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West Yorkshire SME eyes electric vehicle revolution with new workholding innovations

A family-owned engineering company in West Yorkshire is aiming to establish itself as the experts in workholding devices for the production of machined components in electric vehicles.

Craftsman Tools is one of only a handful of British companies that specialises in workholding for machining processes (the device that locates and clamps components while they are machined), and the only one that designs and manufactures all of its own products. As a result of partnerships built up over several years, Craftsman Tools already produces a workholding device used by almost all major automotive manufacturers in the machining of camshafts, and is familiar with the unique challenges faced by the industry.

The initial developments are for a friction welding process to bind two parts of the CV shaft and then machine the joint in situ. Critically, Craftsman Tools will use its expertise to develop workholding equipment that will last in the harsh manufacturing environments of a fiction welder to ensure that the required geometric tolerances can be achieved. Craftsman Tools already has supply chain partnerships with companies targeting major electric vehicle companies, such as Tesla.

Electric engines have considerably fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines (20 vs 2,000) therefore the market for machined components is considerably smaller and there is an even greater emphasis on producing the remaining parts more accurately with tighter tolerances. The initial concept is for a modular design which can be adaptable to different CV shafts and similar components, increasing its versatility with a host of automotive manufacturers.

Managing Director, Robert Johnson, said:
“This is a very exciting project, and one that plays to all of our expertise and knowledge. Sales of electric vehicles increased by 25% last year, and an increase in the uptake of electric vehicles is crucial to the UK achieving its net-zero carbon goal by 2050. It will be a large step towards Craftsman’s own goal of moving away from carbon-intensive industries and towards the green economy.

“Through this project Craftsman Tools’ workholding can become a standard item in automotive factories around the world, each of them proudly made in our factory here in West Yorkshire.”