Newport & District Materials Society Community Activities

Newport & District Materials Society Annual Golf Tournament 2014


Established in 2007, the Annual Golf Tournament is now a fixture in the Society's programme.  Usually held on the same day as the Guest Night, it brings the curtain down on the lecture season and is followed by a summer break  before the new season begins in October.  Since 2011, Newport Golf Club has been chosen as the venue and so this year's participants duly assembled there just after midday on Thursday 26th July for the 2014 contest. 

The weather was sunny and warm as the players gathered at the first tee where the consensus was that the course appeared to be in fine condition with the greens expected to be fast.  In accordance with custom, the Tournament was played as a Stableford competition with full handicaps allowed.  The holder, Robert Walker, was given the honour of striking the first shot and the competition got under way.   First to show his class was Tony Jones who recorded pars at each of the first three holes and by the halfway mark had accumulated an impressive total of 21 points.  Best of the rest at this stage was Robert Walker with 19 points.  Tony was in imperious form, however, and started the second nine with two pars and a birdie to collect a further 10 points with six holes to go.  Unfortunately, the weather then deteriorated and rain began to fall.  Although this affected everyone's performance nobody could better Tony who completed his round with a final score of 40 points.   Robert Walker did have the consolation of a par at the last hole,  but earlier errors meant that he could only muster 34 points and the Society had a new champion. 

The photograph below shows organiser Alan Coombs presenting the trophy to Tony Jones as the 2014 champion.  Alan offered Tony the congratulations of everyone present.  Tony's win  brought to an end the dominance of the septuagenarians (Walker and Barradell) and such was the emphatic nature of his victory that it seems possible that we have another serial winner in prospect.  In these circumstances it was suggested after the presentation that we ought to perhaps to introduce additional award categories.  Most garish dresser perhaps?  Loser of most balls in a round? Clearly the Committee needs to think these suggestions through before next year!

The Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture 2014

"Sir Henry Bessemer - A Life, a Legacy and a Local Connection"

By Chris Elliot, Head of Product Marketing & New Product Development, Tata Steel Europe in the Julian Hodge Lecture Theatre, Cardiff University on 6th May 2014

The juxtaposition of the names of the two men Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and Sir Henry Bessemer in the heading above is unusual, for in life they were unlikely to have been close.  Thomas was the man who, in 1879, successfully removed phosphorus from liquid iron in a Bessemer converter, a challenge that had confounded Bessemer himself for over 20 years.  In so doing, Thomas opened up the possibility of smelting the world's vast reserves of phosphorus-containing iron ores leading to a great expansion of steelmaking that continues to the present day.  Thomas carried out his experimental work at Blaenavon and this local link explains why the Newport & District Materials Society include the biennial Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture in their programme of events.  In 2014, the opportunity for a lecture on the life of Sir Henry Bessemer arose and the Society thought it an entirely appropriate subject for its 2014 Prestige Lecture. 

The lecturer, Chris Elliot of Tata Steel Europe, began by establishing the importance of steel as an engineering material in the 21st century.  In reviewing the vast range of steel products currently available in the construction, automobile, shipping, packaging, appliance, transport and many other fields he underlined the magnitude of the steel industry numerically.  Two figures will suffice.  World annual production currently stands at 1.5 billion tonnes and direct employment at 2 million people.  Over 150 years ago when Bessemer and, slightly later, Thomas were active, such growth would have been difficult to imagine.

Bessemer was born in1813 and, possibly influenced by his father, soon showed a flair for invention.  In 1830, whilst still in his teens he set up a factory to make white metal castings which were used to make deed stamps.  Forgery was common and Bessemer designed and perfected  a stamp that could emboss documents and perforate the stamp to prevent reuse.  At his fiancée's suggestion he also incorporated the date.  Unfortunately he omitted to patent his idea and the Government Stamp Office did not pay him, an action that rankled with Bessemer long after.  Next, Bessemer developed a mechanical saw for cutting thin slices of plumbago which was used  to make pencil leads.  Noticing that a large proportion of the valuable plumbago was lost as broken fragments Bessemer invented a process for compressing the fines that had hitherto been discarded.  This proved to be a more successful venture for he later sold the rights to this invention for the sum of £2000. 

The manufacture of bronze powder for gilding was another of Bessemer's many enterprises.  Although he was eventually  to hold over a hundred patents, on this occasion he chose to protect his interests by adopting an elaborate stratagem of secrecy which was so successful that his mechanically-produced bronze powder remained a source of his wealth for 35 years.  The Crimean War (1853-56) stimulated  demand for armaments and Bessemer turned his attention to artillery shells which in turn led to him seeking greater quantities of steel than were then available.  Having previously designed a reverberatory furnace for producing sheet glass Bessemer had some relevant experience, but the switch to a bottom-blown converter was the key development since it enabled the oxidation of impurities in the molten pig iron to raise the metal temperature.  How much of the underlying metallurgy Bessemer understood is open to conjecture, but it's undeniable that he showed the importance of volume production since the cost of steel production fell dramatically as steelmakers utilised his methods.  As previously mentioned, however, there was a major drawback to Bessemer's process in that it could not process iron made from phosphoric iron ores.  It was not until 1879 when Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, working with his cousin Percy Carlyle Gilchrist, developed a converter lining material that enabled phosphorus to be removed in basic slag that this limitation was overcome.  Thereafter steel production boomed. 

In his final section, the lecturer concluded by posing his audience the question  "Is there still a niche for individual entrepreneurs like Bessemer in the 21st century?"  Answering his own question in the affirmative he cited Richard Branson and Eli Musk as being candidates who could be thought of as being Bessemer's heirs, but he acknowledged that others might have different opinions.  When the discussion started, however, few seemed inclined to dispute the idea that individual entrepreneurs could still be identified, although the circumstances in which an entrepreneurial spirit might flourish could possibly be more restricted than hitherto.  Later, the conundrum that Bessemer's name seemed to have received more recognition down the years than that of Sidney Gilchrist Thomas was raised and it was explained that Bessemer had had the foresight in his later years to write an elaborate autobiography so that it was natural for historians to refer to it for information.  In the same way that the victors in battle are usually the authors of history, Bessemer ensured that his version of events survived. 

On that note, Tony Jones, Event Organiser, presented the speaker with the gift of a miner's lamp and proposed a vote of thanks to him for a stimulating lecture.  The audience responded enthusiastically.

The Elasticity of Cellular Structures

25 March 2014 

The lecture was delivered by Dr Angela Mihai a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Cardiff University. She described her research into the computer modelling of mechanical properties of solid cellular structures.

Solid cellular structures are ubiquitous in nature and industry but they are less well understood than any other class of materials.  Dr Mihai cited animal paw pads and plants such as bamboo and palms as good examples of materials with this type of structure that have amazingly good properties for such seemingly fragile materials.  Paw pads for camels, elephants and cheetahs are tremendously resilient due to their ability to absorb mechanical shock.  Palm trees are noted for their ability to withstand high winds by bending.  Examples in industry include silicone rubber and various solid foams.

The main body of research into materials with cellular structures over the years has concentrated on the modelling of their behaviour at low stress levels.  Dr Mihai’s works is in the development of computer models of the performance of this class of materials at high stresses.  The basic assumption that underpins the work is that the materials are hyperelastic at these stress levels.

The computer model generates a variety of different honeycomb structures both in two and three dimensions. Structures containing cells in the form of squares, diamonds and hexagons were amongst those generated.  The model then applies various stress regimes to the honeycomb and simulates the effect on the structure. It was clear from the results presented that different cell shapes give different responses.  Some structures were more effective at energy absorption while others had better tensile or compressive strength.  These findings will certainly be significant in the design of man made materials for specific applications.

The initial models assumed uniformity of cell structure which is rarely the case in nature.  The more recent work has looked at the impact of local variations in wall thickness and density.  The simulations have shown that these variations can be highly significant.  The next phase of the work will be to carry out quantitative analysis of actual materials such as silicone rubber.

At the end of an interesting lecture, Dr Mihai teamed up with our President, Professor Sam Evans, to answer a series of probing questions.

The Forging of Casings and Blades at Daniel Doncasters Blaenavon

25 February 2014

This very interesting talk was given by Mr John Perkins the technical manager and started with a look at the history of the plant. Doncasters is built on the site of the old Blaenavon Iron and Steel Company and metal production has been going on there for well over 200 years. Over the years there have been a long series of takeovers and the ownership currently lies with a Dubai based investment company.

The current products manufactured at the site mainly end up as engine casings and turbine blades for the aerospace industry. The main body of the talk was a detailed description of the processes used to produce engine casings with the use of videos and photographs. The process route used has essentially been the same for many years although the materials used have become ever more sophisticated. The current materials processed include titanium and nickel alloys as well as special stainless steels.

The process normally starts with a billet of the required material which is upset forged then pierced. The hole is then expanded using a process called becking before a final ring rolling process brings the work piece to the required dimensions. This will then be extensively machined to produce the final product. Mr Perkins explained in detail the design considerations necessary through the process to produce the part with the correct properties and microstructure as well as the required dimensions whilst maximising through yield.

Doncasters are increasing their production of turbine blades which is seen as a growth market. Blades are produced by a closed die forging process and Mr Perkins briefly explained the process route used to achieve the fine tolerances required. Whist the market is growing, the increased use of composites represents a major challenge for the company in this sector.

Looking forward, Mr Perkins was hopeful that investment in new equipment would be forthcoming to safeguard the future for the company. There was also a market opportunity to supply titanium sections to improve the life of composite blades.

The audience warmed to Mr Perkins’ passionate and enthusiastic delivery and there were plenty of questions from the floor. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

NDMS Annual Guest Dinner

Marriott St Pierre Hotel, 6 February, 2014

The Society's  Annual Guest Dinner was a resounding success in every respect but one.  The atmosphere was lively, the networking strong, the hotel staff friendly and welcoming, the meal enjoyable and the speakers (about whom more later!) were stimulating and funny. 

The one disappointment was that the seemingly inexorable decline in numbers that has been evident in recent years continued.  Barely a hundred people attended an event that saw three times that number turn up only a decade ago.  Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but the Committee has some hard thinking to do to ensure that  the high standards associated with the NDMS Annual Guest Dinner are maintained.

Principal Guest Speaker was Professor Karen Holford, Director of the School of Engineering and Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences at Cardiff University.  A mechanical engineer by first degree who pursued a PhD in non-destructive testing using  acoustic emission in the Metallurgy Department at Cardiff, Karen is well known to members of the Society and has attended dinners in the past.  She began by drawing attention to the indifferent performance of UK and Welsh 15 year-olds in the recent PISA tests.  Surprisingly few of her audience seemed to be aware of the   Programme for International Student Assessment ( which is widely used to rank national education systems, but they were left in no doubt as to the importance of raising our performance in these tests if the UK is to maintain credibility as an engineering nation.  On a more positive note, there are many reasons to be proud of the Welsh university sector and of Cardiff University in particular through the various contributions it makes to fundamental and industrially-relevant research.  Before concluding her forthright and thought-provoking address, Karen drew attention to the gender imbalance in engineering, an imbalance that was all to obviously apparent amongst those present at the Dinner!  Using her own early experiences in school and university Karen clearly illustrated the barriers put in the way of girls who want to study engineering and she  concluded by challenging the Society to do more to combat the stereotypes that exist.

Responding to these remarks, the President Professor Sam Evans appealed to the audience to contribute ideas to help the Society.  Admittedly, his focus was on improving attendance at the dinner, but it's not inconceivable that altering the gender balance might be the solution to that problem too.  Sam encouraged people to attend the Society's lectures which continue to be of high quality and are a decided plus point for the Society.   He thanked the representatives of those companies that had taken tables at the dinner before proposing a toast to the Guests.

The final speaker who, apart from  formally replying to the toast to the Guests, is traditionally expected to round off the proceedings by offering some light-hearted entertainment was on this occasion Frank Hennessy,  the well-known Welsh folk singer and radio presenter.  The Society has had mixed success in the past in finding someone who could be funny without stretching the boundaries of taste, but it has to be said that Frank hit exactly the right note.   Using homespun images and a deceptively gentle delivery he had everyone enthralled.  Eschewing crudity, but not afraid of using a double entendre to lead his audience astray before delivering his innocent  punch line, Frank was the ideal after dinner comic.  He even got his audience to join him in an impromptu rendition of a song about the improbable Grangetown Whale.
With that, the evening came to a close, leaving the Committee with the challenge of next year matching what had been a fine event.

IOM3 Young Persons Lecture Competition: NDMS Final, 29 January 2014

It's a sign of the health of this competition that two preliminary heats were needed before the NDMS Final took place.  Four entrants emerged from the industrial heat held in Cogent Power's Orb works and a further three came from the second heat held in Cardiff University.  This meant that the actual final involved seven contestants and represented something of a marathon for both audience and judges.  Not that they weren't entertained! 

The range of topics was wide and varied starting with aspects of non-destructive testing and going on to the use of CO2 domain refining lasers in the production of electrical steels.  Shear fractures in side trimming steel coils followed before a change of tack to the use of self-healing concrete in civil engineering.  The fifth presenter tackled rescaling problems in the use of indentation  hardness  testing of materials and the sixth returned to industrial research in the shape of thermal flattening of grain oriented electrical steels.  The final topic was a comparison between the properties of  glass and plastic optical fibres.

The varied nature of the seven presentations presented difficulties for the judges, but fortunately the structure of IoM3 assessment criteria helped to assemble an order of merit and the winner was adjudged to be Ovidiu Savencu of Cardiff University for his novel approach to indentation hardness testing.  Ovidiu now goes forward to represent NDMS in the regional final to be hosted by the South Wales Materials Association in Swansea on 12 March.

Graphene: Optical properties and opportunities in infrared photonics and Optoelectronics, 14 January 2014

The full  title of the lecture by Dr Enrico Da Como of the Molecular Optoelectronics Group in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath hints at a much more specific aspect of this novel material's properties than might have been assumed from a casual reading of the Society's lecture programme. 

Graphene can be described as a one-atom thick layer of graphite and its properties suggest it may be used in many potential applications including lightweight, thin, flexible and durable display screens, electric circuits, and solar cells, as well as in various medical, chemical and industrial processes.  Although graphene's existence has been acknowledged for decades, Andre Geim and Kostva Novoselov working at the University of Manchester in 2004 provided a major stimulus to its production for use in electronic devices by showing how single graphene layers can be extracted from graphite.  They used what has become known as the Scotch tape technique to transfer graphene to a thin SiO2 wafer and the key to their success was their choice of substrate, which provides a small but noticeable optical contrast.  Geim and Novoselev received several awards for their pioneering research on graphene, including the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Dr  Da Como began by explaining that much research still needs to be done to realise the full potential of graphene as an industrial material, his own field of optoelectronics being a key example of where work is flourishing, since, contrary to general belief, graphene is able to absorb light.  It's apparent transparence is actually due to the thinness of graphene flakes, but graphene can absorb light over  a wide range of frequencies.  Naturally, absorbance is increased with thicker layers and so experiments on graphene that is a few layers thick are a useful way of exploring hot carrier lifetimes.  The experiments Dr Da Como went on to describe were carried out using femtosecond pump-probe spectroscopy and led to the conclusion that the lifetime of hot carriers in few-layer graphene should be sufficient to enable the building of useful optoelectronic and optical devices.   Naturally, Dr Da Como offered much more detail than has been reported here and to avoid confusing the reader with the writer's interpretation of what he said (based as it is on dimly remembered physics lectures from an earlier decade) the serious reader is referred to the publications listed at the bottom of this report.  Both these papers and others can be accessed through the website of the Molecular Electronics Group at Bath University (

Wearable electronics, mobile phones, touch screens and intelligent windows that sense sunrise and sunset are amongst the devices that might be available in the near future as a result of this kind of research and the audience duly expressed its appreciation of Dr Da Como's lecture made during his very first excursion across the Bristol Channel.

"Carrier Lifetime in Exfoliated Few-Layer Graphene Determined from Intersubband Optical Transitions": T. Limmer, J. Feldmann and E. Da Como, Phys. Rev. Lett., 110, 217406 (2013)
"Influence of carrier density on the electronic cooling channels of bilayer graphene": T. Limmer, A. Houtepen, A. Niggebaum, R. Tautz, E. Da Como: Applied Physics Letters, 99, 103104 (2011)  

Powering Ahead in South Wales, 10 December 2013

This lecture was initially promoted under the unassuming title of Battery Developments before being given the not-much -more-informative label Powering Ahead in South Wales.  In the event it turned out to be another gem and provided yet more evidence of the undoubted strength and variety  of the Society's lecture programme.  The select audience were treated to a brief canter through a selection of the projects carried out by The Centre for Automotive & Power System Engineering (CAPSE) in the Faculty of Advanced Technology of the University of South Wales with Jonathan Williams, CAPSE Director, as lecturer.  CAPSE is nationally recognised as an independent research, development, test and certification house with a reputation for cutting edge research and knowledge transfer activities within the advanced automotive and power systems engineering sectors.  First it was necessary to define some of the new terminology.  No longer is it deemed appropriate to deal with the engine, battery and gearbox as separate entities, but instead the modern way is to refer to the powertrain to describe various combinations of internal combustion (IC) and electrical power, however that is transmitted to the road wheels.  Also, energy storage is increasingly important and KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems), familiar to F1 fans, is being broadened and referred to more simply as ERS (energy recovery systems).   It was at this stage that the earlier references to batteries became clear as Jonathan began to give examples of projects carried out by CAPSE.  Powertrain durabiity, battery pack performance and battery failure modes were just three of the topics covered and more detail can be obtained by looking at the CAPSE website ( ).

Commercial reasons prevented Jonathan from naming all CAPSE's clients, but the fact that the published list refers to Zytek, Yuasa and Atraverda gives some indication of their range of contacts.  Jonathan showed an advanced car design and declared himself unable to identify the manufacturer, but the audience were able to make their own guesses, the consensus being that it was most probably a M------n!

Jonathan willingly answered questions and, gratifyingly he was most generous about the contribution materials engineers make to the development of new types of battery.  He cited lithium-based alloys and the world supply of lithium and other rare elements as challenges for the future. The question of where the next generation of materials engineers is going to come from was left unresolved.

Tinplate Industry Canned, 19 November 2013

For the third lecture of the 2013-14 session, Tim Smith of the Metallurgical History Society delivered a talk based on the diary of an Irishman, James Patterson, who had emigrated to the United States, but who re-crossed the Atlantic apparently with the aim of learning what he could about the tinplate industry in Wales. 

The knowledge thus gained was to be used to establish a tinplate industry in the US.  In other words, Patterson was engaged in a spying mission, which ultimately proved to be unsuccessful since he does not seem to have gained much access to the key stages of tinplate production i.e the actual tinning operation.  In any event, the first US tinplate does not seem to have been produced until 1858. The full diary runs to some 14000 words and covers Patterson’s trip to Ireland to see family and, on his return to the UK, visits to ironworks in the Midlands, Manchester, Bristol and London as well as in South Wales.  In addition to being a record of the technology of the day the diary also supplies insights into the social history of the time, transport and the weather – generally cold and wet according to Patterson which is not unsurprising since the period of travel included the whole of the winter of 1827-8.

Tim's talk to the Society concentrated on the technical aspects of the diary.  He had collaborated with Peter Hutchison, now retired but formerly employed as a metallurgist at Port Talbot by British Steel  and a tinplate enthusiast.  The full text of Tim's talk and the accompanying illustrations can be downloaded from the following link (

In the discussion that followed, the point was made that Welsh supremacy in the tinplate industry did not survive into the 20th century, the US being first with electroplating as opposed to hot dipping, the basis of Welsh practice


On the Right Tracks, 29 October 2013

The title of this lecture suggests a return to the Society's metallurgical roots, but as will be seen later, there's a twist to the tale.  Railways are certainly in the news with the impending electrification of the Valleys lines and the current debate about HS2.  As a consequence there's an increased emphasis on the tracks that trains run on, and, on predicting the safe life of the rails used. 


The lecturer , Dr Mark Ward of Birmingham University began by emphasising that the work he was about to describe was concerned with characterising variations in microstructure in rail steels with a view ultimately to anticipating the appearance of cracks in service.  Hardness is the most obvious property to use to measure the amount of deformation that occurs in rails, but the limitations of this approach are revealed by electron microscope images that show deformation occurring well in advance of the appearance of cracks.  In these circumstances Dr Ward had suggested to his colleagues at Birmingham that the grain orientation shown in Electron Back Scattered Diffraction images might be used to characterise rail steel microstructures.   


By calculating the differences between the orientation of individual grains and the <100> plane in the FCC iron crystal structure a number of pretty pictures were obtained by assigning colours to grains with specific orientations. Once again, the power of the computers available to academics had developed new insights, but  the next stage, assessing the accuracy with which these images mirror reality, did not prove to be straightforward.  Rotational differences in grain orientation can be established with confidence and 42o represents a random microstructure, but average orientation is less easily defined. 


After developing the idea of  a Kernel Average Microstructure (KAM) and showing that small grain microstructures  have a large KAM as do deformed grains, the sensitivity of KAM to grain orientation was nevertheless shown to make it an insufficiently reliable parameter.  A solution to this problem  was found by using statistical methods to calculate two KAM vector s and this enables short-range effects to be distinguished from long-range effects.  Dr Ward therefore concluded  that  a new tool for exploring the microstructure of rail steels has been created. 

In the discussion that followed the lecture it emerged that much practical work remains to be done to apply this new tool to real steels.  For example, it remains to be seen how much variation there might be in the microstructure of newly-manufactured rail steels not yet put into service.  Nevertheless Dr Ward had provided the Society with a thought-provoking lecture and one which stimulated many suggestions for future work. 

AGM, 30 September 2013

The 2013-14 session got under way with the Annual General Meeting which was held at Cardiff University on Tuesday 30th September.  The agenda approximated to that prescribed in section 9 of the Society's Constitution, a document which can be found on the Welcome page of this website.  Surprisingly, the agenda used on 30th September omitted any minutes of the previous AGM despite including an item that asked for approval of matters arising from that AGM.   Undeterred by this novel approach to the annual review of the Society's past year, reports were presented by the President, web master, Secretary and Treasurer. 

The Treasurer circulated copies of the as yet unaudited accounts which showed an excess of expenditure over income i.e., a loss of £524.39 which was principally attributed to the Annual Guest Dinner.  The Committee continues to explore ways of securing the future of the Dinner which is widely regarded as an important activity for the Society, but for which support has been declining in recent years.  In the coming session, the Annual Guest Dinner is scheduled for 6th February, 2014 whilst the biennial Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture will be held on 6th May 2014.  

President's Invited Lecture

Understanding Nature's Materials: Optimising Structure for Function
Dr Hazel Screen, University of London

In the President's second term of office it is customary for the incumbent to invite a distinguished colleague to present the first lecture of the session and on this occasion Dr Hazel Screen of the University of London agreed to talk about her research on structure-function relations in human tendons.  Dr Screen's topic is well outside the range of materials traditionally associated with a Local Society whose historical roots are in metallurgy, but it is an indication of the breadth of interest shown by materials engineers in the 21st century that Dr Screen attracted a large audience and stimulated a lively post-lecture discussion.

Dr Screen began with a general description of structure/connective tissues such as skin, ligament, tendon, meniscus, blood vessels, cartilage, heart valves and bone and illustrated these pictorially.  She then indicated their properties.  For example, collagen and elastin are characterised by their tensile strength and high modulus whereas others have the ability to imbibe water and thus provide support to collagen and elastin.  What makes Nature's materials differ from conventional materials is the ability of cells to synthesise and thereby to constantly renew tissue.  Matrix turnover is influenced by a variety of factors including load and overuse can lead to damage and injury. Not for nothing does Nature use pain to indicate when to stop!  Movement involves mechanics of the body, joints, tissue, cells and protein.  Tendons transmit muscle forces to the body's skeleton, reducing the need for large muscles.  In effect, they provide a link between compliant muscle and stiff bone.  The structure of tendons is effectively that of a fibre composite material with multiple hierarchical levels of collagen with a protoglycanous matrix binding interspersed with cells. Dr Screen's slides are attached to this report and the reader is referred to slide 11 which shows tendon structure.

At this stage, Dr Screen moved on to case studies of the Achilles tendon and specifically to her experimental work on how this structure responds to loading.  Especially instructive was her analysis of how the lower leg tendons of  a horse behave differently between running and rest modes.  In particular, the effect of ageing was shown to manifest itself in extensive fibre sliding and poor recovery in older horses compare to rotation and good recovery in younger horses.  By implication, similar behaviour  is to be expected in humans.  Dr Screen provided too much detail for this short report to do her lecture adequate justice, but interested readers can hopefully gain some additional impressions of her fascinating work by looking at the 57 slides she used to illustrate her talk and which are attached.  All present were of the opinion that Dr Screen had set a high standard for the lecturers who are to follow in the 2013-14 programme.

Newport & District Materials Society Golf Tournament 2013  

Having prepared a stimulating programme of events for the 2013-14 session, including the ever popular Annual Dinner and the biennial Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture scheduled for 6th February and 6th May 2014 respectively, members of the Society enjoyed some lighter moments at the 2013 Golf Tournament.  Held on 29th August at the usual venue of Newport Golf Club the course was in spectacular condition and the weather conditions were generally benign.  There was some light rain, but the sun soon appeared and remained in evidence for the rest of the afternoon.

The early pace was set by Tony Jones and David Barradell who, after 17 holes, both had totals of 33 Stableford points.  At this stage the smart money was on David, previously a three-time winner of the Tournament from 2007-10, but the 18th proved to be his downfall , for he failed to score on the final hole whereas Tony, playing off a handicap of 14, recorded a magnificent birdie to become leader in the clubhouse with 36 points.  As is so often the case, however, this situation was soon to change.  Playing in the last group, Robert Walker had accumulated 22 points over the first 9 holes and, although his second 9 holes were less impressive, he nevertheless finished with 39 points to claim the trophy for the third year in succession and thereby match David Barradell's record.  Much of the post-Tournament talk revolved round light-hearted suggestions of handicap revisions before next year's Tournament so that the Walker/Barradell monopoly might be broken, but all agreed that the day had been  a huge success thanks in no small measure to the sterling efforts of Alan Coombs who once again had organised the Tournament with all his usual efficiency.

Those present at the presentation of the trophy shown below are from l to r Lance Cassemis, Stephen Best, Alan Coombs, Robert Walker, Mark Cichuta, David Barradell and Tony Jones.


Newport Design Centre Lecture Series 2012-13: Ingenious Engineering
(11 December, 2012)

For its December event, the Society combined with the Newport Design Centre in holding two lectures on innovation.  The venue was the Newport City Campus of the University of Wales where the Newport Design Centre is based.  The first lecture entitled Innovation: The Hard Way started at 4.00pm and was delivered by James Lorbieki, Design and Innovation Engineer for Martin Baker Aircraft. The second lecture entitled Innovation: The Soft Way followed at 6.00pm and was delivered by David Taylor, a Newport PhD student in Smart Clothes and Wearable Technology. 

First, James gave a fascinating talk about the history and evolution of ejector seats including the role of materials such as light weight metals and technical textiles.  Martin-Baker Aircraft was formed in the 1940’s as a manufacturer of military aircraft. With the advent of jet propulsion, the company was asked to come up with a method of pilot evacuation from an aircraft as the original parachute system was proving inadequate. This led to the design of the first ejector seat systems since when Martin-Baker has become the world leader in the design and manufacture of ejection seats. The latest ejector seats offer unprecedented life-saving capabilities while providing systems and interfaces to fully integrate the pilot with cockpit and aircraft systems. Over 70,000 ejection seats have been delivered to 93 Air Forces around the world and have saved over 7,000 aircrew lives.
The talk was illustrated with dramatic footage of ejection seats in action both in real emergencies and in test conditions. As the seat design has evolved, so have the materials used with hi-tech textiles playing an increasingly important role. The talk also included an interesting look at the corporate culture at Martin-Baker and how it encourages risk taking and creativity at the design stage.

After a refreshment break, the evening continued with the second of the two lectures.  David began with an historical review of attempts to incorporate technology into clothing before focusing on the University's New Dynamics of Aging Project.  This collaborative research examines the role of and opportunities for smart materials and wearable technology in the future.  Recognising that little has been done to address the design requirements of older wearers, the project concerns the application of smart textiles in clothing that enhances the wellbeing and quality of life of the active ageing.  A group consisting of more than 30 volunteers, all of whom use walking as a means of providing regular exercise, was chosen and their garment requirements were assessed by the use of a questionnaire and interviews.  Walkers were then issued with pedometers (to measure the distance walked) as well as mobile phones and cameras.  In this way it was possible to ensure that the group contained different types of walkers.  This was followed by the testing of textile sensors, embedded soft switches and the usefulness of GPS devices to members of the volunteer group.  Some mixed messages were obtained about the likelihood of the active ageing embracing wearable technology, but it was possible to conclude that this group’s requirements for garments to wear whilst walking were that they should be waterproof and be made of a breathable material. Equally important, however, is durability, since jackets etc made of such materials are unlikely to be cheap and so a long life is required to ensure value for money is obtained.

The evening concluded with a buffet provided by the Society and all agreed that collaboration with the University should continue to be a feature of the Society’s lecture programme in years to come.

The History of Orb Works and its Electrical Steels (20th November, 2012)

The recently refurbished Lysacht Institute in Newport was the venue for an historical review of the nearby Orb Works by Alan Coombs, Treasurer of NDMS and also a former employee at Orb Works who rose to become Technical Director of Cogent Power, the site’s present owners, before retiring in 2004.  Fittingly, Alan’s family connections to Orb start over a century ago when workers transferred from Staffordshire to Newport, consequent upon the purchase in 1898 by the Lysacht company of a 99 year lease of Pill Farm on the Usk.  Prior to that, Lysachts, under the direction of John Lysacht, was a galvaniser and sheet metal maker with plants in Bristol and Wolverhampton and the move to Newport made it easier to supply Bristol with black sheet for galvanising, especially when a wharf was built at Newport. 

As time went on, Lysachts’ fortunes prospered.  The number of mills at Orb increased, integrated steelplants were built at Scunthorpe in 1906 and at Newcastle, New South Wales in 1921, but the key development for Orb was the decision to produce electrical steels in place of black plate, the demand for which was falling.  Sir Robert Hadfield, known to all metallurgists for his invention of Hadfield manganese steel, had also invented silicon iron in1900. At the time, many electrical applications were being developed following Sir Michael Faraday’s codification of the laws of electricity.  Silicon iron was therefore attractive since it had a relatively low hysteresis loop and by 1906 Joseph Sankey had obtained a licence to produce it.  Sankey in turn granted a sub-licence to Lysachts and so began the production of electrical steels at Orb works, a practice that continues to the present day.  As the 20th century unfolded, steam power gave way to electrically-driven rolling mills, capacity increased and the steel industry embraced mechanisation.  Cold rolling technology improved and a three-high mill was installed at Orb in the 1930s.  During WWII, the Orb works was a target of the Luftwaffe, but managed to escape serious damage.  Its importance was due to the variety of its production mix which included corrugated sheet for air raid shelters, cartridge brass for cannon shells and duralumin for aircraft production.  In the post-war period automotive steels were much in demand, but the newly-formed Steel Company of Wales reserved that for its plant at Port Talbot whilst Orb was left to concentrate on electrical steels. 

Indeed, there were successive rationalisations of primary processing operations in the UK steel industry until in 1966, Orb’s activities henceforth consisted of cold rolling and annealing electrical steels, with steel production being carried out elsewhere, notably at Ebbw Vale and Port Talbot. Nevertheless, innovation in electrical steels continued with the appearance of grain oriented steels in which controlled cold rolling and annealing are combined to align individual grains in a polycrystalline material so that collectively they mimic the properties of a single crystal. Significantly better electrical properties result. Initially made under licence from Armco in 1953, an improved grain oriented steel known as HI-B was licensed from Nippon Steel in 1975.  That the Orb Works of Cogent Power is now the only producer of electrical steels in the UK is eloquent testament to the foresight of the Lysachts and the continuing Newport connection to steel. 

At the end of Alan’s lecture the audience was left with the impression that there was enough content in what he had to say to occupy a series of lectures and anyone who wants to delve more deeply into the detail he provided can look at Alan’s slides by opening the following link

NDMS Golf Tournament 2012

Cancelled three times due to adverse weather conditions, the 2012 round of the Newport & District Materials Society Annual Golf Tournament finally took place on Thursday 1st November.  Once again, the venue was the delightful Newport Golf Club and Alan Coombs, NDMS Treasurer, was the organiser.  Setting out in welcome sunshine, the early leader was Robert Walker and after 9 holes he led by 3 points from Mark Cichuta and Tony Jones.  Mark applied pressure on the inward half with some inspired golf, but Robert remained steady and Mark eventually ran out of holes so that Robert won for the second year in succession this time with a score of 36 Stableford points.  There was some consolation for Tony Jones and Alan Coombs in the unofficial competitions.  Tony was consistently the longest driver and Alan bagged the only birdie of the day when he had a 2 on the 14th.   Longest drive and nearest the pin honours therefore went to Tony and Alan respectively and they also shared third place. 


From left to right, Tony Jones and Alan Coombs (joint third place), 2012 winner Robert Walker and Mark Cichuta (runner-up).

Tidal Energy: The Potential and Challenges (30th October 2012)

Meeting again in Cardiff University, the Society’s second lecture of the season was delivered by Professor Tim O’Doherty, Leader of the Cardiff Marine Energy Research Group (  Tim started with a review of future energy supplies and environmental targets to 2050 and made reference to the potential of the Severn Estuary and the various plans for a barrage which had first been proposed in 1849!  He made it plain that he takes a neutral view of current plans for a barrage.  His main topic was the harnessing of tidal stream energy for which he briefly referred to 9 different prototype devices.  These can be up to 30m in diameter and can produce 1MW so they are fairly large devices.  A number of possible locations around the UK coastline have been identified of which the Pentland Firth is the most promising.  Knowledge of the sea bed profile and tidal conditions is necessary to estimate the energy potential of tidal flows because tidal velocity varies with water depth and so it’s difficult to predict the power output from specific locations.  Not surprisingly, the Cardiff Marine Energy Research Group use computer modelling to extrapolate from experimental data and to explore the effect of variables on tidal flow such as sea depth, turbulence and surface conditions.  In particular, they have focused on power outputs for 10, 15 and 30m diameter turbines at various tide conditions.  For 30m diameter turbines predictions of the torque, power and thrust to be expected have been made.  Although the data produced are specific to the geometry of the turbine blades, it is possible to compare the expected performance of different blade materials.  From the results presented by Tim, it was obvious that one of the critical areas for future research is the selection of materials for use in what is universally admitted to be a very hostile environment.  Tim briefly described some work on array modelling in which different configurations of turbines were postulated.  It would seem sensible to place the second rank of turbines in the gaps between those in the first rank, but at what distance should ranks be separated?  Again computer modelling has been used to suggest that the gap between successive ranks should be around 5 times the turbine diameter. Tim concluded with the observation that since an in situ turbine life of at least 20 years was required in the undersea environment, then simple designs that minimised, or preferably avoided, the need for maintenance were to be preferred.  As ever, however, the balance between reliability, which entails relevant plant condition monitoring, and performance would not be easy to strike.  During the discussion it emerged that research into materials suitable for harnessing tidal stream energy was critical since the corrosion that affects metals submerged in salt water for prolonged periods is well documented.  Some kind of composite is therefore needed, but it was not obvious that materials research is a priority for the UK.  

Presidential Lecture (9th October 2012) - Models of Models of Models:  How to Quantify Uncertainty in Measuring the Mechanical Properties of Soft Tissue

The President’s subject was measurement of the mechanical properties of skin, important in medical and cosmetic contexts, but not easily measurable by conventional testing methods.  Not only is skin difficult to sample, it’s also highly elastic so an unusual approach to establishing its mechanical properties has to be taken.  An indentation test provides some initial data, but results are subject to complex boundary conditions.  Fortunately the modern researcher has access to enormous computing power which enables a theoretical model to be postulated and then tested by inserting plausible values for properties such as Young’s Modulus (YM), Poisson’s Ratio and the coefficient of friction.

Essentially, the technique involves experimentation using indentation tests followed by modelling using measured values of YM etc, testing the model, modifying the YM value slightly and repeating the process until the root mean square error (RMS), or difference between the measured and model values, is small enough for there to be a high degree of confidence in the result.  In a sense, this is an example of reverse engineering.  It depends on the use of Gaussian emulation models which have been developed by workers at the Materials Research Laboratory of the University of Utah.  Software is available free of charge from the Gem Software project at the Centre for Terrestrial Carbon Dynamics ( and, since Cardiff University has a sophisticated system enabling idle computer capacity to be utilised by researchers there, around 250 models, each containing a unique combination of parameters, can be evaluated in about 2 hours.  A wide range of individual models of isotropic neo-Hookean materials can therefore be tested extremely quickly. 

The President’s conclusion was that this is a highly promising method for identifying the mechanical properties of skin with a high degree of confidence.  He also observed that the application of Gaussian models is not limited to mechanical properties, but might equally well be applied to metallurgical processes like the blast furnace or basic oxygen steelmaking.


Note:  Anyone interested in the Models of Models of Models approach, but who finds this brief summary inadequate has the perfect opportunity of contacting a much more authoritative source of information on the subject, namely the President, by attending future meetings of the Society.  

Annual General Meeting (9th October 2012)

The Society’s AGM was held in the Engineering School of Cardiff University prior to the Presidential Lecture, a report on which will appear here shortly.  The AGM, chaired by the outgoing President Tony Jones, followed the format laid down in the Society’s Constitution. After the usual formalities of apologies for absence, minutes of the last meeting and matters arising, the President commented on the relative success of the past year, the highlight of which had been the Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture delivered so ably by Professor Harry Bhadeshia in April.  The Secretary reported healthy attendances at lectures throughout the year and the Treasurer assured those present that the Society’s finances were in good order.  It’s true that there was a loss of over £1000 mainly attributable to the Annual Dinner and the Society’s promotion of the Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture, but the Committee had approved both activities as being consistent with the stated aims of the Society (NDMS Constitution, section 2).  The financial loss, whilst unwelcome, is not unexpected in the present economic situation and fortunately the Society has ample reserves for the immediate future. 

After the Officers’ reports, the next item was the election of Officers and Committee.  There was a warm welcome for Professor Sam Evans, Deputy Director of the Institute of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Cardiff School of Engineering (, who had accepted the Committee’s invitation to be President for the next two years.  The Secretary and Treasurer had agreed to continue in office and there being no new nominations for the Committee, the usual suspects were re-elected for another year.  Once again David Barradell will organise the Annual Dinner to be held on 7th February 2013.  Each year interested parties are asked to offer themselves for nomination to the Committee and anyone who might belatedly be interested in serving in this capacity was invited by the President to contact the Secretary to progress matters.  In due course pen pictures of Committee members will appear in “Meet the Committee” elsewhere on this website.  The President then concluded the meeting by handing over to his successor, Sam Evans.  There was genuine appreciation for the contribution Tony Jones had made during his second spell of office and although many people played parts in the success of the Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture, it has to be acknowledged that it simply would not have happened without Tony’s drive and leadership.  

The 2012 Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture (25th April 2012)

Despite wet weather and traffic chaos in the centre of the city, around 100 people turned up at Cardiff University on the evening of 25th April for the 2012 Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Lecture delivered by Professor Harry Bhadeshia of Cambridge University.  The NDMS President, Tony Jones, opened proceedings by recalling the achievements of the man in whose honour the lecture was being held.  Sidney Gilchrist Thomas was the inventor of basic steelmaking.  Circumstances forced him to work as a clerk in the Metropolitan Police Courts, but from an early age he was interested in science and, when attending a lecture at the Birkbeck Institution, he heard the lecturer say that “the man who succeeds in eliminating phosphorus in the Bessemer converter would one day make his fortune”.  Thomas conceived the idea that a basic lining material would not only enable phosphorus to be removed from the iron during steelmaking, but would also make it possible to retain the phosphorus in the slag which could then be used as an agricultural fertiliser.  He started experimenting at the Birkbeck Institution and also at home, but not until his cousin Percy Carlisle Gilchrist was appointed works chemist at Blaenavon in 1876 (a post for which Thomas applied, but was turned down as being too inexperienced) did he begin to make progress.  Percy Gilchrist was initially reluctant to do much, but eventually he began to share his cousin’s enthusiasm and together they made many experimental ‘blows’ in a miniature converter.  The manager at Blaenavon, E P Martin was next to support Thomas’s ideas and eventually at a meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1878 Thomas was able to claim to “have been enabled, by the assistance of Mr Martin at Blaenavon, to remove phosphorus entirely by the Bessemer converter”.    He was met with initial scepticism, but eventually it was accepted that a major breakthrough in steelmaking had been achieved.  Sadly Thomas did not enjoy his success for long, because he died of tuberculosis at the early age of 35.  Nevertheless, the Newport & District Materials Society has long championed his contribution and a memorial to Sidney Gilchrist Thomas in the form of an obelisk was erected by the Society in 1960.  At that time the Society was known as the Newport & District Metallurgical Society.  The obelisk now stands in Blaenavon Ironworks.  For many years a biennial lecture was also held in honour of Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and inviting Professor Bhadeshia to Cardiff in 2012 represents a revival of that tradition.

The President then introduced Professor Harry Bhadeshia FREng, FRS, Tata Steel Professor of Metallurgy and Director, SKF Steel Technology Centre at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Computational Metallurgy, Graduate Institute of Ferrous Technology, POSTECH, South Korea (   The title of Professor Bhadeshia’s lecture was Armour, Bearings, Aeroengines and Nanostructured Materials and an abstract can be viewed by following this link.   He began by describing the problems of designing a bulk nanocrystalline steel which is very strong, tough and cheap.  Referring to carbon nanotubes and to single crystals of iron, he showed how strength produced by deformation i.e work hardening, limits the shapes that are possible, whilst strength in small particles relies on perfection which cannot be sustained as size increases.  This explains why carbon nanotubes have made little impact on engineering despite initial claims.  Observing that the development of micro-alloyed steels in the late 20th century using additions of niobium was a quiet revolution that passed relatively unnoticed at the time, Professor Bhadeshia then focused on bainitic steels in which the aim is to prevent the formation of cementite by using silicon to stabilise austenite.  An alloy with 2%Si, 3%Mn and 1% C suitably heat treated gives a carbide-free bainitic structure that is harder than most martensites, yet is reasonably ductile.  The heat treatment involves three stages.  Typically homogenisation for up to two days at 1200oC is followed by slow cooling.  Next, austenitisation is achieved by heating for 15 minutes at 1000oC and then, after air cooling, the steel is aged isothermally at a temperature in the range 125-325oC.  This final stage can take anything between a few hours and a few months to complete depending on the temperature chosen.   The resultant microstructure is a combination of retained austenite and bainitic ferrite.  Professor Bhadeshia showed an optical micrograph of the bainitic structure in which no directionality was obvious followed by an SEM picture in which alternate laths of retained austenite and bainitic ferrite were clearly visible.  The comparison between the two micrographs was especially impressive.  The part played by retained austenite in giving the steel a measure of ductility was then shown to be crucial.  The results of tests to demonstrate the value of using this bainitic steel in armour was graphically illustrated by measurements of its ballistic mass efficiency which showed super bainite to be superior to conventional materials.   Many other applications for super bainitic steel are possible and Professor Bhadeshia went on to describe the manufacture of aero engine shafts, rail steels and a new bearing steel.  He concluded by offering the thought that very low temperature ageing of bainitic steel is possible and it can even occur at room temperature, given sufficient time.  To this end, polished samples of homogenised and austenitised  steels had been encased in glass ampoules and one is housed in a in the Science Museum where the temperature is carefully controlled whilst another is in Professor Bhadeshia’s office in Cambridge, where the temperaure is not controlled.  If his calculations are correct, ageing will be complete in 100 years time, which will be in the year 2104, so this is an experiment the outcome of which future generations will have the pleasure of observing.

After Professor Bhadeshia had answered a number of questions, the President called upon his counterpart at the South Wales Materials Society, John Preston, to propose the vote of thanks.  John began by recalling that he had started his metallurgical career in the very same lecture room that was being used for the Sidney Gilchrist Thomas lecture and that his choice had been influenced by the belief that he could avoid differential equations.   Professor Bhadeshia had disappointed him by including a couple of equations in his lecture, but putting that to one side, he had exceeded the expectations of the two Local Societies by delivering an outstanding lecture and set a standard future lecturers would find difficult to match.  Throughout, Professor Bhadeshia had spoken with authority and humour and both the Newport & District Materials Society and the South Wales Materials Society were grateful to him for coming to Cardiff to present his lecture.

Further details of Professor Bhadeshia’s lecture can be obtained by studying the slides he used.  These can downloaded by following the link .  (Note that the size of the file is approximately 30Mb). 

Modern Refractories (3rd April 2012)

The Society’s April lecture was subject to a last minute change of venue from Cardiff University to Cogent Power’s Newport works and not surprisingly the number attending was lower than normal.  The lecturer was Trevor Staton of Sheffield Refractories who began by distinguishing between monoliths and bricks.  He argued that whilst the common perception of refractories is that they take the form of bricks, monoliths are in fact much more widely used and he, being a specialist in monoliths, intended to concentrate on them.  In general, monoliths consist of unshaped refractory products which are installed as some form of suspension that ultimately harden to form a solid mass.  Over 80% of monoliths are castables consisting of coarse and fine refractory grains. They are initially held together by means of a binder which on heating either transforms or volatilises before being replaced by a ceramic bond.  The coarse grains in the original mix are then held in a fused matrix.  The most common binder used in castables is HAC (high alumina cement). Other binders that are often used include hydratable aluminas and colloidal silica. Castables are mixed with water and then installed by either pouring, pumping or spraying.

Often monoliths are part of equipment intended for continuous operation and from time to time in situ repairs are required.  As an example, Trevor described his experience with circulatory fluidised beds (CFB) in boilers used to raise steam for power generation.  Low grade fuels such as coal washings, oil and wood are the energy source and the gas offtake is the location of serious refractory wear necessitating frequent repair.  In the affected area, the hot exit gases impinge on the monolith at an acute angle and wear was taking place by coarse grains becoming detached from the matrix.  The solution finally adopted was to include up to 15% of fine silica in the matrix to give a glass which increased the abrasion resistance of the monolith.  Of course, this is a counter-intuitive move, because the addition of silica lowers refractoriness and would normally be avoided for this reason, but provided the temperature is not permitted to exceed 1300oC wear is considerably reduced. 

The final part of the talk was given by Trevor’s associate who is a PhD student at Cardiff University.  He described the use of specially written software to carry out an evaluation of blast furnace runner systems.  Normally, this issue has low priority, but by using computer modelling several profiles of the central trough and its associate runners can be evaluated before final decisions are made.  Also being developed are robotic systems for carrying out refractory repairs so that human exposure to high temperatures is avoided.

Olympic Sports Stadia (28th February 2012)

As the months go by, the London 2012 Olympics draws ever closer and it was entirely appropriate that the Society’s February lecture should focus on the contribution to that event of Newport-based Rowecord  Engineering.  Paul Benwell, the company’s Technical Director began by explaining how, having been founded in 1967, Rowecord has grown over the succeeding 45 years to become one of the principal structural steelwork contractors in the UK with over 600 staff and an annual turnover of £75m.  Although the range of projects undertaken is wide (see Paul chose to concentrate of two that have recently been completed.  He started with the stadium built for the Scarlets rugby club in Llanelli and first used in November 2008 before going on to describe the construction of the roof for the London Aquatics Centre.

The Parc y Scarlets project involved re-locating the Llanelli Scarlets from their long term home at Stradey Park to a new stadium with state of the art facilities for both players and spectators.  Spectators require good views of the playing area and this in turn demands a stanchion-free space so the solution adopted was to create a cantilevered roof.  The South Stand houses the players’ changing rooms and administrative offices and has a different roof support structure to that adopted for the ‘horseshoe’ formed by the other three stands.  Each cantilever in the South Stand comprises vertical members and inclined rafters with supporting struts that project above the roof to give greater stability.  One other notable feature of Parc y Scarlets is the integral floodlighting which was erected on the ground before being hoisted into place at each end of the ground.  From commencement of steel erection it took only 9 months before the stadium was completed and handed over to the rugby club.

The second project Paul described was the construction of the Legacy Roof for the London Aquatics Centre which is located at the entrance to the Olympic Park.  This is a steel structure with a complex waveform shape which is expected to make an immediate impression on visitors to the Games.  Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Rowecord were responsible for the steelwork.   The structure spans a column free area 160m long and up to 90m wide supported on bearings on two concrete cores 54m apart near its northern end and on a concrete wall at its southern end. The roof contains about 3,200 tonnes of structural steel, of which 2,000 tonnes are fabricated plate girders with the structural connections totalling around 600 tonnes.  During construction, the part-completed roof rested on a series of temporary trestle supports and a major problem was to remove these support trestles once construction was complete.  Naturally, the roof could be expected to deflect in the middle of the spans under the influence of its own mass and allowance was made for a deflection in the range of 250 to 450 mm.   Paul gave a graphic account of the method used to remove the temporary supports.  Essentially this involved lifting the south end by the use of hydraulic jacks so that the roof pivoted about the north piers.  After some ‘heart-in-the mouth’ stages the removal of the trestles was achieved, but Paul’s audience was left in no doubt about the sheer engineering professionalism this process involved.  Paul revealed two additional features of the Legacy Roof.  First, there is a network of steel walkways installed throughout the roof space to provide access for regular inspection and maintenance of the structure as well as to lighting equipment and other plant.  Secondly, the stands to the west and east of the structure which will provide seating for 14,700 out of 17,500 spectators for the Olympic Games are temporary and will be removed and recycled on completion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Throughout his excellent presentation, Paul showed pictures of the Legacy Roof, some of which can be seen at the websites listed below.

NDMS Annual Dinner 2012

The Newport & District Materials Society held their 2012 Annual Guest Dinner at the Marriott St Pierre Hotel, Chepstow with one hundred and forty members and guests in attendance.  Principal Guest speaker was Professor Tony Dunhill, NDE Delegate at Rolls Royce and President-Elect of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing.  Taking the Society’s motto (He labours least and yet produces most who best cooperates) as his theme, Professor Dunhill argued that whilst the syntax was idiosyncratic, the motto’s meaning was readily understood and highly relevant to the 21st century.  He then went on to show how engineering is the backbone of the UK economy. 

Replying, NDMS President Tony Jones thanked Professor Dunhill and introduced the other guests and members joining him at the top table.  In particular he singled out Mr David Barradell, the dinner organiser, without whose sterling efforts the dinner would not have taken place.  Looking forward, the President highlighted the forthcoming Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Prestige Lecture which is scheduled to take place on the evening of Wednesday 25th April in Cardiff University when the lecturer will be Professor Harry Bhadeshia , Tata Steel Professor of Metallurgy at Cambridge University.  He encouraged all present to check the NDMS website ( from time to time for further details of this event which is being organised in partnership with the South Wales Materials Association. 

The President then asked NDMS members to join him in a toast to the guests present and the final speaker, Mr Rick O’Shea then replied on behalf of the guests.  Rick is a member of the BBC’s Scrum V rugby reporting team and, this being Wales and with only two days to go before the opening fixtures of the RBS 6 Nations  tournament, it was no surprise that what he had to say was very well received indeed.  At the conclusion of the evening NDMS members had every reason to be satisfied that their aim of providing companies in South Wales with an opportunity to network with customers and suppliers, including representatives of academia, in convivial surroundings had once again been achieved.

Young Persons’ Lecture Competition (Local Heat) (24 Jan 2012)

Once again it was time for the Local Heat of the annual IoM3 Young Persons’ Lecture Competition and this time three entrants attempted to impress the judges with their presentations. Lance Cassemis of Orb Electrical Steels was first to speak, his topic being "Processes of Electrical Steels and their Applied Coatings". Coatings are applied to minimise eddy current effects in transformer cores and to improve the mechanical properties of electrical steels by minimising the effects of cracks. Next, Sreevathsan Ramanathan from the Wolfson Centre at Cardiff University gave a talk on the "Effect of dislocations and their arrangement on magnetic properties of electrical steel". His thesis was that by understanding dislocation behaviour it ought to be possible to reduce power losses in transformer materials. Finally, Paul Iskander of Tata Steel Strip Products described "Investigating the evolution of a strip steel defect from steelmaking through to coating". Blister, characteristically a void accompanied by non-metallic inclusions trapped just beneath the surface, is a defect that sometimes appears in finished sheet. It is difficult to observe due to its small size and Paul reviewed the relevant factors and possible remedies.

As usual, the judges had some difficulty separating the contestants, but after taking time penalties into account Paul Iskander was declared the winner and he now goes forward to the Regional Final.  

From Dip & Splash to Computer Tomography by Tony Dunhill (17 Jan 2012)

This was the very first lecture the Society has held in the City Centre Campus of Newport University and all present were suitably impressed by the facilities. A warm welcome to the Society was extended by Jenny Hann, Head of School of Design, Engineering, Fashion and Technology at Newport University. Hopefully the Society can develop a fruitful collaboration with the university for the City Centre Campus is an attractive venue and the presence of students who might learn something about materials is always to be welcomed.

The lecture itself was a veritable tour de force of non-destructive testing over the last 35 years delivered by an expert in the field. Tony Dunhill has been involved in NDT throughout that time mostly with Rolls Royce where he is NDE Associate Fellow. He is currently President-Elect of the British Institute of Non-destructive Testing and holds an Honorary Professorial appointment at Nottingham University. He started by recalling his introduction to NDT under the enthusiastic guidance of the late John Taylor of Cardiff University. Rolls Royce followed and Tony’s subsequent career included involvement with the Olympus engine and Concorde and many other of his company’s products. He next reviewed traditional NDT methods such as visual inspection, dye penetrants, magnetic particle inspection and ultrasonic, eddy current and x-ray methods. These have their place, but since the information they provide is limited, decisions based on the detection of cracks can have expensive consequences, especially when turbine blades are being inspected. A change in business practice away from selling engines to customers in favour of renting them ("power by the hour" as it is known colloquially) places the onus for safe operation on the supplier, in this case Rolls Royce. It has therefore become imperative that methods that not only detect much smaller cracks, but assess their likely impact be developed. Two such methods are thermionics, in which components are vibrated and the heat which develops at a crack is detected revealing the crack’s presence, and induction thermography which is used to detect cracks under coatings. Not surprisingly computers are increasingly being employed to monitor the response to NDT signals as in x-ray computer tomography (CT) and ultrasonic Full Matrix Capture (FMC) techniques. Tony also mentioned a developing technique known as Spatially Resolved Acoustic Spectroscopy (SRAS).

He concluded by explaining the Rolls Royce strategy for deciding what to develop next. This involves agreeing a programme of objectives for the future from which it is clear that NDT will continue to have a significant role to play in minimizing failures in aerospace and in other technologies.

Self Healing Properties of Cementitious Materials by Dr Diane Gardner (13 Dec 2011)

Those who braved the wintry weather to attend the December lecture were richly rewarded. Dr Dianne Gardner delivered a lucid account of research at Cardiff University into the possibilities of developing self-healing cementitious products. The motivation for this work is two-fold. First, it would help reduce the cement industry's production of carbon dioxide (currently ~600 kg per tonne of cement) by prolonging the life of concrete structures and secondly it would lower the multi-million repair and maintenance costs of existing structures.

"Natural" self-healing in concrete has been known for over 20 years. This occurs when moisture reacts with unhydrated cement to fill cracks in the concrete and mitigate their potential stress concentrating effects. The longevity of some Roman and Gothic structures is proof this mechanism works. The Cardiff research aims to take the concept a stage further by developing ways of incorporating a degree of self-healing into new concrete structures. This involves encapsulating a healing agent within the structure and releasing it when cracks are formed. In this way, the healing agent fills the cracks, prevents their growth and avoids structural failure. Although a range of healing agents are possible, Dr Gardner focused on cyanoacrylates which are available 'off-the-shelf', but which cure so fast that crack penetration is sometimes limited. For this reason, Engineered Cementitious Composites (ECC) which contain polymer fibres have been developed. Some of the Cardiff work involves so-called memory shape polymers, similar to the memory shape alloys familiar to the metallurgists in the audience.

The meeting concluded with a lively discussion in which the difficulties of convincing a cost-driven industry of the merits of even slighly more expensive self-healing products were thoroughly aired. Also raised was the challenge of ensuring that the encapsulated healing agent would not be prematurely expended. The President thanked Dr Gardner for her stimulating presentation and wished all present the compliments of the season.

Finally, the Secretary announced that the next lecture will be held on Tuesday 17th January when Professor Tony Dunhill of Rolls Royce in Bristol and President of the British Society of Non-Destructive Testing will be the speaker.

To view a PDF copy of the lecture (13 Dec 2011) please click here.


250 years of landscape change by Richard Keen

(22 Nov 2011)

This lecture took a different tack to our normal lecture programme, focusing more on material history rather than material advancements. The first part of the lecture focused on how South Wales was ‘found’ to be a beautiful landscape 250 years ago by such people as Charles Darwin and John Torbuck.

The second stage of the presentation looked at the industrialisation of South Wales. During this stage, the Valley regions with their high natural resources were significantly changed within just a few years.  The Rhondda Valley for example grew from a populace of small villages and hamlets to a population density greater than that of New York City. This was an influential time for landscapes with world firsts such as the Walton Gorge bridge, being the first in the world to be built of cast iron. It was also a time for integrating the old with the new, for although this bridge was built from revolutionary material, its joints were made using woodwork joining techniques.

Richard also considered "greatness" by asking the audience if they could think of anyone in materials that would be considered great.  He suggested that Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and his cousin Percy Gilchrist of Blaenavon could be considered "great", which met with general agreement.  The President commented that NDMS were planning a commemorative lecture in honour of Sidney Gilchrist Thomas on the 25th of April 2012.

The final stage of the lecture brought forward the question “Who has told us something is beautiful?” Traditionally we would consider the rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons to be beautiful, but more recently we could include inspiring structures such as the Newport Transporter Bridge.  Beauty, Richard commented is in the eyes of the beholder. He concluded his interesting lecture by highlighting the connection between Blaenavon Big Pit, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, all of which are World Heritage Sites.

The Environmental Challenges of Metal Processing by Louis Brimacombe (1 Nov 2011)

Louis Brimacombe, Head of Environmental Technology, at TATA UK Ltd. Started by explaining that his main task aim during the course of the evening would be to outline Tata’s approach to evaluating the environmental impacts associated with steelmaking processes and products and develop options for improvement, the speaker warned that he would not spend much time on the traditional technical areas.  Instead he launched into an exposition of sustainability and its definitions starting with Bruntland’s definition of sustainability namely Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.  After referring to a few other definitions, the audience got the message.  This is subject that requires mature consideration and deep thought.  As an illustration of the difficulties, few present could initially follow Brimacombe’s contention that scrap metal has an energy value, although eventually his argument prevailed. 

More readily appreciated was the ease with which steel scrap can be recycled although there was incredulity that surveys revealed this fact to be much less widely acknowledged, even by educated sections of the community, than it should be.  All in all, this lecture proved to be genuinely stimulating and almost impossible to summarise, such was its intellectual content.  For example, to cite one of the easier concepts proposed, Brimacombe suggested that in future steelmakers might not sell steel to customers, but instead would enter into an agreement involving the return of steel as scrap at the end of the product’s life.  In effect, steel framed buildings would be constructed from steel rented for the duration of the building’s life.  Not surprisingly, discussion was lively and the audience went home with their brains suitably stimulated. 

AGM & President's Invited Lecture (3 Oct 2011)

The 2001-12 session of lectures and events kicked off on Tuesday 3rd October with the AGM which was held in Cardiff University.  The minutes of the AGM will be published elsewhere on this website in due course, but the highlights were first, the Treasurer’s report, which showed that the Society remains financially healthy and secondly, the election of Tony Jones as President.   The Society did incur a loss of ~£1400 over the 2020-11 year which was mainly linked to the dinner in February, but the Committee is confident the Society is in good shape and that the Treasurer has the finances under firm control.  This will be Tony’s second spell as President because he previously held that office from 2002 until 2004, so he knows what’s expected and the Society is in good hands.

The President’s Invited Lecture which followed the AGM consisted of three short talks under the heading of EngDoc Activities in South Wales.  In his British Steel, Corus and Tata Steel career, the President was very closely associated with the Engineering Doctorate scheme which started as a partnership with Swansea University, but soon expanded to include Cardiff University and other institutions.  As a result he had invited three current postgraduates on the scheme to describe their work.  The title of the first talk by Dave Eaves was “New Corrosion Phenomena Found on the Latest Generation of Magnesium Containing Hot Dip Coatings” and he was followed by Lance Cassemis whose topic was “Investigating the Effects of High Temperature Coil Anneal Processing Parameters on the Quality of Grain Orientated Electrical Steel”.  Finally, Zygmunt Spray discussed “Protection Mechanisms for Cathodic Delamination of an Organic Film”.  The modern tendency for lengthy titles helps to give clues about the subject matter, but each talk provoked lively discussion from an audience who wanted to hear more.  One of the heartening outcomes of this first meeting of the year was the attendance of over 30 individuals.  Let’s hope this level of enthusiasm can be maintained.

NDMS Golf Tournament 2011

The NDMS Golf Tournament was held on the 19th May 2011, at Newport Golf Club.  With a tough and challenging course, the trophy

again changed hands to Robert Walker.  Robert took the trophy with a excellent 37 Stableford points. 


The event occurs annually around the same period, anyone interested or willing to challenge Robert is more than welcome.  To get

in contact please email anyone from the committee pages.



NDMS Annual Dinner 2011

On 3rd February, Newport & District Materials Society held their 2011 Annual Guest Dinner at the usual venue, the Marriott St Pierre Hotel in Chepstow.  Just under 150 people were present helping to fulfil the Society’s aim of providing companies in South Wales with an opportunity to network with their customers and suppliers, including representatives of academia, in convivial surroundings.  

After an enjoyable meal they heard a discourse on High Performance Management by Christopher Ward, the self-styled Management Preacher, before the President, Mark Cichuta, reflected on the Society’s recent fortunes.  He reported a growth in attendance at lecture meetings as a result of active marketing which had attracted a greater proportion of young people than heretofore and which augured well for the Society’s future.  He invited everyone present to attend the remaining lectures in the 2010-11 programme. 

Mr Cichuta also referred to the Society’s past, extending a warm welcome to nine of his predecessors who had responded to Treasurer Alan Coombs’ idea of creating a Past Presidents table at the dinner.  The evening concluded with a humorous contribution from comedian Rod Woodward, who was very well received. 

(NDMS current president M Cichuta welcoming nine previous NDMS presidents, along with Dinner Organiser D Barradell, Treasurer A Coombs, and Secretary A Abraham).