Beamish beams

Machinery from a bygone age has a bright future as digital technology and a laser scanner help with the restoration effort at Beamish museum.

The North East Productivity Alliance (NEPA) Digital Factory has replicated replacement parts for exhibits at the open air museum, which showcases the north east in the early 1800s and early 1900s.

‘For our work with Beamish we used the new laser scanner – part of the Innovation Resource Centre,’ said Dave Knapton, NEPA Digital Factory lead consultant. ‘It maps objects exactly and creates a virtual 3D part straight onto a computer, which can then be used on Computer Aided Design Systems to manufacture replica parts. This also allows any broken parts to be fixed by providing the exact measurements.’

Damaged parts, including a steam injector from a 1877 Lewin locomotive, a handrail from a tram and a cart hub wheel from the Victorian period, were given to the Digital Factory team at SunderlandUniversity to replicate.

‘Without NEPA’s invaluable help, I would have had to try and source the parts myself, proving extremely difficult and costly,’ said Paul Jarman, curator of transport at Beamish. ‘With the help of the latest digital technologies available, I have been given exact prototypes which are absolutely fantastic and can now be used to manufacture new parts.

‘Their help has greatly speeded up the restoration process and made it far cheaper for us to be able to breathe new life into the exhibits which will hopefully include seeing the steam locomotive back in working order.’

Digital Factory provides north east businesses with advice, training and the latest digital technologies, including the innovative laser scanner, rapid prototype technologies, vacuum forming, 3D scanning and a five-axis milling machine. Funded by One NorthEast, it is run by SunderlandUniversity’s Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive Practice team.