The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a twinjet, seating 210 to 290 passengers. According to the American aerospace and defence corporation that developed the airliner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, it is the company’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the first ever to use composite materials as the primary material in the construction of its airframe. Composite materials are manufactured from two or more constituent materials with different physical or chemical properties. So when the materials are combined, the resulting composite material has characteristics quite different from its original components. Its features include principally electrical flight systems, a four-panel windshield and a smoother nose contour.
Continuing my series of posts about PhDs, their value, my own experiences and the careers they may lead to, I thought I’d draw attention to another blog I read recently in which the author conveniently picks up on some of the criticisms typically levelled at PhDs in the modern world: that they seem out-dated, offer poor training for working in industry, and are very difficult to put an economic value to. Here are some of my own thoughts on the subject…
In a guest blog for Developing Engineers, IMechE volunteer Kathryn Taylor discusses the benefits of collaborating with other local groups to bring the Bloodhound project to a larger audience, as well as highlighting the immense impact Bloodhound is having in education.
The Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) is propelled by a rocket and a jet engine, with a Formula One engine used to pump the fuel into the rocket. The Bloodhound project will attempt to break the land speed record (currently 763 mph, set by Andy Green in 1997 driving Thrust SSC), and reach 1000 mph. Continue reading
In February the Department for Education released a draft of its proposed changes to Design & Technology in England for Key Stages 1-3 (ages 5-14). From a Government that has consistently argued for more ‘rigour’ in education, it makes for a truly shocking read. The fact that ‘food and nutrition’ form the only compulsory part of the proposed D&T curriculum is just the the start of these highly unambitious, low-aiming and frankly economically illiterate proposals. In a survey conducted by the Design and Technology Association, 91.8% of respondents have said that the draft does not represent high quality D&T, while 95% said it will not encourage the development of modern and relevant D&T practice. Oh, and isn’t it ironic that it’s National Science and Engineering Week as well…
Today marks the start of the National Science Science & Engineering Week in the UK, running from 15th to the 24th March. Coordinated by the British Science Association, there are over 4500 events up and down the country organised to celebrate science, engineering and technology. This year the theme is invention and discovery, but the events don’t have to fit it, meaning that all sorts of great events are organised.
Maintenance: surely one of the aspects of engineering most likely to conjure up the image of mechanics, wrenches, oily rags and overalls, and the whistling intake of breath through the teeth that heralds the conversion of the estimate into the final bill. Sometimes, though, it really isn’t the parts and it really is the labour.
Let’s make some sweeping generalisations about cultures, industries and design engineers. Let’s say, for example, that European cars are less reliable than Japanese cars, but are easier to repair and the parts are cheaper (1) (2). Let us also say that the same holds true for trains manufactured in Europe and Japan (3). Why do we think this (admittedly exaggerated) situation has arisen? The answer lies in whether you are designing a product for reliability or maintainability.
The Europeans like to design for maintainability. You assume that certain components are going to fail at some point, so you make sure you can replace them in the shortest possible time, with the minimum amount of people, and with standard tools. Your suppliers in turn make systems highly modular, so you can quickly replace the offending sub-system and get back to earning money with your valuable assets.
The Japanese, people would have us believe, design for reliability. If you invest in development and testing and have high levels of confidence in the performance of your components, why should you need to spend time designing easy-access covers and making sure maintenance technicians can operate comfortably in the equipment bays?
If you are in the business of providing complex equipment, take a moment to think where your company sits on the line between these two extremes.
Often it comes down to what the customer wants and what they are willing to pay for. When delivering large projects, a company’s experience from similar products, coupled with contractual requirements that specify minimum reliability performance, will drive them to either design a product that lasts, or one that can be easily repaired.
But things are changing. In the case of the Intercity Express Programme, there are contractual requirements for availability of the trains, but not an actual number of trains. This means the supplier can chose how many trains to supply, as long as the right number of trains are available to go into service every day. This only works because the supplier of the trains is also responsible for their maintenance for 27 years, and has to put their money where their mouth is. The procurement of the UK Search and Rescue (helicopter) service is set up in a similar way, with the emphasis on providing a service in the right time at the right place.
Engineers will increasingly have to balance the triple constraint of Reliability, Availability and Maintainability when working on large contracts. Depending on your company’s current philosophy, that might mean some significant changes, to make sure a technician can wield a torque wrench comfortably during maintenance.
In the case of my car, I just wish the headlights were slightly easier to replace.
(1) author’s experience from owning a Dagenham-built Ford Fiesta Mk4 and a Japanese-built Honda Accord Mk7.
(2) JP Power survey 2012 - 5 of the top 10 cars are Japanese
(3) an experienced colleague’s summary from working on the Hitachi Class 395 and various European fleets.
Recently the biggest engineering story in the general news, was the announcement of the second phase of the High Speed 2 rail network, extending into the North of England. The new network (HS2 for short) has split opinion, with various sides to arguments both for and against the whole project, and so has filled a lot of column inches.
A few months ago I wrote a bit about what it’s like trying to finish a PhD. I thought I’d continue on with a few thoughts about where you go after. Do you try and stay on and continue your research? Move to another university? Or leave academia altogether and move into industry? Or go and do something completely different?
The Coalition government released the Renewable Energy Roadmap in 2011 in line with the 2020 target of ensuring 15 % of the energy demand is met from renewable sources. The roadmap focuses on 7 technologies:
The Renewables Obligation (RO) is a financial structure through which the government redistributes large-scale renewable electricity generation. Introduced in 2002 and administered by Ofgem, support has been granted for 20 years; over the last decade the RO has witnessed electricity generation go up from 3.1GW to 13 GW (ending in the first quarter of 2012). Making it de rigueur for licensed British electricity suppliers to source a certain and annually increasing proportion of electricity supplied to customers from renewable sources or face a penalty, Ofgem issues Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to electricity producers for the renewable electricity they produce. The electricity producers then sell their ROCs to suppliers or traders, permitting them to receive the wholesale electricity price plus a bonus.