Heptron has plans to go global

Liverpool company is gearing up for the high-volume production of its energy generation and storage system

Posted on 25 May 2018 and read 692 times
Heptron has plans to go globalAfter travelling throughout Europe for many years while working as an electrical engineer for a major engineering company, Gary Murphy decided in 1994 that it was time to settle down and work for himself.

He formed Heptron Manufacturing UK Ltd and initially provided a machine repair service to industry around the St Helens region.

When that work started to dry up, he began to develop an idea he had for converting waste heat into electricity.

Initially, Mr Murphy worked with the University of Lancaster, which saw that his idea had potential; after building and testing prototypes, the production of Heptron’s innovative flywheel-based energy storage systems began.

These systems, which are safe, efficient, chemical-free and non-polluting (every component is recyclable), are designed for use in domestic and commercial environments; they also have the potential to create ‘community smart grids’.

The intellectual property of the systems is protected by patents in 40 countries, with patents pending in another 14.

Mr Murphy said: “We initially sub-contracted our machining requirements, but as volumes began to increase, we were constantly facing delays in production, so we decided to invest in our own machining capacity.

An ex-colleague is a service engineer with XYZ Machine Tools, and he arranged for area sales manager Carl Tinsley to visit and assess our needs. As a result, we bought an SLX 1630 ProTurn lathe and an XYZ 1000LR vertical machining centre.”

With these machines from Burlescombe-based XYZ (www.xyzmachinetools.com) installed, Heptron was able to improve its productivity and machine kits of parts that are exported for assembly where the energy generation and storage systems will be used.

“Prior to installing these machines, the work we sub-contracted could take up to a month to be processed. When necessary, we can now go from concept to finish-machined part in under a couple of hours.”

Centre of excellence

With the initial production hurdle overcome, Mr Murphy is moving to the next stage of his project — the opening of what he describes as a ‘manufacturing centre of excellence’ in St Helens.

The plan is for this ‘showcase’ manufacturing and automated assembly operation to be under way later this year.

“Once we have this facility up and running, the next stage will be to look at look at replicating the assembly operation and licensing it around the world.

“We would still control manufacture in the UK; and with mass production feasible, we will be able drive down the cost of this technology.”

With regard to the details of Heptron’s two machines, XYZ says that the SLX 1630 ProTurn lathe is a popular choice for those companies making the transition from manual to CNC turning.

It uses the latest ProtoTrak SLX control system, which features conversational programming designed to ensure that even operators with limited CNC experience (or none) can be producing complex components within hours of the machine being installed.

HeptronThe lathe has a 400mm swing over the bed, 760mm between centres and a 5.75kW spindle (with a 54mm-diameter bore) that gives a speed range of 150-2,500rev/min.

The 1000 LR vertical machining centre is the largest model in the recently introduced linear-rail technology machines from XYZ.

The 1000 refers to the travel in the X axis, which is complemented by 500mm of travel in the Y and Z axes.

The machine is equipped with a 13kW 8,000rev/min BT40 spindle and a 20-position carousel-type tool changer (a 24 position arm-type system is available as an option).

The maximum feed rate for all axes is 20m/min, and control is provided by a Siemens 828D CNC system.

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