Apprenticeship Diaries: “I got to see our designs being made”

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Tom Bowers - OngoingSarginsons has just taken on a group of new apprentices. Follow engineering student Thomas Bowers’ journey as he delves into the world of manufacturing for the first time.

University has kicked off properly so I attended the first of many lectures. During my apprenticeship, I’ll spend roughly a quarter of my time in lectures and the other three quarters at Sarginsons. I was nervous on the first day because I didn’t really know what to expect and a lot of the lectures take place at the MIRA Technology Institute, a huge training centre in Warwickshire which can be difficult to get to. I drove and gave Theppana (another of the Sarginsons’ apprentices) a lift as she wouldn’t have been able to get there otherwise.

There were 15 of us in total and we broke the ice with tasks such as building a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows. Later in the week – on my birthday in fact – we were introduced to AutoCAD. It’s been a long time since I used AutoCAD, so it was good to be re-introduced to it – it also reminded me of how awkward I find it to use! The best bit of the week – aside from receiving our new uni hoodies – was the practical at the Engineering and Computing Building. I used a pulley machine to measure the force of loading and force of efficiency. Understanding the mechanical advantage of a machine is essential when you’re designing parts – so that you understand what force needs to be applied when you’re making things.

Back at Sarginsons, we got to see our designs being made on the foundry floor. The team were testing different casting calibrations for a component we’ve been developing for an innovative crop spraying tool which I wrote about here. We’re still in testing stages so some of the castings came out bent. It was great to see how each cast was an improvement on the last. Designers really need to see their ideas being brought to life because they don’t have experience in casting – there are so many variables to think about! Your designs will never improve unless you’re down in the foundry, speaking to the engineers and seeing the product for yourself.

I also started to research charging solutions in the electric vehicle (EV) industry in order to find potential gaps in the market. Sarginsons has been working with a well known British brand to update existing street infrastructure such as lampposts. EV is never going to take off properly until it’s easier to charge vehicles. At the moment as there aren’t enough charging stations where I live, some of my longer journeys in an electric car would just be too risky. However – watch this space!