Blogs

The opinions of Contributors.


The surprising power of energy-harvesting – and what it means for the IoT

An IoT device that can run pretty much forever – a futuristic dream or something designers could actually deliver today? Thanks to modern energy-harvesting techniques – where a device collects the energy it requires from its environs – those creating kit destined for remote industrial or IoT deployments can now rid themselves of the big power challenge that exists when there’s no mains available.


Protecting electrical enclosures in hotter climates

In summer, most us look forward to longer days, holidaying abroad and eating endless amounts of ice cream without feeling guilty. However, spare a thought for plant managers, who fill with dread when the temperature gage begins to increase. Here Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation explains how plant managers can keep electrical enclosures running efficiently during the summer months.


Product Design & Manufacturing Collection gets massive additions – at no additional cost

I spend a lot of time talking to manufacturers who work in automotive, industrial machinery, consumer products and many other industries. One big thing is becoming clearer and clearer to me: manufacturers want a simpler software experience. They want one set of tools that talk to each other, so that product designers can easily pass 3D models to Engineering to simulate and test designs, and Engineering can in turn pass final designs to the production team to set up machining.


The future of 3D printing in education

In the 1950s, the slide rule was the most commonly used classroom tool for mathematical and engineering calculation, but by the mid-1970s, newer technology – the electronic scientific calculator – made the slide rule almost obsolete. Since then, there has been an explosion of new technologies hitting the classroom for engineering and mathematical learning including the computer, the iPad and more recently 3D printers. Here, Simon Biggs, education liaison officer for Wales at global engineering and scientific technology company Renishaw discusses the current use of 3D printers as an educational tool.


Guiding the industry

Konrad Lorenz won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1973 for his experiments with animal behaviour. Lorenz discovered the principle of imprinting, where a bond is formed between a new born animal and a caregiver. This is the mechanism where an auditory or visual stimulus is used to induce the young to follow its parents. In industry, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) use environmental stimuli to follow a specific route. Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation, discusses how automated guided vehicles have advanced from simple materials handlers to intelligent autonomous robots.


Factory automation in the palm of your hand

Smartphone ownership is on the rise. These tiny devices have more computing power than NASA’s machines which guided man to the moon in 1969, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers are exploring the potential uses for viewing HMI/SCADA data on the move. Ian Millington, managing director of adi Automation, a division of the adi Group of engineering Companies, explains more.


Future-proofing exports: achieving compliance in the USA

The decision to leave the European Union was probably the biggest political and economic shift in my lifetime. However, it affects trade with the EU, and the details of that are difficult to predict at the moment, one effect is that UK machine and systems builders are starting to look beyond the EU towards global markets. In particular, many of those are looking across that wider body of water to our west, and wondering if the United States of America may represent the greatest, un-tapped market for them. Over the past 18 months or so, I have been involved with organising a series seminars and presentations on the topic of how businesses can comply with the various standards required for the North American market. Like all standards, these can be acquired, read and understood over time, but learning from the experience of others is certainly the quickest and least painful way to arrive at a starting position to move forward.


How to combat copycat Chinese car makers

The 2017 Shanghai motor show saw several Chinese car manufacturers launch new models which, some say, bore a striking resemblance to those of mainstream European brands. In 2015, a notable example was the Suzhou Eagle Carrie, which appeared a bizarre amalgam of Ferrari and Porsche. The car was branded ‘pastiche’ and its emblem had a strong resemblance to Porsche’s.


Solving the PLC problem

Historically, manufacturing was a predominantly manual industry, but today, industrial automation has transformed the way manufacturers operate. As of 2015, the booming industrial automation industry is worth more than $200 billion globally. Enabling organisations to mass produce commodities and complete tasks with increased speed and quality, industrial automation has become an unbeatable ally in manufacturing environments. Although automation may reign supreme when it comes to choosing machinery, identifying the right automation software can cause headaches.


From racetrack to road: Reflecting on F1’s impact on automotive tech

The UK’s Formula One scene has long been hailed as one the best in the world. Thanks to a first-class ecosystem of high-tech manufacturers, forward-thinking university programmes and established design houses, Britain has built itself a long heritage in automotive innovation.


Balancing risk with IoT benefits: How plants can secure themselves against hacking

The British media widely reported how the recent WannaCry cyber attack largely targeted NHS trusts across the country. However, what was not as widely reported was that the attack also affected many factories across the world, shutting down production and causing concerns about data security. Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, looks at how companies can reap the benefits of interconnected devices while staying safe in the age of cyber attacks.


Driving changes in automotive engineering

Automotive manufacturers are facing far greater challenges than ever before with a skills shortage in engineering, globally; combined with increased demand for customised cars. Thankfully, new technologies can plug the gap and reduce time to market. Stephen Dyson, head of Industry 4.0 at Proto Labs, explains.


When to choose an ironless DC motor

Many engineers consider a low voltage DC permanent magnet motor as something they would find at home in tools and appliances.This is the more conventional iron core DC motor where the windings are wrapped around an iron core with the magnet on the outer casing. Often this as the first type of motor we are introduced to in our science class in school.


Flexible force measurement: The advantages of materials testing on the move

Force measurement is an essential part of product manufacturing across a vast array of industries. However, relying on large and expensive force measurement machines is not always feasible — or even necessary — in all manufacturing applications. Here, John Cove, marketing manager of measurement and metrology expert, Starrett, explains the advantages of using handheld devices for quality inspection and force measurement testing.



Four ways to keep design verification on track

Design verification is a critical stage in the development of a new product, therefore it warrants significant scrutiny from the project team. This stage sits between component sign-off and design validation, and is often under considerable time pressure. Stephen Dyson, head of Industry 4.0 at Proto Labs, looks at how thorough planning and preparation can relieve some of that pressure, and reduce the risk of failing to hit verification deadlines.


PLM vs ERP– do you really need both?

The human body contains over 600 muscles and more than 200 bones. Although the muscular and skeletal systems fulfil separate functions, they also work together to facilitate movement. In many ways, the analogy is relevant for companies deciding between implementing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Here, Bob Hillier, managing director of PLM software expert, Design Rule, shares the best practice for companies caught up in the PLM vs ERP debate.



Building security systems lock down continuous uptime

Moviegoers know the danger of a tiny interruption in a building security system. In Oceans 11—and other fictional heists—just a brief flicker on the security centre’s video monitor tells the audience that thieves have infiltrated the system to execute their nefarious plan.


How ready are you for the future of making things?

British manufacturing is booming and suppliers are looking for different ways to add value to their customers and change the relationships they have with them. In this final part of the series, I look at how even the smallest manufacturing company can achieve this through smart, connected devices.


Are IT and OT the new super duo for plants?

Tom and Jerry, Batman and Robin, Mario and Luigi; some of the world’s favourite duos. Many people wouldn’t add information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to their list of favourite duos, but the convergence of the two has revolutionised the modern factory. Here, Adrian Swindells, director of industrial computing specialist Distec, looks at how plant managers can implement IT and OT together, without any drawbacks.


Improving reliability with outsourced maintenance strategy

Plant maintenance is a highly skilled operation that requires considerable resources for unexpected repairs and long term planning for preventative maintenance programmes. Large scale equipment, such as gas turbines, generators, compressors and large pumps, require specialist knowledge and expertise to maintain optimum performance. Increasingly plant owners are looking to outsource the major elements of equipment maintenance in order to improve reliability and minimise downtime.


Seeing the way to the factory of the future

Around 540 million years ago there was a rapid burst of evolution known as the Cambrian Explosion. One hypothesis for this is that the evolution of vision started an arms race. Complex vision improved the ability of animals to navigate and identify objects; it is now regarded as the most important sense. In industry, machine vision is being incorporated to develop industrial processes further, identify areas of improvement and enable intelligent locomotion within robotics.



Smart manufacturing – the challenges and benefits

Chris Evans, marketing & operations group manager at Mitsubishi Electric explores what is actually meant by 'smart manufacturing' by considering the benefits of adopting the concept and what challenges may lie ahead.