All of our students each manufacture a small oscillating engine in stage two of our undergraduate degree programmes. This is intended to reinforce theoretical principles in thermodynamics as well as to provide practical experience in manufacturing and assembly concepts. The images above show our new test stand with the engine and some of the machinists and technicians who were involved in its manufacture. Led by Dr Dave Thornhill (also pictured above), this exercise gives our students practical experience of casting, turning, manual milling, CNC machining, use of jigs and fixtures and hand finishing of parts. They also weld together a laser cut base and silver solder pipes into a machined valve plate. Having experienced the manufacture of individual pieces students then assemble their own engine which is followed by physical testing. This enables them to determine how the quality of manufacture has an impact on the engine's final performance. The new test stand allows a power curve to be plotted for each engine. Its efficiency can also be determined. The operation of the test stand and the data which can be generated from it, can be related directly to what students are taught in thermodynamics, reinforcing learning by comparing engineering theory with the physical performance of a system which they have assembled themselves. A good engine can produce about 10w of power at around 1000 rev/min with an efficiency of up to 10%. This might not seem much, but a full size steam locomotive was only about 12-15% efficient. This is another fantastic resource enabling students to understand basic principles and gain the practical skills that they need for their transition to industry after graduation. Well done to Dave and the team!!
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