The opinions of our Editors and Contributors.

The unsung heroes behind the world’s most iconic engineering projects

In 1887 Gustave Eiffel had a lot on his mind. With the tower that bears his name not yet completed, the French civil engineer was commissioned to design the locks of the Panama Canal in Central America. Constructing a 50-mile waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the project was fraught with problems from the word go. Some two years after accepting the commission, work was suspended, and Eiffel was hauled before a Paris judge accused of embezzling millions of Francs.

Balancing the digital manufacturing equation with advanced subtractive technology

For a growing number of companies, digital manufacturing is an essential part of efficient product development and prototyping.The ability to quickly build a prototype, test piece, or even a functional component from a design file not only reduces time to market but allows manufacturers to stay competitive in a constantly changing market.

Trust in the thrust

You might be sat on an office chair right now. Or even better, you may be sat on a swivelling bar stool. Both chairs rely on small thrust bearings to endure the thrust load of the human body sat on them, while still allowing for an easy spin. However, Chris Johnson, managing director of thrust bearing supplier SMB Bearings, explains why not all miniature thrust bearings can take on such a task.

Lack of rare materials could prevent transition to renewable energy

New research claims that, in the race against climate change, the renewable energy industry must embrace the circular economy. Failure to do so will result in a shortage of the rare materials used to create solar panels and wind turbines, as well as electric cars and consumer electronics. Here, Matthew Stone, commercialisation director at organic polymer solar cell producer NextGen Nano, explains how energy companies can overcome this obstacle.

How to minimise project disruption due to trade instability

The power of human relationships that create interpersonal bonds, whether in a family, friends or business setting, is more important than ever in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world. Here, Melissa Albeck, CEO of online materials supplier platform Matmatch, explores the critical nature of the supplier-engineer bond.

Meeting the automation challenges of smart manufacturing

It is worth stating that implementing smart manufacturing is a very worthwhile exercise, successfully applying a level of smart manufacturing will bring greater efficiencies and flexibility to any given production process. It is also a significant step toward ‘futureproofing’ a production enterprise.

Fuel cells - controlling the energy of the future

Fuel cells have been hailed as the energy source of the future; they can provide a non-polluting supply of power by re-combining hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity and water. The chemistry sounds very simple, however creating a reliable, efficient and safe energy source requires considerable expertise, especially in the control of the fluids and gases that are involved in this exciting technology.

An argument for small precision motors in defence

From common household appliances like electric toothbrushes and fans, to larger applications in locomotives and industrial plants, motors are ubiquitous. Some of the smallest motors can be found in the defence industry, where precision, efficiency, reliability and compactness are essential. Here, Stewart Goulding, managing director of precision drive system supplier EMS Ltd, explains why small precision motors are essential in the defence industry.

Weighing up the hybrid bearing debate

The best cyclists have a very special mindset, which allows them to focus on the bike and the road, without distraction, ignoring tailwind, overlooking the rain, appreciating the uphill. These escapes from reality are often beneficial, but there are some misconceptions in cycling that aren’t as helpful. Here Chris Johnson, managing director of bike bearings specialist, SMB Bearings, reveals a few home truths about hybrid bearings

AI improves maintenance management for robots

As Industry 4.0 turns into a reality, businesses that are introducing more robots into the production environment will be able to benefit from increasingly efficient maintenance regimes. As with any asset, these critical machines will run at peak efficiency when operators have access to predictive maintenance tools. The latest predictive analytics solution supplied with Mitsubishi Electric industrial robots uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a key feature for optimisation.

Le Grand K and its influence on choosing the right battery partner for T&M equipment manufacturers

In early 2019, scientists across the globe voted in favour of modernising the traditional definition of a kilogram. Historically, it had based on the weight of Le Grand K — a cylinder of platinum and iridium stored in a locked Parisian vault. Here, Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics, explains why designer engineers specifying batteries for test and measurement equipment should care.

The EV overload

The rise of the electric vehicle, or EV, is inevitable. Over the past decade, many car manufacturers, including BMW, Audi and of course Tesla, have blown the lid off this new technology. As EV battery capacity and motor efficiency continue to increase, the ability to charge the batteries within a reasonable timeframe is of the utmost importance. Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, runs us through the problem.

Smart factories just got a whole lot smarter, and it’s about time...

As Industry 4.0 drives the adoption of cutting-edge machines, robots and sensors in manufacturing, network technologies that facilitate their communications to create an interconnected smart factory become even more crucial. Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) offers a key tool to futureproof industrial Ethernet for the Factories of the Future.

Three emerging technologies to transform manufacturing in 2019

A new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed the top ten emerging technologies that have the potential to positively disrupt our economy in 2019. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at automation parts supplier EU Automation, discusses the three of them that are most likely to impact the manufacturing sector.

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.