Gateway Electronic Components has made a major investment to establish a ferrite core gapping service at its Nantwich, UK-based headquarters. The specialist component distributor is already seeing an array of companies using the service including OEMs, SMEs and design houses.
Gateway is one of the largest distributor of ferrite and magnetic material in the UK, supplying components from TDK, Fair-Rite and Ferroxcube. It outsourced ferrite core gapping for customers before Gateway managing director Martin Ford saw the potential for bringing the service in-house.
“We needed to take control of the gapping,” he explains. “It enables us to work more closely with customers throughout the whole process and we can offer a service on gapped and ungapped cores, giving customers more flexibility”.
Ford is already seeing a return on his investment.
“We were pleasantly surprised how well the machine shop was received, pretty much all our major customers have used the service.”
“In four months we have taken twice the amount of business as in the previous eight months without the machine shop installed.”
“That growth will continue as we are seeing more demand from different levels of the customer base, including OEMs,” he adds. “They can see what we are capable of doing and the geometries we can handle.”
Ford also sees opportunities to expand the service into Europe, initially into the Scandinavian countries.
The machine shop operation is headed by Josh Bailey, technical manager at Gateway Electronic Components.
“There are three key reasons why customers want this service,” Bailey explains. “They want a dimensional gap which is specified in millimetres or microns, or induction to an AL value, AL value is a product of inductance and the bobbin being used to test that can depend on what people have on bobbin.”
“Then we also work to a drawing which can be more complex where these things are pressed square and customers with high power requirements are using big metal bobbins which are round so you have to make something square fit into a round hole. So you are looking to grind corners off, putting in slots and undertaking any kind of profile on the edging.”
“Now manufacturers do keep a standard range of gapped cores across five or six different materials, but lead times are getting longer, and we find customers require a specific set of AL values, and AL values are what we do, day in day out,” continues Bailey.
“We can turn round a standard gap core if it is needed urgently in small batches in two weeks, the standard lead time is four weeks.”
“So if customer wants 2000 parts we can take an ungapped core off the shelf, and gap to what manufacturers would supply, but it cuts down that lead time.”
Gateway is also servicing design houses looking to source prototypes.
“We can deliver small batches and then take the order forward into volume once we get approval from the customer. We are seeing a lot of that type of job now and it’s the sort of job manufacturers won’t touch. We like the challenge it proves the value of what we do,” says Bailey.
Bailey leads a team of engineers who can work with customers to produce a CAD drawing of the chosen core, matched to the AL value or gap dimension.
Samples are produced for approval and electrically tested against a wide range of standard core geometry test windings.
On completion of the job, sample batch testing is then performed on the finished cores to ensure the spec.
The automatic test equipment is networked into the Gateway system to enable test data capture for each of the batches of material handled in the process. This maintains full batch traceability on raw material and the manufacturing process at each stage of the programme.
The physical investment has been in grinding and machining equipment alongside the associated test equipment.
Says Martin Ford, “This value-added service will strengthen our position as then ferrite specialist distributor in the UK and will also give us an opportunity in addressing the needs of an increasing number of customers across Europe.”