What are your main areas of expertise?
My main responsibility at Covesion is for the optomechanical subassembly design.
I work on the manufacturing side, assisting with existing products such as developing new tools to make production easier. I mostly work with the waveguides, but I will often get involved if we have a customer who requires a custom part; I may help with designing a specific variation for them based on their particular requirements.
Covesion’s product range is constantly growing and evolving and so I also get involved with product development. I enjoy this aspect of my job because you will come across technical issues that have to be thought through and processed, particularly when it comes to how we take a development product into commercial production.
I am also involved with some of Covesion’s Innovate UK projects, working on R & D for waveguides and PPLN solutions specifically designed for these projects including ESCHER (components for quantum computing), Space-certified Nonlinear Optics for Rugged Quantum Lasers (SNORQL) and Mid-IR Upconversion Single Photon Detection (MIRUS).
What are your credentials / past work experience that make you suited to your role in the company?
I completed an apprenticeship in electronic engineering with Medelec which was part of the Vickers Group. After completing my HNC I went to work for them in production engineering. Medelec made diagnostic equipment such as ECG machines. My role was multi-facetted, writing working procedures, designing, testing, and maintaining production equipment, jigs and fixtures. I enjoyed all of it but especially taking the products that came out of development and trying to morph them into something that was easy to manufacture.
After that I worked in the printing industry for about 15 years, working for Zed Instruments, servicing and overhauling high power Electrox fast axial flow CO2 lasers. It was at Zed that I made the transition from being pure electronics to working with lasers and optics.
Following my position at Zed I started working at Stratophase, the company that was spun out of The University of Southampton at the same time as Covesion. I was at Stratophase for 10 years, working in production engineering as well as completing R & D work as the product line at Stratophase was still in development.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I enjoy finding unique solutions to challenging engineering problems. I like it when someone says, ‘we can’t do this’ or ‘how can we do that without it costing the earth?’
For a large part of the time I was working at Zed Instruments, I was a service engineer. In that type of role you are constantly trying to find out why the machine is faulty and how to get it working again. That is all the customer is interested in. Sometimes you would have to go back to the office to pick up parts but quite often I have been able to fix a machine by buying something off the shelf. I suppose it’s knowing the system and being able to think laterally about a problem.
What has been your career highlight so far?
The main product we worked on at Stratophase were sensors that formed part of benchtop bioreactors for the production of drugs for pharmaceuticals. I worked on the system for controlling the bioreactors, to make them more efficient, and be able to yield better quality products in shorter times.
As part of this I was involved with the design and assembly of systems and processes for the manufacture of optical waveguides in silica, including the development of optical probes for use in harsh environments. The probes had to be extremely robust and resilient to shock, vibration, autoclaving, steam sterilisation and radiation.
That piece of engineering is something that I look back on as a real achievement, very tricky and technically demanding, something to be proud of.
Personal background / hobbies
I was born in Wiltshire and, at the age of 10, relocated to Surrey. Then 13 years later, I relocated back into Wiltshire. When my son was younger, we did a lot of camping down in the New Forest. Children aren’t interested in the time it takes to get somewhere they just want to be there so we would spend more time packing the car to go camping than we would travel to get there! It is a lovely part of the world.
I enjoy driving and maintaining classic cars – a Bay Window VW camper van, Classic Mini, TVR 350i. One of my biggest achievements outside of work is rebuilding and restoring a classic mini with my son.
I also enjoy repairing things. When friends of the family have something that’s broken like hair straighteners or whatever, I am the man that they tend to call! We live in a throwaway culture and quite often with these things it is an easy fix.