On 6th February 2019, 25 Mechanical Engineering students and staff visited the Caterpillar Europe Research and Design Centre in Peterborough.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering organises trips to industry sites on a regular basis, allowing students to appreciate the variety of industries involved in the discipline they are studying.
Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The Caterpillar facilities in Peterborough host highly skilled researchers and engineers who are working on meeting the environmental and sustainability challenges of the future. The factory has the capacity to produce over 700,000 industrial engines per year, with applications in off-road machines, construction, mining, power generation and other areas.
Caterpillar provided a packed and interesting day for the trip. Imperial students had the opportunity to go on behind-the-scenes tours of the factory and the Europe Research and Design Centre (ERDC), including engine test cells and laboratories. Students also attended talks from Caterpillar managers and engineers as well as recent graduates (two of whom were Imperial Mech Eng alumni), who described their experiences of working at Caterpillar. Lunch was held in the field test workshop, which proved to be a great idea, as it presented an opportunity to talk informally with staff while getting up close to Caterpillar machines.
This is what the students and staff had to say:
“The trip was so amazing. I feel like it really gave me an insight of how working as an engineer would be. I was so stunned by the size of the engine factory. What's more, I realised I overestimated how powerful machines are. I am not saying that robots are not heavily involved in every single procedure of production of diesel engines, but participation of technicians is still absolutely crucial when it comes to procedures like protecting parts of the engine from painting, identifying the crack in the engine, maintaining the machinery.”
Snow Zhang (ME2)
“Thanks to you and the department for organising the visit. I really enjoyed the day out at Caterpillar. The part I probably enjoyed most was the factory visit, I normally only get to see it in documentaries but today I saw it in real life! And I managed to ask loads of questions! Thanks again!”
Ameer Azlan A Azizee (ME2)
“I really enjoyed the talks given by the staff members at Caterpillar, and really appreciated the fact that they were given by staff members at different stages of their careers, as it helped understand the kind of career progression engineers at Caterpillar can achieve, as well as the flexibility in working hours to allow for each individual to obtain the work-life balance that is best for them. I am really grateful for the time and organization that must have gone in planning such a tour.”
Francesco Restuccia (Postdoc in Thermofluids)
The visit was organised by Guy Blundell, Mike Kenyon, and Charlotte Higgins at the ERDC, and by Aaron Costall and Dominika Pocsova from our department. Caterpillar is a long term research partner of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London, as funders of the Innovation and Research Centre led by Dr Aaron Costall and Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas.
Caterpillar would like to highlight the opportunity for industrial placements, as well as their graduate scheme; more details can be found on their website. Informal enquiries may also be made via Dr Costall.
Trips to industry facilities from a diversity of engineering areas will continue to happen in the department in the future; students can sign up to attend on a first-come, first-served basis.
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