In 2007, Ian Foley established a consultancy to provide advice to automotive companies looking to electrify their vehicles. Equipmake is now a manufacturer of industry-leading electric powertrains, and it recently relocated to a brand-new ‘state of the art’ facility in Snetterton (Norfolk), where work with public-transport projects is leading its growth.
To support this demand, the company has brought manufacturing in-house, following investment in machine tools — and with support from Sheffield-based cutting-tool and work-holding partner Ceratizit UK & Ireland Ltd (www.ceratizit.com
Key to Equipmake’s success are its APM 120 and APM 200 power-dense electric motors, which work in conjunction with its own inverters.
Early success for the company came in the field of motor-sport — and its development (in conjunction with Williams Hybrid Power) of an electric flywheel energy storage system, which led to a collaboration with Williams F1 and was also used by Porsche and Audi in endurance sports-car races (Audi won a number of races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012, 2013 and 2014).
Equipmake’s motors are also being used in the Ariel Hipercar, in a four-wheel-drive configuration. A motor drives each wheel, delivering about 1,200hp and a 0-100mph time of 3.8sec — and the same motors are now being applied to the electrification of buses.
Working alongside chassis manufacturer Agrale (as part of the Cost Effective Electric Bus consortium), Equipmake is leading the development of electric motive power for single- and double-deck buses, with systems that can be installed at initial build or retrofitted to existing diesel-powered buses.
Jasmine Bishop, business development and marketing manager, said: “The public-transport market offers huge potential for electrification, both in terms of the environment and the sheer volume, with over 300,000 buses being sold globally every year — and the market is growing.
The systems that we are developing make use of two APM 200 motors driving a two-speed gearbox. The design of the motors means that they can be liquid-cooled, and the energy recovered can be used to heat the passenger compartment.”
Machining at Equipmake began on a small scale (at the company’s previous location) with a single Mazak machine used for research and development work; and with workshop manager Richard Wood having previously worked with Ceratizit UK & Ireland, it was logical for him to continue the relationship.
He said: “Machining initially focused on R&D work, with design changes ‘on the fly’ allowing us to maintain quick response times. As production increased, and with the relocation to Snetterton, the decision was made to bring the majority of machining in-house, as we were starting to see delivery slippages from our sub-contract suppliers.” Dragonskin DLC coating
With most parts produced by Equipmake being made of aluminium, the tooling focus has been on Ceratizit’s Aluline and CCR ranges of solid-carbide end mills with Ceratizit’s Dragonskin Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coating (an extremely wear-resistant coating — with up to 80% of the hardness of natural diamond — that gives increased protection from built-up edges or abrasive alloy accretions, resulting in extended tool life and elevated cutting data).
The CCR cutters in particular have come into their own for the machining of thin-walled motor housings, for which the long flute length is helping to achieve greatly improved process times. The machining time on one particular component has been cut from 2hr to 40min.
Mr Wood said: “The speed at which we can run these cutters has been a real eye-opener for our machine operators, who mostly come from a background of machining steels and more-exotic alloys. With 18,000rev/min and a tilting head on our Mazak VTC800 travelling column five-axis machining centre, we can really maximise their potential.”
Helping customers to get the best from these cutters is the on-site support offered by Ceratizit UK & Ireland’s area technical sales engineer Adam Cross, along with office-based support from the company’s internal sales engineers.
Mr Wood added: “The cutting data available on-line and from the Ceratizit catalogue is excellent and easy to use, but we can also call the team at Ceratizit to help with individual projects and ensure that we use the correct tools — and the optimum speeds and feeds. As we ramp up production in the next 18 months — particularly on the APM 200 motors — that support will become particularly valuable to us.”
The new WNT AluLine series is a ‘complete package’ of solid-carbide cutters that extends to over 2,500 types covering rough and finish machining. Users can choose from a wide range of corner preparations, with sharp, chamfered, radiused or ball-nose styles all available ‘off the shelf’.
The cutter diameters range from 2 to 25mm, with various flute and length configurations as standard. The CCR cutters start at 6mm in diameter and increase in 2mm increments to a maximum diameter of 20mm. The flute lengths extend to a maximum of 82mm on the largest cutters.