MADE IN SHEFFIELD: ‘Magic’ force driving magnetic gears pioneer

Sarah Duggan, senior design engineer, with Magnomatics' technology.
Sarah Duggan, senior design engineer, with Magnomatics' technology.
Have your say

There can be few more wince-inducing sounds than a driver crunching the gears.

The ‘grind-howl’ of fast-spinning teeth being rammed together is never going to soothe.

But what if there were no teeth? And what if hundreds of moving parts were reduced to two – and they weren’t even touching?

Magnomatics’ incredible technology consigns the agony of botched gear changes to history.

For its super-powerful magnets control power in everything from cars to oil well pumps to wind turbines.

And its gears are cheaper, more efficient and perhaps best of all, maintenance free.

Dave Latimer, of Magnomatics.

Dave Latimer, of Magnomatics.

Impressive, but the problem with genius ideas is that they can be a hard sell – especially if it sounds like magic.

So the wonder of magnetism – a powerful, invisible force – is also one of its disadvantages. Especially if you are dealing with engineers, some of the most rational people on the planet.

David Latimer, Magnomatics chief executive, said: “It sounds like magic but it works in real life. One of our challenges is demystifying magnetic gears.

“People say, ‘does it really work?’ We are continually out there convincing people it does.”

Dave Latimer, of Magnomatics.

Dave Latimer, of Magnomatics.

Fortunately he can point to an astonishing example.

Magnomatics’ gears are in an oil pump far underground that has been working for 550 days non-stop.

That compares to a traditional ‘nodding donkey’ which typically conks out once a month, David says.

The firm is also working with US company Triumph which makes aeroplane wingflap motors and supplies Boeing.

Magnomatics' headquarters next to the Parkway.

Magnomatics' headquarters next to the Parkway.

Two prototypes are being evaluated.

It could eventually lead to Magnomatics supplying Boeing’s first factory in Europe set to open in Sheffield in two years.

Magnomatics is also working with Chinese car maker ChangAn, the world’s 15th largest, which made five million vehicles last year.

But the potential in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, where only one in 20 own a car, is huge, says Dave.

Magnomatics is 11 years old, it originated in the University of Sheffield engineering department and is today mostly owned by investors Finance Yorkshire and IP Group.

Turnover is £2m and it breaks even.

Old technology, foreground, and new at Magnomatics.

Old technology, foreground, and new at Magnomatics.

But with 22 patents, as Dave says: “If you want magnetic gears you have to come to us.”

Magnomatics is all set to slip smoothly into top gear.


Millions of people have heard of Magnomatics without knowing it.

The firm’s name fills one wall of its headquarters on Bernard Road, next to the Parkway in Sheffield city centre. It is an old railway building that served Nunnery Colliery which opened in 1868 and closed in August 1953.

Getting your name out is vital to any firm. But Magnomatics has other advantages, according to boss David Latimer. It was founded by University of Sheffield academics and still has strong ties with the university, it is based in Sheffield and it is a member of the ‘Made in Sheffield’ club.

He said: “The university and the city have got a good reputation. We are proud to be from Sheffield.”