Testing sound frequencies
Speaker designer and manufacturer, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) has a 30-year history of collaboration with the University of Brighton. Much of this work has centred on the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, where several PhD projects have built on one another to produce software for modelling sound fields – the initial work considered modelling the sound field of a loudspeaker vibrating continuously at a single frequency (frequency domain problems) and more recently has moved on to looking at time domain problems which model how a wave travels away from the loudspeaker.
Head of Research and Development at B&W, Dr Gary Geaves said: “It’s been a collaboration that has been aimed at developing software that is useable by engineers, rather than just mathematicians. These tools are now tremendously useful in the design of loudspeakers and are widely used within B&W”.
Dr Gary Geaves, Head of Research and Development at Bowers & Wilkins
“This type of software is commercially available, but only in a very general form which is applicable to a wide range of problems arising in different industries. Loudspeaker design requires detailed problem solving that such generalised software cannot manage. Developing your own special form of the software means that it is optimised for the specific problems of interest to loudspeaker designers. We also then have the big advantage of knowing exactly how the code works in detail, which makes applying it easier”.
During 2007–08, a post-PhD student was 50/50 funded (equally split between the company and the university) to work on embedding time domain diffraction programmes into a graphical user interface for use by design engineers at B&W. These computer models assist designers by showing them which ideas may be worth developing and which are flawed.
Currently, B&W also has an area of collaboration with the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. A PhD student is looking at how carbon nanotubes can be used in speaker technology. Engineering is critical to the acoustics of a loudspeaker and B&W is looking for new materials which potentially offer better ways of engineering the speaker, making it as ‘uncoloured’ as possible, lessening its impact on the sound, thereby increasing purity.
Each PhD project has had very specific aims, but in general all have looked at completely different ways of doing things; exploring high-risk options and building up a knowledge base which is now extensive and invaluable to the company.
Bowers & Wilkins: www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk