An idea which began with a plastic bottle and a handful of used seals has turned into one which could save thousands of pounds.
The Limpet, a vacuum attachment which removes dust produced by drilling during manufacturing, has been developed into a product which is set to be rolled out across sites operated by BAE Systems.
It comes after workers at the company’s Typhoon final assembly line, based in Warton, Lancashire, devised a way to stop someone having to hold a vacuum in place while drilling carbon fibre and aluminium on the fighter aircraft.
The process produces a fine dust which can be life-threatening if inhaled and requires a special vacuum to remove it from the air.
Andy Salter, part of the four-man team which has developed the idea, said: “It started with the recognition that it was inefficient to have a skilled man stood holding a vacuum. One day we noticed that a bottle some of the chemicals we use in the process comes in a bottle which fitted the vacuum perfectly and we were able to collect everything in it, which made us realise how simple an idea it could be.”
Having put together a prototype of the attachment which uses the suction of the vacuum to stay firmly in place, the team enlisted the support of a designer to refine the product before they took it to 3D printing experts at BAE Systems.
Fellow team member Michael Dobson said: “They quickly realised the potential of it because it does not just work for aircraft, it would be suitable for anywhere you have to drill.
“Potentially, you could use this at home if you were drilling a hole in the wall and didn’t want brick dust everywhere.”
The Limpet is one of 12 entries from the Military Air and Information (MAI) business, which covers the sites at Warton and Samlesbury, which won a silver award.