Building on a foundation of engineering expertiseDig beneath the worrying headlines about the state of UK design and engineering, and there are many good news stories to be found.
Everything we seem to read, see or hear reminds us how poorly the UK is performing and what a mess we're all in. At Government level, the performance of UK manufacturing tends to be measured by the big corporations, so if BAE, or Rolls Royce, for example, is having a bad time, then that means that the rest of industry is down. However, the good news for the UK is this: if you know where to look, British manufacturing is doing well, making and selling products and leading world innovation.
Centa Transmissions is one UK company that leads the world in key sectors and has built an enviable reputation on the design, engineering skills and the flexibility of its workforce. With 33 years power transmissions experience founded on flexible couplings, Centa has developed into new and ever more innovative areas.
Centa is the leading expert in the field of engine testing, where its test bed driveline expertise has enabled the company to create an advanced system capability that makes it possible to successfully design drivelines for engine dynamometers through the careful specification of flexible couplings. Car and engine manufacturers are using Centa's test bed methods, which are based on its hydraulic pump drive system, to replicate drive conditions on engines of the future.
It's not just cars that are benefitting from this innovative technology, but manufacturers of all types who are trying to maximise gearbox efficiency in their systems. For instance, large gearboxes used in wind turbines utilise back-to-back testing, which allows designers to effectively measure and record torque allowances in laboratory conditions. You can also use a test bed to artificially create punishing operating conditions on gearboxes. For instance, you can apply high temperature testing, or use water sprays to recreate external factors that might negatively impact on performance. In final production, for instance, a test rig can be used to drench drives for tidal turbines and in doing so simulate 25 years' service underwater. Also, Centa test rigs have been used to help the army simulate the replacement of drive components on the battle field, replicating the testing conditions that would prevail in action and this is another fine example of how to obtain optimum research data on performance in a scientific environment.
Still on the subject of motor vehicles, Centa is well on the way to fulfilling an order for a number of gear units for hybrid buses. The buses run in and out of cities many times a day and the Centa solution enables the vehicles to use diesel power until entering the city environment. At this point, the vehicle is switched to batteries and the vehicle runs in this environ-mentally friendly manner until it leaves the central areas. Centa gearboxes drive each wheel and once the engine restarts, the batteries recharge for the next trip.
The field of green energy is already an area of specialism for Centa, with the company being active in the manufacture of drive components for wind farms, tidal power and solar energy. Although only 20% of renewable systems utilise wind turbines and only 25% of wind installations in the UK are effective, this sector is one most people are familiar with. Michael Sykes, Centa's gear division manager, bemoans the fact that the UK Government is failing to provide investment to British companies who are at the forefront of this fast-growing global technology. He cites countries like Canada and entire geographic regions, like the Basque countries, where huge investment is being made by Governments there.
Centa's strength is in integrating various components for the global OEM sector and supplying a complete solution, which for example, can give a space saving advantage to transmission solutions. "We know the right questions to ask," says Sykes, and this authoritative approach to problem solving has resulted in Centa manufacturing new products to answer specific problems. For instance, Centa's freewheels in tidal turbines ensure that something as important as 'feathering' or pointing the tidal plant into the strongest currents to maximise efficiency, is achievable.
Whatever the application, Centa makes it its job to provide the most appropriate power source for any given situation and if that means something special must be designed, then Centa is prepared to make the investment. That's why, when it comes to innovation, Centa Transmissions, can use its long experience in designing and producing power transmissions solutions in the UK to sell their British engineering expertise to engineers in so many diverse markets, both at home and overseas, despite the lack of Government investment.
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