How do you source specialist expertise? Where do you turn for support with technically-challenging aspects of engineering development projects? For designers of products that include electromechanical functions, help is at hand. Surrey-based Magnet Schultz Ltd (MSL) offers a unique design service resulting from 40 years of experience in solenoid actuator technology.
MSL is the UK’s leading authority on electromechanical actuator design. The majority of its products are bespoke subassembly designs incorporating advanced solenoid technologies, typically deployed in electric locking and security applications. But to think of MSL as just a manufacturer would be to miss the point. The company is as much a service provider; it is the outsource partner for clients across a dozen industry sectors, with its special actuator expertise deployed in applications from aerospace and automotive to sub-sea and transportation.
Magnet Schultz Ltd is the UK arm of the world’s leading supplier of solenoids and electromagnets, Magnet Schultz Memmingen, in Germany. Such provenance gave MSL a head-start with access to electromagnet technology and actuator expertise, but the British company’s full-service proposition is entirely home-grown. Managing Director, Andrew Newton explains: “We supply our parent company’s solenoid product lines in the UK, but our primary focus is on bespoke design projects for businesses here and overseas. In fact, some of our direct clients are in Germany, which I think underscores the uniqueness of our service. We deliver design as a service. Our products are simply the outcome of that service, based on our extensive knowledge and years of experience in electromechanical and actuator design.”
Recent design and prototype projects demonstrate the variety of markets and applications where specialist expertise can make a difference. All are part of larger development projects where electric actuation is an intrinsic function. Many are security applications in one form or another: some in a traditional sense to prevent intrusion or human access, as with an electric lock for cash-in-transit cases and invisible sub-floor deadlock assemblies for glass doors used in a historic university campus building. Others are holding, retaining and remotely-controlled mechanisms in unusual applications, such as a wine fridge on board Aston Martin’s new power boat and a control system featuring ultra-low-power solenoid latches that automatically close shutters on temporary buildings to help contain fires.
All share the same route to market in being products of an outsourced collaboration between MSL and a client, with the MSL development team delivering the design expertise and resources as part of a full service that defines and proves the concept, creates prototype assemblies, undertakes testing, and ultimately supplies the final mechanism – typically through a business model that demands negligible or zero up-front investment by the client.
Among those resources is a series of strategic new investments in rapid prototyping technologies at the Magnet Schultz HQ in Old Woking, Surrey. These shorten project timescales and broaden MSL’s capability by offering clients a practical option to review a variety of design concepts early on, right at the prototyping stage.
Key investments include dedicated prototype machining for various metal materials and dual extruder fusion deposition modelling (FDM) 3D printing equipment, as well as extensive test systems for EMC and environmental validation – vital considerations before taking any product development forward to production.
Supporting these physical incarnations of design concepts is a suite of digital technologies including 3D modelling software and sophisticated rendering tools to create photorealistic images from the 3D digital models, allowing clients to visualise preliminary design concepts before any metal is cut or plastic extruded.
“Working together, these new facilities save time to move designs forward faster and with more confidence,” explains Newton. “It lets us create rapid functional prototypes for physical testing and to prove mechanical designs, and also means we can quickly present clients with physical, hands-on examples of complex designs to give them a better understanding of our engineering proposition.”
Rapid prototyping is an essential foundation of MSL’s full-service proposition. It allows the company to take responsibility for the entire actuator and subassembly development process, which broadens its appeal as a development partner to businesses looking for highly specialised electromagnetic engineering expertise.