The INFINICUT® is arguably the most advanced range of pedestrian cylinder mowers available in the market today, with adjustable features and parameters ensuring sward consistency, plant health and unbeatable quality is achieved with every cut. The range is always evolving to keep pace with the ever-changing demands of turf managers, who continue to produce ever more superior surfaces. General Manager Iain Sinclair provides an insight ‘Inside the Factory’ in Sheffield, where recent investment is ensuring the INFINICUT® retains its place as leader of the pack.
Since the development of the first working electric INFINICUT® in 2014, this has undoubtedly been one of the biggest areas of technological development. Before its launch, it was pivotal that we had the right suppliers and partners in place to support the technology required. This has seen us working closely alongside a leading UK supplier, with a proven history in developing high quality wiring harnesses. This company have been a fantastic fit for us and, together with our internal software engineer, have been critical in developing the electrical system of the INFINICUT® range.
The partnership has also meant we’ve been able to react quickly to customer demands and make required changes to software – as well as work around supply issues and new designs. BTME 2022 saw us launch the extension of our Mk6 range across our Fixed Head pedestrian collection meaning these machines now incorporate CAN bus protocol for the communication logic, making the INFINICUT’s the world’s first professional mower with Bluetooth connectivity. Wireless interfacing and adjustments such as reel speed and cutting height can be made via the InfiniApp, available for smart devices.
Further major research and investment has been made in lithium battery technology. As part of our continuous product development programme, power across the INFINICUT® range is delivered by a lithium power source – available in 30Ah, 60Ah and, shortly 105Ah, sizes to suit the application. Again, we work with several manufacturers for the supply of lithium cells and BMS. The design of the wiring harnesses and enclosures is done in-house and we are now prototyping production of our own battery components to ensure we can continue to produce the battery and power systems needed for the market.
While the electrical operation and other features have been refined over the years, the leading-edge cut quality now synonymous with the INFINICUT® mower has remained a constant. In 2016 the decision was made to bring the manufacture of our 7, 11 and 14 blade SMARTCut™ cutting reels in-house.
There’s no manual or ‘one size fits all’ machine when it comes to manufacturing reels and it took us a good few years to design and develop from scratch some of the equipment we needed to deliver the level of quality and finish we require. Our reels are made from Boron, sourced in the UK, for strength and its heat-treatable qualities.
We purchased a bending machine which we modified to achieve the ‘twist’ we required, and later further adapted to become computer-operated to make the operation more consistent and less labour intensive. Once the blades are heat treated, they are then robotically welded to, again, ensure consistency. From here, it is grinded on a high-precision CNC grinder which ensures the reel is not elliptical or conical and gives the surface an exceptional finish. The final stage is to dynamically balance the reels by adding additional weight where required, however, thanks to the accuracy and good design from the previous stages of manufacture, a perfect balance is easily achieved.
As well as refining existing features and technologies, protoyping and new product development are important functions undertaken in the drawing office and across the factory floor. We now have three industrial 3D printers, which give us the ability to print and test parts for NPD. Where we may have had to wait weeks previously for suppliers to laser cut or machine items to provide proof of concept, we can now test ideas quickly and with improved confidence that when we come to order the parts, they’ll be correct.
The ethos of producing ‘tomorrows design, today’ continues to form the basis of our product design. However, having the right machine is only half of the solution, with major issues currently around supply and availability of product and parts. Thankfully, we have a great supply network who have been excellent at helping us through any shortages or design changes that we’ve needed to implement. Internally, we are a small team of just 19, with 10 working on the operational side of the business. We utilise the cell production form of lean manufacturing on the factory floor so good planning, team-work and communication are key, however no-one is pigeon-holed into one specific job. This has helped us to keep lead times low and gives us the flexibility we need to react to today’s market.