Student Placement Blog

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Student placements providing valuable experience whilst increasing employability, can be highly rewarding for both students and employers and with the recruitment marketplace demands and competitiveness ever increasing, a placement can help develop a sought after skillset before graduation! 

Mi3 has had a student join the team for a 12 month placement over the last two years. In July 2021, following the success of these placements, Mi3 decided to take on four students from different universities to participate in “A Year in Industry”. Over the course of the year, the students will post multiple blog entries, to showcase their experience and highlighting some of the key activities they are involved in. The blog will be written by all the students as a collaboration.


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Monthly Blog

Each month one of our students discusses their progress in the programme, how they're feeling, the challenges they face and the projects they're working on.  Click on the series of links below to see how they're getting on!

 

Project Management at Mi3 - Angelos' Perspective

The students at Mi3 have had to get to grips with managing the projects they are working on, both within the wider scope of the projects and also their own time to ensure activities are completed in a timely manner. This has enabled them to develop their project management skills.  In this installment of the student blog, Angelos discusses how he has approached it:

Project Management (PM) is a term widely used in industry. Project Management is defined by the Association for Project Management (APM) as "the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget". Project Management can be utilised within an organisation to set and assign tasks and make sure that the deliverables, tasks, and objectives are being completed on time. It is also vital to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a team and give them the right tasks, based on their skills in order to have the best outcome. A Project Management Office (PMO) can also be introduced in a company which, is responsible for assessing the deliverables and requirements of a project and assignment of the tasks accordingly.

Those terms were discussed in a previous Mi3 blogpost, by Maryam, see “Transferable skills gained through the Mi3 technical Placement – Project Scoping”. I intend to discuss the PM tools I use to stay on top of my tasks at Mi3 in this blogpost.

To keep track of my tasks, I use an online platform specifically designed for project management, where I can input all of my tasks and their due dates. I can also input the person who assigned me that task, so I know who to speak to in case I need more information. All this is saved so that I can check through historical tasks if needed. This method of tracking tasks is very easy to follow and makes my daily plan clear as it tells me which tasks are a priority, which tasks are ok to postpone, and also shows the previous completed tasks. I use this to review what I have done in my placement and to compare my older self and progress, with the present.

Figure 1: My progress sheet (sections have been redacted as they contain confidential or personal information).

Another way I keep track of my tasks, is the infamous (only to those who work in the Mi3 Engineering and Product Development team) “Weekly Plan & Deliverables” sheet, or WPD for sort. The WPD is simple Excel-like sheet, with cells and columns, in which the “Task”, “Predicted hours”, “Due Dates” and “Deliverables/Outputs” are stated. As you may imagine, the tasks are written below the “Task” column, the date of completion, under the “Due Date” and the description of the task under the “Deliverables/Outputs” column. However, the interesting part comes in when the “Predicted hours” and further two columns “Progress Comments” and “Completed Hours”, are populated…

So, how is the sheet filled? you might ask. Easy!  At the end of the week, the placement students including me, have to plan for the upcoming week. Therefore, we fill up this sheet by inputting the name of the task, the hours that we think we are going to spend on it, the date that it is supposed to be delivered, or the date we are planning on having it finished by and, finally, a brief explanation of the task and what the outcome will be once the task is complete. The column “Progress Comments” and “Completed Hours” are completed the following week indicating what progress was made or if a task is finished commenting on any reason for delay etc., and, finally, the hours spent on each task. At the bottom of the sheet there is a “Total” line which is meant to calculate the total predicted hours and total hours spent in tasks, so you could see if the time spent is close to the predicted. That way you can understand more about yourself and your average day, and plan the following week better, further developing your PM skills.

Figure 2: List of some of the WPD sheets in my user folder.

Figure 3: The WPD sheet. Some parts have been censored with a red “XXXXX” text as they contain confidential information or names.

Lastly, the EPD team uses the most amazing project management sheet you’ve ever seen, named “Project Action List”, created by… myself! The Project Acton List, often called PAL (only I call it PAL to be honest), is an online sheet, similar to my personal sheet, which has every single task for every single project that the EPD team is working on. It is a “colourful” list which has a similar breakdown to my sheet, in which, the project, task, assignee, date and comments are input, giving all the details for each task. There is also the “Critical” column, which can be seen in the image below, which shows if a task is critical or not, indicating whether the task needs to be completed urgently.

Below you can see what the list looks like (with sensitive information redacted):

Figure 4. The Project Action List showing some of my tasks (redacted).

This Action List contains, as mentioned before, all the tasks, for every project, which helps the team identify upcoming actions and keep track of their progress. It also helps with sharing the tasks between staff and acts as a window for each project, giving clear visibility to the EPD Manager and Senior Technical Manager, who can also view, assess and alter the sheet.

 

Final Thoughts

Project management, especially in a team with many tasks, is a hard process. By using PM tools, such as SmartSheet, it becomes much easier to manage, and the purpose of “project management” is clear to everybody. All the tools we use are very useful, in my opinion, and help the team keep track of each task and its progress, and also gives clear visibility on what each member does, allowing communication and teamwork to be utilised, in order to achieve the final goals; completing each task and finalising the projects.

 

What do you think about the PM in Mi3? Do you use similar tools, or would you use any of the above? Tell us your feedback by emailing enquiries@mi-3.co.uk, calling +44 (0)1254 678 398, or visiting our website @ https://www.mi-3.co.uk/contact-mi3/. Do not forget to read the rest of the blogposts in Mi3 Student Placement Blog (mi-3.co.uk)!

 

About the author

Angelos is a third-year student at the University of Bradford, studying Biomedical Engineering and is interested in Prosthetics and Tissue engineering, hoping to use the year in industry at Mi3 to further develop existing skills, apply his knowledge in practise and understand in depth the medical field, from a manufacturing perspective. Following his placement at Mi3, Angelos will return to Bradford to progress with his studies, doing a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering.

 

The Challenges of Medical Device Material Changes

During their placement, the students have been learning that making a change to the materials used on a medical device may not be quite as simple as it initially seems. In this installment of our student blog, Maryam discusses her involvement in the current change to remove DEHP plasticisers from our customer's products...

Throughout the medical device industry, regulations have been getting more stringent, especially with the transfer from MDD to MDR in Europe. These rules are stricter not just on documentation, but also the materials which the products are made from as well. One particular group of chemicals that the MDR is clamping down on is plasticisers, such as DEHP. Here at Mi3, we are currently in the process of transferring our products from DEHP to DEHP-Free. However, material changes are not as simple as they may seem at first glance. So many different variables have to be considered and analysed, and if they are not, it could end up in faulty products afterwards. Below, I discuss a few of the factors that Mi3 has taken into account with this transition.

Test Method Validation

Prior to testing the two materials to compare them, the first thing to do would be to validate the measurement systems that will be used to test them. This is to ensure that these are reliable and repeatable so that when they are used on the materials, if there is any error or uncertainty, we know that it is due to the test sample variability, or a true test result, rather than test method variability. However, this can turn into a very long process. The first step is developing a test method that works and confirms the properties that are being analysed. Once this has been created, it then needs to be validated by doing it numerous times with different operators. However, if the validation fails for any reason, we are then back to square one and have to redevelop the process again before revalidating. This is a continuous and time-consuming cycle until a test method is developed which, when validated, succeeds. Considering the fact that at Mi3, multiple test methods are used to ensure that products meet their specifications, test method validations can end up being very time consuming and may delay the project progress if complications arise.

Equivalence between materials

When a company undergoes a material change, one of the first things to ensure is that the new material is as close to equivalent to its predecessor as possible. This is done by using the validated test methods to compare the properties of the new material versus the old material. If, for example, the new material is found to be more rigid than the old material, or that it cannot bear as much load as the previous material, this means that they are not equivalent, and an alternative material needs to be sourced, or the product function reviewed to see if the non-equivalent material will be acceptable in-use in the end. Other factors have to be considered such as whether the new material is also biocompatible, whether it can be sterilised in the same way, if it can be cleaned using the same cleaning materials and even whether it can be stored in the same packaging before use. These are only a few variables which have to be taken into account, and if there are any discrepancies between the two materials from the start to finish of process development, manufacturers need to investigate those and check to see if the material is still functional.

Logistics

One of the first questions to ask when a material change is happening in a manufacturing business such as ourselves is where are we going to get the new material from? It’s great if current suppliers have the new material in stock, but if not, the mission of supplier sourcing would be given to someone. Finding new suppliers can be a tedious task, especially if none of them tick all the essential boxes and you end up running most of your leads into the ground. Finding a supplier who fits the bill is difficult and there is often compromise; it's about working with the supplier and finding the best solution.

Two variables that have really thrown a spanner in the works are Covid-19 and the HGV driver shortage, among many others. With transport already being slow because of the pandemic, the HGV driver crisis only amplified the effects of it. This has led to material shortages internationally, and some companies have even declared force majeure on some of their products. This means that if samples are needed for internal process development and validation prior to manufacture for customers, they’ll be delayed which ends up pushing back the whole material transition and delivery of orders. It has been interesting to see how current world affairs, such as a shortage in alcohol and natural gas price increases, have directly affected businesses in the medical device industry as they lead to more expensive raw materials, and how they end up delaying operations of a company significantly.

Conclusion

Overall, while on the surface material changes may seem easy in a simple exchange of one for the other, in reality the whole product design & production processes need to be critically analysed to ensure that the alternative material is actually equivalent or can perform the same. This can turn into a lengthy project for the business, but it is what’s needed to meet compliance requirements to ensure the safety of patients worldwide.

New skills learnt - Prototyping and 3D Printing at Mi3

This month Luke discusses what he's learnt about prototyping and 3D printing whilst working on some of the projects ongoing at Mi3...

3D Printers are often used for rapid prototyping and provide a means of converting ideas or concepts into physical models within a short timeframe. This is an effective method of demonstrating mechanisms or showcasing features within a product.

Whilst on my placement at Mi3, I have had several opportunities to produce concept models and prototypes using our 3D printer. 3D Printing is a form of rapid prototyping, and although I had minimal experience using these machines before starting my placement, I now feel as though I am much more competent in using and working with the 3D printer after being trained and taught by several members of the team at Mi3.

My experiences of rapid prototyping using a 3D printer at university and in the workplace differ greatly. At uni, the process of 3D printing generally involves sending a CAD file (.STL) to the technical team in the workshop, who will then print the model and send back to me once complete.

At Mi3, I have a much more hands on approach to rapid prototyping. From creating the CAD file and selecting an appropriate material to digitally orientating the model on the print bed, before uploading the file to the printer to begin printing.

I have learned a handful of skills and useful tricks through both my own experience of printing and from other engineers on the team. I have listed some tips below:

Print bed adhesion

For a model to successfully print, it is vital that the first layers of the model stick to the print bed. If the model was to come loose the entire print would fail, and the printer would only print a mess of material with there being no structure to build upon.

To prevent this issue, good print bed adhesion will ensure that the model sticks to the bed and remains attached for the duration of the print. A variety of adhesives (specific for this task) are available. However, many people use alternatives that can be found at home or in an office. Examples being hairspray or a sugar water solution. These alternatives are equivalent to the adhesives in terms of effectiveness and are much cheaper. It is highly recommended to ensure that the print bed is heated for optimum adhesion.

Model orientation

The orientation of a model can have a strong effect on the amount of time taken to print the model. Orientating the model in a way which requires minimal, or no support material will reduce the print duration. One consideration to make is the required surface finish on the model. The best surface finish will often be on the face touching the print bed or the top face. For cylindrical or round objects, it is best practice to print the model upright, so that the printer produces rounded layers, giving a better overall finish to the completed model. An Mi3 keyring has been used to showcase print layouts;

 

Images showing the optimal orientation for this part to be printed.

 

Support

Some models need support when printing. This is often due to overhangs or hollow sections. This is a separate structure built by the printer to ensure that the model can build successfully without collapsing. Adding support structures adds time onto the build duration. The ideal print will not require support structures, although sometimes this is unavoidable.

There are two options when it comes to support structures. Option 1 is to use the same material used on the model for support structures. This is the faster option, although it often requires more finishing work upon completion of the print. This is because the supports need to be broken off and can sometimes be difficult to remove when supporting small holes internally.

This image shows the model printed upright and requires support to build. The support is the same material as the model and the build time has increased by over an hour.

Option 2 is to use a different material such as PVA (glue). This method is slower than the one mentioned above, due to the printer having to change materials, which causes it to build a purge tower, used for clearing away any excess material. PVA is dissolvable in water, making it a useful support structure in that the model can be left to dissolve upon print completion, resulting in a much more passive finishing process.

This image shows the same model orientation with the support made from PVA. The model is almost encased, and the purge tower can be seen in the background. This process will take much longer, more than 12 hours in total.

The difference in print duration clearly shows the importance of minimising support required for printing models. Where possible the designer should consider the option of breaking a model down into multiple components if support is required, with the goal of reducing print time and potential for print failure.

Material selection and print speed

Having a good knowledge of material properties is helpful when selecting an appropriate material for a print. Considerations such as product application, the user, and product environment are all important when deciding the material. A model which may bear load would be more suitable made from a rigid plastic such as PLA, as opposed to a more flexible TPU.

Summary

After several months of using the 3D printer, I now feel that I have a much greater understanding of how the device functions, which allows me to better design for manufacture. With help from other designers on the team, I have a better knowledge of how the printer works, this has enabled me to design models with print considerations, creating better finishes, faster builds and reducing the requirement for support structures.

Although I have had access to 3D printers at university, this hands-on opportunity at Mi3 has given me much more experience in the process in not just producing designs and printing them, but achieving designs that function and can be manufactured effectively.

Transferrable skills gained through the Mi3 technical placement - Project Scoping

This month, Maryam considers how its not just her engineering skills that are developing during her time at Mi3 and discusses how she's developed her project scoping and planning skills...

Project planning is something that you are vaguely exposed to at university. Whether it is individual or in a group, you may be given a project to manage, where the focus is making sure you deliver on time and within budget. From my personal experience, the end result of what we came up with was never of huge significance as most of the marks gained came from the project handling side of things. However, in industry, what you deliver is just as - if not more - important than the means you’ve taken to deliver it. Having spent over five months at Mi3 and being given a couple of sub-projects to lead, I have come to discover a thing or two about how to scope out a project with an end goal in mind. From how to define a scope to how to assess progress in a project and what to do if you fall behind, read below to see how I am learning to handle these aspects of planning which have proven to be crucial.

To define the scope of a project, you must first outline its purpose. Why are you completing the project? Is it necessary? How does it benefit the customer? The business? The end result of the project must then be clarified, and this is done by characterising the objectives via goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART). The deliverables that need to be met in order to achieve the goals are then described as well as the different milestones throughout the project. Limitations that may be faced, as well as how to mitigate for them, need to be addressed before starting the project. The final step before getting sign-off on the scope is to identify exclusions from the project, that is to say the different aspects which shall not be covered as part of the deliverables to get to the end goal, and this is to prevent scope creep. All these steps are essential to allow the delivery of a project that meets all the criteria within good time.

It is great to discuss the theory behind project planning, but what is more critical, and quite often more difficult, is implementing it in real life. One of the most mind-boggling sides of project delivery to me is how to keep track of progress. How are actions quantified in a way to show how much of the project is complete? Do we need to add more weight to different actions depending on factors such as time to complete and cost? If so, how do we do that? The more I think about what needs to be done to get to completion, the more tasks I come up with, all with different dependencies to the point where it seems like the project is a tangle of knots, and it can turn into a bit of a headache trying to separate them. From my experience so far, what has helped me get organised is taking a top-down approach, where I split the project into a few overarching sections, and then splitting them further into actions which can be completed. Dependencies between tasks can then be established in an orderly manner. This approach simplifies the project and prevents me from falling down a rabbit hole of expanding the scope of the project to the extent where irrelevant deliverables are added.

One way to visualise progress in anything is by using charts, and one that has proven to be popular in the world of project management is the famous Gantt Chart. With bars that represent the overall length of a task, it is easy to get a ballpark figure for how far along the project is, as well as the estimated time to completion. It is also easy to establish dependencies between tasks in addition to creating actions that fall under the umbrella of primary milestones which, when completed, mean that a major part of the project is concluded and the next phase can then start.

However, I’ve found that no matter how much you plan, the chances of it going exactly how you expected are minimal. Even if lags are added within and between activities to mitigate for delays, other tasks which hadn’t previously been considered may have to be completed and these may eat up into the allocated project time, holding it up even more. The owners of tasks which may have already been established in the original plan could have other actions that are higher on their priority list too, which again adds further interruptions to the project progress. One way to prevent delays is to prepare for activities that are dependent on other tasks, even if those tasks are not finished yet. Not necessarily planning them down to the last detail, but enough so that as soon as the preceding actions are completed, you’re ahead of the game and can get moving with the rest. What is the purpose of this action? What prerequisites must be met for this task to start? Who is involved? What are their roles? All these questions form the basis of a plan for that task, and knowing the answers to them will help immensely when it comes to executing it. Nevertheless, even then, a curveball may be thrown at you out of nowhere and cause delays which you simply cannot plan for. In that case, the only thing left to do would be to rejig the order of priorities, and therefore tasks, to ensure that the critical ones are completed as close to the original timeline as is possible.

To conclude, scoping out a project essentially means to plan it out step by step, and then split those steps into sub-tasks, then think of everything that could go sideways and mitigate for them. While it may sound intimidating, having all these down before starting allows for a smooth process as then there are measures in place to prevent things going wrong, and to mitigate for them if they do.

Transferrable skills gained through the Mi3 technical placement - Commercial Awareness

This month, Mariaye considers how its not just her engineering skills that are developing during her time at Mi3 and discusses why commercial awareness is an important transferrable skill to have regardless of the role...

Commercial awareness is rarely found amongst students and recent graduates. During university, I only heard law and economics students talking about it, whereas to most engineering students, it was an unfamiliar concept. Therefore, it is especially advantageous when starting out in your career. Not only does it help your CV to stand out, but it can also help you better understand job descriptions before applying.

I used to think that commercial awareness simply meant keeping up with the news. However, commercial awareness also entails understanding how companies operate within the same industry. This involves understanding business functions and their purpose. Being aware of why a business operates the way it does, helps you to appreciate the impact your role has on the company.

Another element of commercial awareness is understanding how the news impacts your industry, either directly or indirectly. This does require following the news, but the key word is “understanding”. In this way, you also develop awareness of the current state of the market e.g., supply and demand, and where it’s expected to lead in the future. For instance, the supply chain across many industries has been affected by COVID-19. One specific example being the increased demand of facemasks and gloves, PPE that is typically required for the manufacturing of medical devices. Thus, PPE for medical device companies not directly related to COVID-19 was in short supply.

The remaining aspect of commercial awareness is financial awareness. In engineering, this means being aware of the financial considerations required to carry out a project. It is almost impossible to understand the extent of money required if you have no work experience. From working at Mi3 I have realised that every decision made within a project comes with a cost, which is why they need to be justified.

Below are examples of how the technical placement at Mi3 has taught me a lot about the different aspects to commercial awareness.

How a medical device company operates

At the start of the placement, we were given a project to analyse Mi3’s operations relative to a well-known business model such as Porter’s Value Chain. Through research and observations made throughout our induction, the project provided insight into the importance of each job role and how they coordinate with each other. This assignment also taught me that a company’s competitive advantage is fundamental to its value. Hence, no process is arbitrary, they have all been designed to contribute to Mi3’s competitive advantage.

Additionally, we received an introduction into marketing which illustrated the research required to determine competitive advantage. For example, comparing the range of customers, products, and services of other companies within the same industry as well as their turnover and profit. Thus, following the news is important to help keep track of what competitors are doing, the information can also be acquired through proactive market research.

Market demands

Market demands determine the potential success of a business as it reveals how desirable its products and services are. It may seem like this information is irrelevant when applying for entry-level jobs however, current (and prospective) market demands also indicate how desirable my skills are and how this could change in the future.

During the placement, I have been able to learn about current clinical needs through working on state-of-the-art projects within fields such as cancer diagnostics, orthopaedics, and surgery. I have found it interesting how Mi3, as a single company, has the capacity to help with so many different types of clinical needs. Moreover, drafting quotes for some of these projects has given me insight regarding the value of certified design and manufacturing services.

Financial awareness

Finally, it is important to know the financial impact of every aspect of your project because cost is usually the largest limiting and enabling factor. Working at Mi3, I have realised that time really is money. I first heard the term OPEX (operational expenditure) at Mi3 which means that for every task that needs carrying out, you need resource (e.g., people, software, desks and chairs) for a certain amount of time to complete a task. The largest expense for most companies are the salaries because the employees are crucial for successful outputs.

CAPEX (capital expenditure) was another unfamiliar term prior to the placement. This is the cost of the equipment (or often ‘things’ that cost above a certain amount to purchase – the amount differs in every company) required to deliver a product or service. Since a company’s main aim is to generate profit, both CAPEX and OPEX need to be justified by highlighting their potential to create profit. These evaluating methods help to determine whether it is better to manufacture in-house or outsource. For example, injection moulding may have low operational costs however, production of low quantities is rarely worth the high setup and changeover costs.

Moreover, I was very unaware of the cost of raw materials and components. Manufacturing large volumes means that even a very small difference in unit price can have a large impact on the final product cost and profit generated. So now, I have a better understanding as to why all the amazing prototypes I have read about are not being manufactured today. The earlier you incorporate raw material cost and simplicity of manufacturing into your design the more likely it will succeed.

Whilst working at Mi3, I have had opportunities to research materials for multiple projects to find the optimal balance between cost and functionality. This has required creative solutions such as research into micromanufacturing methods and shape memory polymers. Therefore, the news keeps you informed about new technology which naturally broadens your capability to creatively solve problems. However, working at a manufacturing company has made it a lot easier to find out about available materials and costing information. I use this information almost every day, so it has been a great learning curve for me.

To conclude, commercial awareness is a highly valuable skill especially for entry-level jobs. Even though the market changes, you will still understand how to analyse it relative to your industry. A technical placement is a much more enjoyable and effective way of developing in this area as you witness how it is applied all the time.

Overcoming worries & concerns

Mariaye opens up about her initial worries and concerns as she started her placement with Mi3.  Learn how she has coped...

Mi3’s Technical Student Placement serves as the ideal stage between university and work to learn as much as possible about what it takes to work in the Medical Devices industry. The responsibilities and challenges of the role are comparable to those of a permanent employee at Mi3 however, there is also the focus on preparing the students for the start of their engineering careers.

Naturally, the transition from university to work life can be daunting; as students and recent graduates, the Year in Industry marks the extent of our engineering experience and yet, we are working amongst many experienced and talented engineers. Nevertheless, it has only been two months since the third cohort of students started at the company and Mi3 has already helped us overcome many of the worries that we had prior to starting. Hence below are some examples from myself and the other students of how we overcame the fears we had in anticipation of the role.

 

I would be thrown into the deep end and expected to know what I’m doing as soon as I start. 

The induction process was very comprehensive; we were able to experience the other roles of the company to gain a well-rounded understanding of the product lifecycle. There is always the opportunity to be trained further if ever we feel as though we need it. Within the last two months our responsibilities have gradually increased in a challenging but enjoyable way.

Also, the fact that there is more than one student is reassuring as we can relate to each other with regards to facing new types of challenges.

 

The workload would be too overwhelming.

We have weekly workload reviews and 1-1s with our line manager where we have dedicated time for discussing progress, workloads and any other general issues. If ever we do feel overwhelmed and concerned about meeting deadlines, the line managers are very supportive in helping to resolve any concerns we may have. Ultimately, project delivery is a team effort and so there is no problem in seeking extra help from other colleagues.

 

It would seem like I ask too many questions. 

From day one questions were welcomed and we were reassured that this would continue to be the case throughout our time at Mi3. Everybody in the office, including senior management are very friendly and happy to answer any of our questions. We are certainly not judged by the number of questions we have; in fact, our curiosity (or diligence when we request clarification) is often supported.

 

I would be more of a hinderance than some help, especially during my time in Production.

The students spent two weeks in Production helping to assemble the products manufactured at Mi3. The main purpose of this time was to understand the challenges faced during manufacturing so that they may be considered during our design work. Hence, we were treated the same as any new operator which was empathetically. The team leaders were really encouraging and kindly spent time to demonstrate the assembly processes (multiple times if we were still unsure). Additionally, they expressed appreciation for our suggestions for improvement; even though we are interns and new to the industry, they valued our contribution.

 

I didn’t feel confident talking with suppliers and customers.  

Telephone and email etiquette is not taught at school or university; it is essential but can only be learned through practice at work. Even normal emails and phone calls especially would make me nervous let alone communicating on behalf of the company. As mentioned previously, if I’m ever unsure about how to word a message or what to say over the phone, my line manager is happy to provide support. Even though it may seem like silly questions there is no judgement.

Within the last two months my confidence has grown with regards to communicating with contacts outside of Mi3. This has been due to the support of my line manager and due to practice.

 

I wouldn’t have any free time.  

I initially thought that the transition from university to work would be more difficult regarding time management since the typical university day is much less structured. However, at university, the work is more condensed since term time only lasts around seven months. This led to periods where I would have no free time and then others where I would have too much. Therefore, in my opinion, the amount of work is similar to that of university however now, the work is more consistent. Consequently, the work-life balance is not only more consistent bus also more definitive. In addition, the set times help with developing effective time management habits as well.

CONCLUSIONS

Since starting at Mi3, my development has already exceeded my expectations. Having overcome these initial worries, I feel much more confident at work. These fears are not specific to medical devices and so, I will be able to apply what I have learnt all throughout my working life.

About the author - Mariaye Marshall-Dowe - Mariaye is a Technical Placement Intern working as part of the Engineering & Product Development team. She has recently graduated from the University of Leeds with a Master’s in Mechatronics and Robotics. Her studies gave rise to/prompted her interest in medical technology which she is now pursuing at Mi3. Through the placement role she intends/aims to expand her technical knowledge and industry skills regarding medical devices to establish a well-rounded/firm foundation for the start of her career.

A day at Mi3 from the perspective of a placement student

This month, Angelos goes through what a typical day for him looks like...

Having a set, daily schedule is a very interesting “concept” in someone’s life, at least in my opinion. Waking up at a set time and taking the correct means of transport, to be on time for work, can be challenging, especially if it’s compared to our previous lifestyle, in the University.

In “Uni”, as students like to call it, we normally wake up 20-30 minutes before the lecture (no matter the time), get dressed, and walk to the campus. If you live next to the campus, just like I used to, the whole process needs less stress, as you will need 5-10 minutes, instead. In Uni, we spend a couple of hours around campus, going from lecture halls to labs, and from the coffee shop to the library, and after all is done, we go out, or to our friend’s house, to” relax and take a breather”. Every student needs to relax after a hard day and all this walking around, and, let’s be honest, no one studies anything Uni-related, after Uni, unless it’s the exam period (you should study though, studying is good). The overall lifestyle is relaxed, with some ups and downs here and there, but now, the “Placement lifestyle” is very different.

Traveling to your placement

As I said before, you will have to commute, because no one lives, or would like to live, next to their workplace. If you drive and you have a car, that’s great, but if you drive but you don’t have a car, like me, life gets hard, and even harder the farther you live.

Personally, I have to take a train, a bus, and walk a bit, to get to work. It is not as bad as it sounds, it’s a total of 30 minutes travelling, 10-15 minutes of waiting and 10 minutes of walking (enough exercise for a day, considering I have to do this twice a day, adding an extra 10-minute walking distance from my home to the station). All this travelling wakes me up too, so I do not mind at all, especially when I have my headphones on. So, after 40-45 minutes, I arrive to Mi3, ready to scan myself in using my fingerprint, because technology and automation are amazing.

Daily life

Now, let’s jump into my perspective and point-of-view. I am in, scanned through the door, feeling like a secret agent entering his underground office, and now it’s time to go to my desk. Yes, I have my own desk. Nothing fancy or super private, there is the “open door” policy in this company after all, but it is still decent and spacious enough for me. It is time to stick to the 1-2-3 rule (I made that up since starting).

  1. Turn the computer on and log in
  2. Get your agenda/diary/weekly planning notebook and a pen
  3. Open your emails

Emails and your agenda are your best friends during your placement. That is because everything that happens will be either sent through via email, or in person, so always carry your agenda.

After I check my emails and identify the updates regarding previous tasks, I dive into my personal work schedule. In there, I write all the tasks I have to do, and categorise them by “Due Date”. Doing so, helps me keep track of my progress on all of my projects and tasks, and makes sure that I complete everything on time. Thus, I pick the most critical deadlines and work on those tasks for the day.

For today, I have to do a couple of things, starting off with “Specifications Updates”. For that, I should find out more about the new material that is going to replace the material we currently use for 5 components. It is not that hard. I have already emailed the supplier to give me the “Technical Data Sheet” and the “Safety Data Sheet”, so I can now do the “fun” part. I need to find the material the supplier uses, replace it in the old “Product Specifications” document, add a few details here and there, replace the safety procedure, which gives an overview of how to handle this material, and after all the changes are made, I can print the new document, together with an approval form, and give it to my line manager for review. When he reviews it, I will go around the office, give it to the corresponding managers for review, and if they are happy and sign it, I can then publish it in the QMS (Quality Management System) folder as a “Live Document”. Paperwork. I know… I don’t enjoy it either, but it is necessary for medical devices, so I must not avoid it.

Task number 2 is… CAD (Computer Aided Design)! Great! That’s a job for an engineer, right? So, what do we have here? Design this part for that product, based on the customer’s specifications… OK, I can do that! I will open Solidworks, pick a plane, click Sketch, and start drawing. You know the drill.

Ok, it’s been 2 hours, since I started it and I think it’s done. My line manager approved it, so it is ready to… Oops! Forgot to make the drawing. That does not take time. A few clicks here and there, put those views, some measurements, update the table, print it... Done! Easy! Time to make my second tea. Hydration is a very important. Also, don’t forget to stand up occasionally and take a breather, it is very important and encouraged, especially by the HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) department.

 Task number 3: 3D Print the prototypes I designed yesterday. I really like doing that.

I believe 3D printers are amazing. First things first, I need to slice the CAD models and make the appropriate settings so that the 3D printer will be able to... print them. I will change the material from Nylon to PLA (its more environmentally friendly), and will remove the support material, as I don’t need it. Ok, click slice… 4 hours of printing. Not too bad. I need to set the 3D printer up now as well. Following the Work Instructions, I need to remove the old material, put the new one, and press start printing. Ready! See you in 4 hours. Setting up the 3D printer takes me around 30 minutes, depending on the speed that the 3D printer warms up and the time it takes to calibrate the building plate. Sometimes it’s a hassle but, I like it.

Task number 4… Meetings! So, in 10 minutes I need to attend an online call with a FEA (Finite Element Analysis) company, for some parts that we need to assess. It normally takes 30 minutes which is not too bad, but, after that, I need to run to a meeting room for a small meeting with my Line Manger. I can do that.

So, the meeting with the FEA company went well, they understood what we need and after giving them the materials of each component, they can do the analysis and hopefully by next week, we will have the results and conduct a report for the clients. That is next week’s task then, which I should now write down. Don’t forget to fill in the agenda. In 5 minutes, I have the meeting with my Line Manager. It is a 1-to-1 meeting that we have every week, in which we talk about the workload of the week, how I am doing with the tasks, what’s next, and an overview of how I find it so far in the company; Busy, but Good Busy!

What’s next, what’s next… Oh… Lunch Break! Best time of the day. Those 30 minutes off, are very helpful to relax and forget work for a couple of minutes.

I am back. Task 5: Measurements in the cleanroom.

That’s a very nice task, because I am working with another placement student. Firstly, we need to change. Put on a hairnet before getting in the changeroom, clean our hands, wear our “Tyvek Coveralls” and gloves, and get in the cleanroom. Time to work. We are measuring each component that came from the Injection Moulder and write our results down. Then I will put all these results in an “Excel” sheet and do data analysis, so we can find out, which are the best settings for injection moulding those specific parts. That will take us around 2 hours.

Measuring is done! It’s been two and half hours, but it was worth it. We measured everything and now, I will go to my desk, put the data in, analyse them and send them to one of our line managers, who is responsible for the whole project.

Ok, I input the data and did the data analysis I had to do. It was not very hard, more time consuming than hard, I’d say. What’s left…oh wow, it’s 16:10, almost time to go. I will quickly fill my agenda with the last task I did, write them on my work schedule, so tomorrow I will be sure that they are done. Also, a quick check on my emails. Nothing special, as it seems, it was a quiet day.

Time to head off! Bye-Bye, everyone, see you tomorrow. Oh yeah, tomorrow is Friday! Shorter day, breakfast in the office and hopefully a sunny/warm day. Also, I have less tasks, considering that I did a lot today, but there is always a chance for a new surprise.

Final thoughts

As I said before, “work lifestyle” is far different than “Uni lifestyle”. It is more arranged and fuller, but it helps you get accustomed to it, as in your future career, you will have similar schedules. That is the reason I am enjoying is so much at Mi3. Although there are drawbacks (waking up early, traveling, working hard, the advantages and the things you do, outweigh them by far. Finally, you practise and improve your own skillset daily, but you also learn a lot of new things and develop new skills, that will help you further on your future career and life. Skills like teamwork, time management, socialising and “networking” are some of those. The rest… You will identify them on your placement.

About the author - Angelos Stavropoulos – Angelos is a third-year student at the University of Bradford, studying Biomedical Engineering and is interested in Prosthetics and Tissue engineering, hoping to use the year in industry at Mi3 to further develop existing skills, apply his knowledge in practise and understand in depth the medical field, from a manufacturing perspective. Following his placement at Mi3, Angelos will return to Bradford to progress with his studies, doing a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering

 

Five things I have learnt as a student intern at Mi3

Maryam looks at the things she's learnt in the first few months at Mi3

There is no doubt that university and industry are two completely different environments, and as students it is tempting to convince ourselves to plan our whole career within academia because that’s our comfort zone. However, there is no denying the fact that spending time in industry opens doors to endless opportunities and experiences which will develop us further into more well-rounded individuals who understand more about the world of work than just what our degrees taught us. So far, a quarter of the way through the year, this placement has definitely not disappointed in serving its purpose of exposing us to the industry. Below, I have listed five things that I have learnt so far as a Student Intern at Mi3.

Commercial awareness is key

Over the past three months, I have learnt that simply picking the most expensive and precise manufacturing methods and tooling is not always the best option. In fact, it very rarely is, purely because it is not worth the cost. While studying at university, I came across all sorts of state-of-the-art equipment and whenever there were projects that needed them, there was never any need for consideration of cost as they were readily available. However, since starting this placement, I have come to learn that there are almost always alternatives which would do the job without breaking the bank, and especially because the only way for a business to survive is to make profit, minimising costs is a top priority. Finding a compromise between quality and cost is essential for the success of a company.

The medical device industry is highly regulated

Prior to starting my year in industry, I was vaguely aware of how strict the medical device industry’s regulations are given the nature of the products. However, it was only when it got to writing up protocols and technical documents did I realise how detailed the rules are, and with the transfer from MDD to MDR, the guidelines are only going to get more stringent. What I have seen so far is only a drop in the ocean, but I am keen to gain experience and learn more about what it takes to survive as a business in this sector.

So many documents…

From CAD drawings to specifications and NDAs, everything is documented. Any time a document is updated, its previous revisions must be archived but not deleted. There are templates for every form, specification, and work instruction. There are even rules for how some details must be filled in, such as the date. If a mistake is made in a document, there are measures taken to ensure that there is traceability. Of course, these are all done as a precaution to ensure that if ever something was to go wrong, we could trace back to the root of the problem. While the learning curve to this has been steep, I can say without a doubt that the steps taken when creating and updating documents are becoming more and more familiar, and I have hope that there will come a day when I will be able to write up a document without asking a thousand questions on how to structure it, why we need it, who it is for, where to find information, who needs to approve of it and so many more.

How a business operates

Being a student intern within the Engineering department means that I tend to interact with the same people on a regular basis. However, when it comes to executing a project, collaboration is needed between departments, for example, parts may be needed from the Warehouse and operators may have to be requested from Production. All of this requires constant communication between the different departments of the business and keeping track of what has been done. Some other skills that I’ve learnt over the past three months is how to contact suppliers, and more importantly, how to follow up with them to get things moving. Moreover, from an engineering perspective, having spent almost three weeks in Mi3’s Production cleanroom helping with the manufacture of orders, I have come to realise the importance of simplifying designs as much as possible to make the operators’ jobs easier.

The importance of planning and time management

It is easy to think that with a solid plan, a project will run smoothly with no hiccups and that everyone will prioritise it and follow the schedule exactly how you wanted. However, when you have a request for another team, for example, but they also have a job that is critical for the business, what you need is not necessarily at the top of their priority list.  I quickly came to learn that taking these lags between activities into account when creating plans is a must, otherwise the project length will be severely underestimated and as much as you want other departments to cooperate with you, you need to cooperate and be understanding with them just as much.

Final reflections …

Joining Mi3 has been an experience, sort of like joining a marathon midway and trying to catch up, but it keeps me on my toes, and I learn something new every day. I look forward to the rest of the internship and seeing what else is in store for me.

About the author - Maryam Kurrimboccus - Maryam has just completed her third year of Materials Science and Engineering with Biomaterials at the University of Manchester. With interests in the medical device industry, she has taken an interruption year to gain more of an insight into what it takes to be part of a business like Mi3 and develop her skills further. After she finishes her placement, Maryam will return to university to complete her Masters in Materials Science and Engineering.

First impressions as a student intern at Mi3

Luke takes at look at the first few weeks as he started his placement at Mi3...

Introduction

The first six weeks at Mi3 form the induction process. This allows new starters to gain exposure to all aspects of the business, whilst also providing the perfect opportunity to meet everybody. I believe that to be successful in the role as a Design Engineer at Mi3, it is crucial for us to have an in-depth understanding of all aspects of the business. I have detailed below what our first six weeks looked like, and what a new starter could expect to be involved in.

First few days

The first days at Mi3 consisted mainly of learning and understanding many of the processes and procedures that take place within the company. This helped get us up to speed quite quickly, meaning that we could get stuck into work much sooner. we had a site tour and met people from various departments.

First few weeks

For the next few weeks, we spent much of our time in the operational areas of the company. This began in the warehouse, where we were shown the processes for sending and receiving goods, as well as providing materials and equipment to the clean rooms. We then spent roughly three weeks in the production areas, across both clean room environments at Mi3. I worked on various assembly tasks alongside the production staff and developed a true appreciation for the work that they do. This has given me a much better understanding of ‘Design for Manufacturability’ by helping me to consider the assembly process when designing new products.

Later induction with office departments

For the remaining weeks of the induction, we were upstairs in the office, where we spent plenty of time with members of each department. This gave helpful insight and understanding in areas such as Supply Chain and Quality Management and allowed us to meet every person in the building.

The open plan office is a very friendly environment which I found to be welcoming, especially due the inclusion of an ‘open door policy’ applied to all managers’ offices. This meant that all members of senior management, as well as the managing director, are easily approachable and within reach.

Beginning project work

After six weeks of induction and training we joined the Engineering & Product Design team. We immediately started work helping the team with a handful of interesting projects, ranging from design concepts to establishing process techniques and bespoke equipment. I gained a lot of responsibility with the tasks I was given, and quickly got used to working in the team. Some of the tasks I personally worked on include writing and carrying out testing protocols, CAD modelling and rapid prototyping using a 3D printer. I also reached out to different companies to retrieve quotes for parts and prototype models.

Summary

I found the induction very useful for understanding how the business works and enjoyed meeting everybody from each department. I felt that this was an opportunity which would unlikely be a part of the placement in a larger business and is an advantage of working within a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) like Mi3. The other students and I look forward to the rest of the year working on different projects with the EPD team.

About the author - Luke Almond - Luke is a second-year student at Liverpool John Moore’s University studying Product Design Engineering and has interests in medical device design and 3D CAD modelling, hoping to use the year in industry at Mi3 to further develop existing skills and gain experience in all aspects of a business. Following his placement at Mi3, Luke will return to Liverpool to undertake his final year of the Product Design Engineering course.

 

 

Meet the Students!

Luke Almond

Luke is a second-year student at Liverpool John Moore’s University studying Product Design Engineering and has interests in medical device design and 3D CAD modelling, hoping to use the year in industry at Mi3 to further develop existing skills and gain experience in all aspects of a business. Following his placement at Mi3, Luke will return to Liverpool to undertake his final year of the Product Design Engineering course.

Mariaye Marshall-Dowe

Mariaye Marshall-Dowe is a Technical Placement Intern working as part of the Engineering & Product Development team. She has recently graduated from the University of Leeds with a Master’s in Mechatronics and Robotics. Her studies prompted her interest in medical technology which she is now pursuing at Mi3. Through the placement role she aims to expand her technical knowledge and industry skills regarding medical devices to establish a well-rounded base for the start of her career.

Maryam Kurrimboccus

Maryam has just completed her third year of Materials Science and Engineering with Biomaterials at the University of Manchester. With interests in the medical device industry, she has taken an interruption year to gain more of an insight into what it takes to be part of a business like Mi3 and develop her skills further. After she finishes her placement, Maryam will return to university to complete a Masters in Materials Science and Engineering.

Angelos Stavropoulos

Angelos is a third-year student at the University of Bradford, studying Biomedical Engineering and is interested in Prosthetics and Tissue engineering. He is hoping to use the year in industry at Mi3 to further develop existing skills, apply his knowledge in practise and understand in depth the medical field, from a manufacturing perspective. Following his placement at Mi3, Angelos will return to Bradford to progress with his studies, doing a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering.