Automated battery production

The UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) has selected Comau UK to develop and deploy a semi-automated battery module and battery pack assembly line for the publicly-funded ‘open-access’ battery production development facility in Coventry. One of the unique elements of the project was the requirement for agile flexibility, which will allow UKBIC to manufacture a wide range of modules and packs, and support various customer requirements without the need for major process changes.

Comau UK provided all of the necessary technology and know-how to manage the entire battery module and pack manufacturing process, from cylindrical cell preparation and pouch cell stacking, to battery pack assembly. In addition to helping ensure the safety and reliability of the manufactured batteries through the use of smart cameras, thermal imaging and end-of-line leak test technologies, the solution offers built-in scalability.

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Project promotes laser texturing

The Manufacturing Technology Centre, based in Coventry, is leading a Europe-wide project to increase the use of laser texturing in manufacturing processes. A group of 11 research organisations and companies will participate in Project Shark.

Laser texturing can change the texture or topography of a component to achieve specific functionality, such as low friction or low adhesion. According to the MTC, the process can result in lower production costs, faster product development and up to a 50% improvement in product performance, depending on the design of the surface texture. The EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for research and innovation is supporting the initiative.

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Bromford reaches for the sky

As part of the Bromford Group, Bromford Industries Ltd in Leicester is a tier one manufacturer that specialises in the IGT, power generation and aerospace sectors. As such, the company has to balance the delicacies of continuous improvement, innovation and, of course, the scrutiny of year-on-year ‘cost-down’ pressure. For this reason, the company has a long-term contract in place with MSC Industrial Supply Co.

The most recent project centred on the manufacture of an initial batch of four Inconel 718 aero-engine components for a prestigious customer using a Doosan Puma 12L turning centre. With the initial batch completed successfully against a tight deadline, MSC knew that even better results were achievable on a second batch of eight. The team recommended a switch to ceramic cutting tools for the rough turning and grooving operations.

At the start of 2020, MSC formed a relationship with ceramic tooling brand NTK, and knew that the different physical properties of ceramic tooling would yield impressive results on heat-resistant aerospace grade alloys.

“We chose to partner with MSC six years ago, and ever since they’ve been an extension to our business,” says Andrew Moore, engineering and product quality manager at Bromford Industries. “This project is one of the many ways MSC has worked with us to seek innovative opportunities for improvement; they are a supply partner who wants us to succeed as much as we do.”

After increasing the surface speed from 43 to 250 m/min and raising the feed rate from 18 to 106 mm/min, good results soon followed. Rough turning the face and diameter of the 150 mm diameter workpiece, an NTK SX9 RNGN insert not only replaced two previous carbide tools and eliminated the respective tool changeover, it also slashed cycle times from 180 minutes to 27 minutes for the roughing operation.

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Biggest ever UK order for JCB

Britain’s biggest equipment rental firm is buying 2100 new JCB machines in a deal worth £65m, the biggest-ever order from a UK customer in the company’s 75-year history. Sunbelt Rentals is expanding and renewing its fleet as the construction industry rebounds strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rental specialist is investing in JCB Loadall telescopic handlers, mini and midi excavators, site dumpers, tracked excavators, and rough terrain fork lifts – all manufactured at JCB’s Staffordshire factories. Sunbelt Rentals is also investing in 350 JCB access platforms – JCB’s biggest-ever UK deal for this equipment following its entry into the $8bn powered access market in 2017. The massive order comes as JCB recruits hundreds of new shop-floor employees following soaring demand.

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Fibre laser tube processing

With its new ByTube 130, Bystronic says that sheet-metal processors can quickly and easily get into tube processing. The fibre-based machine opens up a wide range of applications for all metallic materials in diameters from 10 to 130 mm, and material lengths up to 8.5 m. In addition, the machine has a loading capacity of 17 kg/m, while the 2D cutting head allows the processing of a large proportion of customer requests, since vertical cuts account for 90% of the market.

Notably, the ByTube 130 has the potential to substitute complex and cost-intensive processing steps: a growing number of manufacturing companies are discovering laser cutting as an alternative to sawing and drilling. The fibre laser performs both processes at once and, according to Bystronic, considerably faster. Thanks to clean cutting edges, deburring is also a thing of the past. This capability not only results in reduced labour costs, but reduced cost per component thanks to elevated throughput speeds.

The machine is available in two performance levels, 2 or 3 kW. Due to its shorter wavelength compared with CO2 laser technology, the fibre-based ByTube 130 has no problems with highly reflective non-ferrous metals, such as copper and brass.

With the new ByVision Tube user interface, Bystronic combines all the functions relating to the laser cutting of tubes on a single touchscreen. Even entry-level users without extensive experience can immediately start producing with the ByTube 130, says the company. The intuitive software supports new users with the import and creation of cutting plans, which ensures the straightforward handling of cutting sequences.

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