In this blog series we talk to our power industry experts here at Bowman Power Group, to provide our readers with an insight into the diverse range of talents and expertise that make us proud of our team. Previosuly in the series, we’ve spoken to Dr. Shinri Szymko, Head of Technology, and Matt Butcher, our Principal Support Engineer.
Today we spoke to Rob Fallon, Senior Mechanical Engineer, and he tells us how he helps to develop our ETC systems.
What’s your background, and how did you come to join us at Bowman?
Growing up I was fascinated by aeroplanes and jet engines, and my favourite plane was the Harrier jump-jet. I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southampton, applied for a job at Rolls-Royce plc and ended working on the Pegasus jet engine – which powered my favourite plane! A real dream come true.
After moving to Southampton 15 years ago I joined Bowman as a Development Engineer, progressing onto Project Manager and subsequently Senior Mechanical Engineer, more recently concentrating solely on the technical side. I became a part of the first turbo generator project in 2004, but there’s been a lot of change since then!
What’s your role here at Bowman and what are your responsibilities?
I’m currently the Technical Lead for new turbo generators, at the hub of a team – it’s fair to say – of world leading experts in fields including turbomachinery, electrical machine design, rotor bearing system design, CAD, stress and thermal analysis.
Designing high-speed turbo machines is very complex, and requires good co-ordination as none of our experts can work without extensive collaboration required to achieve increasing stringent specifications.
At the beginning of a design we know all about the requirements, but little of what the machine will actually end up looking like. By the end of the design process we have done all the engineering – concept solutions, design evolution, a great deal of analysis and calculation, component definition, as well as listening to feedback from the rest of the business – so that we have a deep technical understanding of the design: form, functionality, materials, manufacturing processes, dimensions, tolerances, supplier selection, QA needs, etc. That is the design process in a nutshell and it’s very rewarding to complete the journey!
I’ve led this process on seven different turbo generators and each time we learn something new. It’s a hugely creative and stimulating process: to make something from nothing, which adds value to our end customers, and benefits the planet in reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions.
How does your work impact our customers and the development of the Electric Turbo Compounding system?
Fundamentally I co-ordinate the whole design, and so am responsible for the function of the turbo generator in our ETC systems. Cost effectiveness, efficiency, reliability, packagability, installation, monitoring, maintenance, and the impact on the customer’s engine – it’s all part of what I do, and I measure the standard that each system has to deliver. For example, we have extremely rigorous reliability and durability requirements, as the rotors in our turbo generators are designed to perform for five years without maintenance requirements.
What challenges have you been faced with/overcome in your role?
In the early days we designed the world’s first ETC system at the scale of engine with which we operate, which was pioneering technology. We had to balance design expectations and risks against timescales and funding. We had to make informed judgments on the different technology areas, and expand the team to be able to analyse different aspects of the new machine.
What’s your favourite aspect about your role?
It’s a fascinating role with a fantastic team, some of the best people I could hope to work with – and we have a laugh at the same time! Also, working across the engineering spectrum gives variety – from local specialist component suppliers to far-flung major clients.
The things that motivate me are the cutting-edge technology that covers a huge range of engineering disciplines, and that it’s a green technology that reduces environmental impact. Both of these aspects have both recognised by several awards, which is very satisfying.
In addition, I’ve been to schools to talk about the impact we’re having on the environment, and highlighting that the UK is at the forefront in developing some great technologies, including ETC.