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Itinerary of a PhD student at Safran Transmission Systems

Human resources

We meet Nicolas Grenet-de Béchillon, studying for a mechanical engineering PhD at the Innovative Mechanical Transmissions for Aeronautics (IMTA)'s teaching and research chair, a partnership between Safran Transmission Systems, the LaMCoS (INSA Lyon's Contact and Structure Mechanics Laboratory) and the LabECAM (Lyon ECAM research centre). He started his thesis on October 21st 2019 with an initial one-month integration period at Safran Transmission Systems.

What path has led you here, and why this thesis?

Having recently graduated in mechanical engineering from INSA Lyon, and completing a Research & Development work placement, the idea of writing a thesis started to form in my mind, and then gradually took shape. Besides having a definite interest in research, I was mainly motivated by the idea of spending several years working on an industrial problem with a medium-term application. That's why I opted for a CIFRE convention (Industrial contract for training through research), a mechanism for funding PhD research which includes one company and one or two research laboratories.

So you chose Safran Transmission Systems as part of a CIFRE convention?

That's right. If you search Safran's site for jobs on offer, you can see that the Group offers a number of doctoral contracts. In my case, it was my thesis supervisor who pointed me towards Safran Transmission Systems, and a subject that matched my research area. The subject Safran Transmission Systems was offering – "Study of risks of seizing in aeronautical gear transmissions" – addressed issues the company is facing in the field of contact mechanics as applied to mechanical geared transmissions. During the selection process, I had to find out about this subject, take ownership of it and discuss it with Safran Transmission Systems' specialist times.

In practical terms, how do you allocate your research work time between Safran Transmission Systems and two laboratories?

The "Innovative Mechanical Transmissions for Aeronautics" chair was launched in late 2014 as a partnership between Safran Transmission Systems and the LaMCoS and LabECAM research laboratories.

This is the structure within which I'm producing my thesis via a three-year CIFRE contract; my role in it is to work on the topic specified by Safran Transmission Systems. In practical terms, I'm in bimonthly contact with Dhafer Ghribi (Technical referent in gear transmissions at Safran Transmission Systems R&T), who is my industrial supervisor. This enables me to take advantage of industrial expertise and understand the key technical issues and problems, and ensure that my work progresses and develops in line with the industrial requirement associated with the "Risk of gear teeth seizure" theme. I've also been able to have a thesis supervisor from the LaMCoS (Fabrice Ville) and a co-director from the LabECAM (Christophe Changenet), which gives me access to both laboratories and their respective areas of specialism: LaMCoS is more focused on contact mechanics, whereas LabECAM has expertise in the field of thermal behaviour of gear transmissions. Because my thesis is largely experimental and the test resources are found in the laboratory, this means that I spend most of my time in Lyon.

What did your integration period with Safran Transmission Systems involve, and how is the partnership going?

From October 21st to November 22nd 2019 – in other words, from the very start of my PhD – I joined Safran Transmission Systems full time in its R&T department. During this period of finding out about and taking ownership of my research subject, this experience was very beneficial to me: it gave me an insight into the current industrial situation, helping me to find the right angle relative to other studies already conducted in this area. I was also in daily contact with the design engineers, enabling me to meet my preferred contacts, experience their working environment and watch a number of tests. A number of other visits and placements at Safran Transmission Systems are also on my schedule for the future, so that I can maintain these contacts and share the latest progress in my work with the R&T team. And, upon completion of my PhD, perhaps even join a Group like Safran?