The opinions of Justin Cunningham.

Printing guns - should we be worried?

Earlier this year there was furore when it was reported that a 3D printed gun made out of plastic, which really didn't work well, was produced. And then last month it was announced that the 'World's first' 3D printed metal gun had been produced. If you have watched the video of the month you will have seen that it actually works pretty well, showing no sign of damage after firing more than 600 rounds. Perhaps it was obvious that someone was going to take on this challenge sooner or later, but should we be worried?

Don’t count out the traditional

While you may often read about the developments of nano materials, graphene, the benefits of carbon fibre or how in the future everything will be made from a high strength plastic, for the most part UK manufacturers rely on making parts from metal, using traditional processes.

Biodegradable plastic: good, bad or ugly?

If you have ever been on a diet you'll know how confusing it can be. You think something is healthy, only to find out later that the benefits aren't quite as hoped. Humus, nuts and smoothies – for example – can be laden with calories. The same goes for many sports drinks. So while you think you are doing the right thing, you can be investing in a false economy.

Some ideas take time...

It seems the demand for innovation is greater than ever, yet it is getting harder to come by. As the world gets more complex, so too are the products and solutions expected from engineers. A survey by IBM of 1500 CEO's from around the world ranked creativity as the single most important competency in business today.

Stay off the bandwagon

As many are embarking on summer holidays and we pause for breath before the run down to Christmas, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the year so far. The last few years have seen a wave of change in the engineering community and the year so far seems no different, in that rarely are things staying the same.

Management must back engineers

'Continuous improvement' is one of many buzz phrases being bandied about at the moment. However the reality is actual change in a product, material or design is usually quite conservative to ensure the affects of change are positive... or indeed minimise them if they're negative.

Onwards and upwards...

It was a year ago that we were getting ready to launch the very first issue of Engineering Materials to the market. Though slightly nervous, we were sure that the concept for the magazine was a great one.

The Proud Factor

A recent press visit to British Airways Engineering near Heathrow airport highlighted two things. First and foremost, we are in good hands. Despite the surprising battering the aircraft receive they are – of course - immensely safe and extremely well looked after.

Can you have too much innovation?

A recent study by the Cass Business School, part of City University London, concluded that excessive innovation can actually be detrimental. It used the Formula One motor racing series as a basis for comparison. F1 is unique in many of the ways it operates and while it is probably not the best case study for a generalisation, it is an interesting and thought provoking conclusion nonetheless.

The circular economy

Never mind China, why are you hoarding scarce raw materials? Why am I? I'm not talking about the lean industrial machines that you all, hopefully, operate within; I'm talking about the consumer which is, of course, all of us.

The importance of selling

I've just spent the last two hours trawling YouTube to find a video for this month's newsletter. I searched a lot, and indeed watched some very cool materials and technologies being tried and tested, discussed and debated. The problem was they were nearly all American.

Questions for my readers...

Join my community, join my network, endorse me, follow me, like me, tweet me, comment on my picture! While it can all sound a little bit self-indulgent and attention seeking, social media seems to be the future. It is a forum for those that are extremely proactive and have interesting things to share, and those with far too much time on their hands.

The future is in your hands

The future is in your hands. This is perhaps more true of engineers than any other profession. Your choices dictate how something is made, how it should be used and ultimately how it should be disposed of. Affecting all of this, however – indeed, perhaps the most vital consideration – is material selection.

Are we avoiding the graduate issue?

At World Skills this week, much of the conversation revolved around the need to inspire the younger generation, make them believe that they can and will succeed, and give them ambition. There was also a great deal of talk about 'practical learning', and the connection between these two themes.

Will electric cars ever be the future?

As I walked up to the entrance of the Low Carbon Vehicle Show yesterday, I was passed by an electric Smart car. It made me smile. It was cute. And novel. 'While they may have a place in niche applications, they are often just as much as about branding and image as they are about reducing carbon emissions.'

Will the UK get left behind?

After a recent trip to the Motek automation show in Stuttgart, one thing was apparent. While figures may suggest that the German economy is through the recession, it was hard to find exhibitors that shared the optimism. Things are still tough and are likely to remain so for some time.

Women in engineering

A recent survey has suggested that women need to think like men to get ahead in a career. But I think that is cobblers.