The use of lockers is growing in all aspects of everyday life, advancing manufacture to meet the demands of innovation. Be it mobile phone charge lockers or fully automated 24/7 parcel lockers, located anywhere from retail to universities, railway to petrol stations, it’s all about consumer convenience.

As a result NSF Controls, a UK leading designer and manufacturer of solenoids and switches, has seen an upturn in business from this sector. And for one of its clients, the world’s leading secure, away from home, mobile phone charging business, NSF Controls has helped to improve the performance and power consumption of the company’s mobile phone charger lockers.

The business, which produces secure mobile phone charging stations, contacted NSF Controls, seeking to improve specific areas of product performance. Its first commercial models available were six-locker units in free or vending options. Each publicly placed unit consisted of highly secure lockers in which to place mobile devices while charging for periods of 30 or 60 minutes.  A four-locker wall mounted version was soon to follow.

However, the design had reached a defining moment since its inception. It was basically sound but was being hindered by two unrelated issues:

  • The solenoid locking system fitted to each compartment was using excessive power resulting in over-heating.
  • The cam lock blocking mechanism was getting jammed in operation.

NSF Controls identifies opportunity to avoid overheating and reduce power consumption

NSF Controls was briefed to optimise performance to meet requirements and in doing so, reduced power consumption by approximately half. NSF Controls’ Commercial Manager Roy Whitaker explains how this was achieved: “On assessment, it was apparent that the space available was adequate to fit a slightly longer solenoid with reduced current. Thus providing more force, but using less power.  A moderate increase in production costs would be offset by extension to longevity and therefore be easily recouped over the lifetime of the finished product.”

Bespoke engineered design improves operation

The solenoid itself operated a blocking mechanism to prevent engagement of a conventional key cam lock.  When in operation, the freedom of angular movement available to this aluminium block frequently resulted in it becoming trapped in the latch slot.

NSF Controls’ engineers designed a robust plastic moulded blocking piece with integral skirt secured to the solenoid plunger. In effect the solenoid and blocking piece became one component, virtually eliminating the possibility of misalignment. These alterations to size and profile of the solenoid meant its positioning and fixing on the panel plate also required adjustment. The solenoid location tab on the steel bracket would need moving along to cater for the increased solenoid length.

Another concern was the space gap between the plate and the solenoid coil housing. Should the key be operated in an awkward or heavy-handed fashion, it could dislodge the component.  After client consultation, NSF Controls sourced a supplier and submitted a redesigned steel panel plate. The location tab on the bracket was resituated accordingly and a raised steel lip was added as a means of reinforcement for the solenoid body.

NSF Controls’ Commercial Manager Roy Whitaker adds: “With this project completed successfully, the partnership with NSF Controls was extended to include complete assembly of the locking panel. The team was asked to perform supplier research and selection for micro switches and proceeded to build the sub-assemblies for four and six locker models in their entirety; first for market testing and then increasing output according to demand.

“Since this project, NSF Controls has committed to on-going new product development identifying and developing new opportunities for the growing locker sector, which also encompasses security and vending products.”

In excess of five million charges have been successfully provided so far with four million more charges forecast annually. To-date over 2,000 stations have been constructed, more than 50% of these exported to 17 different countries.


You may also like...