Engineering Spotlight: Sarah Acheson

Tell me a bit about your role within the Digital Displacement team? 

I’m part of the Systems Team. The work I do is very varied, from modelling and data analysis through to developing control software to run test rigs as well as other practical areas like instrumentation and commissioning. I’m currently working on a wheel loader project where we’re partnering with a company to improve the efficiency of their machines. We’d already implemented the SA1 architecture with a pump swap and are progressing to SA2 architecture to demonstrate further benefits of wider system changes. It’s an exciting project because it’s the first time we’re implementing a three-service SA2 system on a real machine, in conjunction with a customer, so it’s really strategically important but also brings interesting challenges for us to solve.

How did you get into engineering?

I did a maths and physics degree which I really enjoyed and then when I was starting to think about jobs, all the jobs that looked interesting to me involved problem solving and producing something tangible and they all seemed to be in engineering. I found an Engineering Doctorate course at Edinburgh University focusing on offshore renewable energy. This involved a three year industrial research placement so I got the benefits of learning on the job and getting a qualification at the same time which was perfect for me when I was shifting from maths and physics into engineering.


Sarah Acheson

Engineering work

How did you fall into the role you are in now?

I started working with Digital Displacement on a research placement in 2017 and then went full time earlier this year and was officially awarded my PhD in July. With my academic focus in offshore renewables, I initially started working on a wave energy project here whilst my maths and physics background meant I fitted in well with the Systems Team.

What do you find the most interesting thing about Digital Displacement?

The variety of applications is really exciting. It can work with a lot of different systems and each have their own unique challenges which means there are different benefits to be found across different applications. Before I started working with Digital Displacement, I hadn’t realised how widely used hydraulics are, from house building to renewable energy. You don’t realise how much this underpins society so the overall impact that Digital Displacement pumps can have is immense.

What would you say to someone considering using Digital Displacement pumps within their technology/machinery?

Do it! Look at the modelling and the fuel savings and increased efficiencies it can create. It’s still novel and people have to be brave to take it on. Of course new technology comes with novel problems that people aren’t used to but I’d like to convince them it’s a step change. I would say don’t be afraid of change – the benefits are huge.

What streams of engineering do you see yourself being involved with in the future?

I love variety so my ideal role is similar to what I’m doing now where there’s a nice mixture of complicated maths modelling with hands on stuff like driving machines and practical testing. I’d previously thought about renewables, but I’ve realised there’s a lot of ways to drive a reduction in carbon emissions that aren’t just green energy. It can be as simple as finding ways to use fuel efficiently and heavy vehicles is an area that I find interesting. I think the industry needs to move forward into modern times, it’s quite conservative at the moment and the machines are so expensive the manufacturers resort to materials they traditionally trust. It will take time but hopefully I can be a part of that.

Learn more from Sarah about System Architecture Development

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