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HPM September 2017

56 D OME S T I C B O I L E R S & S Y S T EMS Boiler evolution shaped by gas engineers Boiler evolution is driven by the constant innovation in technology and gas engineers have a vital role to play. Dr Elaine Lancaster, chief technical officer at Ideal Boilers, gives her take on When it comes to designing a new boiler range, or upgrading an already successful one there are essential ingredients in the research and development (R&D) mix. Regulation and industry trends, technological advances in materials, software and component parts, the involvement of gas engineers installing and servicing boilers every day, and the input of householders, who need to be able to operate the boiler easily, all have an influence on the evolution of the final product. We always have installers at the forefront of our mind throughout the whole process of creating a boiler, because they’re the ones working with them every day. We talk to them constantly, asking them for their suggestions on how we can improve the products, and make them easier to fit and service. Their opinions are really important. Constant communication This constant communication means new ranges are very much about evolution, not radical changes. We focus on improving our technology so we can continue to improve performance, reliability and quality. When it comes to making a boiler easy to operate, it is also essential to talk to householders. It was thanks to end-user research, that we uncovered some interesting insight. The ergonomics of some controls were not easily understood. We also had feedback that the digital display screen could be difficult to read. So, we changed to a simpler combined press and rotary button combination, depending on the range, and with new software technology this enabled us to introduce clearer displays, with some models featuring a full colour, high-resolution customer interface with a backlit 3.5 inch screen. One of the key factors in the evolution of boiler technology is the supply chain. There is a continuous process of refinement with suppliers as boiler manufacturers look to work together with their partners to evolve components that make them more efficient, lighter, smaller, quieter – the list goes on. Hydraulic components, burners, gas valves, motors, pumps and electronics are all under scrutiny to deliver the most reliable and efficient boiler possible. Suppliers and manufacturers also look to other technology sectors to identify trends that could bring benefits to the heating industry. Web based and connected technologies, for example, have already had a significant impact on the heating controls market and this looks set to continue. As the trend to develop new products that connect within the home and communicate to give remote operability and intelligence continues, boiler manufacturers want to ensure their products are evolved to include them. Feedback from gas engineers provides other useful insights. When it comes to installation they want the boiler to be as light as possible. This means reducing the number of components, changing to lighter materials, for example, from metal to composite, re-engineering components and assemblies to make them smaller, or increasing boiler side panel rigidity to enable the use of thinner gauge metals. From a servicing point of view, it’s important that everything is as accessible as possible. We’ve designed cleverly engineered channels in the side panels to run wires and with discreet trunking elsewhere this means the wiring is out of the way and the chances of knocking connections minimised. For gas engineers, reliability is top priority. Throughout both the design and manufacturing process we’re checking quality, process capability, assembly, and that every boiler functions safely and works correctly. The production process is designed on a ‘no fault forward’ basis. This means we have clear guidance at every stage of the process so that every product is repeatedly built to stringent manufacturing procedures. During the assembly, checks are in place to ensure components are sited correctly through the use of jigs. Cameras ensure the correct parts are installed and pressure checks are carried out to ensure there aren’t any faults which would give rise to leaks. Then there’s a final function test on safety and integrity, to make sure the boiler’s fully functioning and modulating correctly, and the case is correctly assembled before it’s allowed to leave the factory. Fully functioning R&D is not only responsible for the design of the boiler, it also defines the requirements for these checks, and works with the production engineers to ensure we deliver a properly assembled, tested and fully functioning boiler every time. Boiler evolution is an ongoing process. The challenge is to correctly identify trends. I think the next developments for boilers are likely to be around diagnostics utilising the internet and improving combustion. But of course we will be talking to gas engineers to find out what they think before we make any changes. how they should approach the design process www.hpmmag.com September 2017 enquiry number 131 Householders can have an influence on the evolution of the final product “We always have installers at the forefront of our mind throughout the whole process of creating a boiler, because they’re the ones working with them every day” “Boiler evolution is an ongoing process. The challenge is to correctly identify trends”


HPM September 2017
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