The opinions of our Editors and Contributors.

Gripper tech: challenges and opportunities

UC Berkeley has developed a machine learning algorithm that enables a robot to determine which gripper is best to use for a particular object. The ambidextrous robot is therefore able to pick up objects of different shapes and sizes. Recent technological advances mean that robots can now perform many of the tasks we traditionally associate with the human hand. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at automation parts supplier EU Automation, outlines the considerations for design engineers when developing gripper technology.

Make an impact in the real world with Digital Twins

Models so accurate they’re a digital twin of the product you’re creating can help you throughout the design and development process. 1D models can help you determine the best architecture for your multi-physics system, 3D models can help you design into the details, and testing can help you improve modelling realism. Combining all the three technologies gives you the highest possible accuracy while making design decisions.

The importance of growing the manufacturing workforce

An issue that has been concerning professionals in the manufacturing industry is the lack of a skilled workforce. While Brexit will end free movement, meaning fewer skilled EU workers will move to the UK, the truth is that a skills shortage already existed before 2016. Employers are in dire need of skilled manufacturers and engineers to combat the current gap, which continues to worsen as older employees retire and not enough properly trained young people enter the industry.

Why we should be happy to embrace edge computing

The benefits of taking the large amount of repetitive data created by machines and automated systems and processing it locally are huge. Edge computing takes the pressure off existing networks, data storage, potentially costly cloud services and software applications. Data is turned into useful information closer to its point of origin and more importantly, in real time.

The business case for metal AM

Every year, the additive manufacturing (AM) industry comes together for the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference, where attendees gain insight into the latest trends, exciting new applications and developments in AM technology. Here Stephen Anderson, additive manufacturing business manager at Renishaw Inc reflects on this year’s conference by discussing how far the AM industry has come and where it is set to go.

Flexible machine vision systems improve manufacturing productivity

In metalworking, tensile tests are conducted to test the ductility of a material, often to determine the most suitable metalworking process. While we have tests in place to assess the flexibility of a material, there is no such test for a machine vision solution. Why? Because they simply aren’t flexible — until now. Here Harel Boren, CEO and co-founder of Inspekto, the founder of Autonomous Machine Vision, explains why flexible visual quality assurance (QA) systems are needed for the industry to progress.

Why design engineers should consider mechanical stress on materials

It’s unlikely that any design engineer would knowingly develop a product that was unfit for purpose or unable to last. But without close attention to materials selection, this can be the fate of many products due to mechanical stress and natural creep. Here, Richard Huber, materials scientist at materials comparison site Matmatch explains the impact of mechanical stress on commonly used materials.

Focussing less on tech and more on impact is key to success in Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0. The industrial internet of things. Digitalisation. Smart manufacturing. The fourth industrial revolution. There are dozens of different names for the uptake in connected technologies and the convergence of IT and OT systems taking place in industry at the moment. One thing most people do agree on, however, is that it’s tech-driven. But should this really be the case? Here, George Walker, managing director of industrial automation expert Novotek UK and Ireland, makes the case for goal-driven digitalisation.

Energy recovery systems – using high speed generators to capture energy

Energy Recovery Systems from KEB combine lots of the company’s unique leading-edge technology. These systems also highlight the breadth of KEB products and its ability to integrate these together to provide a comprehensive turnkey solution, says Jonathan Bullick of KEB Automation (USA).

Are wearables the answer for an ageing population?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by 2050, the worldwide population over 60 will have doubled to reach two billion people. With most age-related illnesses beginning at the age of 50, it’s clear that this will have an impact on the world’s medical services. Here, Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager of global battery manufacturer Accutronics, looks at how wearables could help medical services manage the long-term health conditions that an ageing population brings.

Are bearings really such a bad investment?

Explosive growth in the offshore wind sector and aggressive renewables targets in India are expected to drive a ten-year CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.2% in Asia Pacific. Here, Chris Johnson of bearing supplier SMB Bearings explains why, quite frankly, you should set no store in this information whatsoever.

Being positive

I first joined the engineering press in 1995 – almost exactly 24 years ago at the time of going to press, in fact. Over what is nearly quarter of a century, a near constant theme has been the drive to increase the numbers of women in engineering.

OPC UA in the smart factory

The story of the Tower of Babel describes a time where all human beings spoke the same language. When the Babylonians decided to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven, God stepped in and created a multitude of languages so the builders could no longer understand each other. The result? The tower was never completed. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at industrial parts supplier EU Automation, explains the universal language of automation equipment ? OPC UA.

Breathing life into submarine systems

Submarine life is no easy feat. Historically, these vessels would stay underwater for just a few days, before resurfacing to exchange stale air for fresh oxygen. Today’s submarines however, use oxygen systems to enable travel for up to 90 days at a time. Chris Johnson, managing director of specialist bearing supplier SMB Bearings, explains how to extend the lifespan of components in these vital air purification systems.

Sensors enable more complex robot inspection measurements

Sensor technologies enable robot measurement tasks where there is a growing need for high precision measurements over wide surface areas and where there are requirements for increased flexibility, says Chris Jones, managing director of Micro-Epsilon UK.

Making smart products smarter

Two years ago, most companies were just beginning to grapple with issues like connectivity and thermal management for smart product designs. Now, no-one is asking, “Do we need smart functionality?” Instead, product development teams and executives alike are asking, “How do we design the most innovative smart products to win in the digital economy?”

Make way for effortless customisation

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, automotive manufacturing fell by 11% last summer. Among the reasons cited for this decrease was growing demand for customisation and an increase in car model changes. Lee Sullivan, regional sales manager of automotive software supplier COPA-DATA UK, explains how automotive manufacturers can embrace easy customisation by using automation software.

Making the most of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing and engineering

Industry 4.0, otherwise known as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, is gradually changing the manufacturing and design engineering landscape as we know it. More than just a buzzword, Industry 4.0 is not only changing the way in which goods are produced, but the ways in which businesses operate too. From additive manufacturing to automation – the speed of change is increasing.

No magic wand

Recent high-profile events have proved sobering for those making the argument for increased automation as a safety measure. The most significant of these has been the case of Boeing’s 737 MAX, which has suffered two tragic and catastrophic crashes resulting in extensive loss of life and the grounding of the aircraft.

The role of energy harvesting sensors in the factory of the future

Despite being named among the world’s smartest animals, most ground squirrels spend around nine months of the year in hibernation. Perhaps this is evidence that rest and recuperation provide the energy needed to work efficiently. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager for global automation parts supplier EU Automation, explores how energy harvesting sensors could improve manufacturing plant operations.

The growing need for lower-volume bespoke manufacturing

Welcoming 3,700 exhibitions from 63 countries, Bauma is the world’s leading trade fair for construction. No surprise then, that visitors witnessed a plethora of new technologies launched at the 2019 show. In this rapidly-changing market, Roger Brereton, head of sales at Pailton Engineering, explains why mid-level volume, bespoke manufacturing in the tier-two realm is increasingly important to allow for these innovations.

How to make Valyrian steel

Valyrian steel is one of the few known substances that can kill the monstrous White Walkers in Game of Thrones (GoT). The secret to forging Valyrian steel, however, is seemingly lost in the Doom of Valyria and so creating new Valyrian steel weapons has been deemed impossible. Luckily the show’s fictional threat is no real-life concern but here, Ben Smye, head of growth at materials search engine Matmatch, explores the materials that inspired GoT’s Valyrian steel.

Is your supply chain compliant?

Hyundai and Kia had to recall 1.4 million cars globally in April 2017 because engines were prone to stalling and failure, increasing the likelihood of a fatal crash. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that your entire supply chain is ISO/TS 16949 compliant. Here, Chris Johnson, managing director of automotive bearing specialist SMB Bearings, explains why quality assurance is essential, even for the smallest of automotive components.

5G + edge: Further optimising the supply chain

Edge computing is making its way into the manufacturing industry, helping manufacturers gather and process data instantly and optimise their supply chain processes. While the move to edge computing might be top of mind for manufacturers now, looking ahead, the integration of 5G will take edge computing capabilities to previously unimaginable heights throughout multiple areas of the supply chain.