One Direction: Pathway to Success

One Direction: Pathway to Success

As you begin to read this blog I need to make it clear that I’m not going to be talking about the success of the famous pop group One Direction, but a useful planning technique crucial to aid the completion of complex engineering projects.

Familiar to many people, I’m sure, the critical path method is a systematic approach which defines goals and plots activities along a timeline with the aim of logging the progress of all project activities and accomplishments. For cross departmental and ..... <continued>

Heading in reverse?

Heading in reverse?

Going backwards to solve a question might be considered a strange approach, but as an engineer methodically going into reverse can actually be a good route to unpicking and finding some answers.

Reverse engineering, or sometimes known as back engineering, is a process by which a product or individual component is deconstructed. By working backwards an engineer is able to determine several things such as, how a component was ..... <continued>

Give us a bell

Give us a bell

How many times have you heard the slang “give us a bell” used? Of course, this phrase refers to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and a request for someone to make a phone call. Nowadays, we are more accustomed to sending emails or texts, rather than actually speaking with an individual over a telephone, but the patent struggle Bell went through, could still be relevant now, 150 years later.

Best known for his invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell ..... <continued>

Open all hours?

Open all hours?

As some businesses are given the green light by the government to open their doors, they are faced with the hard task of having to review processes and systems, so that customers can be welcomed back.

It’s certainly a difficult time for business owners frantically adapting to these changes, implementing high level health and safety standards, such as making changes to an office or shop layout, creating a one-way system, or adding ..... <continued>

Going around in circles

Going around in circles

Ever get the feeling you’re just going around in circles? Sometimes life can feel a bit like that, can’t it? If you look hard enough, you’ll see that circles are everywhere, from the shape of our planet to my humble, but very important, daily coffee cup.

Even in nature, circles exist. I was watching a recent episode of BBC’s Springwatch the other day and there was an interesting piece about newts living in our garden ponds and the life cycle of these species in general. Bizarrely, in an instant, my ..... <continued>

To boldly go.....

To boldly go.....

We never know what’s round the next corner, the big new idea, scientific breakthrough or invention. That’s why is so exciting to be an engineer as you are always looking forward to the future, in anticipation of what’s coming next.

In terms of space exploration there’s been a lot of build up in relation to entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. Who would have thought that since we first stepped on the moon in 1969 that it would be 50 years later before excitement in ..... <continued>

A Brave New World?

A Brave New World?

You only have to turn on the television or tune in to the radio to hear someone talking about having to make changes in order to live in today’s world of the new normal. The creation of ‘think tanks’ for this and that Governmental department has become a usual part of the Downing Street daily updates.

As a design engineer I’m used to working together with our clients to bring a new product to market, whether this may be a completely new ..... <continued>

Ready to ride the next wave

Ready to ride the next wave

So things have moved on and some of us are going out a bit more than we were a few weeks back. We’re still open for business, that hasn’t changed, although the new Sanstec working day looks a bit different now.

We’re still continuing to service our clients by working remotely and holding virtual meetings to talk through technical design and engineering issues or questions. Our regular team meetings are now undertaken using Skype, as we feel it’s ..... <continued>

How to ‘Engineer’ an answer

How to ‘Engineer’ an answer

Something caught my eye the other day and made me think about what it means to be an engineer. Yes, it’s someone to invent, design, build and analyse products and components, but what actually makes us engineers tick?

According to Wikipedia the word ‘engineer’ is derived from the Latin ingeniare (“to create, generate, contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”). Setting aside the latter definition “cleverness”, which is a sweeping statement and doesn’t ..... <continued>

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Will anything be the same again?

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Will anything be the same again?

On hearing one of David Bowie’s best known songs on the radio the other day, I started to reflect on the lyrics and how they could be interpreted now in this current crisis.

At the time Bowie wrote this track, which was first released in 1971 on his album Hunky Dory, it was said the lyrics were meant to reflect his own self reinvention of both his personality and music style. In terms of the here and now, we are all doing a lot of reinvention, making changes to the way we live and ..... <continued>

Resilience: The New Buzzword

Engineering a positive mental attitude

As a design engineer we are expected to solve technical problems for colleagues and clients. We are naturally asked questions on a daily basis, which uses our creative engineering skills to fix things, and sometimes we have to dig deeper than usual to find an answer.

Fortunately as we are geared up for remote working, we are thankfully still in a strong position to service our clients with providing design engineering support using, although not limited to, CREO and Solidworks software. As such we were recently able to ..... <continued>

Resilience: The New Buzzword

Resilience: The New Buzzword

So, as the lock down progresses, we find ourselves having to dig deep to adapt and deal with our current situation in our own way. Like many others, I realise that this is a small part to play in comparison with those who are facing this virus on the front line.

While many of us are weathering the storm at home, waiting anxiously to hear that the tide has turned, outdoors nature is still moving on. Whilst I was out on my daily walk the other day, it became apparent that with the demise of ..... <continued>

Not Going Out: The New Normal

Not Going Out: The New Normal

Before the recent crisis, you might have thought I was making reference to the TV hit show which shares the same name as this blog. The “new normal”, who would have thought a few weeks back we would be told to stay home and not go out, unless for emergencies or one session of daily exercise?

Whilst we’re still all trying to get used to living in isolation and coping with new routines, just trying to get by day to day, can be a ..... <continued>

Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3

Adapting in a Changing World

Over the last couple of weeks all our lives have been turned upside down, and we are now trying our best to adapt to new routines and daily schedules. So, how has your life changed? From visiting the gym and ‘going’ out to work, the Sanstec team, like many others, have started to exercise and work from home. To keep motivated we’ve dusted off our home gym equipment and to aid relaxation and promote a positive mind set, have been ..... <continued>

 

Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3

Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3

Whilst practising social distancing, like so many of the UK population and indeed people across the globe, I have found myself not dwelling on the negative side of the current situation, which is all too easy to do so, but focusing on the positives.

A song came on the radio recently and immediately I was transported back to 1977, our Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, when Ian Dury and the Blockheads released their famous track ..... <continued>

 

Social distancing: Is anybody out there?

Social distancing: Is anybody out there?

As more and more of us are told to work from home and our schools close, we find ourselves embarking on a new journey, one that will involve keeping a virtual conversation flowing.

With all the daily comments on social media concerning the mental health of the nation as a result of social distancing, despite all the isolation and anxiety over the whole situation, it is necessary to stay productive and keep the wheels of manufacturing in motion, so to speak.

As an SME it’s more important than ever to stay ..... <continued>

Keep calm and engineer on

Keep calm and engineer on

With all the sobering news in the media at the moment, it really is important to try and ‘keep calm and carry on’. That said it is far too easy to get caught up in the negative side of all of the situations surrounding this virus. I for one have been really heartened at the amount of kindness being shown by a lot of people. This has indeed helped me to keep grounded, reminding me that the amazing part of mankind is that it continually evolves to adapt and overcome.

At Sanstec, probably over the last ten years or so, we have ..... <continued>

Making your mind up

Making your mind up

I noticed Graham Norton on TV the other day speaking about our 'song for Europe’, which got me thinking about Eurovision in general and how long ago it was since we last won. The concept of winning in the Eurovision Song Contest is all down to lots of individual choices being made.

This then led me to start thinking about the choices manufacturing businesses have to make when selecting a product design partner and whether the old saying 'people buy from people' still holds true ..... <continued>

Under the microscope

Under the microscope

Providing our design engineering services as we do, we expect to be closely 'studied' by whomever is paying us to ensure that we are doing what we are being asked and keeping up with deadlines. It is a natural part of the job of a design engineer to experience critical examination and have everything you do put under the microscope, so to speak.

Working as we do and coping with lots of data, thankfully with the aid of CAD technology, which is developing all the time, it helps me and ..... <continued>

Right place, right time: Putting yourself out there

Right place, right time: Putting yourself out there

In business it’s generally acknowledged that in order to bring in work you have to get out there, in the big wide world.

The out there can take many forms, such as networking events early doors with a coffee and croissant, attending trade shows and events, or catch ups over lunch with business associates.

I think we all recognise that in order to put your best foot forward you have to be in a particular mindset, positive that you can ..... <continued>

Back to the drawing board

Back to the drawing board

Before recent technical developments any new product or invention would have to be hand drawn on paper using a drawing board. Equipped with a pencil, eraser, ruler, set square and any other tools, the time consuming task would be to set about creating an accurate design blueprint.

For design engineers operating in this era, the process could be hampered even further if the design needed changing, so back to the drawing board they would go to start over. It’s not surprising then that around the mid-20th ..... <continued>

Creating the wheel

Creating the wheel

It is generally acknowledged that not one person was attributed with having the original idea for the wheel, but was an invention developed over a period of time. It is hard to imagine life without it now, although the design has evolved, having been adapted to serve different needs.

This concept got me thinking generally about the engineering design process, which has similarities with this process. Like the creation of the wheel, with design engineering, there are a series of steps to follow in order to create an end product that functions to serve a designated purpose for the ..... <continued>

Collaborative Working: The Team Approach

Collaborative Working: The Team Approach

We’re all familiar with the old saying that “two heads are better than one”, but in product development it is a common fact.

Product development can be a complex process. Take medical device development for example, bringing a new product to market not only can take years, but lots of expertise often from a number of companies to deal with the complicated process of clinical trials, risk management, patents and countless ..... <continued>

The Rocket:  The fastest locomotive engine in the North

The Rocket: The fastest locomotive engine in the North

Delving back through the history of British inventors, I was fascinated to read about George Stevenson, an engineer, and inventor made famous by his invention of the railroad locomotive.

Nicknamed ‘The Father of Railways’ [Source] he was a pioneering engineer who liked to fix things as a child, but it was probably his success with his engine, the Rocket, which he is best known for. There are many parallels with his determination to design and engineer the fastest locomotive than any of his rivals, with present day ..... <continued>

The importance of knowing what you've got

The importance of knowing what you've got

Having had a bit of a break over the Christmas holiday and spending some downtime with family and friends, as well as having space to think and reflect on the last year and the one to come, can give you an opportunity to get some perspective on things.

Seems an obvious thing to say really, but it's important to actually reflect on what you've got, acknowledge and appreciate the relationships and material things that are right there in front of you and which you often ..... <continued>

2020 vision: looking ahead with curiosity

2020 vision: looking ahead with curiosity

As a creative design engineer and inventor I’m excited to read in the news and trade publications, numerous articles concerning new inventions, technologies and ideas for 2020.

As we say goodbye to 2019 I’m genuinely curious to see what the New Year will bring. It’s certainly a good time to be involved with engineering and innovation in general. There are many new products and processes that are being designed to save both energy and resources, which is reassuring given the ..... <continued>

It’s not rocket science

‘Tis the Season to be jolly: The Story of the Christmas Card

I was participating in a quiz the other day and was fascinated to learn the origins of the first Christmas card. This got me thinking about how times have changed. Nowadays we are used to receiving Christmas greetings in a variety of formats, both print and electronic, to pass on traditional wishes, but look back c.150 years and things were rather different.

Henry Cole was the inventor of the first Christmas card, which he sent in 1843. He was another Victorian who was considered ..... <continued>

It’s not rocket science

It’s not rocket science

Providing good customer service is not rocket science. It’s all about listening to customers’ needs and wants, meeting deadlines and expectations.

Once you enter into a relationship with a client you are promising to deliver these basic needs. Of course like many suppliers we are constantly looking at ways where we don’t simply deliver, but exceed expectations and provide the ..... <continued>

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Once you have created your idea or concept, and how you move on will depend on the size of your business, such as a big brand manufacture, a medium size company or consultancy, seed or start up organisation. How you begin to take your idea forward and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together will differ for each product type and cycle.

There is an awful lot to consider. Aside from the general engineering assistance in terms of CAD or product development support to aid you through the ..... <continued>

We’re not all robots

We’re not all robots

With all the recent technical developments in robotics, AI and AR lately, it is easy to get carried away into a futuristic world where we all retreat from doing what we do best, communicating face to face with one another. Those that know me well, appreciate that I like nothing better than having a business meeting over a coffee. So why continue to act in this way?

We all know that time is short, but if we cut out the process of meeting and talking a problem through, we may miss out on finding that solution to ..... <continued>

That light bulb moment

That light bulb moment

Working as a design engineer and being involved in the creation of new products, I have naturally been doing a lot of thinking lately regarding the relentless pressure to invent the next best thing. I have found myself looking back at some famous inventors, pondering on their new ideas of the day and how they created that light bulb moment.

Taking the light bulb into consideration, it is interesting to read the history of the two inventors Thomas Edison of the USA and ..... <continued>

Positive, Pro-Active and Strategic

Positive, Pro-Active and Strategic

There's a lot of doom and gloom about at the moment, to say the least. Some of the recent news articles, political tensions, economic issues, reports on climate change and general 'pointing the finger of blame' are not exactly inspiring, positive or very re-assuring at all, never mind the fact that some of the news is quite frankly downright shocking.

We could of course comment on the various situations in more detail, give our opinions and express our concerns, but we don't think that would ..... <continued>

Design Validation

Medical Devices: Design and Development Validation

Well, what a busy few weeks we've had, I've genuinely been rushed off my feet whilst we transition between previous commitments and a substantial new assignment with a long term medical devices design and development consultancy client of ours.

It's been particularly good to be back working with some old colleagues, (older in years as well), re-kindling some great working relationships, and developing some new ones in a place that we are relatively ..... <continued>

Face to face

Face to Face: A short interview with Alastair Sanderson

We all know that in the business to business environment people tend to buy from people with whom they form a connection with, lots of the reasons why we work hard to try and build quality relationships with our clients.  This got me thinking that maybe I should allow myself to be interviewed, over a coffee naturally, so you can all learn a little more about me.  Who knows, you may read something that resonates within your own life.

Q: Where did your love of all things engineering begin? ..... <continued>

Sugary Treat Friday

Sugary Treat Friday: Time to say thank you

It's always a bit of challenge when it’s time to leave one project and move on to the next. You say goodbye and farewell, thinking about the next project that's already started to consume some of your thinking time, still wondering how things really went on the one you're leaving, but also what challenges the next engagement will bring.

To sweeten (literally) the departing/leaving/finishing experience and particularly in acknowledgement of the effort that your client’s 'people' have ..... <continued>

Tank Driving

Tank Driving: "mind your head"

I was in Leicestershire over the weekend as part of a gift generously bought for me by my family. Husbands Bosworth to be precise, because that's where you can get an opportunity to drive around some fields in a FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier, in this case fitted with a L7 GPMG (de-activated of course).

Thanks to Armourgeddon and particularly Joe who was my instructor for the session on Sunday morning, navigating me, (as commander of the tank), as we ..... <continued>

Engineering Change Control

Engineering Change Control - an important process

Over the last couple of months we have been working hard, utilising PTC's Windchill and CREO 5, to help our client complete a number of important changes and updates to their products, to reflect the various engineering changes that are required.

The 'process', generally known as Engineering Change Control, is the overall method of ensuring that an existing product is kept up to date with the best engineering specification that the manufacturer can achieve. Relating to safety and ..... <continued>

1968 Austin Pickup

Classic Car extreme recovery - Part 2

Classic Car extreme recovery - Part 2 and counting.....

After our recent blog about our sister company, Sanstec Garden, asking for us to help it to extricate a 1968 Austin Pickup from a customer’s garden, as it very much appeared that it would need some sort of engineered solution to effect a recovery, we had quite a lot of feedback. So, following receipt of these interesting comments and general curiosity on the subject, we thought we ought to provide a little bit of an update on the progress we've made so far ..... <continued>

When one door closes

When one door closes another one often opens

Stay positive…when one door closes another one often opens……..

Providing our design engineering services directly to our clients as a company, means we need to be ready and ‘available' to work. This of course is a real challenge and one we constantly face month to month and sometimes even on a day to day basis. I’d love to tell you that we always get it right…….. but of course that wouldn’t be true, with circumstances sometimes completely changing after just one phone call and ..... <continued>

Outsource

To keep in-house or outsource

How does your organisation procure your support services?

A company/business is an 'organisation', so defined because it's an organised set of constituent parts that form/co-operate/function together to perform the intended core/primary tasks which are the reason for the business in the first place.

By the nature of the fact that the company/business is an organisation, whether it's directly or indirectly, it will need several support services which are ..... <continued>

Classic Car extreme recovery

An Interesting Engineering solution

Classic Car extreme recovery

An interesting engineering challenge, requiring a lot of diversified problem solving, was recently presented to us by our sister company, Sanstec Garden, after a client asked them to help out in resolving a particularly sensitive and potentially destructive situation.

Well not really a case of some cataclysmic event, but rather a very awkward and particularly fragile object that was hindering progress on the maintenance and ..... <continued>

Version management

From PDM to PLM - Business and Process Improvement

We're off to the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull on Thursday next week to spend time learning more about Business & Process Improvement, by transitioning from PDM to PLM. Thanks to Concurrent Engineering, who are hosting the session, there's free registration and parking, plus we get treated to a buffet breakfast and coffee.

Knowing that it's organised by Concurrent, we are expecting an informative and productive time and it will be really useful to hear from ..... <continued>

Version management

Multiple CAD Platforms and Version management

Working alongside a variety of clients means that we need to keep our design engineering software up to date and aligned to the various new releases. We spend a lot of time working on establishing the capability within the latest version and essentially exercising its capability in relation to the previous version. Having more than one CAD system, which includes, CREO, Solidworks and Inventor, ensures that we are kept very busy updating and understanding the changes in the individual ..... <continued>

Developing vehicle technologies

Developing vehicle technologies: creating better drivers?

I need radar; or rather my car does, so I can look ahead beyond what I can physically see. What I'm actually saying is my vehicle needs some way of helping me to make better driving decisions in a simple way and less complex than perhaps a fully autonomous response, some way of warning me that what I am about to do is hazardous.

After another recent delay (and subsequent cancellation) getting to an appointment, I'm confronted yet again by the conclusion that people are ..... <continued>

User experience

'The continued decline' of UK Manufacturing

Is there a perception that there is a ‘continued decline’ of UK manufacturing and is it true?

Following a recent announcement in the press that a company with production facilities in Suffolk are 'having' to re-locate their operations outside the UK for 'economic reasons', we decided to conduct a quick bit of research into whether or not we could identify whether this was actually a general trend for manufacturing-based companies. Just in simple terms and trying to remain objective, to provide a bit of an overview of the ..... <continued>

User experience

The User Experience - 'UX' anyone?

It sort of baffles 'us' slightly, well a lot actually, that more manufacturers aren't, shall we say, a little more 'user centric' (to use some of the relevant terminology), during the design and development process. After all a product is really an experience to the user and only a 'product' to the 'someone' who makes it. We're not saying that all manufacturers have no UX focus as such, we're just saying that sometimes when you 'have an experience' with a product, you might wonder if the design of it could have been a little ..... <continued>

Factory

'UK Manufacturing' under pressure....

Overcoming the challenges of 'NPD' outside the UK.

I was concerned and saddened to read in the news at the beginning of the week that BOSCH Lawn & Garden in Suffolk have decided to close their UK manufacturing facility based in Stowmarket, as production is being re-located to the Power Tools plant in Miskolc, Hungary in Eastern Europe. Our thoughts and feelings go out to those families that will be affected, the local businesses and community as a whole. There is some good news though, as the ..... <continued>

Automechanika

Automechanika: We’ll see you there....

We're looking forward to attending the Automechanika trade fair which is held at the NEC between the 4th and 6th June.

This will be our first time at an Automechanika event and leads on from our previous involvement in the general automotive sector with client projects completed on motorbikes, remote control systems, UAV transportation support, autonomous robots and robotics for products in manufacturing. We've worked on various design and development of ..... <continued>

Triumph Daytona

'A' Class Surfacing - Triumph Daytona 'bodywork'

When I was out and about the other day, I found myself admiring some motorbikes parked along the High Street in Colchester and realised I'd become distracted by the design of the different models. I was particularly interested in the similarities and differences of the design and branding for the different manufacturers.

Anyway, that got me thinking about some work undertaken quite a long time ago - nearly 20 years in fact - we had previously done for a consultancy that worked for ..... <continued>

Majenta Solutions

Majenta sells Autodesk division to Symetri

CAD Reseller Developments: Symetri acquires Majenta Solutions's Autodesk Division.

Early April we received the news that Majenta Solutions has sold its Autodesk Division to Symetri. With the general busyness of the last few weeks, it's taken me a while to research and digest this news to see how it might affect us as a company and perhaps the industry in general.

Majenta Solutions has supported our use of Autodesk products, in our Product Design Suite Premium package, following its acquisition of ..... <continued>

Sanstec sign

New Sanstec external signage designed and commissioned

For some time now, we have had a lack of 'proper' external signage at our workshop in Colchester, which has caused a bit of confusion experienced by visitors and delivery drivers alike.

One of the reasons for the delay in getting something arranged was that we couldn't decide whether or not we liked what was on offer for the cost. Being a creative and a rather particular design company caused us to procrastinate for quite a while. In the end, we took it upon ourselves to design a new main workshop sign in-house. After looking at a few examples ..... <continued>

CREO 6.0 now available

Keeping up with CAD: CREO 6.0 now available

Thanks to PTC and our active maintenance package through Concurrent Engineering, Sanstec Design gets all the latest updates and product communication notifications as soon as PTC releases them.

We're particularly interested to see that CREO 6.0 is now available and can be downloaded etc through the normal channels. We'll be going ahead shortly, with downloading and installing our own copy, so that we can start to get familiar with the latest ..... <continued>

CREO Simulation

Brief Review on CREO Simulation Live

We recently attended a couple of webinars (5th February 2019 - thanks to Root Solutions and to PTC for inviting us and hosting them), about the functionality in the recently released 'Creo Simulation Live' from PTC.

This new 'product' has been fairly well hyped in the industry during its general release, so I'm sure you'll already know it has updated functionality which is powered by ANSYS that allows you to get "real-time feedback on your design decisions ..... <continued>

Component Rationalisation

Component Rationalisation

Whilst undertaking routine grounds maintenance at our workshop recently, our Viking petrol lawnmower had an unfortunate 'coming together' with a 'stray bit of concrete', which took a 'chunk' out of the blade and shattered the bottom of the aluminium blade carrying bush.

On repairing the lawn mower, (thanks to Ernest Doe in Colchester for supplying the part), we noticed that the original blade bush assembly of 4 parts, consisting of an aluminium cast bush, a plastic pulley and two screws, had been  ..... <continued>