60 second interview: John Kent, Invensys Controls

2 min read

Paul Fanning speaks to John Kent, Engineer, Invensys Controls

How did you first get into the engineering industry? At school I enjoyed science and art. Later on I realised that the creative and logical instincts could be combined into a career as a Design Engineer. I fought against this for some time as my dad was an Engineer (Technical Director) and being a teenager I wanted to be anything other than a copy of my Dad! Logic won luckily, now I think that I have the best job in the world. What does you role involve on a day-to-day basis? It has become more interesting over the years. We no longer have engineers dedicated to a particular speciality. This means that we are involved in Research and Development in the Lab, 3D CAD modelling and stress analysis, prototype manufacture, project management and existing product support. There is also a considerable amount of liaison with Manufacturing Engineers, Quality and Product Management. What are some of the most interesting projects and technologies you have worked on? Pitot-static aircraft instruments (based on the 'suck and blow' principle). This is where the pitot pressure is the forward speed input and the static pressure is the altitude input pressure. The difference between the two is mechanically converted to indicate airspeed. Also, the-design of multifunctional gas controls for improved fuel efficiency. Use was made of combustion fan pressure as a signal to modulate gas outlet pressure via a servo diaphragm. The ratio of gas to air is thus locked together. This accuracy of this ratio drives the fuel efficiency of the boiler. Use of robotic deburring on high pressure die-castings. The problem here was the non-rigidity of the robot allowing chatter on the cutter. This was cured by changing the cutter orientation such that the cutting forces were mainly axial rather than tangential to the spindle. Are there any new technologies that have you excited or that you see as being quite revolutionary to the wider world? I think there is a big application area for the Stirling Engine in Renewable Energy. This is ironic because the design precedes the internal combustion engine, but the efficiency is so much more. What is the biggest issue / driver facing your industry? The rush to manufacture in low cost countries has been a threat for some time, but we have survived. This is due to our level of automation which assists high quality output, keeping our costs low and reputation high. Many of the piece parts which I saw being resourced in China are now coming back to the UK again, due primarily to quality issues, but also costs have equalised. It was a big concern that the Department for Industry had some initiatives to encourage re-sourcing manufacture of some components abroad. Perhaps we should import some low cost politicians and bankers? What advice would you offer to younger engineers just entering the industry? Do not forget that in design it is the end product that matters, not the CAD system. Producing high-quality moving graphics does not prove a design, often it is more of a distraction which can prevent the design being critiqued properly. How do you see the industry changing going forward? 'Peak Oil' will change almost everything; product design, manufacture and distribution. It might be that the politicians finally act on what they say about the importance of manufacturing to the UKā€¦but I wouldn't bank on it.