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A sheet metal worker measuring tolerance on some fabricated metalwork

Applying lead for x-ray products

Metal painting technician in spray booth

Working with Lead – the Pack Approach

As a complex sheet metal fabricator, Universal Wolf works with customers to support them throughout the product journey, from New Product Introduction and Design for Manufacturing to Welding and Fabrication. We also offer an in-house leading service for customers whose product requires integration of metal manufacturing and lead.

We understand that managing separate metalwork and lead providers can be a time-consuming process. Coordination of various suppliers, time delays from one to another, and quality issues are all additional challenges that can be alleviated by rationalising to a sole supplier. We handle all aspects of lead and metalwork integration in-house, including:

  • liaising with lead suppliers to purchase product
  • cutting of the individual lead pieces – either by router or by hand
  • bonding with metalwork
  • painting
  • fabrication of final product
  • assembly

We are proud to consider ourselves masters of this niche product offering – metal fabrication, with lead integration, all under one roof.

Metal Manufacturing and Lead

Our work with lead has grown organically. We brought the process in-house as we increased our work with a client who is a global brand in the security sector, bonding lead with metal for a large-scale product. Now, we have a team of 10 skilled operators who craft lead and incorporate this into metalwork, validating Universal Wolf as a safe and reliable lead partner.

Lead is a challenging material to work with. To bond it with a metal such as aluminium or steel, it must be carefully put in place and, in the case of thinner sheets, cut and shaped to the metalwork by hand. This requires a high level of skill for a number of reasons:

  • Thinner sheets of lead can easily split while being worked, and care must be taken while cutting and shaping to avoid this
  • While some metalwork components will be a simple shape, others are much more intricate and must be shaped precisely to match the metal elements
  • Our operators must also be careful to ensure the lead doesn’t thin while being cut, shaped, and handled, as this can result in radiation leaks (hotspots) from the final product
CNC punch press operator in Universal Wolf's metal profiling service
man in branded workwear standing in paint shop

Staying safe when working with lead

Health and safety is a significant consideration when working with lead, and keeping our colleagues safe is our top priority.

Lead is harmful when ingested or absorbed. To counteract this risk, we have a number of safety procedures in place:

  • In-depth training for colleagues on the risks of working with lead, how to look after themselves, and the procedures in place
  • Lab coats and overalls which must remain in the Lead area at all times
  • Gloves which must be worn when handling the product
  • Eye protection for those cutting lead
  • Additional time given throughout the day for hand washing

Alongside the day-to-day mitigation, we undertake regular blood tests for colleagues working with lead to ensure that levels remain within a safe limit. We have segregation controls in place to ensure that there is no cross-contamination with product outside of the designated area.

As well as working to external HSE guidelines, we carry out our own internal audits and quality assessments to ensure work is being undertaken safely, to a consistently high standard.

Reducing our environmental impact

As part of our Lead offering, we have brought machining of lead sheets in-house. This not only gives us more quality control over the cutting of the lead, but also has a significant environmental benefit.

When lead is cut using water jets, this creates contaminated wastewater, which must be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner and inevitably involves additional treatment of the waste, incurring extra energy costs.

When cut using a router, all lead chips are gathered and, along with larger offcuts from lead sheets, collected and recycled by our supplier. It is also a much cleaner process overall.

Lead and Metal Manufacturing under one roof

We are passionate about working in collaboration with our customers to create the best possible product for their needs, and working with lead is no exception. We are able to provide additional support in the form of Design for Manufacturing and New Product Introduction . Our years of experience when working with lead means we can advise on design changes and manufacturing processes, to ensure the product both meets safety standards and is suitable for scalable manufacture.


If you make equipment for the x-ray market and would like to learn more about how we can support your lead application, please get in touch.

A sheet metal worker measuring tolerance on some fabricated metalwork