Gromit get Factory Works Team treatment
On Oct 28th, 2013
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Gromit is a very special trailer, with an unbelievable pedigree. I have already written about Nik Cooke, Dave Bramley and Paul Haxby in ‘Gromit is born : Serendipity in deed‘, but for the next leg of the journey he had some special needs.
The next leg of Gromit’s story begins in the design offices at Wybone. Leading Barnsley suppliers of street furniture to the UK’s high streets.
It all began as they say with a brief. Not an easy brief this one, but then anything easy to do wouldn’t be worth doing.
1. The number one need was to make him more rigid and subsequently better at transporting heavier loads. Gromit’s original carnation as rucksack and poles was really good, in fact absolutely great for walking but very bouncy when running. So…
2. We needed a stiffer aluminium pole system.
Add to this the need for
3. A container or a lockable, secure way of keeping equipment out of sight and temptations way for poorer parts of the journey, a reassurance that if he was left that no one would cut his poor little doggies sides with a knife swipe and whip his inner electronics out for a quick street sale.
4. A personal whim, was a need to be elevated from rough rocky and or sandy ground with its insect and bitey occupants.
5. We knew he couldn’t be wider than his current width, wheelchairs are all a standard width for a reason, his solid wheelchair axle wasn’t going to get sawn and widened and retain as much strength whatever we did. Given all new road side pavements are at a minimum width a wheel chair wide. At least when planners have actually sat down and thought it through they are. Whoops nearly went into a favourite rant. Lifts, Hotel and house doorways, train doors and buses all accommodate this width too. So no width tinkering with his dogliness.
Phase 1 – CAD drawing.
Two days of accurate CAD measuring and rendering the basic concept was the territory of Daniel Reed. One Saturday of leisure time spent drawing him up and One day at work later and we had a wonderful rendition where we could work out his weight whatever materials we tried to make him out of.
Phase 2 – Choosing materials.
The wonderful thing about Wybone, as a plagiarism of the ‘Tigger’ song about them might go, is that they can make anything out of anything. Truly impressive. Several million pounds worth of presses, laser cutters, benders, trimmers, painting and welding machinery means there is a lot, and we are talking the equivalent capability of a small country, a lot of potential and resource to do anything.
I believe Wybone holds an award within the industry for being the only firm capable of bending sheets of clear polycarbonate, materials as strong or stronger than a Perspex type of sheet. Clear and with a smooth radius. Clever high technical engineering stuff from Barnsley, and you thought it was all Pies up north int Yorkshire.
It all came down to weight.
I had been duly dispatched to take possession of some kindly donated Aluminium sheet and tubing.
Just down the road in the other city, my home city of Sheffield, Paul Woodhead and his wife had taken me around their respective warehouses and factories. What other husband and wife couple can lay claim to owning their own different but mutually beneficial businesses across the business park to each other!
A big thank you to Direct Plastics and Aluminium Sales:
Unit 14, Portland Business Park, Richmond Park Rd, Sheffield S13 8HS Tel: 0114 256 0889 Website: www.directplastics.co.uk
Unit 4, Portland Business Park, Richmond Park Road, Sheffield, S13 8HS.Tel: 0114 2870177 Website: www.aluminiumsale.co.uk
Dan and I spent a lot of time measuring the weights of each of the bits, it was looking scary. Some pretty heavy weights if we made Gromit’s new shell. Do dogs have shells? Out of pressed Aluminium or Polycarbonate. We were confident we could press even 0.7mm thick Aluminium sheet with ribs in it so it could take big forces like my butt, we were confident we could go as low as 2mm thick polycarbonate and reinforce if necessary with strips, ribs if you like. But it was all too heavy. Back to the drawing board. Well back to the computer anyway.
Dan wisely awaited Richard Cooper, Managing Director and my lifelong friend’s input. Richard grew up making Grit Bins, Litter Bins and Salt Bins with his dad and part of his great wisdom is, he now knows, like the brilliant manufacturer he is, the tolerances, weights, resin requirements and thicknesses of glass fibre required by instinct, to make a solid box that will survive drunks in Sheffield and perhaps even drunks in Manchester. This process, like canoe building, would also give him a High Viz Yellow doggie coat. Brilliant!
Phase 3 – Manufacture.
One of the best things ever, was being able to use Wybone’s resource to do this. Everybody, and I think over twelve people in all were involved, couldn’t have been more helpful, smarter in their approach and more patient in getting to grips with the task at hand.
Thank you Wybone.
Mason Way, Platts Common Industrial Estate, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S74 9TF
Tel: 01226 744010
And so Gromit was proudly reborn, all pristine with his bombproof, hopefully not literally later on in the trip, new yellow box/bed/kitchen/seat. What a lucky dog.
To see more of Gromit in action on Si Homfray’s facebook page – Click here