Engineering bright sparks win award

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

TWO Limerick students have been honoured for the quality of their design, development and manufacture of an automated system for the sand blasting of prosthetic shoulder stems.

TWO Limerick students have been honoured for the quality of their design, development and manufacture of an automated system for the sand blasting of prosthetic shoulder stems.

Richard Childs from Galbally and Patrick Byrnes from Patrickswell along with Danny Allen from Newmarket in County Cork were presented with the prestigious ESS MEETA Student National Award at the 2011 MEETA Conference in Dublin.

All three are students of engineering at Cork Institute of Technology where they were honoured this week. MEETA is the Irish Maintenance and Asset Management Association and is incorporated in Engineers Ireland.

The shoulder stem is used in reconstructive surgery of the shoulder joint and can give a whole new lease of life to those undertaking the surgery. Part of the existing process for the manufacture of the stems carried out in the bio-medical manufacturing plant Croom Precision Medical was too time consuming, inefficient and led to a high volume of rework.

The judges were particularly impressed with the practical nature of the solution including automation of a very labour intensive loading and unloading process, improved operator safety and full traceability.

“We built a machine to take all of the manual labour out of it. It went fully automatic so that the person who was working on it was able to be repositioned to a new station. We pretty much built a robot to do the job. It is working at the moment in Croom Precision Medical,” explained Richard Childs, 21, who is a third year student of mechanical engineering.

In a further Limerick twist to the story, the sponsors of the awards - ESS are a Limerick company head-quartered on the Ennis Road. Specialising in maintenance and asset management, they are in business since 1991 and work with people to improve maintenance in Ireland, UK, India and South Africa. “It’s great to see this standard of practical work being done by students. It’s a very valuable project with a great return and increased safety too - hard to beat that. Well done to the three lads and I’ve no doubt they’ll make further valuable contributions in their working careers,” said Ray O’Neill, managing director.