I am currently halfway through my 12 month placement at Meggitt Airframe Systems, a division of Meggitt PLC, working in its Advanced Research and Technology department for the Polymer Seals Group.
As an Advanced Research and Technology Engineer I have been given a main 12 month project to work on, key to the future of the business for the next 5 years and beyond. I have also been involved in multiple other projects including looking into the degradation of rubber under extreme temperatures and the antistatic properties of rubber when filled with a novel filler network.
My project’s aims however were to remove a single source material that was critical to the performance of a polymer seal in an engine fire scenario, to put it into context rubber fire seals have to withstand a 1100°C flame (around the melting point of copper) for a minimum of 15 minutes and still perform their duty of sealing components together or containing fluid, whether that be air, fuel, oil or a mixture of all three. A tricky task for any material, let alone rubber.
Therefore I have been researching and testing the latest materials, designing and formulating new rubber compounds and comparing them against existing materials to assess the overall performance gain.
From day one I was treated like any other engineer, I was expected to make business calls, write professional e-mails, present my own ideas and be an active member of meetings. I also had to write reports and jump in when required to solve any day to day production issues that arose. With my project I had the responsibility of planning and keeping it on track and on budget, whilst being wary of intellectual property loss in a highly competitive, complex and regulated industry. While all this responsibility may sound daunting, the support network surrounding me and the willingness of everyone at Meggitt to answer questions and help me to learn made it easy to settle in and get up and running quickly.
I was also able to get hands on, using rubber processing equipment to make samples and prototype products. I was fully trained on how to use the equipment safely and correctly, and taught the proper handling and the PPE requirements when dealing with new chemicals and materials.
Some highlights of my time so far
- My first trip to an advanced materials conference to see what technology is currently available and talk about what people are working on for the future
- The first time my new material passed the fire testing standard, proving that the research I had done in the first months had been correct and that the results on paper could be replicated in real life
- My first meeting with a supplier, it was great to be able to present my material and work together to see how they could support us in the future
- Presenting my new material to designers and project engineers and getting their feedback about how they would integrate it within future products
This placement also gave me the opportunity to attend materials and engineering shows, conferences and seminars and speak to industry experts about their latest developments, building up my professional network for the future and broadening my knowledge of all the industries surrounding materials engineering.
In the next six months I am looking at getting the project signed off internally to a technology readiness level of 5 or 6 and then hand it over to be shown to customers for evaluation, if all goes well we could see it flying within 2 years.
In these past six months my interest in the research and development of new materials has increased even more. And my knowledge and intrigue in respect of the complex engineering problems and solutions that surround the aerospace industry has shown me that this is the direction that I want to go in.
Returning to university
One of the main reasons I cannot recommend a placement enough is the satisfaction of when you get to use the knowledge, techniques and skills we are taught in an academic environment and translate them across into an engineering environment. My time so far has refreshed my interest in engineering and shown me why everything that I have learnt is important. The work I have done at Meggitt has taught me how I personally work best, and has confirmed what I can do when I have a clear goal in mind, a solid plan to achieve that goal and the help and support of my fellow engineers and specialists."