Design boost following successful internship

Thursday 19th of September 2019 09:17 AM

Background

Oxford Fiber was established in 2001 by Dr Ian Murgatroyd, the business specialises in the designing, developing and manufacturing of innovative cutting systems used on optical fibres. The business is located at the Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre in Rugby, Warwickshire, and employs four staff.

Fibre optics, which are made from glass, are becoming increasingly popular for broadband connections enabling faster internet experiences and streaming of television and films. Cutting these glass fibre optics requires Oxford Fiber’s specialist precise tool containing diamonds imported from Holland.

Oxford Fiber benefited from the help of the R&D Steel project, which received funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund via the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP). The funding is used to underpin the support provided to manufacturing SMEs based in the area.

The R&D Steel Project at WMG supports SMEs with the development of their products through access to equipment and expert knowledge on site at WMG.

The R&D Steel Project is focused on driving the development of new lightweight steel products and creating an environment to develop the next generation of experts in this field through expert knowledge transfer.

The three-year project received £1 million of funding from the Local Growth Fund to buy key R&D equipment, and was matched by a further £1 million from WMG.

 

Challenge

Currently, the business’s cutting tools are able to cut through a single fibre contained in a protective plastic coating. But with demand for them booming, Oxford Fiber was keen to develop a whole solution that could both join and cut up to 12 optic fibres at a time, still within the plastic coating.

In order to do this, they needed to gain a better understanding of the additional complexities involved in cutting 12 fibres. For example, in cutting this material, it is critical to manage the alignment of the fibres and ensure they are cut uniformly at a slight angle. So they sought support to do this via the R&D Steels Project. 

 

Solution

Oxford Fiber worked in conjunction with the WMG SME Group to take on a second-year engineering student as part of its summer internship programme.

The intern was involved in creating detailed engineering designs and prototypes using additive manufacturing, of a number of different solutions. These prototypes were tested to identify issues and to further iterate the design.  

Having this extra resource, along with the intern’s can-do attitude and ability to quickly understand the needs of the project, was extremely useful to Oxford Fiber and has taken the project forward.

 

Results

The Warwickshire business now has a clear understanding of the problems involved in creating this of optic fiber cutting tool, as well as ideas for how to overcome them.

Oxford Fiber will continue to develop the product until they are in a position to exploit the breakthrough, although this may be a few years away.

Moving forward, Oxford Fiber is hoping to attract further students and graduates from the WMG summer internship programme. Two jobs have also been safeguarded.

Dr Ian Murgatroyd, Managing Director of Oxford Fiber, said: “I would recommend taking on interns to other SMEs because we found the student who came to our business showed a great understanding of our product and the standard of their work was extremely high.”

Minister for Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the Midlands Engine and rebalancing the economy so that it works for everyone and ensures a fairer Britain fit for the future.

“Our £1 million Local Growth Fund investment in the R&D Steel project is a great example of this in action. This has enabled Oxford Fiber to ensure its glass fibre optics can be developed locally, while supporting the next generation of experts.” 

Caption: From the left, Zamurad Hussain (CWLEP), Ian Murgatroyd (Oxford Fiber) and Dr Jen Manerova (WMG)