Discover what it’s like to work with Hitaltech
With a huge range of off-the-shelf enclosures and wire/board to board connectors – and the infinite possibilities of our customisation and bespoke design services – there’s no end to the applications for Hitaltech’s products.
But how could what we do benefit your business? For inspiration. To explore our value added services in action. And for examples of how we could support your product development, browse our case studies.
Essential Control designs, builds and installs innovative and bespoke building energy management systems that drive business efficiencies and reduce energy consumption. The company sells its technology to multinationals, power companies, hospitals, the automotive trade and more – and for the past eight years, Hitaltech has been collaborating with the company on its E-MAGINE product.
“We’re really happy with Hitaltech.”
Making good better
“About eight years ago we had a product that was reaching the end of its production life and we wanted its replacement to be better than anything else on the market,” explains Production Supervisor, Chas Field.
The result was E-MAGINE, a high specification, scalable and flexible building energy management system that integrates seamlessly with existing building equipment.
“We design the systems,” says Chas, “Hitaltech support us with the enclosures.”
A good working relationship
“I have to say that most of the suppliers we work with are really good – and Hitaltech are up there with the best,” Chas continues. “We always know what the lead time is and we get the products on time. Prices are always competitive and they have a good delivery record, in fact I think in all the years we have worked with them they have delivered late just once.”
Because the equipment Essential Control manufactures is bespoke, the company needed a number of customised elements incorporating into its enclosures: “We needed some additional milling on each of the three cases Hitaltech produce for us to allow for connectors and relays,” says Chas. “Each is pad printed to show the positions of the connectors on the casing and Hitaltech have also pad printed the front panel with our logo on it, the results really do look very smart.”
Like many manufacturers, Essential Control has had to make preparations for the various possible permutations of Brexit, including a no deal. “Customers understandably want to know what our plans are as far as a “no deal” Brexit is concerned,” Chas confides. “We feel wehave built a strategic and physical buffer between ourselves and any adverse effects of Brexit because we buy everything in the UK. Although we work to Just In Time principles we always carry a safety stock – particularly so in the current climate. We have confidence in the chain of supply from Hitaltech, because we know they always carry a buffer stock of the enclosures we need – so between us we feel we are adequately protected.
“We’re really happy with Hitaltech, and if we need them, they are only an hour up the road!”
Talk to us about how we can support your production challenges
When Electrica wanted to streamline and standardise its components range, they chose Hitaltech.
“Hitaltech offer an excellent design service that complements our own – there’s nothing they could improve on.”
Andy Nield, Operations Director, Electrica
Electrica is a designer, developer and manufacturer of electronic systems. The scope of service ranges from micro-controllers and monitoring systems to detection kits, control equipment and more.
“Currently we have completed around 1,600 designs for clients,” says Operations Director, Andy Nield. “We design and manage the whole process for the customer, and we work with an eclectic range of clients across multiple sectors, including big car manufacturers, dairy farmers, the amusements sector and biology.
The company is growing fast and now employs 30 people across engineering and manufacturing disciplines.
Single source connectors
Andy admits that, at one point, Electrica had “many, many suppliers of connectors”, but dealing with so many meant things were becoming complicated. They needed to standardise with one supplier, but which one?
“We’ve known Hitaltech for many years,” says Andy. “They know our business. They’re able to offer design and technical support. They know our design profile and are able to assist us in development.
They hold stock for us too, which has made us more effective because it means we’re not hunting continually for different suppliers. Working with Hitaltech gives our design guys access to a broad range of mainly board-to-board connectors which covers about 90% of our needs.”
Working with Hitaltech
Electrica made the decision to switch solely to Hitaltech around four years ago. Andy remains confident the decision was a wise one. “There are tens of thousands of parts and thousands of potential suppliers,” he says, “but we value the fact that they provide a great service – and make our lives a lot easier.
“For example, we needed a 10-way connector, and they only had 11-way ones. So they modified them for us. That’s not the sort of service that most suppliers would give – and I’m certain it’s a far better service than the multinationals.
“Hitaltech listen to us and are interested in what we’re designing. They profile the components that we’re designing into the electronics, and ensure they carry stock for when we’re ready to go into production. And because they’re based in the North West, if we have an unusual requirement or stock shortages, they are always happy to help us out fast.
Design is the difference
What would Andy say to other companies looking for a supplier of connectors? “Our focus is on design – if we do that and get that right, then the manufacturing contract will follow. Everything starts with design.
“Hitaltech offer an excellent design service that complements our own – there’s nothing they could improve on.”
Talk to us about your connector challenges
When the signal conditioning experts wanted an out of the ordinary enclosure, they discovered that “Hitaltech are always looking to make life easy for us”.
Amelec’s David Mundye was already familiar with Hitaltech’s connectors and enclosures, so when the company needed an ultra-slim enclosure for its latest process signal splitter, he took a closer look at the Hitaltech range to find something that would suit.
Within the range, David found an enclosure “that appeared to be suitable for both TS 35 ‘top-hat’ type Din rail and TS 32 ‘G’ rail mounting, and importantly with this dual mounting option within a single mould.”
Although the enclosure was the closest David had found to being ideal, this wasn’t to be an off the shelf solution. The din rail hooks would need modifying and strengthening, which would require additional tooling to achieve this.
“There were also possible heat dissipation issues to consider when customers mount multiple units directly side by side along the mounting rails,” explains David, “so Hitaltech also managed to modify the ultra slim enclosure cover to add ventilation slots at the rear. We worked together to marry our internal pcb layout to the enclosure, ensuring the terminal arrangement on the enclosure was able to slot up to our pcb, and that the modifications didn’t create any unwanted knock-on effects.”
Ensuring the enclosure was a true form and fit to what Amelec wanted also led to further custom-machining “not only the ventilation and universal din rail mounting requirements, but also to accommodate our requirement to access the four calibration potentiometers mounted to the internal pcb, so we would have all enclosures delivered with the correctly positioned through-holes.”
Working with Hitaltech
“We weren’t aware Hitaltech could do all this in the first place,” explains David. “We assumed that we would have to do the after-drilling of holes. After they sorted one issue, they said they could do another section. It was better and more cost effective to have the enclosures predrilled and pre-formed. Hitaltech are always looking to make life easy for us.”
After 12 months of collaboration in this step-by-step process, Amelec now has a finished product. “This wasn’t a massive product launch – we were only talking 100s to 1000s initially – so we didn’t expect Hitaltech to go to these lengths,” says David. “They gave us their full support throughout, and were also quite patient. They invested time, effort, machinery and tooling, which was quite impressive and made them stand out.”
Amelec’s signal splitter faces tough, worldwide competition, but working with Hitaltech has given the new product a real chance of success.
“Our new ultra-slim ADG231 signal splitter is suitable for both TS32 ‘G’ rail and TS35 ‘top hat’ rail mounting. We’re now manufacturing it in the UK for the process industry sectors, and looking to export it globally. We wanted production to be as lean as possible and Hitaltech have helped us do that, finding new cost-efficiencies that have helped us reach a sensible and sustainable price.”
So having experienced at first hand the way Hitaltech operates, would David recommend them? Absolutely: “I would say they would be the first I’d recommend.”
Talk to us about your enclosure challenges here.
Amelec is a privately owned, British manufacturer and supplier of signal conditioning and process control instrumentation. Its design, manufacturing and test facilities are in Milton Keynes. For over 40 years, the company has supplied its products to the industrial process sectors including; Utilities, Chemicals, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceuticals, Energy and Nuclear.
Hitaltech and Helvar collaborate for faster delivery of new latching relay unit
Helvar, the low energy lighting solutions provider, had been a Hitaltech customer for many years when Mark Holmes, Helvar’s mechanical and PCB designer, approached Hitaltech MD Andy Fitzer about designing a new customised enclosure for a new relay unit for the lighting industry.
“We brought in Hitaltech very early on because it’s important to get all the components right from the start,” explains Mark. “We chose Hitaltech as design partners because they are very knowledgeable and they always get back to us. If I need information re the housing from a PCB point of view, I turn to Hitaltech.”
The process began by bringing each company’s engineers together to explore options. Helvar needed a low profile housing as a traditional din rail mounting would have restricted user access. The company had already attempted to “squeeze all the relays into” a suitable enclosure, but they needed the relays to protrude through the housing. Hitaltech were able to suggest a solution.
A low profile enclosure
“It is actually our ‘Modulbox Compact’, which is a low profile enclosure,” explains Andy. “By modifying the existing enclosure and machining custom cut-outs into it, we were able to provide access to the actuators
Hitaltech supplied the green terminal blocks, and printed and machined the enclosure using plastics that meet fire regulations UL94V0. And the apertures were not the only customisation.
Translucent terminal guard
“The interesting thing is the red ‘terminal guard’,” says Mark. “We asked Hitaltech to mould that in translucent red so we could use it as an LED display. Terminal guards are usually manufactured in the same material as the rest of the enclosure body, but the translucent material allows us to place a 7-segment LED display beneath it.”
Digital printing, direct to plastic
Another key feature of the enclosure is its wiring legends and logo, printed directly onto the enclosure. “A lot of our range features printed graphics which identify the terminals – but usually these are done with overlays,” Mark says. “To line up an overlay on a cut out enclosure would have been pretty difficult, and we certainly wouldn’t have had overlays on the whole enclosure. We would have been restricted to a small area and a regular shape. That would have prevented us from numbering the relays, for example.
“But Hitaltech gave us the opportunity to digitally print the enclosures directly. That saves a lot of time and labour.”
“Printing onto enclosures is a really valuable resource as it enables our customers to have their own identity on the product,” explains Andy. “It can also aid installation. The four-colour printing we use is done digitally at our factory. It is very high quality and is a technique few enclosure-makers can offer.”
“The early-stage collaboration meant design took just 7 months,” says Mark, “and the product has already been well received.”
Project : Remote Terminal Unit TALUS T4E
Product : 12M Modulbox XTS C Version
Customisation Utilised : Printing and machining
As design engineers are pushed by marketing to design an aesthetically pleasing product which can be differentiated from the competition, they are increasingly facing a situation where a standard, off the shelf electronic enclosure no longer meets their requirements.
In large volume products, a custom plastic enclosure will be realised through the design and production of a custom mould tool with a pay back of the cost being realised in a relatively short timescale. However, in low to medium volume products, the options to invest in the necessary mould tools for a custom electronic enclosure is neither practical nor financially viable. As a result, a degree of customisation of a standard off the shelf enclosure is often required through machining, drilling and/or printing. This process is usually carried out by a third party, leading to a substantial hike in costs, longer lead times and there are often large minimum order quantities. The customisation process can be carried out internally through investment in machining and printing equipment, however this can require substantial allocation of internal resources.
Hitaltech currently supply DIN Rail mounting enclosures, hand held and wall mounting enclosures into the building automation market. Within this market both energy management technologies and light management are registering a high growth rate and as a result, manufacturers within this industry are striving to design a product which can be differentiated from the competition on both a functional and aesthetical level. As a result, a trend has emerged over recent years where a growing number of Hitaltech’s existing customers within this market are finding themselves in a trade off situation between customisation costs and the need to set themselves apart from their competitors.
In order to meet this need, Hitaltech and their manufacturing partner Italtronic have worked together to offer a range of DIN Rail enclosures which suit a variety of applications as standard, as well as offering the option to customise the product to meet customer specific demands. A two option approach has been developed which gives design engineers the possibility to differentiate their product for both low and medium volumes, with excellent value to cost ratio, and without the need to invest in expensive tooling and processes.
The first of these options is aimed at low volume projects with typical annual quantities from one to three thousand pieces. Using a combination of high tech multiple tools, multiple axis CNC machines as well as low cost high quality laser and full colour digital printing processes, Hitaltech are able to offer a customised DIN rail mounting enclosures at exceptional value for money.
The second option is aimed at medium volumes with typical annual quantities from three thousand pieces. Using a multiple slide, flexible tooling approach, Hitaltech’s partner Italtronic have developed a range of mould tools that can be adapted by the inclusion of relatively low cost custom mould tool inserts to produce a finished custom DIN Rail mounting enclosure. This customised housing is produced direct from the injection moulding process therefore eliminating the need for additional machining.
This two option concept has recently been fully utilised by design engineers at Schneider Electric in the development of a new Remote Terminal Unit called the Talus T4e.
Used in water and waste water treatment sites, environmental monitoring systems, abstraction points and booster pumping stations, the Talus T4e is housed in Hitaltech’s standard DIN rail and wall mountable enclosure the 12M Modulbox.
Whilst working with the engineers at Schneider Electric it became apparent that they required a DIN rail mounting enclosure to have large internal volume for components with openings for a large number of inputs and outputs, as well as having both wall and DIN rail mounting capability.
The projected annual quantities fell into the small to medium volume category and therefore the customer did not want to invest in custom mould tools. Schneider Electric ideally wanted to receive the electronic enclosure already customised to their requirements allowing them to eliminate the need to sub contract out any machining or printing to a third party.
Based on these requirements Hitaltech proposed the Modulbox ‘C’ version. This DIN Rail mounting enclosure boasts two high shoulders compared to the traditional two step Modulbox design and therefore has the advantage of increased internal volume, giving more room for components and air flow.
In the early production stages, the production quantities were to be relatively small and therefore the customer elected for the machining option with a view to changing to the custom mould tool insert option once the projected higher volumes were realised.
As well as requiring custom openings for components, the customer also required laser markings on the enclosure and a digitally printed transparent top panel. The resulting finished product is housed in a DIN Rail enclosure which looks aesthetically pleasing, as well as giving a distinct customised look which meets both functional and aesthetical requirements.
Buying and pad printing connectors with Hitaltech has saved combustion engineers ETC hassle, labour, storage and thousands of pounds.
Energy Technology and Control (ETC Ltd) designs and manufacturers innovative electronic burner controls for industrial applications to cut energy costs and emissions, and to ensure the high pressure steam boilers in breweries, hotels, hospitals, petrochemical sites, power stations and more can operate safely.
The safety control systems are critical. “If you get it wrong, it’s the quickest way to get a big hole, no building and a swimming pool,” says Julian Newton-Turner, ETC’s manufacturing and supply chain manager. “It’s dangerous stuff” (as this footage from ABC TV testifies).
ETC’s CE and UL approved controls regulate temperature, pressure, water levels and the firing up process of an industrial burner. Each controller unit is bespoke, hand-crafted to the individual requirements of their global burner manufacturing clients .As the company has expanded, so has its requirement for a wide range of pad printed connectors.
“We were buying in connectors, sorting them out and then sending them out again, 1000 a time per different type, to a local pad print company to print them,” explains Julian. “Once they arrived back we would hold them in stock – but then minimum runs went up to a minimum of 5000 total pieces. We use 23 different connectors – although some of those may only be needed once a year. For a business that runs lean, that was an awful lot of stock to be carrying.”
In search of an alternative, Julian visited the Southern Manufacturing Show in Farnborough 2016 . 24 hours later, he had a new connector supplier.
“When I met with Hitaltech they told me ‘we have approved connectors AND we can pad print’,” he says. “They keep them all in stock, and I know they can restock us quickly, which makes us more responsive – which is important as we’re part of other people’s supply chains.”
Cutting the cost; improving efficiency
Julian has also seen a big reduction in costs. “I was paying £2 per connector and 25p for printing. Now I get the printed connector at less than the previous cost of the connector alone. When you get through a couple of thousand a year for most lines, and have 20+ lines, that soon adds up.”
Julian estimates the switch has saved ETC £8-10K per year in pad printing alone. Then there’s the additional savings on the connectors themselves, “and also,” he adds, “it’s saved us the hassle and the labour and the storage. I just order from Hitaltech with our own unique code for our connectors.”
“It isn’t simply about costs,” Julian clarifies. “Our contract partnership with Hitaltech fits the way we work, and enables us to run lean, meet our supply chain commitments and avoid the hassle and inefficiency of carrying large stocks. When the connectors arrive, we just use them – I don’t need to think about anything else or pay a premium for short order parts. So, in a multitude of ways, Hitaltech have helped make us more efficient.”