25 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

£6m project aims for world-beating motor production processes

Project leader Electrified Automation specialises in technologies for manufacturing electrical machines

A group of UK engineering companies have embarked on a £6m Government-backed project to develop a process for manufacturing electric motors that, they say, will be more cost-competitive, powerful and efficient than many alternatives.

The PIMMS (Process Innovations for electric Motor Manufacturing Solutions) project is being led by Somerset-based Electrified Automation, and includes the Birmingham ERP specialist Winman and the sustainable engineering supplier Aspire Engineering, located in Weston super Mare.

The project aims to design and deliver world-leading manufacturing processes for high-volume production of permanent magnet motors – particularly for use in electric vehicles – as well as software to automate the manufacturing process that will offer an “unrivalled data-gathering capability”.

The cost of the project will be split between the industry partners and a Government grant awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Collaborative Research and Development programme, as part of a new £73m support scheme for developing innovative low- and zero-carbon automotive technologies.

The PIMMS project members want to remove the barriers that currently prevent OEMs and Tier 1 automotive suppliers from achieving volume electric motor manufacturing – specifically in relation to coil-winding, mechanical assembly and automated testing.

Traditional motor manufacturing processes are resource-intensive, particularly in terms of managing supply chains and customers, which limits the UK’s ability to compete globally. To help level up the playing field with overseas suppliers, PIMMS will include a software platform to automate all areas of manufacturing, and to link production facilities with the outside world.

As global motor production increases, so does the need to find end-of-life processes for electric motors. To respond to this challenge, the PIMMS project will develop innovative 3R (recycle, re-use and re-manufacture) strategies for electric motors to optimise their value and achieve closed-loop manufacturing.

“Being awarded APC funding for the PIMMS project is a huge step forward for us and our partners,” says Electrified Automation MD, Jim Winchester. “We look forward to seeing how our innovative technology and software will help the electric motor industry achieve the high levels of production needed to drive the transition towards low-carbon vehicles.

“It is also vital our manufacturing techniques are sustainable, so we have also put a lot of focus on reusing and remanufacturing existing electric motors within our processes.”

The PIMMS project is one of five chosen for support under the APC programme to develop clean transport technologies. Together, the projects are expected to support 3,300 jobs and to drive economic growth across the UK over the coming decade.

The Government is providing £36.4m of funding, matched by £36.6m from industry. The other projects will work on: an HGV cab and tractor powered by hydrogen fuel cells; the world’s first heavy tractor powered by methane derived from farm waste; a fuel cell version of Toyota’s Hilux pickup truck; and new sources of recycled aluminium.

Business secretary Grant Shapps says that the projects will put participating companies “in pole position to pioneer these innovations, staying at the cutting edge of the global race for decades to come.”

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