A Hollywood studio has placed a record-breaking order with a Midlands manufacturer as filming starts on the screen adaption of Broadway musical Nine.
Nicole Kidman and Daniel Day-Lewis will be performing in front of 30 mirrors made by Glass Installations Ltd, based in Fenton, Staffordshire. The 6m x 2m glassless mirrors will be used by the Weinstein Company to form the backdrop to the feature-length film adaptation which is set to hit screens in 2009.
Glass Installations Ltd was formed in 1982 as a traditional glass and glazing company but expanded into the Image Mirrors system in the late-1990s as a result of the boom in the health and fitness industry. The company spotted a gap in the market for a glassless mirror which would be lightweight, easy to transport and unbreakable.
Managing director Bob Quarmby contacted the Manufacturing Advisory Service – West Midlands after locating a prototype of a similar product which uses a type of aluminium foil as the reflective material. He explained: “We reviewed in some detail the technical and manufacturing needs of the product.
“We spent some time testing in order to establish a material and process method combination that would be suitable for the mirror. After numerous tests, it became clear that the material was simply too thick to be manipulated so we had to rethink the manufacturing methods”
Graham Jones, from Wolverhampton University’s Centre of Engineering Excellence, located a company in France that manufactured a similar product. Following an exchange of information, Glass Installations began production, using a metalised polymer film stretched over a purpose-made aluminium frame and a heat-treating process which achieved a clear mirror effect.
Mr Quarmby added: “These mirrors can be up to six metres in length, which gives us a clear market advantage. We had not long relocated from Stone to a new factory on the Oldfields Business Park in Fenton. Although we had initially planned to let out half the space, the business resulting from the new product has led to us using the entire unit and investing £20,000 in new machinery. This means we can produce mirrors of sizes unthinkable before.”
Cliff Johnson, Specialist Manufacturing Advisor at MAS-WM, added: “It was clear that such a product had huge potential. The challenge was to systematically bring it to the market.
“By combining the expertise at Wolverhampton University and Bob’s detailed knowledge, we have been able to use a blend of technical research and practical process development to turn the vision into reality.”