Friday, May 29, 2015

News: AMRC apprentices set locomotive challenge

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A project to build a steam locomotive fit for the 21st Century is getting a helping hand from apprentices at the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre.

The AMRC Training Centre is a £20.5m centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham where the focus is on students aged from 16 upwards, taken on paid apprenticeships. Part of the The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, apprentices have opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses, doctorates and MBA levels. Sponsoring companies range from global leaders such as Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel to local high-tech supply-chain companies.

The team behind the "Clan Project" is building an 80 tonne British Railways Standard Class 6 locomotive using original drawings but it needs to turn these 900 microfilmed drawings into modern CAD drawings.

British Rail built ten of the locomotives in the 1950s and named them after Scottish clans. Plans to build 15 more and name the first five after Kentish warlords were abandoned due to steel shortages, followed by a switch from steam to diesel.

None of the "Clan" Class locomotives survive, but the project team has microfilmed drawings for the next engine, which would have been the 1,000th Standard Class Steam Locomotive built by British Rail and was to be named "Hengist", after a fifth century King of Kent.

All of the apprentices at the AMRC Training Centre study various aspects of engineering such as CAD, regardless of the specialist pathway they choose. Computer-aided design enables engineers create 2D or 3D graphical representations of physical objects.

Phil Yates, a project engineer with the AMRC's Integrated Manufacturing Group, who heard about the Clan Project from team member and near neighbour Geoff Turner, said: "It's an ideal challenge for the AMRC Training Centre apprentices. The original drawings could be massively complicated because they tried to get in as much detail as they could – fitting numerous separate parts onto each one.

"Taking the microfilmed drawings, constructing the parts in CAD, validating them and seeing how they fit together involves reading and interpreting the drawings and designing the parts – it's an essential skill the apprentices need."

CAD data is needed for the modern machine tools that will make the components and because the project team needs to comply with modern safety standards and wants to make Hengist more efficient.

Enhancements will include dual circuit braking, which has to be shoehorned into space in the existing design and the best way to do that will be to use a Virtual Reality model generated from the CAD drawings.

Geoff Turner said: "We are delighted that the AMRC Training Centre apprentices are involved in the project, learning valuable engineering skills from reading engineering drawings, applying current draughting standards and applying modern manufacturing techniques in the process."

Between six and ten apprentices will gain vital CAD skills by working on the project in the coming months and there is scope for AMRC Training Centre apprentices to work on other parts of the Clan Project, which is due to be completed in 2026.

AMRC Training Centre website

Images: AMRC

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