Offshore wind support blows in for Sheffield

04 February 2020

Magnomatics has teamed up with the University of Sheffield AMRC to drive big productivity improvements in offshore renewable energy generation using smart robotics and automation.

The market leading magnetic gear manufacturer has won funding from a key offshore wind supply chain support programme to help solve the challenge of robotic placement of large rotor magnets on wind turbines.

The Sheffield-based university spin out is one of seven UK companies awarded grant funding from the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) to carry out supply chain improvement projects for offshore wind power. It is working with engineers from the Integrated Manufacturing Group at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to deliver the ambitious ROBOMAG project.

Dr Lloyd Tinkler, Senior Project Engineer at IMG, said: "This project is a fantastic opportunity to support Magnomatics in increasing production rates to capitalise on demand for offshore wind generation, by automating the task of manipulating high-strength permanent magnets. A clear benefit of this would be the elimination of any potential trapping hazard when manually placing the magnets as they snap into position.

“It also links in with the AMRC's activities within the EPSRC Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub to address challenges in the production for high-integrity, high-value electrical machines in order to secure the UK as a leader in this area."

Matt Bacon, AMRC Project Manager for SMEs, added: “This is a tremendous opportunity for the AMRC to work with a globally recognised SME to help realise and de-risk automated processes for magnetic hub placement to facilitate the growth of wind turbine manufacture.”

The UK is the world leader in offshore wind, with more installed capacity than any other country. Already, offshore wind powers the equivalent of 4.5 million homes annually and is set to power more than 30 per cent of British electricity by 2030.

Minister of State for Business and Energy, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “The UK is a global leader in offshore wind and this funding will help our brilliant supply chain to innovate even further. Renewables are not just good for our climate, but for jobs and the economy as well – with up to two million new green-collar jobs by 2030. I look forward to seeing what these companies go on to achieve.”

Magnomatics develops and manufactures products for a range of industries, from hybrid and electric vehicles to marine propulsion, aerospace, rail, and oil and gas.  David Latimer, Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted with the funding from the OWGP. Magnomatics has secured strong commercial interest in our technology for offshore wind. This project is all about developing the processes and methods to help anchor the manufacturing in Sheffield City Region and the UK.”

The Reconfigurable Factory Demonstrator cell which shows the robot proposed for the project on the AMRC’s custom reconfigurable floor to which the rotary table and fixture will be mounted.

The Offshore Wind Growth Partnership is a key part of the joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal announced in 2018, funded by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC).

Andrew Macdonald, Offshore Wind Growth Partnership Programme Director, said: “This was a very competitive process and we received a high number of quality applications, totalling almost £2million in project costs, demonstrating the huge opportunities to maximise the economic benefits of our world-leading position in offshore wind. The OWGP is committed to delivering increased productivity and competitiveness that will drive increased UK content into offshore windfarms in the rapidly growing global market, as well as in the UK.”

Halfdan Brustad, Offshore Wind Industry Council sponsor for the partnership, said: “On behalf of OWIC, I am delighted to see these contracts awarded by the OWGP.  Utilising the funding provided by OWIC members, the OWGP has been able to identify an exciting range of projects from UK companies which merit support and investment. Activities undertaken by the OWGP, such as through these Pilot Calls, are important opportunities to support the growth of the UK supply chain and to help us deliver on our ambitions under the Offshore Wind Sector Deal. I look forward to seeing the outputs from all seven companies.”

Other companies successful in winning were: Cedeco, Global Energy Group and W3G Marine, while Cognitive Business, Sennen Tech and Smart Component Technologies will work to develop advanced sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) and communications solutions for offshore wind.

Cedeco is working with the National Composite Centre in Bristol and Global Energy Group has joined forces with the Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham. Both centres, along with the University of Sheffield AMRC, are members of High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult network.

The projects are due to begin in February 2020. 

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