How a manufacturing business embraced innovation
Panel Systems Ltd manufacture structural composite panels which are installed in building facades, caravans, transport vehicles and modular construction applications. The panels are designed to achieve a range of performance criteria including thermal, fire, structural, acoustic, lightweight and decorative.
The transportation authorities have set a target for buses to become 100% zero carbon emitting by 2035. To reduce emissions, there has been a major shift from diesel to electric propulsion city buses. Heating Systems in electric buses consume large amounts of battery power which reduces their operating range especially in the winter months. As a result, for buses to become 100% zero carbon emitting, a new innovative space heating system needed to be developed.
The project involved designing, testing and developing typical bus body shell heated panels. The main aim of the project was to develop heated panels for the electric automotive market. Through academic expertise and graduate support, we successfully developed prototype electric panels which were validated through laboratory testing. The design process included the use of advanced computer modelling techniques, not previously used by the Company, which allowed the performance of different designs to be rapidly assessed.
The project has enabled Panel Systems the opportunity to expand into the electric vehicle manufacturing industry by integrating a patented low energy, conductive polymer technology (CPT) into the existing panels. As a result, the panel can also act as a space heater for electric vehicles such as buses.
A significant advantage of CPT is that it operates at a low voltage DC or AC power supply and has the capacity to reach high temperatures. The paper-thin integrated heating fabric ensures the new panel retains its strength and is lightweight with slimline characteristics so it will be particularly suited to the body shell manufacture of electric buses.
The final stage of the development will be the commercialisation of the technology in a range of panel specifications. This will require some additional in-house training of Sales staff as the Company seeks additional sales.
The Knowledge Transfer Partnership project has contributed to a shift in our business and we now embrace research and development as an essential business activity.
Chris Ibbotson, Managing Director