Ben Weeks' 3D printing idea wins "The Year in Industry" IET Innovation Prize

A gap year work placement student has snapped up the National IET Innovation Award at the challenging “Year in Industry” Awards 2014. Ben Weeks spent his year before going on to Exeter University at Chemring Countermeasures where he applied innovative 3D printing techniques to overcome a technical challenge with ageing metal funnels which were used in some company processes.

Ben, from Reading, won the Innovation Award, sponsored by the IET, at a tense finals event in London where he and eight other regional winners presented their projects to a panel of expert judges including Paul Mitchell – Chairman of the Energy Industries Council (EIC), Ruth Mundy - Group Resources Director for Mouchel Group, Yasmin Ali – Operations Engineer for E.ON, Randall Smith – Market Analyst from Lloyd’s Register Group and Chair of Judges – Eur Ing Nick Buckland OBE Chairman of the Board of Trustees at EDT.

Following detailed questioning and careful deliberation, Ben’s project was judged to have been the most innovative solution to a project challenge.

At Chemring Countermeasures Ben was asked to research a project into replacing the ageing metal funnels currently used in the plant with an alternative material which still prevents ignition from static electricity, mechanical friction or impacts.  Ben not only identified a 3D printed funnel manufacturing process that met a highly exacting specification but also succeeded in achieving a financial benefit of around £135,000 per year due to the time savings from not having to repair or replace the metal funnels.

As well as the technical skills that Ben has learned in the project his “Year in Industry” has had other benefits. He says, “My project management skills have improved considerably. The experience of working to a tight deadline while completing a complex and demanding project has been very helpful as has the fact that I needed to combine careful research with presentational skill to convince colleagues of both the technical and business case for my proposed solution. Working on a live and important project in a real commercial environment at Chemring Countermeasures has been of immense benefit to me before I go on to study Engineering at Exeter University in October. It has confirmed my interest in the challenges and opportunities of engineering and it has given me perspectives which I am sure will be of great value as I chose the options and modules on my course which will give me the best possible base for my future career.”


Chemring Countermeasures appreciated the value that Ben provided on the project. Mick Robinson, Manufacturing Engineering Manager, Chemring Countermeasures Ltd (CCM): "This project is a true reflection of Ben’s own effort and initiative; he has delivered it in a thorough and diligent manner, taking the team with him every step of the way. CCM will benefit from this project as it fixes an “old chestnut” type problem whilst reducing the cost of process materials, reducing stock and reducing downtime, resulting in better productivity. Ben has pushed forward his approach and convinced us of its benefits – to the point where we have challenged him with its full implementation. Ben’s contribution has furthered CCM business objectives of improving safety and increasing operational effectiveness”.

Chris Ward, Director at EDT, the charity that organises ‘The Year in Industry’ is impressed by Ben’s achievements: “Stepping from a school environment into a highly technical, commercially astute and demanding organisation like Chemring Countermeasures and making a success of a complex and technically difficult project is an enormous achievement. It is a testament not only to Ben’s intelligence but also to his character that he has made such as success of his project. The Year in Industry is about identifying those young people who have role to play in taking forward British Industry in future decades and by his work at Chemring Countermeasures Ben has certainly put his hand up to be identified as one of those individuals.”