Modernised magnet characterisation techniques attracts new global markets for Hirst Magnetics
With increasing demand for magnet manufacturing in today’s thriving renewable energy sector and electric vehicle market, there has never been a more important time to increase the efficiency of magnet manufacturing processes. When Hirst Magnetics Instruments Ltd developed a new and innovative method for testing characterisation of magnets, they saw they had the potential to firmly place their small Cornish business on the map.
Their ‘Pulsed Field Magnetometry’ (PFM) method, which applies a pulsed field to measure magnetic characteristics at higher fields and with shorter cycle times, demonstrates a significant move away from existing characterisation systems which use dated 1950s techniques and cannot fully characterise modern rare earth magnets.
Hirst were one step away from using this revolutionary technology on an industrial scale but the Open Circuit technique that PFM uses, which is not convertible to the industry-standard Closed Circuit format, was holding it back.
To overcome this hurdle and unlock future markets for PFM systems, Hirst began a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Exeter. By recruiting a KTP associate and working with Exeter academics, Hirst gained the expertise in mathematics and theoretical magnetics they needed to develop a process for accurately converting their measurements to the conventional industry-wide format.
Under the supervision of Professor Stuart Townley and Dr Markus Mueller, KTP Associate Jack Wade developed robust mathematical models that present PFM measurements in Closed Circuit form. These models have been integrated into Hirst’s existing software systems and a range of PFMs are being designed with the help of an Innovate UK innovation loan.
Professor Stuart Townley said: “The KTP with Hirst has enabled world-class research with potential to transform the global electric vehicle industry. In addition, the KTP with Hirst highlights the numerous opportunities in Cornwall for jobs in various high-tech sectors – contributing to the transformation of Cornwall’s economy.”
The expansion of the global market of magnetic components for electric vehicles will be accelerated by the approval of this new technique from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington and the Chinese National Institute of Metrology.
As a result of the successful KTP project, Hirst have unlocked a key product range which will lead to a dramatic increase in sales, as well as employment of new staff. Since the KTP, Hirst have expanded their production facilities in Cornwall to increase capacity for creating PFM systems.
Dr Robin Cornelius, Technical Director at Hirst said: “We have achieved all our goals, goals we didn’t even know were possible at the start. The KTP project provided us, a small business, with access to skills and resources that otherwise would have been either very difficult or very expensive for us to access. This has enabled us to develop a range of Technology that is vital to the company’s continual growth and future performance.”
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