Blogs

The opinions of Justin Cunningham.


We need to automate past skills shortages

For many, automation is a bit of a dirty word. There’s negative connotations driven from past job losses that are, perhaps, unfair. Automation is really about efficiency, productivity and getting people to do more than just a single repetitive task of varying complexity. The truth is automation highlights a scarcity in skills, rather than creating a scarcity of jobs.


Banning diesel from the capital?

It’s happened. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has put a tariff on vehicles made prior to 2006 driving in the capital. It means those vehicles travelling within the effected zone – the same as the Congestion Charge Zone – will have to pay an additional £10 for the pleasure, in addition to the Congestion Charge and the astronomical parking fees.


Will A.I. make engineers redundant?

I’ve heard it said many times, if the industrial revolution was about amplifying muscle power, the information revolution is about amplifying brain power. More than that, it is about amplifying computation and dealing with incomprehensible amounts of data and complexity to find fresh insights into our world. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the modern-day equivalent to the steam engine. The roll out of these two broad technologies will fundamentally change life as we know it. Except, instead of it happening over 150 years like the industrial revolution, it’s predicted to happen in just 20 to 40 years.


Driven by e-motion: ICE's long goodbye

In pre-recession 2007, I attended a lecture at Imperial College London on Peak Oil. The speaker, an academic with close ties to the oil and gas industry, believed Peak Oil had, in fact, happened. He claimed, it was entirely possible the lights would go out beyond 2012 and that the internal combustion engine would become obsolete almost overnight as the pumps ran dry.


Engineers need AI to keep up but will it make them redundant?

The pace of technological change and rate of innovation is getting to the stage that it is proving impossible for the human brain, or even a team of the brainiest brains, to keep up. It means, industries are increasingly turning to AI to help them develop better products and services. It's the next logical stage of harnessing the immense computation power now possible beyond the calculator and PC. AI is about learning patterns and not simply ‘-if -this -else’ functions. This ability to learn is essentially what makes AI different from programs of the past.


21st Century Concorde: The loopy hype behind hyperloop

Am I the only one that sees the serious flaws in Hyperloop? I get the theory, I do, but practicality makes the technology simply too far ahead of its time. This is the 21st Century equivalent of the Concorde: expensive, complex and ultimately destined to fail. The money needed to make Hyperloop successful is a fraction of what's currently on the table. And then there are the planning restrictions of putting giant metal pipelines throughout the countryside. It won't look like the future, it will look ugly, which will almost certainly push Hyperloops underground.


Digital designs, physical products

Our cover this month investigates the uptake of virtual reality in the engineering industry and asks if goggles and gloves are more than just a passing gimmick. My gut feeling is this technology is still finding its feet in terms of application, and still too niche for the mainstream. That, however, won't last much longer - and we are teetering on the edge of much wider uptake. So why is VR going to be massive?


Exciting times for UK engineers

Changes are afoot here at Eureka! For starters, you may have noticed it's no longer the fine Scotsman, Tim Fryer, staring at you this month, but his flaxen-haired colleague. So, let me start by wishing Tim all the best as he goes on to pastures new and thank him for his hard graft, diligence and ongoing support of the UK's vibrant engineering industry.


Pressure is building on the automotive industry to reduce emissions

Deadlines mean different things to different people. To some, they're rigid; stuck hard and fast with little or no wiggle room. For others, it's simply a moment to reassess progress. Regardless, the general trait is to leave more to the last minute than is comfortable. So, as pressure mounts to deliver, the last push is often the most productive time of a project.


BREXIT: HAVE YOUR SAY

BREXIT. Whether you're discussing it at home, in the office or in the pub, you'll have heard all sorts of claims, facts, views and opinions. So what's yours? We want to hear from YOU, our engineering readership - those that are as passionate as we are about industry and innovation. So take a few minutes to leave a short comment starting with IN or OUT, and then explain why...


Design Evolution vs Technology Revolution

Did you know there is such a thing as the VW Golf syndrome? It's not those that simply love the car, but rather more of a condition that most engineers and designers suffer from at some point in their careers.


Are we about to say goodbye to the steel industry?

The metals industry's woes continued this week, as Tata Steel, the UK’s largest producer, announced a further 1050 job cuts. While the material has seen a steady decline in demand by most major sectors, its actual manufacture tells another, more troubling, tale.



Is it time to take humans out of the loop?

I admit it, I'm a pretty terrible back seat driver. It is not so much that I'm particularly vocal with advice to others, it's more that I'm what's called 'a flincher'. Get too close, brake too late or even change lanes, and there I am, quietly tensing up, getting nervous and generally looking uncomfortable.


High volume composite manufacture finally here?

I remember talking to spacecraft engineers about composite materials over 15 years ago, and how the commercial aircraft industry would struggle to ever capitalise on the materials advantageous properties. And they did struggle, but it is hard to now ever imagine Boeing or Airbus ever going back to that low-tech heavy shiny stuff from yesteryear.


Why I’m happy in January

January. It can be a bit of a long and depressing month can't it. But there is reason to be cheery.


The cost of all this innovation

Is industry in danger of doing a bit of a bank job given this spending spree we're witnessing? Everyone agrees innovation is a good thing, but who exactly is paying for all this rejuvenation? It certainly isn't free.



What to make of the ‘makers’

I thought I was getting too old to think about joining any sort of movement, particularly one with a reputation for having a bit of a cult following. I've heard murmurs about this 'maker movement' for some time now, but I've never quite got it.


Is rail industry set to lightweight with composites?

Introducing exotic materials into sectors where metallic's have ruled, has always been a challenge for the composites industry. However, after making successful inroads in to the automotive sector, it has now set its sights on rail applications.


The winning position

One of the main goals of Engineering Materials is to encourage the use of material innovations and corresponding technology, to enable product advantage. Go lighter, stronger, quicker, or whatever, by using the right material, in the right way, for the right application. And this is a fluid process that is ever changing.



The cost conundrum

Self-improvement comes with a cost. Whether it's a personal or company-wide goal, investment of time and money - upfront - is a necessary expense. And while we would like to see the fruits of our labour quickly, the reality is that real change takes time, which makes justifying that initial outlay difficult.


Keeping up with technology

If you're still trying to get your head around 3D printing, and how to use it, then you're already behind the curve. That's because 3D printing has become old news to some with the focus now firmly on 4D printing.


Realistic expectations

There is quite a lot of debate at the moment around fracking that is leading to wider discussions about the UK's energy mix. The problem is largely one of ignorance and desire of the impossible. Politicians have been unable to get the message across that compromises have to be made and that cheap, clean, ubiquitous energy is not yet a possibility for the UK.