Innova Systems customer, GB Innomech, recently appointed Tim Mead as Managing Director, he gives an insight into his working day where using 3D CAD software SOLIDWORKS underpins the work of the organisation. First published Cambridge Evening News July 1st 2014
8:45 After waving my son off to take the bus to secondary school, I deliver my daughter to our local primary school with cakes for the school cake sale, as it’s her class’s turn this week. We’re lucky that the village primary school offers a fully flexible breakfast club, so if I need to get an early start she can join her friends at school for breakfast. After several years working near Cambridge Science Park, I was delighted to join Innomech and transfer my morning commute to a relaxing drive on fenland roads, in the opposite direction to the majority of the traffic.
9:15 My day starts with an informal design review with Justin, our lead mechanical designer who is computer modelling some test equipment to measure the forces inside a drug delivery pen as it fires. The pen design involves a series of small interlinked components that need to work together and a quick call to the SMC technical team helps us agree the ideal grippers and cylinders to hold and trigger the pen.
10:20 Leave the office to drive and meet a prospective customer with a multinational that manufactures billions of bearings each year from a local site.
11:00 The meeting starts with me presenting recent Innomech projects and technology experience that could be helpful in automating one of the more complex tasks in the customer’s bearing manufacturing line. We agree to build a small test rig first to check the automated equipment will deliver the reliability required. After a brief factory tour and a chat with the production supervisor (often the person with the most intimate details of a manufacturing process), it’s back to Witchford.
13:30 Proposal writing for a customer that manufactures special plastic trays for use in the preparation of cancer biopsies. They need a handling system to transfer moulded plastic parts between several processes and it is this part of my job that brings some of the engineering fun. Each new project involves different products, processes and technologies, and many involve working with multiple suppliers to put together novel machines. This proposal needs to move parts between machines three metres apart, so speed and acceleration are important plus a reasonably high degree of accuracy so parts can be placed within 0.2mm every time. Whenever possible we try to base our systems designs around standard equipment, such as existing measuring instruments or an industrial robot to help minimise risks and costs to the customer. This latest proposal needs to convey our thoughts about the proposed system and advise on the likely budget, with further discussions needed to narrow the options before providing a definite quotation.
14:45 New project kick-off meeting for a medical device manufacturer in Essex which has ordered an automatic test machine to detect minute leaks in a new range of devices. A couple of years ago, we developed a semi-automatic machine to test their previous product range, and the new machine will be very similar. My colleague Dr Peter Woods and I work through the specification to ensure there is a clear description of everything the machine will do normally, and if something goes wrong. This also helps to focus on the key risks in our project, so we can keep those in mind. Even with a simple machine there are lots of decisions on safety measures, such as door switches and locks and to ensure operators can use our systems easily, efficiently and safely. Peter and I decide on a light beam-based barrier rather than a physical door.
15:20 A phone call provides a diversion, and a conversation about a novel recycling process where the company wants to chop up stiff fibres. I am not sure what the ideal technology could be but I suggest they try waterjet cutting. They agree to run some quick tests and report back.
15:45 Software architecture review. Often one of the biggest challenges in getting a machine to work properly comes from the interfaces between different pieces of software and between the software and mechanical components. In this review I talk with one of our specialist associate companies to define what information will be exchanged between the software involved in controlling the machine and the display software that shows the machine summary, fault messages and process data to the operator.
16:15 Brief text interruption from my son who has been asked to play in a cricket match and needs collecting later.
16:30 Getting equipment going. We’re working with hydrogen fuel cell company AFC Energy to develop a robotic workcell that manufactures fuel cell stacks. The system uses an ABB robot to assemble hundreds of electrodes and spacers into the stack, then fits special clips to make the electrical connections. Steve, our lead control engineer has been seeing unpredictable results from one of the robot’s sensors that is affecting how it picks and places some components. We carry out a few benchtop tests together and identify a solution so he can move on to develop an error recovery routine.
18:00 Head for home for time with the family, chasing up homework and catching up on news. Turns out the cakes were a storming success, and my daughter’s class has raised the most money out of any class in the school towards their school trips.
20:00 It’s raining outside so [sadly] I can’t tidy up the vegetable garden, the weeds are winning over the vegetables. My wife is a teacher with a stack of marking to complete before preparing tomorrow’s lessons, so we sit side by side on the sofa, laptops on laps, tapping away. This gives me a chance to review the plastic tray proposal and to do some online research for a project with a chemical company that we’re hoping to start shortly.
If you would like to find out more about GB Innomech please visit www.innomech.co.uk