Women in Engineering Day Spotlight: Denise Hill

Happy Women in Engineering Day! We've been featuring a few of our engineers all week, so be sure to read back to learn about the awesome work these women do. Today we're happy to feature Technician/Fabricator, Denise Hill.


What do you work on at Otherlab?

I'm a fabricator and shop manager at Volute. Volute makes carbon fiber tanks that hold high-pressure hydrogen gas, and can be folded into spaces of any shape. Our R&D covers things like testing different liner materials, exposing our tanks to chemicals and fire and bullets, and bursting them to see how they fail.

What is your process for developing designs/prototypes?

As a fabricator, I'm in more of a fulfillment roll than a design roll. Usually an engineer comes to me with a pretty clear idea of the minimum testing we can do in order to answer our question. I might make a material or dimension suggestion, and then I build and test the thing.

What are some of the challenges you've faced in your work and how did you go about solving these problems?

Sometimes we run into materials challenges, like dealing with brittle resin that was causing issues... turns out if we cure it at a slightly lower temperature, it retains its strength and we get better results all around. Little adjustments like that seem really simple once we've solved the problem, but aren't always obvious when we're in the thick of dealing with them. Another puzzle was getting the metal end fittings to bite onto the carbon tank at just the right strength, and we addressed that by testing different diameter crimps and adding ridges to the internal stem. Tweaking design elements is the heart of R&D.

What are some of your favorite innovations?

My favorite innovations are when we develop a new tool that's comfortable and easy to use, like our new cuff cutting jig. It's uniquely satisfying to eliminate an annoying or messy element of our work, especially when it yields reliable results. Things that help us work better and faster and cleaner, those are my favorite inventions.

Patti Lord