Robin Hartley - SELA Placement Student

16 September 2015

Robin Hartley with his wireless sensor collection unit. 

I am currently completing a ten week placement within the Process Monitoring and Control group at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing for my first industrial placement as part of the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA). The SELA programme is run by the University of Sheffield which selects 10-20 engineering undergraduates each year and equips them with the skills and experience to become the engineering leaders of the future. During term time, SELA members benefit from a number of professional skills workshops and talks from influential engineering leaders as well as two large year-long group projects that run alongside our academic studies.

The opportunity for my placement at the AMRC arose from one of our SELA workshops during which a senior Rolls-Royce engineer shared with us his thoughts and perspectives on leadership within his job role at the AMRC. At the end of this workshop, I was keen to follow up the opportunity and was lucky enough to find myself being interviewed the very next morning for a 10 week summer placement within the Process Monitoring and Control group at the AMRC. The group focuses research on measurement, computation and autonomous control challenges faced in advanced manufacturing processes.

My project is to design and develop both the software and the hardware for a wireless sensor network which can provide a drop in solution for monitoring the temperature of multiple machine tools on the AMRC Factory of the Future workshop floor. The system I have designed uses the popular Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms alongside inexpensive ZigBee radios which together provide a compact and low cost solution for wireless data acquisition.

After researching and developing the design at the start of the project, two wireless units have recently been installed on CNC machine tools as a proof of concept system. Each unit has multiple temperature sensors which are now recording data from locations such as the main spindle motor housing, the machine bed, the coolant fluid tank and the ambient workshop temperature.

I hope that in the future, the system developed for this project is expanded to work with a range of Arduino-compatible sensors, in order to allow multiple process parameters to be wirelessly monitored and recorded. This data could then be used to help identify machining anomalies and to improve manufacturing processes to always work at optimum conditions.

As a Chemical Engineering student, I have found this placement very rewarding as it has enabled me to expand my knowledge of programming, wireless communication, electronics and process monitoring in a multidisciplinary engineering environment. This has been a great opportunity to apply my engineering skills in a new context, whilst taking on the responsibility for developing, delivering and presenting my project against a number of design criteria; on time and within budget.

AMRC Project Manager, Simon Hogg has been supervising Robin's placement. He said: "Robin has been working alongside our own engineers and has managed to adapt his skill set to allow us to progress wireless sensor collection.

"We have adapted the scope of his project dynamically during his placement to fit it to the needs of multiple internal customers including manufacturing engineers and IT managers."

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