Engineering awards celebrate the best of British

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:

Can you do it better? That was the question asked by Peter Poon, co-founder of Romax Technology, as he accepted the Grand Prix trophy at the British Engineering Excellence Awards.

"I had to start a company as I'm disabled, I'm nearly blind," said Poon in his impromptu acceptance speech. "I had to keep busy, to occupy my mind, so I sketched out a system of how to design gearboxes that will be right first time."

It is a design that is now deployed around the world. He continued: "We have people come for training from various companies such as Porsche - people are surprised why they come for training, but I say it is because we do it better."

The company Poon launched, Romax Technology is based in Nottingham and it was this year's winner of Consultancy of the Year (Sponsored by the Institution of Engineering Designers) as well as the overall 'best of the best' Grand Prix Award winner.

The company came, said Poon, "from a humble beginning with an engineer who has a desire to improve things. With everything around you, you can ask 'can you do it better?' You will always find a way to do it better. I think that is deep in my psyche, and in my blood, and I subscribe to it any success I have had."

Romax Technology's success at the BEEAs this year is down to the leading position it has established for itself in the design of bearings and gearboxes. It now has more than 100 customers in the automotive industry and is involved with 14 of the top 15 manufacturers.

Romax's approach is something all companies should embrace. It looks to engineer a better world for its clients and customers; it puts innovation at the heart of everything it does; it looks for continuous improvement; and believes it can deliver value and build loyalty through long term partnerships.

In determining who would win this year's Grand Prix, the judges concluded: "In order to work with 14 of the world's automotive giants, you have to be pretty good. To have tripled in size since 2009 shows true British engineering excellence."

Also in the Consultancy of the Year category the judges Highly Commended the entry from Product Partners.

But who else was on this year's roll of honour? The following companies were the judged to be top of the class in 2014 for British engineering excellence.

SMALL COMPANY OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by D Young & Co LLP

Lime Microsystems

Lime Microsystems specialises in field programmable RF transceivers for next generation wireless broadband systems. Lime launched the first commercial chip in 2009. Until then, the solution either required multiple devices or devices only to be built for target markets with high volumes.

Although a multinational later launched a competitive product, Lime says it continues to compete against this company by producing a more configurable device suitable for use by a broader customer base and by promoting its use through an industry movement.

Lime's technology has been adopted by more than 250 organisations for applications ranging from consumer communications equipment to software defined devices for use by the emergency services.

The Judges said:

"A small company that has shown impressive growth as well as a good plan for achieving more."

START UP OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by Cambridge Consultants

Aeguana Digital

Aeguana Digital was established in December 2012. The three energetic founders had previously been involved in the vending market and found it slow moving with little innovation and high costs. They set out to change things.

The result is Digital Vend, described as a machine that is cost effective, reliable and that provides real time data to the operator. A patented vend mechanism allows it to be adjusted to fit any small product, whilst users can engage with it via rich media digital ads.

Digital Vend collects real time data and allows for content to be 'pushed' to it. Amongst the innovations is the use of a Raspberry Pi to ensure a low cost, yet powerful solution.

The Judges said:

"They spotted an opportunity in an apparently staid market, took action and achieved a great deal in a very short time."

DESIGN TEAM OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by techUK

Houlder

Houlder was charged by MPI Offshore with the development and supply of a pair of gripper arms that would allow offshore wind turbine piles to be maintained in position during installation. The arms needed to: aid the installation of piles in up to 40m of water; handle piles weighing up to 650 tonnes; and handle piles up to 65m long and 7m in diameter.

To do so, Houlder assembled a 10 person team to deliver the design through all key milestones from initial feasibility discussions to detailed engineering and all in less than 60 weeks, that's 13,000 person hours.

Houlder's project team designed the arms from initial front end engineering design and product specification through to detailed engineering and fabrication.

The Judges said:

"A fantastic example of a huge, multidisciplinary project that meets a unique and demanding engineering challenge."

GREEN PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by National Instruments

LC Super Hybrid programme, Controlled Power Technologies

Controlled Power Technologies has addressed the need for greener automotive technology and developed technology which is applicable to car, bus and truck designs.

Its LC Super Hybrid programme is set to bring what the company calls a 'substantial reduction' in CO2 emissions for a price premium of around £750.

The LC Super Hybrid approach combines Valeo's electric supercharger and CPT's integrated starter-generator technologies. The result is said by CPT to enable aggressive downsizing and down speeding of existing engine families, delivering CO2 reduction and fuel economy improvement.

The Judges said:

"A real world solution to one of the world's biggest environmental issues: how to make clean electric motoring affordable and accessible."

MATERIALS APPLICATION OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by Engineering Materials magazine

Nylacast

The worm wheel is a safety critical component for any electric power steering system. Nylacast's worm wheel is made from a combination of polymer and steel. The steel inner hub provides dimensional stability and strength, while the outer ring is made from a custom formulated grade of copolymer 6.12 developed by Nylacast's R&D department.

This outer ring allows the gear to have self lubrication properties when working alongside a mated steel worm, ensuring it runs smoothly. The polyamide is cast, rather than extruded or injection moulded, allowing a very accurate globoidal gear tooth profile to be specified.

More than 11million devices are now deployed on 45 vehicle models around the world with no reported failures or defects having been reported.

The Judges said:

"An impressive application of a polymer in a mass market context, the challenges of which required a very smart choice of materials."

ELECTRONIC PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by Digi-Key

CSRmesh, CSR

CSR has exploited its expertise in Bluetooth to develop CSRmesh to enable Internet of Things applications for the home environment. This wireless mesh technology takes advantage of Bluetooth to allow a system to be configured and controlled.

Bluetooth Smart enabled devices such as sensors, lamps, doors and white goods can be linked together and controlled from, for example, a mobile phone. CSR estimates the market for such systems to be worth in excess of a whopping $300billion by 2020.

CSRmesh differs significantly from other solutions in that it doesn't entail a complex set up process or any kind of home gateway. It also allows direct control from anywhere in a house.

The Judges said:

"A bold innovation that is making a serious play for a vast and highly competitive market."

MECHANICAL PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Hi-Traq subsea crawler, IHC

Hi-Traq provides the ability to ensure the safe burial of inter-array cables for the offshore renewables industry through the use of an innovative self levelling system controlling four, independently driven undercarriage tracks.

Having analysed available trenching technologies, IHC determined a dedicated subsea crawler would be the best solution for inter-array cable burial. A four track crawler system would provide better manoeuvrability than two track, skid-steer vehicles, while it's patent pending levelling system enables vertical trenches to be cut whilst the device is on slopes of up to 20°.

The Judges said:

"A world first turnkey project that met all customer requirements in an extremely challenging environment."

YOUNG DESIGNER OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by RS Components

Joel Gibbard, Open Hand Project

Joel Gibbard's interest in robotics moved him to want to portray the technology as something to 'revere, rather than fear'. In his final year project for his Honours Degree in Robotics at the University of Plymouth, he designed a low cost prosthetic hand, something that his professors said would not be achievable in just two semesters. But he proved them wrong, creating a fully functional prototype that has already won three awards.

Gibbard, the man behind the Open Hand Project, is creating Dextrus; something intended to replicate much of the functionality of the human hand. Moreover, to increase its value, he is creating Dextrus as an open source project; all the information needed to create one is on the Open Hand Project's website.

The Judges said:

"A highly motivated, dedicated young engineer with multidisciplinary skills and an impressive record of achievement already."

Congratulations also to Matti Coleman, whose entry was Highly Commended by the judges.

DESIGN ENGINEER OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by Premier EDA Solutions

Mike Franklin, Crawley Creatures

Peter Greenhalgh, ARM

The judges could not decide which of two outstanding candidates should take the Award in this category and so took the unusual step of giving Awards to both.

Mike Franklin from Crawley Creatures summed up what the judges were looking for - engineers who produced innovative designs within strict commercial limits and those who have also put something back into their profession. Each project at Crawley Creatures requires a bespoke solution, allowing Franklin to draw on his electromechanical, software and mechatronic knowledge. He sees the objective clearly and excels in designing and manufacturing an end product that not only meets the client's needs, but also exceeds expectations in terms of cost, efficiency, durability and sustainability. Whilst designing is his work, it is also his hobby. In 2005, he claimed the World Record for the fastest walking robot with Scuttle, an eight legged device.

The Judges said:

"Achieving deep innovation using creativity, originality and ingenuity – all while working with limited resources and to extremely tight deadlines."

One of Britiain's great electronics success stories is ARM. Amongst the IP on its portfolio are the big.LITTLE configuration and the ARM Cortex-A53, the company's first 64bit processor. The latest big.LITTLE software and platforms can save 75% of CPU energy in low to moderate demand applications, whilst increasing performance by 40% for more demanding workloads.

Meanwhile, the Cortex-A53 processor has been designed to be a power efficient device, capable of supporting 32bit and 64bit code. Not only is it suited for use in smartphones, it is also being considered by a number of developers for use in data centres. Both projects were led by Greenhalgh from the initial design stage to verification and implementation.

The Judges said:

"A leading creative force behind one of the worlds – let alone the UK's – great design engineering success stories."

Next year's BEEAs programme will be announced early in 2015, with entry open from April.


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