Due to my keen interest in science and engineering, I decided to look for an opportunity to become more involved and to gain some training and experience in the form of an apprenticeship. I applied for the position at Durham University as it is renowned for providing a high-quality learning experience with excellent facilities. In October 2019, I joined the Department of Physics as a technical apprentice, based in the mechanical workshop, where I have undertaken training on a variety of machines and computer software.
At the beginning of my employment, I was introduced to a manual milling machine. During my work on this, I have learned how to safely machine parts to size accurately, including multiple features such as enclosed/open-ended slots, tapped/reamed holes, angular faces, steps etc.
A substantial part of my time has involved gaining experience on a manual lathe. Some of the features I have machined include stepped/tapered diameters, undercuts and off-centre features. I have machined various materials such as aluminium, brass, PTFE etc. to see how they machine compared to one another.
My most recent training has been focused on a CNC lathe. I was shown the process that should be followed prior to machining, for example, ensuring that both the digital read-out and the tooling are set-up correctly. After some practice programming numerous parts of varying complexity, I was able to produce components to a high standard.
Autodesk Inventor allows models of components to be created that can then provide the information needed for their manufacture. After frequent use of this software, I am now confidently able to produce 3D models, assemblies and technical drawings. More recently, I have received training on Autodesk Fusion 360, which offers an alternative method of programming CNC machines. I am now able to create a setup for imported models followed by the toolpaths needed to machine various features.
In order to provide evidence of my work to the external training provider, I have completed multiple observations. For these, I must machine components or operate Inventor under his supervision, which I have done so competently. I have successfully sat a number of written exams on topics such as health & safety, industrial environmental awareness etc. which were based on lessons from the training provider.
At the end of my apprenticeship, I hope to obtain a permanent position within the Mechanical Workshop and to broaden my knowledge and experience as my career progresses. I have enjoyed my time working in Durham University and I hope to advance within the department when the opportunity arises.