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Cloudy, with a chance of apocalypse…

If the skies over Northern England and Scotland clear over the next couple of nights, readers lucky enough to live there might get the rare opportunity of seeing the shimmering curtain of the Aurora Borealis over their homes. That’s because, on Valentine’s Day, an enormous tongue of plasma, accompanied by a bubble of magnetic field, erupted from the surface of the sun and started hurtling out into the solar system, resulting in a deluge of charged particles that’s currently hitting the Earth’s protective magnetic field. Solar astronomers call this an X-class flare — one of the more severe variety — and it’s something that might well happen more often as the sun begins to enter a more active phase. Solar weather being as unpredictable as the British kind, it’s

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Leading manufacturers to consolidate facilities

Three of the leading brand names in world machine tools have announced they are planning to consolidate their technical, distribution and administrative facilities based in Leicester. Hardinge Machine Tools/Bridgeport and Jones and Shipman currently operate from premises in Whetstone and Murrayfield Road in the City and are planning to move the majority of the businesses into the current Jones and Shipman building in Murrayfield Road. In addition a second facility closer to the Murrayfield Road site is planned with, in total some 50 personnel re-locating from the Whetstone site. The businesses will continue to operate as two independent companies whilst sharing a single facility. “Against a scenario of improved fortunes in manufacturing output, all three of these flagship bra

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Southern Manufacturing Show 2011

The UK's favourite regional manufacturing technology exhibition opens next week. At the Southern Manufacturing Show (FIVE, Farnborough, 16th and 17th of February) you can see the latest machinery, tooling, production technologies and components; benefit from the free technical seminars and meet the UK's top suppliers in one, easily accessible location. With over 600 exhibitors, free entry,free car parking, Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is a unique event that no manufacturing professional should miss. More information about this event can be found HERE.

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Robotic fish could perform underwater-recovery missions

Researchers at Northwestern University have created a robotic fish that can move from swimming forwards and backwards to swimming vertically almost instantaneously by using a sophisticated, ribbon-like fin. The robot — developed after observing and creating computer simulations of the black ghost knifefish — could pave the way for robots that could perform underwater recovery operations or long-term monitoring of coral reefs. The black ghost knifefish, which hunts for prey at night in rivers of the Amazon basin, uses a weak electric field around its entire body, moving both forwards and backwards using a ribbon-like fin on the underside of its body. Malcolm MacIver, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engi

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Homemade equipment films the Earth from space

Two Sheffield University students have recorded a video of the Earth from the edge of space, using homemade equipment and on a shoestring budget. Alex Baker and Chris Rose, both PhD students from the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, sent a helium-filled balloon with two video cameras and a tracking device up into the atmosphere, filming video and taking pictures as it went. The balloon was launched from Ashborne, Derbyshire, on 17 December 2010, and was in flight for approximately two hours and 50 minutes, before landing in a field in Strethall, Cambridgeshire — a journey of more than 100 miles. The location, which is Rose’s home town, was chosen specifically, as it was predicted that launching there would result in the device landing in a rural area

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Summit considers how to boost growth in UK manufacturing

Manufacturers and government met today at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Summit to discuss ways of boosting growth in the UK’s manufacturing sector. Specifically, they looked at how both parties could work together in promoting manufacturing excellence, challenge perceptions of the industry and dispel the belief that Britain does not produce goods. Will Butler-Adams from Brompton Bikes said: ‘There is a common misconception that there is no manufacturing in the UK, yet we are one of the largest manufacturers in the world; leaders in Formula One (F1), aerospace, defence and, of course, folding bikes to name a few; contributing some 18 per cent GDP.’ Last week, the CBI announced that export orders are driving sustaining growth in the manufacturing sector, a trend tha

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The Engineer’s Top 10 Technologies of 2010

The rapid pace of new technology is part of what makes writing for The Engineer so fascinating. But with so many ideas and inventions appearing every week, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain perspective on which are the most groundbreaking, influential or exciting. These are the developments that have the biggest potential to change our society, or at least attract the most attention. As for which story has been the most popular on our website, that honour surprisingly goes to our coverage of a new gear-changing system for downhill mountain bikes. And the article that’s generated the most comment from our readers? Perhaps less surprisingly, it’s this editorial on the UK’s supposed engineering skills shortage. In full then, The Engineer’s Top 10 Technologies of 2010: 1.

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Delcam has released the 2011 version of its Partmaker software

Delcam has released the 2011 version of its Partmaker software, for programming turn-mill centres and Swiss-type lathes suitable for producing small, complex parts for medical devices and fluid power. Highlights of Partmaker 2011 include a more powerful milling functionality, a more flexible tooling library, improved programming and simulation of bar-fed mills, more detailed mid-process documentation and a host of additional productivity enhancements. Delcam has released the 2011 version of its PartMaker software for programming turn-mill centres and Swiss-type lathes A new way to manage tool inventory has been added based on the use of Master Tools Databases, which can be edited, manipulated and stored through external database programs such as Microsoft Excel. Through this

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Goonhilly to rejoin deep space communications programme

Goonhilly satellite station in Cornwall is to become the UK’s biggest centre for communicating with deep space missions, under plans revealed yesterday. A new consortium, Goonhilly Earth Station Limited (GES), intends to upgrade the former BT Satellite Earth Station with antenna that could transmit signals to spacecraft visiting Mars and asteroids within the Solar System. The planned facility will also act as a radio telescope and could vastly improve the resolution of the UK’s e-Merlin radio astronomy network, an array of seven radio telescopes across the UK, connected to a central correlator at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. ‘The biggest antenna here is 32m and with appropriate low-noise, front-end receivers it will be the equivalent of the current state

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The first sign of green shots?

In a promising announcement for the UK economy, energy firm Centrica says it will create 2,600 jobs this year and is just one of several major companies to this morning reveal plans to boost employment in Britain. Bosses from from Shell, Toyota Jaguar Land Rover, Microsoft and engineering consultancy Amec  – as well as Tesco and Asda – are among those business leaders meeting the Prime Minister today. David Cameron wants to discuss what more the government can do to help companies to create new jobs, building on the seeds of economic recovery that in the last six months, Downing Street says, led to the creation of 300,000 jobs. What and where these jobs are is far more important than the headline figures. More supermarket positions in the southeast won’t be of much comf

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