Bespoke manufacturing

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Bespoke production is becoming increasingly achievable for low and high-volume manufacturing. Bespoke products offer adaptability and full customisation as well as security in the fact that individual requirements will be met, especially if the manufacturer has the required specialisms in-house. Here, Stewart Goulding, managing director at mechatronic drive system supplier EMS Ltd explains the things to consider when opting for bespoke production.

Most people assume that in today’s economy most parts and products are standardised — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Industrial, and even consumer products use a large number of bespoke components to ensure applications can meet client specifications.

Bespoke perks

There are many benefits to using bespoke components. From customised designs that perfectly fit the end product to fine-tuning parts to ensure precise performance. While complexities of designing and manufacturing a bespoke drive system still remain, experience and the tools at the disposal of bespoke manufacturers not just in design but also in manufacturing techniques are pushing the boundaries of what is achievable.

Manufacturing and process automation is permitting the industry to enter more and more application fields. For example, at EMS, our bespoke gearboxes are used in a broad spectrum of applications, from medical devices, disability aids and prosthetic hands, to laboratory equipment and bovine cleaning systems for the agriculture sector.

Industrial applications will often require parts that are optimised to ensure that the resulting use can achieve specific technical requirements while remaining economical. Creating a bespoke application may be a longer process, but the results speak for themselves as bespoke products are often better suited than their standard counterparts.

This is especially important with the constant miniaturisation and light-weighting trends that we are seeing in many industry sectors. When a business decides to use a standard component, they are limited with its shape, size and weight. With bespoke parts, producers with skilled design teams can re-engineer parts to fit ever-evolving designs to make it exact for its final use.

One of the advantages of a bespoke drive system is that in the event that the working point of a specific application changes during the development phase or even after first application trials, the design is still adaptable and offers greater flexibility for change — either by the motor technology or a fundamental change in the gear train design. In contrast off-the-shelf components, afford less flexibility and are often defined by a pre-determined space envelope.

Bespoke processes

There are a number of innovations that are revolutionising the bespoke design process, including 3D printing which allows design teams to quickly generate concept prototypes. This means that designers can quickly show clients a physical design, and compliments the work already done on computer aided design (CAD).

Working in 3D CAD allows for a fast exchange of data and close collaboration with the customer. Particularly during the early stages of the project, models of the customer’s product and the concept designs are exchanged under a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that the space envelope is optimised, and clashes are identified early. As a result, this leads to a faster development cycle and higher probability that the design concept will be right first time.

Another innovation is full machine workshops that can autonomously manufacture the component parts. These automated production systems, when combined with skilled operators, create efficient and flexible production lines that minimise waste and maximise machine tool use.

EMS has an efficient process for bespoke drive system production that meets customer requirements while maintaining economic feasibility. Our experienced bespoke production team includes in-house design, test, procurement and manufacturing experts, giving us the knowledge to develop bespoke drive systems from concept to production.

Another key factor in successful bespoke design is trust. Clients must have a high degree of trust and confidence that their chosen producers can meet their requirements. One method of selecting a trusted supplier is reviewing their industry accredited certifications. ISO certificates, for example, require clear, transparent and quality processes in order to be achieved, and can be a strong indicator of a reliable supplier.

While bespoke production is normally thought of as being only suitable for low volume products, some of the products that EMS produces have production runs of up to 30,000 units per year. With modern tools, bespoke production is achievable for producers that are looking for high or low volume. Thanks to the right investment and advances in production capabilities, bespoke production is more accessible than ever before, giving the support and flexibility to manufacturers that standardised parts cannot always achieve.