TECHNOLOGY BLOG: A GRADUATES’ JOURNEY TO LEAD ENGINEER – ROBERT WEEKS

: Over 66,000 jobs are supported by the subsea industry in the UK, with over 750 companies working in the sector. So for a graduate, making the choice to join the subsea industry is an exciting move.

Robert Weeks started with JDR as a design engineer in September 2011. He joined straight from the University of Cambridge where he graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering. He quickly moved his way up through the ranks to become a senior engineer, leading a team of design and graduate engineers, where he was responsible for their training and development. Robert has since been promoted to lead engineer where his main focus is on high value, complex projects that require a dedicated technical focus.

During his time with JDR, Robert has worked on many different projects and, in addition to this, has identified and implemented a number of extensive cost saving schemes. A particularly important piece of work has been his research on estimating the bending stiffness of subsea umbilicals.

Robert investigated in detail the challenge of estimating the bending stiffness of subsea umbilicals through mechanical theory and tests on full-scale umbilicals. A subsea umbilical is a complex composite structure, often several kilometres in length, consisting of a bundle of components including any number of hydraulic hoses and LV or MV cables twisted into a helix. This is then protected with longitudinally extruded polymeric sheathing and reinforced with helically applied galvanised steel wire reinforcement.

The bend stiffness of subsea umbilicals is crucial to analysing the motion of the umbilical in service or during deployment and is a key factor in determining the range of sea state that products can be installed in.  It is inherently difficult to calculate umbilical bend stiffness purely theoretically because the stiffness is sensitive to differences in umbilical construction and environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and previous handling of the product.

For static umbilicals, the ability to estimate the umbilical bend stiffness at an early stage before physical testing has been performed allows the installation contractor to plan ahead. For dynamic umbilicals, understanding the bending stiffness is vital to ensure the umbilical does not clash with any adjacent cables or equipment subsea, therefore preventing it from being damaged in service.

Robert’s extensive research included designing and organising the manufacturing of a number of suitable test samples and composing test procedures for bending stiffness testing.

On successfully completing this research project, Robert created a software tool that calculates a bend stiffness estimate based on the dimensions and material properties of each layer of the umbilical. The calculation tool has now been implemented into the standard design calculations that are used by every JDR umbilical design engineer worldwide.

It’s not often that graduates get the chance to work on a project that will change how their company designs and manufactures technologies. Opportunities like this can be few and far between, but we believe that by empowering graduates with exciting challenges and real responsibility, it allows them to gain confidence, develop their skills and make a significant contribution to the organisation and the industry as a whole. Now in his fifth year with JDR, Robert leads several high value projects and continues to take on further responsibilities in complex technical areas.

The prospects available to graduates in the subsea sector are exciting and varied, and importantly offer young talent the chance to develop and be responsible for extraordinary projects right from the get go.

“Right from the beginning of my career with JDR I have been driven to prove myself and strived to tackle the most complex and interesting challenges that face both the company and the offshore industry. JDR has provided me with the flexibility and opportunity to be involved in various development opportunities outside of my normal responsibilities. During my time here I have worked alongside a number of very talented individuals who, in sharing their experience with me, have enabled me to develop my own skills and expertise, and make a real contribution to the company. I look forward to continuing my exciting career in the subsea sector.” says Robert Weeks.

 

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