The IDC on Tour!
On Thursday 5th July, seventeen IDC Research Engineers and one brave Admin Assistant set off on an intrepid adventure south to visit two of our Industry Sponsors. With a few hiccoughs to begin with, we finally made our way to Bristol, where GKN Aerospace is based. GKN designs and manufactures innovative smart aerospace systems and components. Their technologies are used in aircraft ranging from the most used single aisle aircraft and the largest passenger planes in the world to business jets and the world’s advanced 5th generation fighter aircraft. Dan Graham gave us a short introduction to the company and then we were allowed to visit the shop floor, where we watched ribs being made, which form the structure of aircraft wings. This was fascinating, and on one of the hottest days of the year, we were very pleased of the fans to keep us cool! While at GKN we also visited their Additive Manufacturing Centre, where they explained to us how they were using different powders in 3D printing, and how this technology can be used to reduce waste in manufacturing. Of particular interest was the Laser Powder Bed Fusion, which uses a laser to melt and fuse material powder together. After our visit was over, we all headed to the hotel for some much needed showers, and reconvened at the pub for dinner.
Friday morning dawned, and we were all up bright and early ready to drive to Didcot to visit Element Six. Element Six is part of the De Beers Group, and designs, develops and manufactures synthetic diamonds that can be used in cutting, grinding and drilling. When we arrived we were once again very grateful for the air conditioning that greeted us! Wayne Leahy gave us an introduction to the company, and then we headed off to find out more about the Synthetic Poly-Crystalline Diamonds they make, and how this material can be used in precision cutting tools. We started with an interactive session, looking at how diamond can cut granite, and the conductive powers of PCD, before splitting into groups to visit the workshops. We were all in awe of the huge belt presses that are used to create the diamonds through a High-Pressure High-Temperature process. After a delicious lunch at Element Six, we all made our way back to Sheffield through the Friday-evening traffic, just in time for the football! Hurrah!
"The industry visit was a valuable opportunity to witness machining science practises in action and to understand current and future industry challenges. Thereby reinforcing and informing the direction and intent of our research within the IDC"
Second-year IDC Research Engineer
Some of our photos from the trip: