R&D profile: Adam Wilby

Adam Wilby recently joined our Special Profiles business as Area Technical Manager. Prior to this, he was a Research Student at our R&D site in Sheffield. Adam’s now finalising his doctorate, he's been focusing his knowledge on rail steels and improving their performance in service. Find out more...

What does your new role at our Special Profiles business involve and what are you most looking forward to?

I will be helping explore where yield improvements can be made during the various manufacturing processing steps. In addition, I will also be involved in the development of various technology plans, such as the surface defect laser inspection and bar straightness measurement systems, that will be key to getting our mast products to the status of world leadership. Another aspect of my new role will be to support the ongoing work in reducing scale formation during the rolling processes to allow the manufacture of new, profitable mast products to be realised.

The aspect of my new role that I am most looking forwarding to is witnessing the improvements from the technology plans I will be involved in. And, in addition, to tackling the challenges and problems that will enable these technology plans to work.

Why did you decide to pursue a career at British Steel after your studies?

From being raised in Teesside and having at least 4 past generations of my family work in the steel industry, I have a strong sense of pride towards the UK’s steelmaking heritage. Therefore, one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career at British Steel was to get involved in making sure the UK steel industry continues to be successful and is able to transition into a sustainable business for the benefit of future generations.

I was also drawn to the opportunities of working in an innovative work environment and getting involved in tackling a variety of different challenges to help further improve the quality of our products.

What skills and experience do you bring to the business?

From the work I conducted in my EngD project of developing a novel optical monitoring system on an existing twin-disc test machine, I've shown I am capable of developing bespoke technology systems for challenging applications. In addition, it demonstrates I have good problem solving and data analysis skills, all of which will come in useful when I'm getting involved in developing technology plans at British Steel's Special Profiles business.

At university, I have learnt about mechanical engineering from my undergraduate degree and material science and engineering from my postgraduate degree. These 2 degrees have provided me with a unique combination of knowledge that will enable me to appreciate both the mechanical and material behavioural aspects involved during the rolling processes. Furthermore, the focus of my EngD project about the in-service development of damage in rail steels means I have valuable experience and knowledge I can bring for the crane rail products manufactured at Special Profiles due to some of the similarities.

What did you do before starting your role in our Special Profiles business?

In September 2018, I started my 5-year EngD project at the University of Sheffield. I'm now finalising my doctorate to complete my EngD degree via the Advanced Metallic Systems Centre for Doctoral Training. I chose this route because I liked the balanced mixture of the academic and industry-focused research projects that an EngD project entails. The focus of the EngD project looking at rail steels also appealed to me due to my fascination in railways from a young age.

And before that, I studied a MEng Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield from September 2014 until June 2018. I enjoyed getting involved in extracurricular activities such as Railway Challenge, where as a part of a team I helped build a 10¼ inch gauge locomotive to compete at the IMechE Railway Challenge competition in 2015 and 2016. I also enjoyed learning about engineering in the rail industry from a railway-focused module I took in my final year of undergraduate studies. My final year project was also focused on the application of laser cladding coating on rail steels.

What did your latest research entail?

My EngD research project focused on developing new and improving current techniques to provide a better understanding of the damage accumulation behaviour of rail steels due to rail/wheel contacts while in service. To do this, I developed a novel optical monitoring system for the twin-disc test machine that can photograph in detail the running track of a 47mm diameter twin-disc sample rotating at 400rpm to observe the development of wear flakes and rolling contact fatigue (RCF) cracks.

Where did you perform your research?

Most of my research was at the University of Sheffield, however I also conducted some of my experiments at British Steel's R&D facility to conduct micro-hardness testing.

What are you enjoying most about working with British Steel?

I've enjoyed all the helpful support and advice I've been given from everyone at British Steel's R&D facility. I also enjoyed being given the opportunity to get involved with other external industrial projects separate from my EngD project too, such as broken rail investigations with British Steel and its customers, helping me increase my network of contacts.

From the first 3 weeks I have been working at the Special Profiles business, the aspect of my new role I've enjoyed the most is getting involved in the development in a variety of different technology plans. In addition, similar to my experience with British Steel’s R&D facility, I've also enjoyed working in a friendly and supportive environment within the technical department and the wider Special Profiles business.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years’ time, I hope to have completed and been awarded my engineering doctorate. I also hope to have expanded my knowledge, skills and experience dealing with different technologies from getting involved with the various technical projects at the Special Profiles' mill. In addition, expanding my knowledge about steel rolling processes so as to develop a better understanding of how defects occur and can be prevented, how scale formation can be reduced and where yield improvements can be made.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I'm a part of the engineering team for the Doncaster P2 locomotive trust that aims to rebuild the LNER class P2 locomotive ‘Cock o’ the North’.