60 second interview: Matthew Garner

2 min read

Paul Fanning talks to Matthew Garner, Project engineer, Robotics Tooling Design, Hyde Group Limited

How did you first get into the engineering industry? I left high school and didn't know what to do with myself. I spent five years at college doing electrical engineering at advanced level. I then did an HND in mechanical engineering and then went to university for two years doing robotic engineering. I went straight from university into Hyde Group; I work in the tooling division, developing robotic systems. What does you role involve on a day-to-day basis? We concentrate mainly on aerospace, particularly working with new techniques and materials. We design and build R&D robot cells and tooling; we do all the electrical integration – I design some of the control circuits myself – and then we integrate the whole lot and get our programmers to programme it and run it in full order. We get the idea from the client, they tell us the component they want built and we design the robot cell, including all the tooling. What are some of the projects that you are currently working on? We have spent the last four years working on a very large R&D study called NGCW (next generation composite wing). Airbus led the project, backed by the Government and working with 20 other partners including GE, Bombardier, GKN and Kuka Robotics. We actually helped them develop the wing, rather than them throwing the design at us and saying "automate it". We are currently also working on a robotic mould carbon fibre rolling system for Airbus. What is the most interesting project or piece of engineering that you have been involved in? We are involved in the new ITER fusion reactor project in France, which aims to demonstrate that fusion is a viable energy source for the future, working on a selection of machines to build the massive magnetic coils for the project. Has the industry changed a great deal since you joined? I've only been in the industry for five or six years, but even in that time it has changed dramatically. The aerospace industry was totally anti-robots at first. They were scared of letting anything automated anywhere near aircraft parts, especially a whole wing. But in the last two or three years they have completely changed that opinion and they are looking for automated techniques for all of it now. Eventually, perhaps in ten or fifteen years, it will be just like the automotive industry in terms of automation. What are the big issues facing your industry? At the moment we are having to convince people that robots and automated systems are the right solution. There are no significant issues with anything in particular, it's just a question of getting people to understand what is possible with automated tooling and robotics. How do you see the industry going forward? Eventually, we will see an aircraft wings being assembled entirely by robots. We have already produced concepts for this, but when we get to the stage where the whole process is automated in five to ten years I think people will be astounded. What excites you about engineering? Every couple of months we get a brand new project and a brand new robot 'toy' to play with. We have just been lent a Motoman SDA-20 which is a double-arm robot which can physically do what a human can do, if not more. There are some videos on YouTube of these robots doing various things including pulling a pint! We are currently considering programming it to play Jenga for a promotional film.