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Read our newsletter - From Harvests to Radiation Detection
Welcome to our late summer newsletter.

As the weather breaks, we hope you enjoyed the warm weather and the warm glow from GB's success in Rio. We've been busy here at Team DCW with plenty of new work coming through - see four new case studies published in this newsletter: as Albert Einstein is quoted to have said "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward".

I'm sure our hugely successful cycling team would agree, but even they need a break at some point to 'smell the roses' and re-charge the batteries. So, we hope you have had time to relax, take a breather and have fun.

And if this newsletter finds you by a pool somewhere or on a gorgeous sandy beach, do send us a postcard - we'd love to hear from you!

Holiday Reading

So, new case studies this month (links are on the right) and a new Digest from Doug: our lead case study covers a very interesting project for Symetrica, involving the design of a roof-mounted radiation detector, followed by Doug's new-found love affair with combine harvesters: it may not be a summer sizzler but we're sure it would beat any in-flight magazine article!

Happy reading,

The DC White team


New case study:Radiation Detector Mount
Vibration Analysis for Symetrica

Symetrica is a global leader in radiation detection and identification equipment. Their range of products, from handheld devices to mobile solutions, is used in border protection, law enforcement, military and emergency applications.


DC White Consulting Engineers were able to assist Symetrica in the development of a shock-resistant enclosure for their detection equipment, to be mounted on vehicle roofs.

Figure 1 – Vehicle-roof-mounted radiation detector.

The crystal detectors are typically brittle in nature with characteristic bending strengths as low as 1.6MPa, so the primary design concern was to protect them from the harsh shock and vibration loads seen by vehicle roof mounted devices. The solution was to encapsulate the crystals in layers of specially selected isolating foam to protect them from external vibrations and shock loads.

Doug's Digest

All those years ago when I started this consultancy, there was an attitude in the various areas of engineering that you could only consult if you had years of experience in that field. Today the situation is very different: “If you are an engineer, you can help us.”

Harvest Home

Well, I have learnt that to be not quite true. For food production, petrochemical, and manufacturing – it is true, but agricultural engineering is a different matter. Our offices overlook an eighteen acre field. It has seen crops ranging from cherries (a complete failure), wheat, oats, potatoes (another disaster) and sheep (very noisy). Over the past few years cereals have been grown with good yields. Each year the combine comes for the harvest. Each year it breaks down.

BIG Tonkas

This year we find ourselves working for a manufacturer of agricultural machinery: big expensive toys (and no, not the same combine company). Never before have we worked in this field, pardon the pun, but we are learning rapidly, because experience really does matter. Most industries see continuous operation with variations driven by maintenance outages and seasonal variations. To me farming is a scary business, driven by the seasons and by the weather. It’s dry, it’s August, the crop must be harvested. It’s going to rain – get it in now; an hour of rain will delay the harvest by five days. Combine’s busted? – fix it! The result is that the manufacturer’s maintenance team are faced with two problems: what originally went wrong and what has the farmer done to get it going again?


In the days of mechanical and electrical limit stops it must have been a nightmare to undo the farmer’s ‘adjustments’. Today everything is computer controlled, GPS positioning and nice displays of what is right and what has gone wrong, so keeping it going should be straightforward – but is it?

Fault diagnostics are far better than you get on the dashboard of a modern car but can often lead to the hard-pressed farmer using his 12” adjustable spanner to ‘tune’ the offending part. Even worse the computer might have been electronically “re-tuned” – just look on Ebay and you will find devices that will reprogram tractors, bailers and combines to make them run faster, to override the wheel spin control, or make the engine give more power. Did you know that tractor engines are deliberately de-rated to improve their reliability and that they can create their maximum tow-bar pull at about 80% power rating? Increase power and you actually lose pull and you spin the wheels.

Grain of truth

To those in the business, all this is obvious, but I will own up to being totally ignorant on such matters.Combines in different parts of Europe have different settings for cutting; there are differences within the UK as you move northwards; differences for flat and hilly fields.And what I find really interesting is that the heart of the combine has not really changed in the last 100 years.The details of grain processing methods have greatly improved the rate of harvesting, but the mechanisms are essentially the same.The harvester is a truly brilliant bit of engineering - even if our visiting machine breaks down every year.


Oh, yes, engineering is fun - and you never stop learning.

September 2016

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DC White - Consulting Engineers
Pilcot Hill
Hampshire, UK
RG27 8SX

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