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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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South West set to benefit from renewable marine energy

The marine renewables sector will generate more than 5,750 new jobs and inject an estimated £4.8bn into the South West economy from 2015 onwards, according to a new report. The ORRAD (Offshore Renewables Resource and Development - South West Economic Impact Assessment) report, commissioned by the South West RDA, found that this relatively new sector will be important to the economic future of the region. A research report in October showed that the South West is capable of generating 9,220MW of electricity from various marine sources, enough power for more than double the current domestic electricity needs of the whole of the South West. Once installation of the technology takes place, most of the work will be in ongoing operations and maintenance, with more than 5,000

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Exeter site – closed due to adverse weather

Due to adverse weather conditions in Exeter, if you are trying to contact us please call on 01460 66430 rather than the Exeter number.  Thank you.

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Accelerometers keep prosthetic limbs in step

Technology used in smartphones could make artificial limbs easier to operate by helping users to orient them. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) are working to incorporate accelerometers, used to determine which way up something is, into electronic prostheses. Accelerometers detect changes in gravity or velocity and are widely used in electronic devices, for example to help a smartphone know if you want look at the screen in portrait or landscape format. Associate professor Øyvind Stavdahl and PhD student Anders Fougner have shown that accelerometers can help an amputee to keep their prosthetic limb oriented when attempting new tasks the device is unfamiliar with. ‘Prostheses are driven by the remaining muscles in the severed limb,

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