The codified, quality standards that we adhere to have been developed over time to reflect the needs of each industry and the application of the products produced. By implementing these quality standards, the teams at NCA have become certified and can reliably demonstrate to our clients that our practices and products conform to a higher level of quality than those of companies who are not certified. 

ISO Certification

ISO (The International Organisation for Standardisation) certification is one of the world’s most important manufacturing standards.  ISO describes the importance of its certification as follows: “For consumers, conformity of products and services to international standards provides assurance about their quality, safety, and reliability.”

Certification, as defined by ISO, refers to the issuing of a written certificate by an independent organisation that has audited a company’s management system and verified the system conforms to the requirements specified in the standard. The auditing body then records the certification in its client register, making the business both certified and registered. This means the quality management of a company has met the standards set by the international community.  In particular, NCA Ltd have ISO 9001:2015.  ISO 9001:2015 specifies requirements for a quality management system when an organisation:

  1. needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and
  2. aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

All the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 are generic and are intended to be applicable to any organisation, regardless of its type or size, or the products and services it provides.  ISO 9001:2015 defines the guiding principles that we as manufacturers use to create efficiencies by aligning and streamlining processes throughout our company, the objective of which include: bringing down costs, creating new opportunities, meeting regulatory requirements, and helping our team to expand into new markets in which clients demand ISO 9001 certification. 

NCA Ltd are extremely proud to be able to meet the requirements of such certification. It follows our exacting ability to maintain and raise standards, provide excellent and scalable quality items and to improve our own practices and efficiencies as a business. All of which enable our flexible, dedicated and experienced teams to offer the very best to our clients. For more information about our acrylic machining services and engineering, contact our team on 01928 790209 or via nca@ncaltd.co.uk 

Plastic Recycling

Recycling of Plastics – Giving Back To Our World

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Welcome back to the NCA blog where we bring you the latest developments from our workshop and offer insights from our experienced teams. In today’s blog we examine a topic which is extremely close to our hearts both professionally and personally – the recycling of plastics.

Why is recycling of plastics so important?

Capturing waste plastic and channelling it into efficient recycling and recovery routes is widely recognised as a key way to reduce costs and environmental impact across the construction, manufacturing and retail sectors in particular. The recyclability of plastic is also one of its key strengths as an extremely resource-efficient material and used plastic should ideally be regarded as a valuable resource rather than ‘waste’. 

Recycling plastic:

  • Provides a sustainable source of raw materials to the industry
  • Greatly reduces the environmental (especially the CO2) impact of plastic-rich products
  • Minimises the amount of plastic being sent to the UK’s landfill sites
  • Avoids the consumption of the Earth’s oil stocks
  • Consumes less energy than producing new, virgin polymers
  • Embeds the right values and behaviour to reduce human impact on the environment

Did you know that?

  • 86% of plastic packaging is recovered  
  • 77% of plastic drinks bottles are recycled   
  • 50% of plastic packaging is recycled  
  • 78% of post-consumer plastic is recovered
  • 59% of all plastic bottles are collected for recycling*  
    • * includes all plastic bottles, such as shampoo and bleach bottles, etc.
  • 32% of all plastic is recycled

A Responsible Producer

Under the extended producer responsibility (EPR) system, the plastics industry pays money towards our recycling costs via what is known as a Packaging Recovery Note (PRN). Packaging Recovery Notes and Packaging Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) are issued by recyclers and exporters as proof of recycling, which are bought directly from them (or via compliance schemes) by the supply chain.

How is plastic recycled?

Once the plastic is collected and sent to a recycling centre, it is typically separated into different polymer types, which are then separately shredded (and impurities like paper are removed), then melted back into polymer pellets. These pellets are then sold on to be used in new products.

At NCA Ltd we are fully committed to the recycling of plastics used in all of our services where possible. As one of the UK’s leading plastic machining companies, we firmly welcome all forms of recycling to build a greener, more sustainable future for all. 

disadvantages of single sourcing

Single Sourcing – The Disadvantages

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Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest developments and insights from our company. In today’s blog we look at a pertinent issue that affects many suppliers and companies across the UK: Single Sourcing. 


Single sourcing can be defined as “the result of a very conscious decision usually made by the Procurement or Purchasing department. Only one supplier is awarded business for a particular component, part or material even though there are other suppliers that can provide that same supply.” Indeed, single sourcing is an issue that has appeared in numerous articles recently – especially pronounced in the UK with both Brexit and the Covid-19 crises. According to a recent article on Insead Knowledge:


Globalisation of trade and decades-long innovation in supply chain networks have resulted in significant benefits for all stakeholders – greater efficiencies, lower costs, greater access to markets to name just a few. Yet, Covid-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains. Dispersed supply chains offer more possibilities for shocks to penetrate and spread, and practices such as “just-in-time” and single sourcing can amplify shocks and lengthen recovery time.

Single sourcing thus exposes a company to market shocks and disruptions that can be easily avoided through the opening up of tenders and sourcing from various suppliers What’s more, the risks of single sourcing are not just amplified through global events. Single sourcing makes it harder for procurement to keep their company competitive and, in periods of tight supply, the buyer may be at a disadvantage in being able to ask other suppliers to accept orders. The impact of single sourcing can also be felt in the reputation of the company as other, equally able, suppliers may lose interest in trying to compete for the business if they see that a sole-source situation is likely to persist. Compounded by volatile world events, if the single supply does experience financial problems or is bought out, then there can be no guarantee that contracts will be fulfilled and that the supplier will have enough agility to navigate a new landscape in which they find themselves. 

As a procurement officer, moving towards sourcing and finding a new supplier can look intimidating. However, through careful planning, research and both reviewing the performance of the incumbent supplier whilst exploring other options it is possible to create a strategy to start on-boarding potential new businesses and build new relationships.

what is normalising acrylic

What is Normalising Acrylic?

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we share into our latest developments, projects and  insights from our plastic engineering company. As often occurs in discussions with clients, we provide a comprehensive overview of our services and solutions to meet the demands of each project. Part of our commitment to providing the highest quality of product and service within our manufacturing capability is to offer our own tailor made solutions to the needs of each client. In today’s blog we discuss a question and topic that arises often, the annealing or normalising of acrylic and what this process means for your project.

Firstly, what is annealing or normalising of acrylic? Normalising and annealing of acrylic are another way to refer to the process of heat treatment that is applied to the acrylic. It is a vital part of the process which ensures that the high tolerance loads are maintained during the machining, binding and polishing of acrylic which prevents cracking and crazing. Crazing refers to the phenomenon that produces a network of fine cracks on the surface of a material, for example in a glaze layer. Crazing frequently precedes fracture in some glassy thermoplastic polymers. As it only takes place under tensile stress, the plane of the crazing corresponds to the stress direction

Normalising and annealing are both two parts of the a process that work in tandem to produce the finished result. Firstly, normalising gives the plastic a uniform structure which gives assurances as to the plastic’s mechanical properties. Annealing is the second part of the process which changes the microstructure and properties of the plastic. Reducing internal stresses and hardness, annealing ensures better mechanical and thermal properties.

Heat treating also can help to eliminate internal stresses for better mechanical and thermal properties. Without this important process, it is almost impossible to produce accurate plastic components to precise tolerances.

Our expertise within the fabrication of plastics allows our team to heat treat plastics to the highest of standards required for your project which can be adjusted depending on the properties of the plastic such as its thickness, applications and the properties of the plastics themselves. 

The most cost effective process to heat treat plastics is through either casting or extrusion. However, both processes can cause materials to be highly stressed and create a surface skin which can pull and distort components during and after the manufacturing processes. In order to avoid such issues and prolong the lifespan of the finished components, NCA Ltd hear treat our machined component parts thus preventing both internal stress and the formation of a surface skin. 

The impact of heat treatment on materials such as acrylic (PMMA) can cause material shrinkage of around 2% and 4%. This is a result of the material relaxing and releasing the internal stresses that have developed during the casting or extrusion processes.

At NCA Ltd we work closely with each client to develop components that not only can be produced on budget and on time, but also give a reliable and long performance with minimal stresses. Designed and fabricated to the requirements of each project, we seek to offer long term solutions to your challenges. For more information on any of our acrylic engineering services and to request a quotation, contact 01928 79020 or via  nca@ncaltd.co.uk 

USP 87 and USP 88 (Class VI) Certification

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we offer the latest insights, updates and developments at NCA Ltd. This week, we are delighted to announce that our material NORLITE has been certified for  USP 87 and USP 88 (Class VI). Our Acrylic (PMMA) has now been re-approved for medical device application and supports the market interest in our manufacturing capability.

What is USP Class VI Testing?

USP Class testing is one of the most common methods of testing to determine bio-compatibility of materials. There are six classes, VI being the most rigorous. Class VI testing is aimed to certify that there are no harmful reactions or long-term bodily effects caused by chemicals that leach out of plastic materials. USP Class testing is frequently conducted on plastic materials that are used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. 

USP Class VI Testing Methods

USP Class VI testing is conducted by producing an extract of the product with different extraction fluids, such as polyethylene glycol and vegetable oil, and injecting it in specimen (rabbits and mice) in vivo (alive), to observe the biological response to the extract. Testing is commonly done as per USP <88>, which requires three types of testing: systemic injection, intracutaneous, and implantation.

Systemic Injection Test (Acute Systemic Toxicity): Test specimen are injected with the extract intravenously and observed for 72 hours. The specimen are monitored for any abnormal toxic reactivity. The scientist determines the test as pass/fail.

Intracutaneous Test: The purpose of this test is to check for any local skin reactions. Test Specimen are injected with the extract intracutaneously and observed for 72 hours. The reactions are scored and averaged.

Implantation Test: Specimens are implanted with the product material to observe the reaction of the live tissue in direct contact with the product over a span of at least 120 hours (5 days).

Why should products be USP Class VI?

Class VI testing extensively investigates the reaction in the body, skin, and living tissue to ensure safety. USP Class VI is a common standard for pharmaceutical and food industry tubing, fittings, single-use systems, and fabricated parts. Reaching this standards demonstrates NCA Ltd’s commitment to the fabrication of the highest standards and integrity. 

For more information about our services, or to speak to our team, contact  01928 790209 or email  nca@ncaltd.co.uk

Plastic Polishing Services

By | NCA news

As one of the UK’s leading acrylic engineering firms, NCA Ltd work with a range of tools and equipment to ensure that our engineered components meet both our exacting standards and those of each client. In today’s blog we focus on an element that is used within our production, acrylic polishing, and how this step within the process ensures that the final product is fit to leave our fabrication plant. We will also outline the two main types of finishing that we use in our plastic polishing services: manual and mop polishing and vapour polishing

What is acrylic polishing and why is it important? 

For  however accurate and precise fabrication methods can be, unevenness and blemishes across the surface of machined plastics can occur such as saw marks, blemishes or scratches. Of course, this is not ideal because of two main reasons. Primarily, the finish itself is not aesthetically pleasing to look at and is not uniform. And secondly, the non-uniform finish is undesirable because it can also make bonding the piece difficult.  Acrylic is polished in order to forgo such issues resulting in beautifully crisp and neat edges that can be properly and uniformly bonded. What’s more, depending on the specifications and requirements of the project, when high levels of optical clarity, vapour polishing (also know as super-finishing) is used to achieve the required level of optical clarity. 

What is mop and manual polishing?

Acrylic, like many other engineering plastics, can be mop or manually polished by hand to help improve the surface finishing, remove scratches and create an even finish on the surface improving its appearance. Before polishing is undertaken, it is vital to have a decent machined finishing on the piece to make sure that dimensions are maintained.

Mop polishing uses a variety of mops and cloths at various levels of abrasiveness and specialist abrasive solutions that work by removing a layer of the surface material to leave a polished finish. Depending on the amount of parts and the shape of the parts being polished the process can either be done by hand or through automated machines and processes. Generally speaking, small quantities and unusual shapes will be mop polished by hand whereas large, more uniform shapes will be automated. 

What is vapour polishing? 

Vapour polishing is another method of polishing plastics that, like mop and manual polishing, aims to reduce the roughness of the surface and improve the optical clarity of the plastic.  

Vapour polishing works at a microscopic level and leads to incredible optical clarity. It is done by using the volatile gas of Weldon 4 solvent which is highly reactive to the surface chemistry of polycarbonates. In a controlled environment, Weldon 4 solvent is heated to its boiling point creating vapours that are sprayed across the surface of the piece. The plastic then melts at the surface, filling in the minute scratches (the roughness), which quickly solidifies once the gas is no longer present creating an even and clear finish. 

Typically vapour polishing is used on materials which require a high level of optical transparency such as lenses leading to improvements in both the internal and external surface finishes. Vapour polishing has the advantage of being able to polish internal, detailed features such as threads, apertures, channels and sample inspection areas that would be impossible with manual polishing. 

Below is an interesting comparison of both polishing methods by one of our favourite Youtube channels ‘Applied Sciences’ who tries out a combination of different polishing techniques. 


In next week’s blog, the start of a new series, we will be exploring our machining capabilities in a range of industries starting with chemical processing. For more information on our acrylic and engineered plastic polishing, contact our team via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or 01928 790209.

our latest venture

An Exciting new Venture

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest from our plastic fabrication and acrylic engineering business. Over the last few months we have been busily preparing for a new venture with our latest side-project; Pet Ashes.

PetAshes is born out of our close personal ties to the veterinary profession and our love of pets (many of our team been lifelong dog and pet owners) and the difficulties and hardship when they pass. The loss of a pet is a difficult time and feelings of grief and sadness and common. PetAshes seeks to help those who have lost their pets with our handcrafted pet ash keepsakes and memorial items.

What’s more, many pet owners are unsure as to what to do with the ashes of their pet and scattering the ashes as well as storing them can lead to feelings of guilt and further loss. Our beautiful items use only a teaspoon of ash that is encapsulated and mixed into the acrylic mixture before being cast into a range of keepsakes.

Pet ashes photo frames 

Our handcrafted photo frames use a special techniques developed by our team to encapsulate the ashes inside the frame allowing you to place a special photo inside. Available in a range of shapes, for dog owners we suggest the bone shaped ash photo frame and the classic heart shaped ash photo urn

Pet Ash Memorial Plaques

Personalised memorial plaques can be used in a similar way to our photo frames. The big difference is that these can be used outside. For example, customers of ourselves have placed these items underneath trees and in their gardens as a way to remember their dog. Each of the photo memorial plaques feature a photo inside an acrylic block and a tactile, beautiful heart in a range of colours. 

Pet Cremation Ornaments

Our pet cremation ornaments are expertly crafted into a range of shapes including a resting dog, sleeping cat and unique horse hair memento.  Much like our other memorial items, the resting dog ornament features ashes mixed into the acrylic which is then hand cast into the figure. 

For more information on any of the items featured or to request a sample pack, contact our team via hello@petashes.co.uk or on 01928 790209. 


cnc turning services

Plastic Reverse Engineering

By | NCA news

Welcome back to the NCA Ltd blog where we bring you the latest developments from our plastic fabrication company. Based in the north west, for over 40 years our teams have produced a range of products for many industries including the pharmaceutical, food and aerospace industries. Often, many of our clients will approach us looking for a design to be created from an existing component that they have in their possession. In today’s blog we talk about the reverse engineering of plastic parts.

Plastic reverse engineering can be used in a number of ways to produce a new part from an existing component. For example, if a part is made from materials such as metal or fiberglass our engineers are able to reverse engineer the item into thermoformed plastic parts. Typically these are medium to large components that can be made lighter and/or more cost effective with a thermoformed part.

Reverse Engineering Process

With our extensive plastic engineering expertise, plastic prototyping and experience within the production of plastic pipework  we can help with the development and converting of existing components into a plastic. We help our clients to: 

  • Review the existing part for form, fit and function
  • Formulate the design concept in plastic
  • Create electronic CAD files of the plastic part
  • Complete the process by manufacturing the new part with plastic thermoforming

Reverse engineering a part or component has a number of benefits, including: 

  • Less weight and all its accompanying benefits, such as lower fuel consumption and less structural stress
  • Lower manufacturing cost
  • Higher strength-to-weight ratio
  • Greater flexibility in product design

Our dedicated team of plastic fabrication experts offer the following services that align with your corporate and project goals: 

  • Reverse engineering to transform parts to thermoformed plastic
  • 3D CAD modelling using SolidWorks software
  • Tool design
  • CNC programming 
  • Plastics engineering for thermoforming
  • Plastics design for manufacturability (DFM)

For more information on our plastic reverse engineering services,  contact our team today via nca@ncaltd.co.uk or on 01928 790209.