My name is Ajay and on the 30th September I had the pleasure of visiting the J Hudson & Co ACME Whistle factory, along with my classmates from Queen Marys Grammar School. In coordination with our Design and Technology A-level course we visited the factory to see some of the various metal and plastic manufacturing processes in action, such as stamping, nickel plating and injection moulding.
After a short ride to the factory we were greeted by the factory managing director (Simon Topman) who proceeded to give us the tour. He started off by showing us to the room which held Joseph Hudson’s desk where he created the first prototype of the police whistle. He told us about the history of the company and how it all started with the police whistle.
J Hudson had presented his prototype to the police and was promised that he would be contacted in the near future. Days and weeks went by and J Hudson had heard nothing so he decided to contact the metropolitan police. To his misfortune the police informed J Hudson that they had forgotten about him but definitely not his iconic whistle which they had asked another company to make. With a bit of persuasion J Hudson convinced the police to choose him to make the whistle. The next day he had an order of 21,000 whistles. This anecdote brought up and interesting area relating to our Design and technology course – patenting a product. The factory manager informed us about the patent status of the whistle and how it only lasts for so long, however people would still come back to buy from ACME as they are the gold standard in whistles.
After we were informed about the history of the whistle and the various whistles that J Hudson & Co manufactured, Simon asked us one simple question, “Why do we do what we do”. The room fell in to silence. It may have been from the deafening demonstration of the ACME Thunderer. No one actually had an answer to which he replied “to make plenty of money!” He explained a basic form of the business model and how in order to keep costs low an efficient and quality manufacturing process was needed.This brings us on to the next stage of the tour which was a walk-through of the manufacturing process of the whistles themselves. We started off with the world famous metal ACME Thunderer whistle. We saw many processes which related to our course such as stamping and soldering.
First the brass coil was flattened and then the shape and logo was stamped out.
The various components of the whistle were assembled by hand, using and steel wire to hold them in place, and the solder was placed inside the whistle.
The whistle was then passed through a coil which produced ultrasonic sound waves. This heated up the solder and allowed it to flow into all of the joints. The whistle was then quenched so that the solder would set.
We were then taken to the polishing station where each whistle was polished by hand. This was by far the hardest job in the factory due to the volume of whistles need to be polished as well as the skill required to polish the metal without melting it and therefore deforming it.
The clean whistles were strung on to a copper wire and electroplated with 20 microns of nickel.
Finally the whistle was washed and the cork ball was steamed and squashed through the opening so that the whistle could be tested.
We also got to see the injection moulding process used to make the plastic whistles. At the end of the process was packaging. Here we could truly see the scale and the impact that the ACME Thunderer has worldwide.
After this we were taken back to the room which had J Hudson’s desk. We all stood to take some pictures with the large scale whistles and we all received a free plastic and metal ACME Thunderer whistle.
We had learnt previously in class about the design icon that is the ACME Thunderer however to actually see it being made was amazing. The highlight of my day would definitely be seeing the different manufacturing processes I had read about in my A-Level textbook in real life, because to see it in person was extraordinary. Overall, I believe that this experience will thoroughly help me in my studies and I would recommend that any Design and Technology student go see it.