Transition to ISO9001:2015

We have now completed the first key stage of our transition to ISO9001:2015 by having a full review of our QMS vs this new version of the standard. As a result we have rewritten large sections of our QMS manual and changed some of our procedures. In many areas (especially risk management) we found we were already doing what is required by the new standard but just needed to tighten up on recording. BSI are now booked for 8th December 2017 to carry out a full readiness review and provisionally booked for 11th January 2018 for the first external audit at which we hope to gain certification.

PCB Design Software Upgrade

We have recently made a significant investment to upgrade our PCB Layout software (Mentor PADS) to the latest version. This introduces a whole range of new features including significantly enhancing 3D mechanical integration and allowing more complex rules to be defined for meeting electrical safety spacings. This should improve our efficiency in carrying out the challenging designs we have to do which regularly require complex mechanical interaction and also reduces risk as accurate 3D (step) files can be both imported and exported easily. At the same time we have taken the opportunity to improve our parts library to provide better uniformity across projects.

Two New Members of Staff

We are delighted to report that two new members of staff have joined SPS as a result of our recent recruitment drive. Both of them have a keen interest and relevant experience in power electronics applications. This is great news for the company as we are so busy. We are still interested in anybody else who would be interested in working with us. Please contact us via the form.

Technical Partner appointed FIET

In recognition of his technical ability, experience and commercial enterprise, our Technical Partner Dr. Charlie Elliott was recently appointed to be a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology as reported here.

Charlie commented that although this is a personal achievement that the entire staff at SPS have all made a significant contribution to the success of the business which formed a key part of being eligible for the award. He wanted to pass on his thanks to them.

IPC/WHMA-A 620 Training and Certification

As part of our ongoing training program and commitment to improving quality, our Production and Quality Manager (Alan Yarker) and one of our manufacturing staff (Liz Thewlis) have recently taken the 3 day IPC/WHMA-A 620 Application Specialist course at The Electronics Group just round the ring road from us in Leeds. This intensive 3 day course is aimed at training staff in the Acceptability of Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies. Both Liz and Alan said the course was very worthwhile and passed with no problem. We are very lucky to have such excellent training facilities local to us in Leeds.

SPS starts major new project

We are delighted to announce that SPS will be collaborating with one of its longest standing customers Ceres Power Ltd. on a new Innovate UK project for the next 18 months. This is aimed at taking the existing fully-qualified compact power electronics (PE) system for domestic micro CHP and making it production ready for other markets including the Far East.  The existing PE unit has been in constant use for 8 years at Ceres Power, including the SteelGen™ units deployed with British Gas in the European funded ene.field programme.

SPS is looking forward to the opportunity to apply the latest technologies to the system as well as gain experience in different geographical markets each of which has their own challenges.

SPS Joins AESIN

SPS has recently joined two industry bodies which closely reflect the type of work it is involved in. Both are managed and promoted by TechWorks https://nmi.org.uk/techworks-launch/.

AESIN – The Automotive Electronic Systems Innovation Network http://aesin.org.uk/ is a dedicated UK initiative focused on the accelerated and advanced delivery of Electronic Systems into Automotive Applications and infrastructure. This is another perfect fit given the work we do on xEV systems and other intelligent actuator and motor drive systems for automotive applications.

SPS Joins Power Electronics UK

SPS has recently joined two industry bodies which closely reflect the type of work it is involved in. Both are managed and promoted by TechWorks https://nmi.org.uk/techworks-launch/.

Power Electronics UK https://www.power-electronics.org.uk/ has been set up to promote the thriving UK power electronics sector and provide a forum for collaboration. It is a very natural fit for SPS and we are looking forward to being actively involved.

A very successful PCIM

We are now back from PCIM 2016 in Nuremberg. This was the first time that SPS had exhibited at the show and it turned out to be very successful for us. We had plenty of interest in our stand and were complemented by many visitors (including a competitor!) on the breadth of our product development experience. Our mix of power electronics and embedded control really impressed people.

SPS achieves certification to ISO9001:2008

BSI have now carried out the final stage 2 external audit to ISO9001:2008 and we are delighted to report that we have passed!! This is a fantastic achievement and we are as convinced as ever that this will bring real value to the company and our customers. We have now added a dedicated quality page to our site where you can download our certificate and also find out about our other quality initiatives.

Vapour Phase Reflow Oven Commissioned

Zen Production Ltd. have now fully commissioned and installed our vapour phase SMD reflow oven. Since first trialling such an oven in October 2015, Zen kindly loaned SPS their demonstration oven until the model we had selected was available. We have now swapped over to using this and are looking forward to the same high quality results.

SPS to attend PCIM 2016 Nuremberg

We are delighted to report that SPS will be attending the PCIM exhibition in Nuremberg between 10th and 12th May 2016. We will be in booth 6-338 and will be exhibiting both the design and manufacturing sides of the business. PCIM is a unique event and we believe that SPS will be able to demonstrate quite a unusual offering at the show given it covers the full spectrum of both design and manufacturing. SPS is able to take on complex subassembly and even full system builds unlike others companies in the market.

SPS Utilises Rapid Prototyping Controls Again

SPS is making great use of its general purpose power conversion controls platform again. This was initially developed as part of a Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) part-funded project in 2009 – with TSB funding this meant the IP was retained by SPS. The controls platform was developed to allow rapid prototyping of systems for customers in the initial proof of concept phase. For the TSB project it allowed SPS to implement a very specific motor control hybrid vehicle requirement. The platform has been invaluable on numerous projects allowing us to use existing building blocks to rapidly prove out initial concepts to customers with low risk and cost. Once the concept is proven, a lower cost targeted implementation can then be developed. The current use is on a 50kW compact static power conversion application.

We are already in the process of revamping this controls platform to take advantage of the latest generation of microcontrollers and to also incorporate additional robustness and flexibility so that it can be used in lower volume niche applications for the manufacturing side of the business. We hope to be able to report on that progress in Q2 16 and publish a full specification.

BSI carry out ISO9001:2008 stage 1 audit

Following on from a positive “pre certification audit”, BSI have now carried out the stage 1 formal external audit to ISO9001:2008 which focuses on the Quality Manual in particular. No non-conformities were found but a few suggestions for improvements have been taken on board and the scope of the QMS expanded to include servicing and maintenance activities.

SPS Trials Second SMD Reflow Oven

SPS is trialling an Asscon VP450 small batch vapour phase oven kindly provided by Zen Production Equipment Ltd. (www.zpel.co.uk). We were very impressed by the professional and open approach of Zen both in terms of sales and on-site commissioning support. The very first PCB trialled with the unit was a complex design incorporating significant copper floods with larger SMD components as well as other areas with just signal electronics. Our experienced production technician was very impressed with the excellent quality solder joints that were immediately evident and the simple operation of the machine. As a result of this initial trial and other subsequent successful uses of the machine, the decision was made to go ahead and purchase.

BSI carry out ISO9001:2008 pre-assessment

As the next step to achieving ISO9001:2008, SPS have engaged the services of world renowned British Standards Institute (BSI) to carry out a “pre certification” audit of its existing Quality Management System. This was duly carried out with no issues found but just a few suggestions for improvement. These suggestions have been taken on board and minor changes made. BSI have now been fully engaged to carry out stage 1 and stage 2 external auditing with a view to achieving certification in Q1 2016.

ISO9001:2008 Internal Auditor Training

In anticipation of seeking certification to ISO9001:2008, two SPS staff have attended BSI’s internal auditor course which was held over two days in York. Both Alan Yarker (Production and Quality Manager) and Peter Moriarty (Principal R&D Engineer) found the course to be very helpful in providing a structured approach to auditing. It also allowed them to get some specific key questions answered by people who had clearly been auditing for many years. Having fully trained internal auditors was viewed as being the first key step to achieving certification which is targeted at Q1 16.

 

Review of in-house SMD Soldering

Having our own internal capability for high quality assembly of SMD PCBs for prototyping and small manufacturing batch runs has always been essential to meet customer lead times. Without a large multi-zone heater reflow oven and the possibility of tweaking parameters to optimise production yield, this is not a straightforward task. This has been compounded by the move to lead-free soldering and the same PCB having a large range of size and weight of components and tracking / flooding. Historically a modest size convection reflow oven has been used by SPS but it was apparent that a higher performance oven would be required for future use. An internal review of different reflow technologies was carried out by our production department and advice sought from various suppliers. After poor results from trialling a popular oven specifically designed for low volume / batch work, advice was sought from Electronics Yorkshire. They recommended using vapour phase technology which SPS was familiar with as a technology as it has been used for many years for soldering copper base plates to the underside of the DBC in isolated power modules.

IPC-A-610 Certified Trainer

We are fortunate in having a very experienced production technician (Elizabeth Thewlis) who joined SPS in June 2012 having previously worked for many years in the power electronics industry. Liz had previously been trained to IPC-A-610 but her certification had lapsed. Given her experience it was an obvious decision to ask her to take the IPC-A-610 certified instructor course at Electronics Yorkshire so she could then instruct other members of staff. She duly completed the course in July 2015.

New Member of the Team

As a result of a significant increase in both manufacturing and development work, SPS has taken on another full time engineer. Kyriakos Papameletis (Kyri) recently completed his Master’s degree at Leeds University in “Electrical Engineering and Renewable Energy Systems”. He will be assisting with supporting test and debug work in manufacturing as well as development work on the design side of the business. This means that we now have 7 Engineers on the development side of the business who all studied at Leeds University and between us we have 3 PhD.s, 3 Masters and 5 Bachelor Degrees!! Two of us are also Chartered Engineers – the equivalent of P.E for our North American colleagues.

Equipment Update

After a 1 month trial, SPS has gone ahead with purchasing a combined frequency response and wide bandwidth impedance analyser (PSM1735 + IAI fixture) manufactured by UK company Newton’s 4th Limited. Having access to this piece of equipment will allow more accurate and reliable characterisation of the frequency response of the significant range of complex control systems that SPS develops.

The previous piece of equipment SPS used for this was limited in its ability and was reaching the end of its life. The Impedance Analysis Interface module will also assist SPS with assessing the performance of both standard and custom designed components all the way up to 35 MHz which is an essential part of switched-mode power conversion and Electromagnetic Compatibility development work.