Harper Adams University : Educational T-Pylons


Harper Adams University




Product Design, Design for Manufacture, Prototyping, Design for Assembly

Modular T-Pylons for interactive student lectures

Harper Adams University: T-Pylon Case Study

As the new Hinkley C nuclear power station develops, National Grid introduces the new T-Pylon. The new T-Pylons are being built to carry electricity from the new Hinkley power station via overhead power lines to reach over one million homes and businesses.

The erection of T-pylons also has a certain amount of impact on landowners, which is included in studies by Harper Adams University. So here, a lecturer named Andrew Black from Harper Adams University saw an opportunity to use these new T-pylons to engage students and help them dive deeper into the subject. So, with funding provided by the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), they approached Nebulem to conceptualise, engineer, and manufacture a pair of scaled, mock T-pylons.


About the Client

Harper Adams University is a leading specialist university that tackles the future development of Earth’s food production, processing, animal sciences, engineering, sustainable business, and land management.

Its invention hub works with the whole sphere of technology, developing crop-spraying drones and life-saving technology. The research brings together staff and students to tackle the biggest problems the world faces. It also teaches students about land and property management, which brings us to how we became a part of this project.


About the Product

Nebulem was approached to create scale models of T-Pylons. On the grassed area nearby a campus, they were to be placed dis-assembled for the students to build them back up. Additionally, they were to be used for the on-Campus Open Days, intended d to catch the eye and make a talking point about what the university offered.


Project Brief

The task for Nebulem was to create mock T-pylons at 1:15 scale, which are visually the same as real T-pylons. The T-pylons are to be anchored to the ground in a field and ropes are to be passed between them as mock power cables. While designing, It was imperative to ensure they were designed in a way that they won’t topple over as students interact with them. The T-pylons have to be set up and taken down within the time frame of a lesson and of a construction so that students can assemble or disassemble themselves with supervision of a lecturer. This also meant weight must be minimised.

A very important factor was to minimize cost since it was an educational tool. When not in use, the T-pylons must be broken down and stored in a nearby shed.


Project Solution

  • For the right solution, we prepared a series of concepts and then reviewed them with Harper Adams. Through this process  a modular design was chosen for the T-pylons. This was then developed into the final solution using 3D CAD.
  • Breaking the T-pylon into six pre-defined sub-assemblies ensures the quick construction during lesson time. Another key detail is  the sub-assemblies are small  enough to be transported to site using a garden trolley from their storage shed.

six pieces break T-Pylon

  • In fact, we even constructed the main tubing using off the shelf sewer pipe which minimised the weight and cost.
  • To attain the desired durability and appearance, CNC machining came to the rescue, the custom designed parts were first CNC machined from aluminium and then anodised.
  • The joints between the sub-assemblies needed to be durable, easy to operate and light weight.They used large scale threaded nuts and caps which could be easily hand tightened with extra leverage from a simple metal bar if required. Using CNC machining ensured precise tolerances on these one-off, custom designed and manufactured pieces.

T-Pylon 3

  • The sub-assemblies were kept in compression using off-the-shelf all-thread bars, again keeping costs down.
  • With CNC machining, it was possible to produce a base plate with an over-sized footprint to significantly increase the toppling angle.Making it from powder coated mild steel acted to lower the centre of gravity, again increasing the toppling angle with the upper CNC machined components being lightweight aluminium. Carrying handles were included as part of the design complete with orientation markers.
  • The cable hangers were again about maximising off the shelf components to reduce cost. Custom CNC machined brackets ensured the correct angles were created as they interfaced with standard all-thread bars. The rope then ran through mass-produced rock-climbing pulleys. The cable hanger was then fixed to the main arm using a solid ball lock pin complete with lanyard for practicality.

cable hangers T-Pylon


In a Nutshell

All in all, the project has been a great addition to Harper Adams University’s teaching aids and has even enabled visits from National Grid’s industry experts to teach students using the T-pylons as an innovative aid.

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