Mistakes were made.

I’ve spent the better half of the last week in industry setting up equipment to manufacture helical tubes for my PhD work. I sourced the equipment myself, and ordered it through the University around 6-7 months ago. It’s only now that I’ve been able to set it all up. Let’s just say, mistakes were made.

Turns out my equipment doesn’t work how I wanted/expected – I was and still am very naive. I don’t let it get me down, rather I think it’s exciting to know there’s always more to learn. If anything, I think the more you learn and know, the more you think you don’t know about.

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The total cost of the equipment is around £5.5-6k

Additionally I don’t feel so bad about it when I take a step back and think: I always like to buy British whenever possible and through these purchases in my own little way, I’ve contributed to the economy and jobs in Wales, Yorkshire, County Durham and Sweden.

Fortunately the guys in industry have loads of hands-on experience and are super helpful, and most importantly happy to help. I have enormous respect for these guys who work in R&D and production. They KNOW and have experienced the reality of working with composite materials. I’ve got a lot of theory and some basic understanding.

So we ditched the original equipment idea after a day or so of trying and we’ve sorted another jig out that should be able to do what I need. It’s simpler, easier and cheaper. And besides my focus is on making a helical tube, not fixing problems with the equipment that’ll help me get there, so there’s no point in wasting everyone’s time trying to get a difficult piece of equipment to work (even though it’s all kinda set up and expensive) when there’s a better alternative – we avoided being attached to something flawed and that’s important for learning and progress.

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doesn’t look like much but it’s simple and should work well

I’ve learnt probably a very basic thing which is to slow down and really think through equipment requirements, talk to people for advice and then go ahead on purchases. Will do this in future to save people’s time, money and effort.

This is one of the reasons I wanted to transition from a heavy theoretical background (i.e. Astrophysics) into engineering and business. It’s all well and good knowing theory and having loads of ideas, but translating that into something real, practical and a product, you find there’s a huge disparity and problems you would’ve never imagined no matter how basic and small they are – in the highly educated university environment, you can very much be inside your little bubble. And inside a bubble is definitely somewhere I don’t want to be.

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The academic life bubble: emails, reading papers, writing papers, theory and ideas. Photo by @gabisecheli

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