Durable measuring machines

The manufacturing and construction sectors have changed dramatically over IMechE’s 175 years. (Andy Potts/ Good Illustration Agency)

For 175 years, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has been in the engine room of transformational change. From rail to road, from aerospace to nuclear, it has fostered and amplified the pioneering work of countless engineers. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, this week we take a look at five forward-thinking thinkers who helped shape the world we live in — and five who are creating the world of tomorrow.

Sir Joseph Whitworth, fourth president of IMechE and manufacturing pioneer

Sir Joseph WhitworthSuccessful engineering relies on accuracy and precision, and few can claim to have made such significant advances in the field as Sir Joseph Whitworth.

After several years working for London’s top machine builders, including Henry Maudslay, Whitworth set up his own business in Manchester in 1832. His first independent patent, filed in 1834, was for a machine for turning and screwing in dowels and bolts. hex bolts. , instead of inaccurate and expensive hand threading.

Precision and measurement were central to his work, enabling the production of standard measures and gauges. According to the IMechE records, working at one-sixteenth of an inch was sufficient for a fitter to be considered a good workman in 1830. Whitworth’s measuring machines could measure up to two millionths of an inch.

One of his most pioneering initiatives was the donation of £100,000 in 1868 to endow the Whitworth Fellowships. These continue to support budding engineers, with scholarships of up to £9,000 per year for undergraduates or £15,000 per year for postgraduates.

Robert Hairstans, founding director of NMITE’s Center for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT)

Robert HairstansIt is difficult to overstate the impact of construction on climate change and the environment. The sector consumes half of all materials mined, accounts for 36% of global energy consumption and is responsible for 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Robert Hairstans aims to help change that. As founding director of CATT at the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE) in Hereford, and director of the Center for Offsite Construction and Innovative Structures at Edinburgh Napier University, he is passionate about promoting materials and methods of sustainable construction.

Scheduled to open later this year, the CATT will highlight the opportunities offered by wood construction. As trees grow, they absorb CO2, making wood a natural “carbon sink”. Cross-laminated timber, for example, stores 670 kg/m3 of carbon.

Wood is “immediately center stage,” says Hairstans. “You locate that in the built environment, you lock that carbon in for over 50 years, so it acts as a carbon reservoir.”

Large carbon references are not the only advantage. Wood materials also have a high strength-to-weight ratio, Hairstans explains, so they can easily be moved and processed. This allows for factory construction, with “turnkey” modular systems built off-site.

Low thermal conductivity means good insulation, but there are inevitable fire safety concerns. All products work differently, says Hairstans, and some may even “turn off on their own.” “It’s really about defining the proper professional practice, specification, detailing and execution,” he says.

These will all be played at the CATT. Students will use simulation and testing to validate the performance of different materials, giving them an understanding of wood as a structural material, the range of product options, and how to sustainably meet a specification. .

“Wood is on an upward trajectory,” says Hairstans. “Environments that feel more natural improve health and well-being, and there are even studies showing that it can increase school performance. It lowers heart rates and stress levels…so there’s a piece of carbon, but there’s a much broader value proposition.

Be sure to check throughout the week for more stories about forward-thinking thinkers, from nuclear power pioneers to zero-emission aviation experts.

To learn more about the 175 IMechE celebrations, visit the official homepage.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.