Bloodhound SSC – the 1000 mph car

Andy Green at Autosport 2012 (Originators: Curventa and Siemens)

Andy Green at Autosport 2012 (Originators: Curventa and Siemens)

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

National Science & Engineering Week 2013

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.

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It’s not the parts, it’s the labour.

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.

2012 as seen by Developing Engineers…

Well it’s been a busy year for us here at Developing Engineers, with over 70 blog posts published and recording over 16,000 unique visitors (up 170% on 2011!) and around 70,000 articles read (up 455% on 2011!!!)  So, I thought it was fitting that we had a bit of an end of year review of just what our developing engineers covered… Continue reading

Successful Test of the Bloodhound Hybrid Rocket

Wednesday 3rd October 2012 will go down in the Bloodhound Project’s history as a momentous day – the day the hybrid rocket that will power the car to 1000mph was tested – and it didn’t blow up!

The Bloodhound Project Truck at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012

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Back to (virtual) school

Back in February, Peter wrote about online education resources for developing engineers.  Numbers of these university-grade courses seem to be increasing, along with their popularity, and two of the major providers, edX and Coursera, are offering more and more varied courses this term.

The courses cover subjects ranging from Sustainability, Programming Languages and Materials Science, to appreciation of sci-fi literature and world music.  I’ll leave it to our community of engineers to decide which ones best support their Initial or Continuous Professional Development goals.

Completion of the courses results in the award of a certificate of “participation” or “completion” and, depending on the course and the providing institution, more or less detail on grades received, merits and other feedback.  The lecturer of the Sustainability course from the University of Illinois even says that the students submitting the best personal projects could be invited to contribute to the field of study.

One common feature of this new format is the option to collaborate via forums and wikis dedicated to each course.  This should allow for a much more interactive and sociable environment than traditional, stand-alone online courses.  Give or a take a few hours for time differences across the globe, it’s not uncommon to see students posting frantic requests for help in the hours leading up to deadlines.

It will be interesting to see how employers and educators react to these new types of courses.  Their novelty, combined with the fact that they vary in duration, complexity and grading systems means that anyone trying to use them as evidence of knowledge and skills may find themselves explaining time and time again what exactly they have achieved through online learning.  On the other hand, if these types of course become more established, and especially if the awards come to represent an agreed standard of achievement, then employers will have to familiarise themselves with this format.

If any readers want to share their experiences of online learning, we can start to see how valuable they are, and how much recognition they are getting.

Hope everyone enjoys going back to school!

The Classic Rolls-Royce Ghost


Rolls-Royce Ghost

There are a handful of cars in the British motoring industry that sits as proudly as the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Steeped in heritage, this luxury saloon from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was inspired by the very original Silver Ghost manufactured in 1906. Designed by Andreas Thurner and Helmut Riedl, the Ghost has a slightly more affordable price tag than many other cars by Rolls-Royce. Initially named “RR04″ during the design phase, its built in the Goodwood plant and comes in two forms: the original Ghost and the 17 cm longer Ghost Extended Wheelbase.

The idea behind the automobile was officially unveiled at the March 2009 Geneva Motor Show, with a “200EX” title. This car was manufactured in steel, the chassis employed a four corner air suspension system, and a central shaft used for activating gear was in chain-like style aluminium, for both the front and the back. The “200EX” was expected to provide a dynamic experience and it delivered in more ways than one.

The classy and understated dashboard

The moment you step into the car and rev up the 6.6 litre V-12 engine you sense the emphasis that has been placed on noise-reduction technology. It has a capacity for producing a generous amount of acceleration, going from 0 to 62 mph in about 5 seconds; the highest that it can run is 155 mph. The Ghost comes with a luxury set of cameras equipped with a surround-view scheme, there’s night vision, lane-departure alarms, and high-beam headlights, ensuring that the car stays true to the brand label of Rolls-Royce.

Full-grain leather seats, chrome-finished touches, veneer wood lines, a cashmere infused roof, and Blenheim carpets give the interior a luxurious and practical feel while simplicity is projected from all of its many basic gadgets. It also possesses an impressive range of airsprings, electronic dampers, and Active Roll Stabilisation, built to take many readings for you from sensors all round the car and manage the suspension for efficient and comfortable driving.

What are we really willing to sacrifice for clean energy?

This week has seen new life breathed into the long running project to investigate the feasibility of a tidal barrage in the Severn Estuary – a £30bn scheme that could theoretically produce 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, slashing our dependence on fossil fuels and significantly reducing our carbon emissions in one stroke.  Sounds like a great plan right?  Lots and lots of clean renewable energy on our doorstep; what are we waiting for? Continue reading

An alternative solution to OLEDs

LEDs in action in Xmas decorations, Tokyo, Japan

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) emerged about 20 years ago and expectations have been high ever since that manufacturing of large-area emissive devices with low-cost roll-to-roll coating methods, similar to how newspapers are produced, would follow suit. Small organic light-emitting diode displays have been readily made use of commercially in smartphones, but a solution devising the existence of a continuous ambient fabrication has still not been discovered because organic light-emitting diodes are dependent on the use of one or many time- and energy-consuming process steps under vacuum.

Researchers at the Umeå University and Technical University of Denmark decided to come up with an answer to this long held out problematic situation by devising an alternative solution to the large-scale-application-expensive organic light-emitting diodes: the fabrication of a different emissive device, a light-emitting electrochemical cell (LEC), putting to use a slot-die roll-coater apparatus. The fabricated flexible sheets have been found to exhibit bidirectional and uniform light emission.

The solution makes it possible to fabricate large-area LEC sheets under uninterrupted ambient conditions using a purpose-built roll-coater apparatus. The team put to use air-stable materials in a roll-coater apparatus, depositing a light-emitting layer and a PEDOT-PSS anode on top of a flexible cathode-coated substrate mounted on a roll with the aid of a slot-die head. Even though the layers have been found to be highly uneven, the roll-coated LEC devices still exhibited uniform and strong light emission at low applied voltage due to the self-doping operation of the LEC. This has been reported to be ideal for roll-to-roll processes because the quality of the coating can be varied according to demands, thus effectively lowering costs. The layer thickness for the active layer and anode was about 1-μm.

The research has demonstrated that manufacturing of emissive LEC sheets, from the initial preparation of inks, to the subsequent coating of the constituent layers, to final encapsulation, could be carried out under ambient air using a slot-die coating technique which is compatible with high-speed and low-cost roll-to-roll fabrication. The fabricated devices are robust and fault-tolerant due to the utilization of air-stable materials and a 1-μm thick emissive layer.


Substrate: a solid substance onto which a layer of another substance is applied, and to which that second substance sticks fast to.

Slot-die coating: a basic method of applying a liquid material to a substrate.

PEDOT-PSS: a polymer mixture of two ionomers.

If you’ve been enjoying the cycling, you may like this

My view from Box Hill cheering on Team GB in the Women’s Road Race

If, like many, you’ve been enjoying the Olympic cycling action, you may be interested in a recent paper from the IMechE. The paper, entitled Sports Engineering: An Unfair Advantage? talks about the role of engineers in supporting elite sports and talks about some of the engineering involved in Team GB’s cycling success, amongst other sports. It’s definitely worth a read as there’s some interesting topics being discussed.

Go on Team GB!