Apprenticeship Diaries: “My favourite show was Robot Wars”

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Tom BowersSarginsons 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.

I loved building things when I was a kid. My favourite show was Robot Wars. It was all about welding and putting things together. Fast forward about a decade and here I am at Sarginsons, learning how metal can be used to build some of the world’s most innovative products.

I’m in my first year at Coventry University studying Manufacturing Engineering. It’s a four year course and I’m being sponsored by Sarginsons – which means I’ll spend at least half of my time working here in the foundry. I’m working specifically on manufacturing and design for manufacture.

My first day was daunting but I knew the other two apprentices – we are all on the same course. I got working on CAD right from the beginning – undertaking various tutorials on how to use the software. I actually used CAD plenty of times at school – but the work they do at Sarginsons goes into far more detail and allows me to look at specific projects.

The first project I’ve been able to work on is an innovative agritech crop spraying design. I was able to visit a subcontractor’s site to see our castings being processed and understand how they were going to do it. I was even given a full tour of their facility!

We’ve had a few demonstrations of how die casting works already with various pieces of machinery including a CNC milling machine and a thermo-analyser. The analyser is fascinating. The way it works is that you pour molten metal into a cup, it takes a reading as it is cooling, and depending how it cools it will show you detailed information on its grain structure.

Before I started at Sarginsons I had no idea how hard it was to cast. Metal doesn’t pour like water – it takes a lot of care to get it right. And I had no idea how many different components go into building cars.

If you were to label every part of a car with all the brands of companies that worked on it – you’d soon see how complex it is.

Most of my friends are getting straightforward degrees – but this gets me the real experience and a degree at the end of it. I’d say to anyone considering doing an apprenticeship to keep an open mind and when you get there, keep asking questions. You can’t beat this kind of experience – you’re right on the forefront of where it’s all happening.