Gary Bywater, a Senior Metallurgical Services Engineer at Pyrotek’s research and development center in Milton Keynes, U.K., is part scientist and part engineer. On any given day at the R&D center, you could find him in a conversation with Pyrotek colleagues from around the world, discussing and examining a challenge a customer might be facing. And at the center of that conversation and study will likely be a material, and what role it’s playing in the customer’s process.
“Soon I’ll be cutting up that material, polishing it, examining it under microscopes, and then I’ll be writing a report about what I found,” says Bywater, who joined Pyrotek’s Metallurgical Services Group (MSG) in February 2018.
Q & A
What is it about the Metallurgical Services Group that drives you daily in the lab?
Bywater: I feel this boils down to problem solving, and that I have always been a practical learner. I have that academic side to me where I am more than happy to hit the books and learn about something; however, knowledge that is not applied in my eyes is moot! So, I certainly love to get my hands on materials, components, products and dive into what went wrong (which is usually the case) or knowing what makes the product good and possibly how to make it better. Oh, and the excellent equipment at the R&D center, a.k.a. great toys, certainly helps.
What types of projects regularly come through the lab? What have you been working on recently?
Bywater: Metal cleanliness, using the PoDFA inclusion measurement method, and defect assessment of a customer’s aluminium process is a common part of the job. We deliver feedback to the customer about how clean their metal is from different points in their casting process by assessing PoDFA samples. When a product has shown reoccurrences of a certain defect, we will then analyze multiple samples supplied by the customer so we can trace it back to its source. It’s also common for our team to be doing failure analysis, and problem investigation. We’re always eager to help find a solution to a particular problem.
Pyrotek has hundreds of sales engineers around the world who work closely with customers to increase metal quality and improve their processes. How have Pyrotek customers seen or benefited from the work of our Metallurgical Services Group?
Bywater: This is a topic we want to know more about. We usually receive general feedback with our work, namely if we solved the problem, and moreover how the work was appreciated by the end customer. Overall, we want to be actively involved with seeing the work through for both Pyrotek engineers and the end customers. To do this, we need Pyrotek engineers to help-us-help-them! If you keep us engaged, we will do our utmost to support.
What are some of your long-term goals at Pyrotek?
Bywater: I’d like to get more exposure to the various industries we supply and serve, to those products, and to see MSG become even more of an integral problem solver for Pyrotek. We certainly won’t, and do not, solve problems all by ourselves, we absolutely need to learn from the plethora of knowledge throughout Pyrotek and work with such colleagues. Where I think the MSG team has some excellent capabilities is being able to bring together the materials phenomena (found from analysis) with the knowledge and experience of sales, production, and process engineers.
What sets Pyrotek’s services apart from others from other companies?
Bywater: The majority of customers qualify for free of charge analytical work by the MSG lab. Pyrotek and the MSG lab is totally motivated to solve a customer’s problem and help them run as efficiently as possible. Other labs can be rather expensive for even the simplest analysis. It’s a key support service supplied by Pyrotek to provide our customers with analytical services.
How can customers gain access to the services you provide?
Bywater: Contacting their respective sales engineer is the best route! They are able to quickly raise the topic to us and we immediately go from there.
What was your education and career path prior to arriving at Pyrotek?
Bywater: Education wise, as a young, budding engineer, I started in mechanical engineering at the University of Hull, in East Yorkshire, U.K., which is the city I grew up in (other than 5 years in Taipei, Taiwan, from 5- 10 years old as my mother is Taiwanese). After that I shifted briefly into structural engineering. I was soon fortunate enough (at the University of Sheffield) to get into a course in Advanced Metallic Systems, which involved a nine-month master’s program before undertaking a Ph.D. My Ph.D. was on the development of niobium silicide-based in-situ composites as the potential next-generation high-temperatures alloys, which is a fancy way of saying niobium silicide alloys that turn out to be not very good. I completed that work in 2017. From my Ph.D. experience, I gravitated towards metallurgy and materials science.
While writing up my Ph.D. thesis, in early 2014, I began work at Honda Engineering Europe based in Swindon, U.K. This was a technology research and reporting role that was not as hands-on with experimentation as I had hoped, so after a year I moved over to a metals laboratory at BMW’s Swindon Mini plant as a materials contractor. After 3 years in that lab, and completing my Ph.D. along the way, I finally moved over to Pyrotek’s Metallurgical Services Group in February 2018, which was then transitioning from its former Birmingham, U.K., location to Milton Keynes.