In his role as Head of Engineering, Dr Ulrik Naunton oversees all the mechanical, electrical and software engineering for ALPHR Technology both in the UK and Romania. Like so many engineers, his career route and achievements have been both extraordinary and varied. Ulrik kindly spared some time to answer Seven ALPHR Questions, engineered to find out more…
What inspired you to become an engineer?
I was a country boy from rural Cambridgeshire. The first inspiration was the tractor parked in the field next to my first home – the size, the complexity and the aroma of oil. I spent my childhood inventing machines and building cranes with Meccano.
Who is your engineering hero?
Sir Joseph Whitworth Bt FRS FRSA
(21 December 1803 – 22 January 1887)
for his invention, innovation, precision and standardisation of screw threads. I named my current home ‘Threads’ to honour him in recognition of his help with my career – he left a legacy of Whitworth Scholarships, of which I am a proud recipient.
Where did your own engineering journey begin?
Initially, I just wanted to be a draughtsman. My journey began in a Drawing Office Print Room as a Youth Opportunities Programme trainee. Aspirations increased as time went by. My initial engineering education was on a day release basis, I went to university for my first degree at a later age than most and commenced my industry based Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme after several years of post-graduate experience.
I have taken every opportunity afforded me, and gained a wide range of technical and leadership skills, and experience across many industries over the years. This includes, buildings, engines, power station plant, railway locomotives, micron-surface texture instrumentation, recycling machinery, date code printers, inkjet printing, 3D printers, nano-cellulose, special purpose machinery, test machinery, nuclear decommissioning robots, microfluidic/optical instrumentation. I believe it is the role of an engineer to seek practical solutions; to apply their knowledge to problem-solving, no matter which area of engineering they find themselves in.
Ultimately this led to a role leading the engineering function at ALPHR in the UK and Romania
Read the book one day! My incredible and supportive secondary school teacher, Mr Roger Davies, said that he plans to write my biography. He has unfailingly followed my career and achievements down the years, and we are still in touch.
What has been your biggest engineering challenge so far?
Surface metrology instrumentation measures to a resolution of nanometres (nm). Traditionally the instruments are very expensive to build and must be used under laboratory conditions. I turned the rulebook on its head and invented a device that was robust enough for shopfloor uses and used a very low cost construction by using the cost advantages of high precision standard components manufactured economically in high numbers. The innovation earned me my Engineering Doctorate (EngD).
What do you think has been the most transformative change in engineering in the last ten years?
The Internet of Things (IoT):With the proliferation of low-cost and powerful mobile devices cloud and edge computing power, Industry 4.0 will soon become the norm. ALPHR will innovate to become a leading Industry 4.0 provider.
What excites you most about the future of engineering at ALPHR?
This is an exciting time for ALPHR as we diversify from our automotive market segments, to accept complex automated test and assembly challenges from all industry sectors across the globe.
Finally, a surprising fact about you..
I collect modern, unusual clocks. I bought cost my first clock when I was in my late teens and it cost me three weeks’ wages. The clock is an Arrow Ball Clock and was invented by Harley Mayenschein in the 1970’s. I now have over 250 clocks – all modern and all with fascinating and original ways of telling the time.
With many thanks to
Dr Ulrik Naunton, MEng WhSch CEng MIMechE EngD.