Blogs

The opinions of our Editors and Contributors.


Electrifying vehicle technologies

Despite appearing to be a modern phenomenon, the first electric vehicle took to the road in 1832 and in 1899, outselling all other available options, including steam and gasoline powered vehicles. Since 1935, with the invention of the internal combustion engines, gasoline-powered vehicles have become the popular choice. This changed in 2016, which saw a record in the sale of electric vehicles worldwide, with 750,000 cars sold.


Disruption is the new normal

In the technology sphere, ‘disruptive’ can sometimes seem an overused term. So much so, in fact, that it almost feels rare to encounter a new product or technology that isn’t instantly labelled ‘disruptive’ in its publicity material.


How thin cell batteries are revolutionising industry

In 2011, Chinese engineers claimed to have made the world’s first shrinking device. While it may sound like it came from a film, the device only creates the illusion of a smaller object, rather than actually shrinking it. Illusions aside, it is clear that devices in the electronics sector are continuing to get smaller. Here, J.D. DiGiacomandrea, applications engineering manager at global battery manufacturer Ultralife Corporation looks at how thin cell batteries are revolutionising a number of industrial sectors.


Should robots pay taxes?

Robot tax? A tax on robotics is as absurd an idea as a tax on pencils. As Britain’s political parties discuss a potential tax on automation and robotics, Nigel Smith, managing director of Toshiba Machine partner, TM Robotics, explains why slowing down the machine economy would lead to a productivity disaster.


How will surgical robots change hospital power requirements?

In January 2018, the NHS invited companies to tender for a contract to provide £300m worth of surgical robots to surgeries across the UK. With it now only a matter of time before robots become commonplace in UK hospitals, Steve Hughes, managing director of medical power component manufacturer REO UK, explores the power demands they will bring with them.


Ones to watch: electric vehicles, intelligent workplaces and next-gen robots

There’s been a lot of flux in the UK manufacturing industry. We have seen the positives of emerging technologies, a renewed commitment to the government’s Industrial Strategy and the CBI reporting the industry ended last year on a high with strong orders on the book. However, automation of jobs has left workers in many industries feeling nervous about the future and we saw output fall unexpectedly in February, the first decline in almost a year.


Bridging the skills gap with automated engineering

According to the State of Engineering Survey by Engineering UK, the industry requires 265,000 new skilled entrants annually in order to meet demand by 2024. Here, Martyn Williams, managing director at industrial software provider COPA-DATA UK, examines Britain’s engineering skills shortage and explains how automated engineering can redefine the role of the manufacturing engineer and ultimately bridge the skills gap.


What now for driverless vehicles?

The recent death in Arizona of a woman after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber has inevitably cast a shadow over this area of technological development. In no small part this is because it is precisely the sort of incident the safety systems in such cars are supposed to make virtually impossible.


Robotics boom creates components shortage

A global surge in robotics manufacturing has created a shortage of common industrial components required for other industries, according to suppliers. For example, the increased demand for bearings for use in robots has created significant delays in the supply of bearings for other industry sectors. Specialist bearings distributor SMB Bearings has experienced this first hand and is making investments to address the shortage.


Bringing military medical devices into the 21st century

In the 15th century, soldiers injured in battle were left on the battlefield for two to three days until their condition either stabilised or they died. Since the efforts of surgeon Ambroise Paré in the same century, one of the forerunners in improving medical treatment for injured soldiers, the care that soldiers receive today is much safer, quicker and well organised. Here, Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager of professional battery manufacturer Accutronics explains how portable and wearable technology is supporting the future of military medical devices.


The ultimate light-weight military vehicle

The sheer variety of military vehicles currently out for tender demonstrates the lack of consensus on military vehicle design at present. However, it does also highlight the willingness of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to push the envelope, contributing to the development of high-tech, well-armoured and incredibly agile military vehicles. It is because of this that, steering system specialist, Pailton Engineering was determined to meet an unusually difficult specification of a particular military vehicle OEM.


Taking a closer look at tantalum

Last month, comic book fans flocked to cinemas as Black Panther hit the screens. Underpinning the film’s plot was fictional metal vibranium, which powered the titular hero’s kingdom of Wakanda. Interestingly, this metal was, in part, inspired by tantalum. So, what of the marvellous metal’s real-life counterpart? Here, Heiko Wildner, refractory metals specialist for materials comparison site Matmatch, examines the value and considerations of using tantalum.


Innovation needs protection to thrive

As modern British innovators go, it is fair to say that Trevor Baylis CBE perhaps exemplified a certain archetype. With his invention of the wind-up radio, he perfectly represented the independent, self-motivating – perhaps idiosyncratic – inventor and rose to deserved fame as a result.


Vertical integration in the smart factory: Combating layers of communication

Manufacturers have long reaped the benefits of acquiring data from operational equipment, allowing machinery to communicate and improve the manufacturing process. Today, a study by Gartner suggests that manufacturers are keener than ever to begin vertically integrating enterprise and IT technologies, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, sensors and the cloud, with traditional operational machinery. Here, Lee Sullivan, regional sales manager at COPA-DATA UK, explains the advantages and challenges of vertical integration in the smart factory.


Combatting the design challenges that high temperatures and uncertain conditions pose

One of the numerous benefits of technology is that it allows businesses to optimise operations in extreme conditions, with more devices being designed for use in challenging environments. However, this presents a challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) tasked with designing these products. Here, Michele Windsor, global marketing manager at professional battery manufacturer Accutronics, looks at how design engineers can tackle the extreme challenge.


Why manufacturers need to take ownership of the plastic problem

A recent study by Plymouth University reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, while a second report, by scientists at Ghent University in Belgium, calculated that people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Here, Miguel Campos, export sales manager at leading European packaging manufacturer, Advanta, explains why manufacturers, particularly in the food sector, must take control of getting the plastic epidemic under control by stopping it at the source.


A guide to thin section bearings in industrial robots

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) often highlights consumer trends towards robotics and this year, the spotlight remained on robot personal assistants. Inspired by the show, Chris Johnson, managing director of precision bearings provider SMB Bearings, explains what design engineers, as well as end users specifying a robot, should know about thin section bearings.


The requirements of a successful acquisition

A year on from its acquisition of UK based professional battery manufacturer Accutronics, global battery manufacturer Ultralife Corporation is now reflecting on the key strategies that allowed the successful merger to take place. Here, Philip Fain, the company’s CFO and treasurer, looks at what makes a successful acquisition.


Making smarter investments in automation

Highlighted in the Government’s Made Smarter Review, industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs) are transforming the manufacturing industry — that’s artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, intelligent software, virtual reality and cutting-edge robotics. Here, Nigel Smith, managing director at TM Robotics, explains why manufacturers in Britain shouldn’t blindly invest in IDTs and instead, should use Made Smarter to make smarter automation investments.


Collaborative robots – risks and rewards

When you are contemplating how to complete a challenging, tedious, dirty (or even dangerous) job there is usually a heightened sense of satisfaction when you actually get it completed. That sense of accomplishment on completing the job will occur the first time you do it and perhaps even after the first few times. However, over time, these types of jobs are likely to become more tedious and subsequently could have a negative impact on operators and may also prevent them from spending time on higher value tasks in the manufacturing plant. This may come as a surprise given what we do for a living, but installing an industrial robot to take over tedious or monotonous work may not always be the answer. That’s because not all robots are equal.


Passport to export post-Brexit

The current uncertainty surrounding Brexit and what it will mean for British businesses has forced many companies to begin targeting markets outside of the European Union (EU). Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, explains what businesses need to consider when planning to export to its second largest export market, the US.


Britain prepares for Industry 4.0: The optimist’s view on the future of work

Released at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018, the ‘Readiness for the Future of Production’ report highlights Britain as one of 25 countries in a positive position to benefit from Industry 4.0. However, much of the media coverage following the release of the report has centred on the threat these technologies pose to jobs. Here, Martyn Williams, managing director of automation software provider, COPA-DATA UK, explains why automation could create more jobs than it replaces.


Factors to consider when selecting draw wire position sensors

When selecting draw wire position sensors, a number of factors need to be considered, including their size and compactness, measuring range, output options and ease of customisation for high volume OEM applications, says Chris Jones of Micro-Epsilon.


5 product design trends to keep an eye out for in 2018

PTC helps companies around the world reinvent the way they design, manufacture, operate, and service things in and for a smart, connected world. In 1986 it revolutionised digital 3D design, and in 1998 were first to market with Internet-based product lifecycle management. Today, its leading industrial innovation platform and field-proven solutions enable you to unlock value at the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. With PTC, manufacturers and an ecosystem of partners and developers can capitalise on the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) technology today and drive the future of innovation. David Grammer, PTC UK’s senior vice-president, looks towards 2018 and 5 product trends to keep an eye out for.


How mobile solutions in the manufacturing industry support ergonomic machine operation

Gone are the days where an engineer would monitor one, or a small number of machines. Today, maintenance and service technicians are constantly on the move, monitoring multiple machines and potentially, multiple facilities. Here, Lee Sullivan, regional manager at industrial software specialist COPA-DATA UK, explains how engineers can monitor machinery performance on the move.