Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Summer Placement: AMRC with Boeing

Robin Hartley has been based in the Process Monitoring and Control group at The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing for his summer placement. Here's his story.

I am currently completing a ten week placement within the Process Monitoring and Control group at The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing.

The AMRC started as a collaborative research initiative between the University of Sheffield and Boeing, but has now grown to host over 80 member companies including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and IBM.

These companies work together in a range of groups in order to develop the next wave of high value manufacturing technologies in readiness for the future of engineering industry. The groups cover machining, composites, medical and nuclear research, design and prototyping, structural testing and automation.

The opportunity for my placement at the AMRC arose from one of our SELA workshops during which a senior Rolls-Royce engineer shared with us his thoughts and perspectives on leadership within his job role at the AMRC. At the end of this workshop, I was keen to follow up the opportunity and was lucky enough to find myself being interviewed the very next morning for a 10 week summer placement within the Process Technology Group at the AMRC. The group focuses research on measurement, computation and autonomous control challenges faced in advanced manufacturing processes.

My project is to design and develop both the software and the hardware for a wireless sensor network which can provide a drop in solution for monitoring the temperature of multiple machine tools on the AMRC Factory of the Future workshop floor. The system I have designed uses the popular Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms alongside inexpensive ZigBee radios which together provide a compact and low cost solution for wireless data acquisition.

After researching and developing the design at the start of the project, two wireless units have recently been installed on CNC machine tools as a proof of concept system. Each unit has multiple temperature sensors which are now recording data from locations such as the main spindle motor housing, the machine bed, the coolant fluid tank and the ambient workshop temperature.

I hope that in the future, the system developed for this project is expanded to work with a range of Arduino-compatible sensors, in order to allow multiple process parameters to be wirelessly monitored and recorded. This data could then be used to help identify machining anomalies and to improve manufacturing processes to always work at optimum conditions.
As a Chemical Engineering student, I have found this placement very rewarding as it has enabled me to expand my knowledge of programming, wireless communication, electronics and process monitoring in a multidisciplinary engineering environment. This has been a great opportunity to apply my engineering skills in a new context, whilst taking on the responsibility for developing, delivering and presenting my project against a number of design criteria; on time and within budget.

AMRC Project Manager, Simon Hogg has been supervising Robin’s placement. He said: “Robin has been working alongside our own engineers and has managed to adapt his skill set to allow us to progress wireless sensor collection.

“We have adapted the scope of his project dynamically during his placement to fit it to the needs of multiple internal customers including manufacturing engineers and IT managers.”

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