Engineering and design student insights

Student projects, placements, research and study experiences in the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Topic: Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering

My Placement at SMTC UK

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Hi Everyone!
I’m Uvindu, though most of my friends know me simply as “UV”. Originally from Sri Lanka, I moved to Botswana when I was 7 years old. After finishing my A-levels, I moved to the UK in September 2014 to begin my degree in MEng Electronic & Electrical Engineering (EEE) at Bath. I have now completed 2 years, and I’m currently on placement. I will be sharing my experiences on placement here and hope it will help students who are planning on doing a placement in the future!

As I am over 3-months into my placement I realise I’ve got quite a bit of backtracking to do – prepare for a long post!
I started my placement on Septmber 5th 2016 at SAIC Motor Technical Centre (SMTC) UK. First off a bit about the company.

About the company
SAIC Logo

SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) is a Chinese state-owned automotive company. The company has a history reaching back to 1955 when they were called Shanghai Internal Combustion Engine Components with a focus was on engine and power train technology. Over the years they have gone through numerous mergers and name changes. They are now the largest vehicle manufacturer in China, and rank 46th in the Forbes Fortune Global 500. Their joint venture with Volkswagen is the longest surviving automotive joint venture between a Chinese and foreign company. They also have a joint venture with General Motors since 1998. The joint ventures allow SAIC to build and sell these foreign branded vehicles as well as collaborate and share technologies which are of benefit to its own marques. The heritage MG brand and the Longbridge plant was acquired by Nanjing automobile in 2006 after the MG Rover collapse of 2005. SAIC then merged with Nanjing Automobile in 2007. Other brands owned by SAIC are Maxus, Roewe and Yuejin. They also produce and sell vehicles for Baojun, Buick, Chevrolet, Iveco, Skoda and Wuling.

SMTC UK is their operation based in UK where a large amount of research and development takes place. The UK offices are based in Longbridge Birmingham where the old MG Rover plant was located. The UK offices are largely involved with the development of the MG and Roewe marques of vehicles. MG branded vehicles are sold locally in the UK and the adaptation of the vehicle to the UK market also happens here.

About my department

elec-0
At SMTC I work for the electrical engineering department. There are around 20 other engineers working for the department. The team is involved with the development of styled electronics, infotainment, telematics, electrical integration in new vehicles and more. Responsibilities include designing the in-car entertainment, interfacing all the different electronic modules in the vehicle ensuring compatibility and planning all the wiring for the car.
My placement plan involves working with different sections under my department over the course of the placement. I am currently working with the integration team but will move on to styled electronics and project management over the next few months. Once I have worked with the different areas my main focus area will be determined taking my performance and preferences into account.

Training

beach
After our first day of orientation, we were sent to a team building camp at Skern Lodge, which is located near a small fishing village called Appledore in Devon. We were taught different leadership and management styles as well as workload management and handling deadlines. We learned these skills through performing activities such as assault courses, orienteering, archery, egg-drop challenge and many more physical, hands-on activities.
We’ve had a lot more training courses since then, including project management, Excel and CATIA.

Activities
General

labcar    speedometer
Working with electrical integration, I have been given an overview of the electrical systems and the current electrical engineering vehicle projects carried out by the department. I was introduced to the fundamental concepts of CAN bus (Control Area Network) and familiarised with the components dealt with in the department. I was introduced to the Labcar, which is a room with three metal structures representing the frame of three cars and each car frame has all the electronics fitted to it, allowing easy access and manipulation of devices.

Testing

speakers
I have carried out various tests on systems during my time here. These have included testing out body control modules with prototype software as well as assessing the quality of speakers for future models. The speaker test in particular involved playing music in the car while swapping out the speakers to assess the difference in quality. I got the other interns involved as well to get a broader spectrum of opinions.

Investigation

fusebox
I investigated a fuse box after a company endurance vehicle had been left on a beach during high tide for an extended period of time and was presenting electrical problems. The fuse box was suspected to be the root cause and I was assigned the task of tearing it down to investigate. The findings were then presented to a team of engineers in charge of matters concerning the current fleet of vehicles.

Projects

car-lineup
I am currently working on a few projects including some for my department as well as an intern project involving all 7 interns working for the company. The project involves making major changes to an existing vehicle. My focus is ensuring all the electronic units communicate correctly with each other ensuring the smooth running of the vehicle. I have to ensure the engine management unit we use is compatible with the ABS and any other electronic units we may use, and build a device to translate signals where there are any incompatibilities. As a part of our research we had a ride and drive event involving both new and old vehicles which was both fun and productive!

alternator

Another project I’m working on is to build a test rig for the vehicle alternator. The aim of the project is to use an electric motor to turn the alternator which then charges a car battery. This battery powers the labcars that were previously mentioned. The motor will be controlled by a computer and programmed to mimic an engine going through a specified drive-cycle. This will allow us to simulate external driving conditions within the lab and see how all the devices on the car cope with varying engine loads. I am the lead on this project and will be doing most of the research, supplier contact, component selection and the building involved, including the programming of the final motor drive.

Life outside work

christmas-party
There are various after-hours activities offered by SAIC. I play badminton with the other interns on the onsite badminton court that is actually an old vehicle production workshop that has now been re-purposed.
There are also football and golf clubs as well as an after-hours track group that organise track events where we can race company cars around racing track!
We also have numerous social gatherings and events including a grand end-of-year Christmas party which gave us an opportunity to meet with colleagues from throughout whole company and have a relaxed evening with good food and music!

dinnerbowling
We also hosted a Christmas dinner at our place to get everyone together for a final meal before leaving home for the holidays!
As for living arrangements, the company had arranged two houses for us to rent, saving us the hassle of traveling and house hunting before the start of placement. I live in a four-bedroom house with loads of space and a less than 10-minute drive to work. We also have a couple of restaurants, bowling alley and an IMAX cinema just a five-minute walk away, making life very convenient!

That about covers a lot of what I’ve done over the past few months. I have the next two weeks off and will be flying back home for Christmas. I will try and post more timely updates in the new year, maybe try and make that my new years resolution!
Until then, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Uvindu

Things are about to get electric

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

Team Bath Racing Electric (TBRe) represents the University at the annual Formula Student Electric competition. We aim to become the top electric team in the UK in 2017 and to set the foundations for continued electric vehicle research and development at the University for many years to come. TBRe was founded approximately a year ago by a small group of final-year engineering students that believed in the importance of electric vehicle technology for the future of sustainable mobility. They were also crazy about racing.

From go-kart to Silverstone in 12 months

The project began with the development of an electric go-kart. Essentially, the aim was to replace the go-kart’s original petrol engine with an electric motor. The success of this project provided a hands-on working knowledge of the electrical systems and proved the feasibility of the team’s wider goal: to develop a fully electric race car in time for the 2016 Formula Student event at Silverstone.

The 12 months that followed were hectic. Time had to be split between setting up the team (i.e. recruitment, funding, sponsorships…) and the development of the car. Many sleepless nights later, the team was able to take TBRe16 to Silverstone in July. The valuable feedback obtained during the event from technical design judges will be incorporated into next year’s car, marking the beginning of a cycle of knowledge transfer that will continue for many years to come! TBRe’s successes in 2016 would not have been possible without the support given by the Faculty of Engineering & Design and Team Bath Racing (TBR) – thank you!

Watch Team Bath Racing Electric in action at Silverstone 2016


Launching our 2016/17 project

Our official 2016/17 launch on the 7th of October marked the beginning of a new era for TBRe. It was a pleasure to inaugurate our brand new build room and present our team, goals and long-term vision to over 70 enthusiastic engineering students that share our enthusiasm for racing and technology. The team has rapidly tripled in size to approximately 30 students from a range of year groups and disciplines, including a dedicated business team that will take care of finance/logistics/media and allow the technical team to focus exclusively on designing TBRe17!

Team Bath Racing Electric launch event

Team Bath Racing Electric launch event

How to get involved

It is hard to explain how thrilled we are about TBRe’s prospects for the future. With a team of highly motivated individuals and continued support from our academic and industrial partners, 2017 is set to be a game-changing year for the project. Follow our Facebook page and come visit us in 2E 1.10 (Department of Electronic & Engineering) if you want to get involved or simply learn more about the team, we look forward to meeting you!

 

Detecting plastic landmines in different environments

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Carl Tholin-Chittenden, 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering and a member of the Engineering Tomography Lab (ETL).


I am working with Electrical Capacitance Tomography (ECT) which is a sensing technique mainly used in industry to non-invasively view inside objects such as pipelines or containers. I use this technology to image landmines underground and reconstruct 3D images to aid in their detection and removal.

Reconstructing a 3D image

Landmines are increasingly constructed of plastic with very few metal components. This makes detecting them with conventional techniques, such as metal detectors, very difficult. ECT is capable of detecting most types of materials not just metals. This is because it finds differences in electromagnetic properties of materials to their surroundings. A plastic or metallic object buried in soil or sand is going to produce very different signals to the ECT sensor than when there is only soil or sand under the sensor. This signal difference can then be reconstructed to produce a 3D image of the object.

The main difficulties with ECT are that it doesn’t reconstruct the objects with much precision (mainly just location and depth) and it can be drastically affected by different environments, such as wet ground which degrades the signal quality.

In order to improve the image reconstruction of ECT I spent my first year at Bath researching sensor head designs to see if by simply changing the shape and layout of the sensor head I could improve the image reconstruction. I found that by using many different shapes of electrode and by varying the electrode layout on the sensor I could drastically improve the image reconstructions.

Carl talks through his landmine detection research with Sir Bobby Charlton and Dr Manuchehr Soleimani

Carl talks through his landmine detection research with Sir Bobby Charlton

Meeting Sir Bobby Charlton

My research is funded by a charity called Find A Better Way (FABW) which fund landmine detection technology research. The charity was founded by Sir Bobby Charlton and in June 2016 he came to visit my lab to see the work that I had been doing. He was very interested in the sensor design and I showed image live reconstruction of objects buried in sand to mimic landmines. I have been an avid supporter of Manchester United since I was young, so this visit was doubly amazing for me, and to have your work validated by someone as impressive as Sir Bobby has left a lasting impression on me.

Attending the WCIPT8

In September 2016 I was asked to present my work at the 8th World Congress for Industrial Process Tomography (WCIPT8) in Foz Do Iguazu, Brazil. I met many interesting people within my field with whom I could discuss my work. This gave me many ideas to bring back and apply to my research. I presented my work on sensor design, which was well received and many people had questions about the work and the software that I had developed to go alongside it. One PhD student was even interested in collaboration as the software I had developed was very similar to what he was working on.

Coming back from the conference I dived straight back into my research using everything that I had learnt. I am currently developing novel scanning techniques to improve the image reconstruction by viewing the object underground from different angles. Next I will start to design and build a sensor head which has configurable electrode shapes and layouts (the conclusion of my first year work).

To solve the problem of different environments I also aim to investigate using conductivity data in my simulations. This will mean that I can account for the wetness of the environment I am in, because wet ground has a higher conductivity that affects the electromagnetic properties of the ground around the object.

Saving and improving lives

Hopefully by combining all of these various additions to the ECT system I can show different ways in which an ECT system can be modified to be used for landmine detection. The dream would be that one day ECT is a viable method of landmine detection and that the technology I develop will be used to save lives and improve the lives of people living in areas affected by landmines.


The University of Bath will be hosting the next world congress WCIPT9 in 2018.

 

The problem of comfort in prosthetics

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

Author: Oscar Rovira (2nd year Integrated Mechanical & Electrical Engineering student).


There are thousands of amputations per year in war-torn countries due to mines. The current process of multiple castings and weeks of testing for every individual prosthetic limb has remained relatively unchanged for fifty years. This is a time consuming and costly process for a standard prosthetic (prices can range from £4000 to £40,000).

3D printing technology is developing prosthetic technology at a reduced price, but there remains comfort and reliability issues. As part of my first-year project I decided to focus on developing affordable, comfortable prosthetics. In the end, no matter how robust a prosthesis is, if it’s not comfortable to wear, then it won't be used.

Developing a prototype

Once I knew my objective, I started drawing and sketching all the ideas that came to my mind: from developing a fully 3D printed design of a robotic leg that could automatically adapt to the limb, to creating a prosthesis which could be “built” by the customer (imagine Lego pieces constructing and improving their design). After two weeks of crazy designs and research I decided that the quickest way to solve the problem of comfort was to create a tool that could analyse the stiffness of the stump at any point. This would reduce the forces that the socket applies to the hard tissue, thus reducing any soreness due to bad force distribution.

Inspired by the FitSocket from MIT, and with the objective of reducing the cost whilst maintaining reliability, I started writing all the specifications that “Rijido” (the name I gave my project) needed. Once I had all the measurements and data I spent three days doing all the CAD designs that I would later 3D print. Once all the parts were printed, I started troubleshooting with the prototype and assembly until I got a much better result. Then I used a solder to attach all the wires to the prototype and I connected an Arduino with a bit of code in order to retrieve all the data. After one month Rijido’s first prototype was born!

Seeking funding and promoting my project

I would say that there’s nothing more fulfilling than to see hard work, passion and dedication finally paying off, but that's not where the story ends. I posted my project on Instructables and I applied to a seed accelerator named Imagine to receive feedback and promote Rijido. Although I didn't receive funding from the seed accelerator in the end, I still managed to finish third out of two hundred applicants.

A prosthetist from South Carolina noticed my project on Instructables and expressed an interest in using Rijido as a tool in his practice. It was so exciting to see that my project was actually something people were already looking for. This prosthetist got in touch with the MIT Department of Biomechanics, which then contacted Arthur Petron, a postgraduate who holds the patent alongside Hugh Herr (a heavily influential person in the area of biomechanics) of FitSocket. It was amazing to talk on LinkedIn with the person (Arthur) who first inspired me. Rijido was also then selected as a finalist for the TEDxBarcelona Awards 2016.

Passion and perseverance

Fun, stress, excitement, uncertainty…I would say that the whole journey of making Rijido was a combination of these emotions. The fact that I could use 3D printers, get spare parts and work both in the mechanical and electrical workshops at any time, was the most fun part. I felt like a kid in a ball pit.

Thanks to Rijido I have learnt a host of things! In terms of technical skills, I have mastered how to use 3D printers, I have developed my skills at using turning machines, drawing, CAD modelling and project management. The project also introduced me to different business strategies. In terms of personal skills, I have gained more confidence in myself and improved my communication skills. I’ve learnt again that the combination of passion and perseverance can make any idea into reality and verified how errors and mistakes during the design process are key to producing a much better final product.

Definitely only one of the many more projects yet to come…

Find out more about Rijido.

Algorithms to improve medical imaging

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Ander Biguri, PhD student from our Engineering Tomography Lab.


Having clear, non-blurred images is key for medical imaging, especially during radiation therapy. Knowing the exact location of a tumour helps to target treatment and protect healthy tissue. Motion artefacts are a challenging issue for medical imaging and any sort of motion will lead to blurry images (similar to when moving a standard camera whilst taking a photo).

To improve this we have developed TIGRE, our fast, free and accurate 3D X-ray image reconstruction toolbox (created by the University of Bath Engineering Tomography Lab and CERN). We hope this will be used by the community, and most importantly, hospitals. The toolbox is based on Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT). This is a type of scanning process that takes a series of 2D X-ray pictures and processes them into a 3D image.

Medical imaging

Traditional medical imaging

Increasing the speed of motion correction algorithms in TIGRE

The algorithms we accelerated in graphics processing units (GPUs) are now fast enough to be used in clinical scenarios. I adapted these algorithms to be faster by modifying them to run on a laptop fitted with a GPU. These algorithms can lead to improved image quality and some of them can work with very low amounts of data, thus potentially reducing radiation doses to patients. This could in turn help to increase patient survivability rates.

We are also currently working on motion correction, by using techniques developed 20 years ago at the Proton Synchrotron at CERN by Steven Hancock. I was involved in translating this concept from Phase Space to X-ray tomography. Phase Space tomography (tomography performed in an accelerator) uses known motion models to update tomographical information during algorithmic image reconstruction, essentially removing all known motion happening from the image. This technique has now been translated to X-ray tomography.

Imaging from TIGRE

Imaging from TIGRE - fast and more accurate 3D X-ray image

European Network for LIGht ion Hadron Therapy poster prize

Programming on GPUs is very tedious, but I am proud of achieving a code that can run in milliseconds rather than minutes (or what once took hours or days). I really enjoyed translating the methods used at a particle accelerator to a medical scenario, and it's always a pleasure to be able to play with techniques developed at CERN! Presenting this work to other researchers at the European Network was a really enjoyable experience and winning a prize for my poster was very rewarding. Having my hard work recognised in an expert environment gives me the energy to continue on with my research.