The opinions of Contributors.

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.

Stop positioning yourself using Industry 4.0

I recently read this description about a common writing faux pas while searching for examples of mixed metaphors: "In Garner's Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner offers this classic example of a mixed metaphor from a speech by Boyle Roche in the Irish Parliament: 'Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat. I see him floating in the air. But mark me, sir, I will nip him in the bud.'"

Tips for choosing a 3D vision system for manufacturing

With four times as many as colour receptors as humans, the Mantis shrimp has the most impressive eyes in nature.Manufacturers have long relied on human vision for complex picking and assembly processes, but 3D vision systems are beginning to replicate the capability of human vision in robotics. Here, Nigel Smith, managing director of Toshiba Machine partner, TM Robotics, gives three rules to live by when choosing a 3D vision system for manufacturing.

Industry 4.0: The Smart Factory

As the UK moves forward with plans to embrace the fourth industrial revolution, it’s no longer enough for manufacturers and engineers to simply think in a smart way, you must be looking at what infrastructure you have in place and working towards creating a smarter environment.

Making the most of your digital manufacturing services provider

When you’re considering digital manufacturing for a part or product, you might be expecting a single-process solution but, in reality, you could get quite a lot more. If you choose the right supplier, you could benefit from additional services not usually promoted with the standard offer – services that can make a huge difference to the construction or finish of a final product. Stephen Dyson, head of industry 4.0 at Proto Labs, takes a look at some of the added benefits which are often ‘hidden treasures’.

Making Britain’s manufacturing smarter

First came the dawn of mechanical machines, succeeded by the introduction of electricity, quickly followed by the third industrial era, the advent of computers and the internet. Now, as we enter the so-called fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is moving from buzzword to reality. In this article, Martyn Williams, managing director of industrial software provider, COPA-DATA UK, examines what is needed to achieve Britain’s goal of becoming an Industry 4.0 leader in 2018.

When money meets manufacturing: designing the payments of the future

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not new. In fact, connected devices with a wide range of functionalities are already widely used in the home, a trend that shows no sign of abating. In fact, Gartner has predicted that there will be 20.8billion connected ‘things’ by 2020, an increase from 6.4bn in 2016. However, with increasing demand for such technologies comes a shift in consumer expectation. Today as consumer awareness of IoT builds, there is the growing expectation that it should play a role at every touch point of the customer journey.In turn, such demand has encouraged payments to become the perfect ‘finishing touch’ and provide a pivotal role in the evolution of IoT.

Automating the manufacturing industry – how to integrate your robot co-workers

The role of physical robots is well recorded in the manufacturing industry, although not necessarily in the humanoid forms that frequent our television screens. The recent Made Smarter review of British manufacturing argues that digital technologies such as automation could give the sector a significant boost and create thousands of new jobs. The speed of these developments is reflected by the emergence of a second generation of robots, capable of much more than the rigid, single-arm machines often associated with the so-called ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

Inclusivity creates innovation

This week the government released its Industrial Strategy, aiming to drive productivity within the UK. But is a lack of engineering skills and diversity within UK industry holding back productivity and competitiveness? What is being done to encourage young people to take an engineering career path? Here, winner of the Made in the Midlands Women in Engineering award, Rachel Wiffen, gives her take on the engineering industry’s skills shortage and how this may be related to a severe equality issue.

Power quality in HVAC applications: Keeping your systems cool when things get hot

Most people can remember a time when they've walked into a room and seen one person dressed for the arctic while the person next to them looks like they're in the Bahamas. Although disagreements over heating like these have led to fights in some offices, for most businesses poor power quality in HVAC systems can do more damage financially. Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of REO UK, explains how to keep your HVAC running cool when things get hot.

Rapid prototyping with CNC machining and injection moulding

Rapid prototyping is often regarded as being synonymous with additive manufacturing (commonly termed 3D printing) technologies. But a compelling case can also be made for CNC machining and injection moulding as rapid prototyping technologies as well, argues Stephen Dyson of specialist rapid prototyping provider Proto Labs.

Why do DC motors have brushes?

DC motors with brushes? What are their purpose? Are they really needed? To know the answers to these questions, we need to know how DC motors operate. Let’s begin by looking at the elements that make up a DC brushed motor.

Independence drives collaboration in the smart factory: Stop, collaborate and listen

Independence for collaboration. This concept might sound like an oxymoron, but in the era of smart manufacturing, valuing independence can be the difference between failure and success. Here, Martyn Williams, managing director of industrial software specialist COPA-DATA UK, explains why manufacturers should consider independence when striving for more collaborative facilities and supply chains.

Requirements-based relubrication to prevent unplanned downtime of machine tools

Statistically, defective rolling bearings and linear guidance systems are the most frequent causes of machine tool downtime. Insufficient lubrication or contamination, and in isolated cases, even mounting errors are frequently responsible for unplanned linear guidance system failures before the end of the systems’ expected operating life is reached. Requirements-based relubrication of rolling element recirculation guidance systems now enables unplanned machine downtime to be drastically reduced and availability of machine tools to be significantly increased.

Is your robot battery up to the task?

The very purpose of using a robot to automate a process relies on the robot being accurate and repeatable. As robots move from environments where they were traditionally used behind cages to open environments, it is important that their power solutions keep up. Here, Michele Windsor, global marketing manager at battery specialist Ultralife Corporation, explains why plant managers need to consider smart batteries for industrial and service robots.