How Metal Spinning is aiding the development of Renewable Sources of Heat

Summary

Odqa Renewable Energy Technologies is on a mission to produce high temperature heat from solar energy. Their groundbreaking developments will help companies using high temperature industrial processes switch from fossil fuels and adapt to renewable sources.

What really resonates with their existing audience is that their product could help lead the way in combating climate change through renewable energy technology. Odqa approached us at Excell to Metal Spin Colander shaped components which would be used to cool the reflector within their solar simulator.

Here’s how we assisted Odqa’s mission to produce high temperature heat from solar energy.

ODQA Renewable Energy Technologies

We had the privilege of speaking with Chiang Churchill Ngai, Project Engineer for Odqa. Their role as project engineer sees them take on multiple technical projects including experimentation and instrumentation of their developing solar receiver. Churchill Is also involved in the development of the solar simulator, a concentrated light source that mimics sunlight.

“Odqa is a venture backed, engineering spin-out from the University of Oxford’s Osney Thermofluids Institute and the Said Business School. We are on a mission to create the world’s cheapest on-demand solar power.

Our area of focus is Concentrating Solar Power/Heat (CSP/H), the fast-growing cousin of solar PV. CSP/H are a source of renewable, utility-scale, on-demand heat and electricity.

Odqa solar receiver could produce high temperature flows, these could be coupled with various applications including electricity generation, material, and industrial production.

As the company is working on a renewable energy technology, we all love the fact that our product could have an impact on climate change. Given that we are a relatively young company, I get to be involved in many different aspects of engineering.” – Chiang Churchill Ngai, MEng (Oxon)

Odqa Renewable Energy Technologies is now five years into their project, making breakthroughs in combating climate change. Their technology will help diversify energy supply and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. Harnessing solar energy will reduce pollutants in addition to creating future economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation and more! Follow their journey on their website www.odqa.com/

The Problem

Before Metal Spinning was considered, Churchill explained how Odqa planned to use sheet metal bent or faceted to the required shape they required. Unfortunately, this would not yield the shape and symmetry that metal spinning could produce.

“Metal spinning helped us in building the solar simulator used to test our concentrated solar receiver. The solar simulator contains a reflector that concentrates light rays from a very hot plasma-arc lamp. The reflector has a bespoke geometry and requires heavy cooling, this is where metal spinning comes in to create a colander-shaped structure to cool the reflector.”

Churchill also explained that, due to the experimental nature of this project being performed in an internal testing facility, it would not be sold as a product yet.

The ‘Dealbreaker’

Over the course of a few weeks Odqa began researching a number of potential manufacturers for their project. Through Google Search, they eventually found Excell Metal Spinning Ltd

“It took us about 2 weeks to finally find Excell and confirm a quote. Most metal spinning companies required us to place orders with large quantities of parts, which is unsuitable for us. We found Excell through google search.

We tried to create a part of the desired shape using metal sheets, which after some CFD analysis, we concluded a smooth surface by metal spinning would be best and reduce the chances of the cooling colander failing to meet expectations.

One main reason we opted to use Excell’s service is because most other metal spinning companies would only accept orders with large quantities of parts to be made, which just isn’t what we need for our application.

Price and lead time were criteria we were considering, which both were acceptable using Excell’s services. The buying process was smooth, Curtis is an excellent sales manager, and we really appreciate the quick responses from him whenever we ask for an update.”

The Solution

After learning about the requirements, the scope and scale of the project, the technical team at Excell discussed plans about the most efficient and cost-effective method of Metal spinning the colander shaped components.

1.5mm thick Aluminium was used, and due to the small quantity required, and the material properties of Aluminium, it was decided that manual conventional metal spinning methods would be used. This decision was made on the basis that hand crafting allows the operator to have greater control over both the spinning speed and forces required for forming. The operator can subtly work with the material and feel the structure of the material. This allows for timely adjustments when hand forming the Aluminium over the mould, which makes this process ideal for prototype development.

In addition, it was also decided that wooden tooling would also be hand crafted in-house. This mould would be used to act as the mould form, whereby the Aluminium would be formed over the exterior. It was the most cost-effective method and ideally suited for a malleable material such as Aluminium.

Wooden tooling, in comparison to Steel tooling, is best suited for small batch quantities and highly malleable materials like Aluminium. It is vastly cheaper than steel and quicker to produce. The downside of wooden tooling however is it can only be used for a limited time and is not suited for thick gauge Steel components. However, in this case it served as a perfect option.

The Results

“The metal spun parts were within the acceptable tolerances and worked well in our application. The parts were well made, worked under it designed parameters and environment, thus our solar simulator worked well!” – Chiang Churchill Ngai, Meng (Oxon)

We were delighted with the response from Churchill and the Odqa team. This was the first time they have used our service for their designs. Odqa measure value of service based on three categories; Lead time, Price and Quality, which they found all three satisfactory for their requirements.

Churchill explained that “the solar simulator worked well and enabled us to develop further into our receiver design. As the spun metal parts are essential to the solar simulator, Excell’s services definitely helped us in progressing our technology.

There was slight concern when there was a lead time delay, but after confirmation with Curtis, we did not feel worried. We will keep metal spinning as a potential manufacturing process knowing that Excell could provide this service.”

When asked if they would recommend our service Churchill went on to say “Yes, as we are a spinoff company from Oxford university, we would recommend your services to other companies in similar position as us. We would most certainly hope we can do business again in the future, be it the same part or new parts.”

Final Message

  • We would like to wish Churchill and the Odqa Renewable Energy Technology team the very best on their mission. One of the biggest challenges they face is improving the efficiency of the solar receiver technology. They have a continuous challenge “to create higher temperatures and the coupling with downstream industrial application”.

    “For 2022 we aim to produce multiple receiver designs and also test our technology using real solar fields. We are currently developing multiple receiver designs as well as expanding on our testing facilities. We sure hope to do business with Excell again in the future as metal spinning is a very useful technique to create parts with continuous curved surfaces.”

    You can follow their journey on their website https://www.odqa.com/

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