Richard Dolby - Rolls-Royce Prize Previous Winner
2014 Winner: Nick Brown
My project was a sponsored Engineering Doctoral (EngD) project with the University of Surrey and TWI. The aim of the research was to develop a novel process for making holes in carbon fibre composites for possible joining applications. The process under development was a thermally-assisted piercing technique that deformed the carbon fibres around a hole, rather than cutting them out like you see in conventional machining processes. The end result is a structure that retains more of its structural performance after machining and can ultimately be made lighter - saving weight and, more importantly, fuel.
I entered the Richard Dolby - Rolls Royce Prize to help promote my research and show people that there is more to making holes than you might think. The entire application and competition process was very useful for me because it made me drill down to the fundamentals of 'why?'. Why is this research important? Why should people be interested in my findings? These were the key questions I kept asking myself whilst writing my abstract, technical report and presentation as part of the competition. This also helped me to re-align with the aims and objectives of the research and how they fit into a broader, industrial, context. This can be lost when you spend a long time focusing on specific parts of a project.
I was very happy to have won the prize, especially within a primarily metals based institute. It highlighted that composite materials are a primary material in the engineering world, but there is still a lot to do to realise their full potential - including how we can integrate/join them to other materials. I would strongly encourage anyone considering applying for the prize to do so, and to really think about what it is that makes your research worthwhile.