Cream of the crop

This year's Awards showed the depth and breadth of engineering excellence in the UK. Graham Pitcher reports. The winners of the 2010 British Engineering Excellence Awards were announced at a gala luncheon at London's Globe Theatre on 14 October. Congratulations to all the winners and to Grand Prix winner Andrew Burrows in particular. And thanks to all the companies that entered. The BEEAs will be back again in 2011, so watch out for the call for entries next year.

Grand Prix 2010 Sponsor: Electronics
Leadership Council Winner: Andrew Burrows

The winner of the British Engineering Excellence Grand Prix was Selected from winning entries in the other Award categories, the winner of the Grand Prix impressed the Judges with an elegant solution to an urgent worldwide problem. They declared the solution had been arrived at 'by thorough process and methodology'.

A quarter of domestic water that has been collected, filtered, chlorinated and raised in pressure using large amounts of energy is lost during distribution through leaks: 32billion m3 of treated water a year, according to the World Bank.

With no available solution, Andrew Burrows designed an intelligent valve, controlled by a central server which learns the behaviour of the network and constantly adjusts the pressure to the optimum. This smart water system reduces leakage by reducing pressure to the optimum to satisfy demand.

On average each system installed reduces water leakage by more than 20%. Each of 50 systems installed in Malaysia during July 2010 are saving 250tonnes of water per day.

Judges' Special Award Sponsor: Bloodhound
SSC Winner: Dexela

A number of finalists for the British Engineering Excellence Awards were considered by the Judges, but Dexela was selected as the winner, having made a strong showing in a number of categories.

The company, formed in 2005, has built a portfolio of IP and is now a leading company in computational techniques for image reconstruction.

Although four suppliers dominate the market, Dexela has a first to market approach. Its small fast moving development team and strong development partnerships, have allowed it to prototype and supply a new generation of large area cmos xray detectors ahead of its competitors.

A responsive approach to market requirements and to the requirements of individual customers has meant that Dexela has developed new detector models, all employing a common modular technology platform, in a matter of months.

The Judges said that Dexela has exploited cutting edge technology to create a product that works and has proved its worth across the world.

Consultancy of the Year Sponsor: Prototype Projects
Winner: Drive System Design

Many factors help to identify a good consultancy, but standing out this year was Drive System Design, which impressed the Judges with its innovative work for automotive manufacturers.

Formed in 2007, the company specialises in delivering cost effective projects against extreme time constraints and providing access to innovative technologies and solutions. By 2010, Drive System Design had secured contracts with Aston Martin Lagonda, Audi and Hyundai, amongst others. Now, it is looking to expand its work to address the military, renewable energy, rail and aerospace markets.

Drive System Design has also become an authority in hybrid and electrical vehicle transmissions.

Small Company of the Year Sponsor: Technology Strategy Board
Winner: OC Robotics

Assessing entries from companies with no more than 20 employees, the Judges looked for those which demonstrated a sound business strategy and addressed a particular market need.

Formed in 1997, Bristol based OC Robotics is extending the reach of robotics with a snake arm robot, for which it holds critical patents. The device can reach into confined spaces by following a defined path. The technology is scalable and can be adapted to fit any environment, space or task. Potential markets include nuclear inspection, security, aerospace and medical.

The 16 strong company's first product was a system to inspect and repair pipes beneath a nuclear reactor; business won against strong competition from multinationals.

One of the challenges in its latest product was to simulate the proposed design. Alongside helping to refine the specification, this also allowed the customer to use the device virtually and to provide feedback.

Highly commended: Congratulations to Dexela, whose entry was highly commended.

Green Product of the Year Sponsor: National Instruments
Winner: Dunphy Combustion

Judged on the application of appropriate technology to the design of the entered product, the Judges also looked for evidence of the product's 'green' credentials.

Dunphy's solution addressed the generation of NOx, which can cause smog and react with sunlight to form ozone. Reducing the production of thermal NOx – caused by a high flame temperature – has been one of the main targets for Dunphy Combustion's T-series burners.

The ultra low NOx burners have enabled the company to increase its market penetration in countries with strict low emission standards.

Apart from reducing NOx emissions, the burners also reduce electrical energy consumption of up to 65%, eliminate the need for flue gas recirculation and duct work, and reduce noise.

Start up of the Year Sponsor: Cambridge Consultants
Winner: JAOtech

The 'better mousetrap' is the milieu of the entrepreneur; the person who has spotted a gap and is determined to fill it.

The 'better mousetrap' here has been developed by JAOtech, which has established itself as the market leader in the design and manufacture of a range of embedded smart terminals intended for use at patient's bedsides.

Formed in August 2006, JAOtech has grown to a 35 strong company with a turnover of more than £6million. It has also made its first acquisition; a US company now provides it with a presence in a key global market.

Its products are shipped to hospitals and clinics around the world, where they form the front end of the eHealth revolution, while delivering multimedia entertainment to the bedside. JAOtech's sales in 2009-10 will be boosted by a contract with Hospedia, which has the potential to replace 40,000 units within three years.

Highly commended: Congratulations to Oxford YASA Motors, whose entry was highly commended.

New Electronic Product of the Year Sponsor: Digi-Key
Winner: Atmel

Atmel developed maXTouch technology to provide the opportunity for manufacturers of mobile phones and other consumer electronics products to design multitouch user interfaces into their offerings. The aim was to create a competitively priced solution which provided the required performance.

In designing the device, specialised capacitive sensing circuitry was developed, reducing external component count. Meanwhile, an on chip microcontroller drives the interface functionality. A high signal to noise ratio and rapid signal acquisition allows the device to consume less power and extend battery operating life. The design allows the device to spend most of its time drawing only stand by current.

Since maXTouch Mxt224 was introduced in September 2009, it has been designed into most smartphones, including Samsung's Galaxy S and Motorola's Droid-X. Interest in the interface is now growing in other market segments.

New Mechanical Product of the Year Sponsor: WEG Electric Motors
Winner: JRI

With shortlisted entries ranging from a high tech vacuum pump to a heat resistant metal coating, the Judges had a hard task in picking the winner. An important aspect was the technology used and the speed with which the design had been brought to market.

The Judges selected JRI's Vaios shoulder system, intended for use in shoulder replacement surgery. While similar products are available, JRI believes its offering to be the only modular system.

The system was developed following a review of available shoulder replacement technologies. This highlighted an opportunity to develop a product through collaboration with a university and a hospital. Using these clinical inputs, JRI used its manufacturing, design and commercialisation expertise to create the Vaios system, which brings a 60% reduction in component parts and a similar reduction in the level of instrumentation.

JRI says it has met the objective to produce a market entry product with substantial novel features that overcame clinical problems.

Young Design Engineer of the Year Sponsor: RS Components
Winner: Mairead Kelly

Mairead Kelly has been with Dialog's Edinburgh design team since July 2008. Since then, she has been directly involved with two key innovations; the development of a low dropout regulator for a Class D Amplifier; and the development of a patent pending technique for noise suppression and echo cancellation in alow latency digital bypass circuit.

Kelly is keen to support new engineers and actively seeks opportunities to do this. She is passionate about developing business/academic links and encouraging young talent into the business. She is currently acting as a graduate mentor for an Edinburgh University placement student and Mairead is actively helping to promote engineering as a profession to school leavers and undergraduates.

Design Engineer of the Year Sponsor: element 14
Winner: Andrew Burrows

Engineers are the people that make things happen. Sometimes it's about refining someone else's ideas but, occasionally, an engineer will take their own idea from concept to market.

Despite being collected, filtered and chlorinated, then being distributed via high pressure mains, 25% of water is lost before it reaches the consumer. Water leakage can be reduced by limiting pressure in the distribution system but, until recently, no effective technologies existed. Andrew Burrows has designed an intelligent valve, controlled by a central server, which learns the behaviour of the network and constantly adjusts the pressure to the optimum.

Burrows has jointly filed a patent for a valve whose innovative hydraulic feature enables it to be actuated 400 times per day for five years using only tiny amounts of energy. Contributing to the industry, Andrew Burrows finds time to mentor other engineers through non executive directorships at other companies.

Mechatronic Design of the Year Sponsored by Rockwell Automation
Winner: Kohler Mira

Kohler Mira's brief was to create a next generation product that would give unrivalled accuracy of temperature control, parameter set up, customisation and access to data. Additionally, it was tasked with making a product with a higher flow capacity than previously products and one which was easy to integrate into a water control system. The only product of its kind, the drv80 can monitor its operation and diagnose faults. It can also monitor a number of hot water system parameters and provide system maintenance information. The product is now growing in significance to Kohler Mira's major customer and is substantially responsible for its customer's business enjoying a 23% annual compound growth.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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