The Nuclear AMRC is working with Kent-based manufacturer HV Wooding to develop a new powder coating process for crucial components for electric vehicles.
HV Wooding, which specialises in providing precision engineered metal components for the automotive and aerospace sectors, is working with materials and engineering researchers from the Nuclear AMRC and other parts of the University of Sheffield to improve the quality of the busbars it is producing.
Supported by Innovate UK through the Faraday Battery Challenge, the project focuses on investigating and developing alternative coating methods that will improve the performance and integrity of the critical components, which carry high-current power between different parts of an electrical system.
“Current coating methods are difficult to control, with a high level of components rejected because of poor quality insulation,” explains Paul Allen, sales director at HV Wooding.
“There is currently no standard specification or process availability, and our new method will contribute supply chain capability and capacity for battery and energy storage applications.
“We will develop a best practice testing method to standardise quality assurance where there is currently no international standard, and this could generate up to £1m in additional sales to our business.”
The company will look to maximise the centre’s advanced manufacturing methods, as well as tapping into university-based researchers to develop a standardised test procedure for quality assurance, demonstrating that each busbar meets all the required integrity standards with minimal risk of failure in use.
“The current busbar coating process is difficult to control and can’t currently be scaled up to meet customer demands in the UK,” says Dr Li Li, head of the Nuclear AMRC’s control & instrumentation research group.
“This funding enables collaboration between a UK SME business and academia to tackle a real pressing issue, and this project will help ramp up production at HV Wooding while also minimising the product failure rate.
“Our team from the University of Sheffield will bring our expertise in electro-mechanical design, process, testing and manufacturing to ensure this collaboration will ultimately enhance the UK’s capability in producing quality busbars for automotive and adjacent supply chains.”
HV Wooding previously worked with the Nuclear AMRC through the Fit For Nuclear programme, which helps manufacturers meet the quality expectations of the nuclear supply chain.
The one-year project will also draw on the specialist capabilities of the University of Sheffield AMRC – like the Nuclear AMRC, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult – and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
“Powder coated insulated busbars are safer than heat shrink sleeved alternatives,” Allen notes. “They have better thermal and electrical performance alongside other benefits in compact battery design – for example saving up to 10 per cent clearance and creepage distance.
“If the innovative and optimised epoxy powder coating process is implemented, it will definitely open up new markets and will lead to new skilled jobs in our area.
“The successful project will support the overall goal of the Faraday Battery Challenge and scale up British busbar manufacturing for battery modules and packs in accordance with the UK’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution.”