Get to know the host of our Metals and Materials CPD courses. We hosted a Q&A with our metallurgy expert, Phil Harrison.

Tell us how you got in to metallurgy?

When I was at school, I was only interested in Maths, Physics and Chemistry and was told this would be perfect for metallurgy. Several years later, I noticed an advertisement for an apprentice metallurgist in Huddersfield and I got the job. The company allowed me day release to do City and Guilds Metallurgical Technicians course, HNC metallurgy and finally a BSc in metallurgy.

I was then made redundant and worked for a wire drawing company in Wakefield. During this time, the whole of the industry was in turmoil so I looked for, and found, a research project at Leeds University that led to a PhD in a ceramics related subject.

I then entered the commercial arena selling metal/ceramic related products, finally working in a commercial role at Huddersfield University.

In 2011 I left to open a metallurgical consultancy that has included, amongst other things, the training courses that I write and deliver.

What's next for the metallurgy industry?

Metallurgy is at the core of the production of most items whether a metal is used in the item or a metal is used as part of the production process. Production must evolve to make more environmentally friendly products and hence, metallurgy must also evolve to facilitate this process. This will not be isolated to the production of the alloys that are used but metallurgists must become more integrated into the whole production process using their knowledge and skills to bring around the necessary improvements.

The whole area of metals production from producing the core material from the ore through to the final product is an environmentally “dirty” process and must be made greener to reduce the amount of CO2 that is generated.

Additionally there must be more emphasis on metals recycling. At present, a number of recyclers do not have the metallurgical skills for efficient scrap segregation i.e. if it is magnetic it cannot be a stainless steel.

Why is it important for companies to make sure their metallurgy training is up-to-date?

For many years metallurgy was treated as an add-on subject to other degrees with no specific targeting of the subject itself. The training is useful in filling the gaps that were left in the initial degree work.

There are also constant changes where alloys have been improved or process routes have been changed that can be communicated through the subject specific training that is turn will benefit the company

What topics in metallurgy really interest you? 

My main areas of interest have been in surface engineering and corrosion. The surface engineering in respects of it being essential to a vast number of products that, without surface modification, would not be able to perform in the selected environments.

Corrosion results in a loss of income globally and the reduction in this cost by corrosion control and protection is essential. For example not too far in the past it was expected that cars would corrode and now it is expected that they do not corrode. I find the technology behind this and corrosion resistance fascinating.

One area that I feel strongly about is the training of future metallurgists. I have been involved in apprentice assessment for ten years. These people are the future of our industry and need to be encouraged to continue in the subject.

Tell us why someone should take one of our metallurgy courses?

The courses can be subject specific covering an area of specific interest for example corrosion. These courses improve the general education of the attendees by either introducing them to the subject or acting as a refresher previous education. They can also be bespoke courses written specifically for that company covering areas where they feel there are some weaknesses that require addressing.

One added benefit that I have found specifically with bespoke courses is the dialogue that is encouraged between the attendees where the subject matter encourages them to have discussions that they do not seem to have in the workplace and acts as a catalyst for problem solving.

Can you really learn about metallurgy online?

Yes, science-based subjects have been taught online for a number of years. The majority of the subject matter does not require direct face to face contact and there are areas, for example microscopy, where a course can give the attendees the background knowledge behind the subject but this must be followed by a few years of practice to become proficient in the subject.

Are you interested in an introduction to metallurgy or upskilling your current metallurgy knowledge?

Take a look at our upcoming metallurgy courses