National Nuclear Laboratory


Sunday 25 May 2014

Declan McAvoy – Apprentice Challenge 2014

Declan McAvoy - Apprentice Challenge 2014

For a number of successful years, NNL has participated with Gen2 providing a working environment and long term opportunities for many young people. Gen2 is a joint venture training company formed as an apprentice engineering and technology training provider. 

Working alongside industry partners such as NNL, Gen2 delivers high quality apprentice training in the West Cumbrian region. NNL engineering apprentices Declan McAvoy and Mark Laird have recently taken part in the Gen2 apprentice challenge launched around Cumbria as part of National Apprentice Week.

Declan describes his experience for 

Can Crusher – Declan McAvoy

I worked with another apprentice from Gen2 to design, develop and manufacture a demonstration piece that showcased the skills we have developed during our training. We had ten days to complete the task in time for National Apprentice Week, which ran between 3rd and 7th March.

Our first step in creating a demonstration piece was design using a CAD program called Solid Works. The original design was a model tower bridge lifted by two synchronised electric motors. However, the budget would not cover the building of the bridge so we had to look for an alternative. A quick brainstorm and, mainly due to the short deadline, we decided to build a can crusher as we could source most of the parts within Gen2.

We began by testing to see how much pressure it would take to crush a can. We discovered it would take quite a significant 10bar or 145psi to crush the can in one hit. We looked for other methods that could achieve the same result but with reduced pressure.

Denting the side of the can to weaken the structure did not have as much of a dramatic effect as we had hoped and it still took 7bar or 101psi to crush the can in one hit. So we reduced the pressure to 4bar or 58 psi and tested it again.

Pressure at this level would still crush the can to the same size but it would take 3-5 hits instead of doing it in one. Once we had completed testing our ideas, we built a mock up circuit on a pneumatic rig at the Energus facility in Workington.

We then designed the box and crushing case around the circuit. The testing and design of the demonstration piece took four days. The construction of the box and crushing case was relatively simple except we had to rely on other people to source the pneumatic parts.

The main body of the can crusher is made from clear acrylic and the crushing case is made from two 10mm thick plates of aluminium at the ends and two 6mm thick plates up the sides. We built the pneumatic circuit inside the box for safety reasons to reduce the risk of pipes blowing off and maybe hitting people.

All together the construction of the can crusher took six days. Our can crusher won the award for the best demonstration piece for the National Apprentice Week event at the Energus Centre on 3rd March. Following on from the competition, we decided to add a couple of safety features before the Apprentice Challenge Final also at Energus on 7th March. This included a safety switch so the system is not pressurised unless the guard is locked in place by our second safety feature which is a pin that slots into the guard to hold it in place and lock the switch on or off.