Published: 26 February 2014

EngD student wins Richard Dolby Rolls Royce Prize

Manufacturing research conducted by a Surrey EngD student has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Nick Brown – a Surrey Engineering Doctorate (EngD) student spending four years with TWI Ltd (the leading international membership body for welding and joining professionals) – has won the Richard Dolby Rolls Royce Prize for his research into an alternative way of machining composite materials. Open to all professionals belonging to TWI, the prize was awarded to Nick following his presentation to a panel that included the company’s current and former research directors.

Impressing the judges with his enthusiasm for his subject, Nick’s presentation focused on research conducted during his Engineering Doctorate – a four-year programme offered by the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies (MiNMaT) at Surrey. For the majority of the programme, EngD students are based at their sponsoring company’s premises, applying their academic knowledge to real business challenges.

Composite materials, which offer advantages in terms of strength and stiffness over metals, are increasingly being used across many industries to reduce the weight of structures and components. However, creating the assembly holes used for fastening these composites is problematic because drilling – the most commonly used technique – breaks the continuous fibres that run the length of the material, reducing its overall strength. Other methods such as laser are significantly more expensive.

Nick’s challenge was to find a way of machining holes without breaking or removing the fibres from the composite’s structure, which he successfully achieved by developing a technique for separating the fibres instead of cutting them.

The research project contributes to a central pool of resources made available by TWI to its members. Run as a non-profit distributing organisation, TWI’s membership is made up of a wide range of organisations from major players such as Rolls Royce to small niche companies.

Speaking about his award, Nick said, “Winning the prize was a good surprise, particularly because my research project was composites-related and I work in a mainly metals-based organisation. This demonstrates that industry is becoming open to these new materials.”

Nick will receive the Richard Dolby Rolls Royce Prize at TWI’s annual awards ceremony, due to be held at King’s College, Cambridge, in July.