With reshoring of technical moulding of components continuing to gain momentum, West Yorkshire-based forteq UK has increased its production capacity investing in two high-precision IntElect 100 ton machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag. Part of the forteq Swiss-owned global technology group, the Huddersfield factory founded in 1961 has a sustained history of responding to the latest trends in precision engineering and setting a high bar for technical innovation.
For over six decades, the company, formerly known as Mikron, has built a solid reputation as a manufacturer of high quality moulded parts. The extensive product portfolio comprises precision automotive components, utility meters (gas, water, electrical and thermal management), as well as precision automotive gears and transmission systems. The highly-automated UK facility, has recently secured a number of new blue-chip contracts to supply electric vehicle (EV) components.
Serving predominantly tier 1 automotive customers, supplying electric vehicle components is now one of the company’s key strategic business lines. This complements their excellent reputation in air suspension, actuator gears, engine timing systems and fuel filtration systems. Refreshing their portfolio of machines with the addition of two IntElect 100 ton machines underpins forteq UK’s strategic roadmap to optimising processing efficiency and supporting domestic manufacturing in the electric vehicle (EV) market. Overall investments by the progressive firm in recent years are valued at close to £2 million.
Managing Director of forteq UK Paul Wallis comments: “forteq UK is striving to realign its business in line with group strategy to ensure we maintain and grow our automotive business content during the market transition to hybrid and full electric vehicles. We are investing in equipment and processes which support this, while at the same time improving our sustainability and environmental impact yet further. In the domestic market we aim to support re-shoring programs, also offering capacity in larger machines which enables more local supply of bigger components. Our other niche products comprise 2k components, precise gears and over-moulded parts, all linked to high precision products.”
Tight on tolerance
Demonstrating the company’s technical prowess, one of the new Sumitomo (SHE) Demag machines has been allocated specifically to manufacture 400,000 complex sets of gas meter precision components per annum.
The new contract, which commenced officially in Q4 2021, involves producing three very technical components on four cavity mould tools. When assembled, the components form a complex mechatronic valve featuring tight flatness and roundness characteristics, along with a threaded seal carrier, clips and living hinge to minimise parts list and cost.
Processing high performance polymers, machine exactitude forms a critical part of this application’s success, notes business development manager Steve Roberts. He expands: “Each element alone is complex with demanding flatness tolerances of +/- 50 microns where nearby features can cause distortion. This level of dimensional accuracy requires the most exact injection moulding precision to achieve the required quality and repeatability.” The IntElect’s direct drive technology is designed purely for injection moulding. This means it delivers the accelerated injection speeds needed for accurate dosing and injection performance, prerequisites for tight tolerance applications like this gas meter valve.
forteq purchased the all-electric machines to enhance moulding precision and stability. For that reason, forteq UK has assigned its second IntElect to manufacture worm wheel gears used in vehicle power steering applications, as well as a wide range of components deployed in wiper systems, door latches, window regulators, geared actuators, seating systems, HVAC and fluid delivery applications.
Describing the complexity of the worm wheel project, Steve continues. “It involves the over-moulding of precision machined steel hubs. These are placed into the mould tool on a precision made collapsing collett to maintain centralisation of the gear. The gear ring itself that forms the helix plastic teeth is highly complex and engineered at our gear competence centre in Switzerland.” To assist with seamless production, both IntElect machines are integrated with a Cartesian robot and conveyor to carefully handle the final products.
The IntElect’s generous tie bar spacing and mould height means that the machine can easily accommodate automation to assist with insertion and the removal of parts in a wide range of applications. Including safety components with special aesthetics that need to be protected from dents and scratches while the high grade polymers cool and harden.
“We manufacturer a large number of components where the flatness tolerances are very tight. The use of robotics integrated into the injection moulding cells enables us to meet stringent cleanliness requirements, as well as removing the parts at speed and lay them flat on a conveyor to cool. This helps us to maintain our global reputation for quality, as well as reducing scrap rates,” adds Steve.
forteq’s investment in cleaner and greener all-electric injection moulding machines increases their production capacity and puts them ahead of the curve, claims Steve.
Aligned to the company’s rationale, Steve concludes: “The transformation to EV is shifting demands on suppliers. We have already observed uplifts in enquires from automotive customers and are undertaking projects ranging from gears and actuators to vehicle sensors and end caps for battery modules. As legacy parts from combustion engine vehicles start to ebb, new components, many of which can be made from polymer to increase efficiency through light-weighting, will emerge.” It makes perfect sense that forteq produce these parts on the energy-efficient IntElect machines.