Sir James Dyson has revealed what many automotive industry insiders already knew by rumour – his company is developing an Electric car ! The fact that Dyson have no automotive precedence or manufacturing facility should not be seen as a show stopper – there is plenty of subcontract capacity available (at a price) although his timescale of 2 years to volume manufacture is probably over ambitious.
Many current Automotive specialists will laugh at the idea of Dyson moving into this arena with its complex & demanding legislative requirements but perhaps that is missing the point.
Dyson recently bought innovative Solid State battery development company Sakti3 for $90 million & half of Dysons $2.7 billion will be spent on battery development.
The batteries developed by Sakti3 are Solid State which offer much higher energy densities & battery life than current Lithium Ion batteries.
Perhaps the likely scenario is that Dyson will use his Electric car to showcase the real diamond in the rough – a vastly superior battery technology which will then be licensed to the main automotive players enabling the Wiltshire Innovator to truly ‘clean up’
Cambridge start up Pragmatic I.C has received over 5 million GBP in funding from Cambridge Innovation Capital, ARM plc & others to develop flexible micro-circuits which may be used to embed computing power in everyday objects and bring on the Internet Of Things revolution.
The firm, whose circuits are ‘thinner than a human hair’ is already making prototype devices in its Cambridge facility & reckons its processes are scalable for mass production.
The ability to embed complex circuits in everyday objects which are not flat like clothing, automotive trim, airplane bodies & household items offers tremendous potential for the development of intelligent ‘things’.
Flexible circuits, in themselves, are nothing new in the world of Microelectronics, I remember working on printed plastic circuits 30 years ago at General Hybrid Ltd in Jarrow before the company was unfortunately declared bankrupt.
Potential problems with flexible circuits tend to revolve around component stability & reliability; hopefully PragmaticIC have this covered & they will go on to have tremendous success, having the backing of ARM plc, the U.K’s most successful ‘modern’ electronics company is a terrific bonus & their Innovation is to be admired.
Mercedes Benz has joined the herd of Automotive companies who have followed Google’s lead in developing autonomous (driverless) vehicles for use on public roads.
But where is the demand coming from ? Who actually wants driverless cars ? It may surprise but, according to a recent Government survey, over 46% of us do!
Maybe its the thought of an extra hours sleep on the daily commute or the desire to squeeze another couple of hours work time in our already busy days; perhaps we imagine driving on our congested roads will be more pleasurable if the car takes the strain instead of us – whatever the reasons there is no doubt that some time soon autonomous vehicles will be a common sight on our roads and the investment decisions of the major motor manufacturers will begin to make sense.
Once again Google will be praised by some & cursed by others, but there will be no denying the Organisations prescience.
This year has been an extremely exciting & challenging one for me personally. In January 2014 I signed a 12 month contract with Tata Technologies as Lead Engineer in Exterior Trim developing & bringing to production Jaguar Land Rovers’s Freelander replacement the new ‘Discovery Sport’.
In January I was based in TTL’s Coventry office but spent a lot of time at JLR’s Browns Lane plant in the West Midlands, historical home of Jaguar Cars & now utilised as a Pilot Plant for small scale production.
Walking into Browns Lane was a great experience personally as I met many old friends from JLR having worked on the Range Rover Sport Programme. Although it is a large organization employing many thousands its amazing how many people you get to know working on a project for 18 months.
The pilot build is known as VP build & this stage of the process is very much a learning process. Some trim parts are still not ‘off tool’ & its all about capturing issues via the Automated Issues Management system. This AIMs system is used to track issues & ensure the proper fix is put in place before closure. It provides visibility to Senior Management & its administration is one of the Lead Engineer’s key tasks along with developing engineering solutions & working with key suppliers to ensure timely delivery of quality parts. Most issues require a PACN (to support financial justification) & a Engineering Release to implement the change. As most Engineers are responsible for numerous parts time is rapidly eroded before its time for the next build – Hard Tool Functional Build (HTFB)
This build took place at JLR’s Halewood plant where the Discovery Sport is to be mass produced & which was to be my base for the next 8 months.
Halewood is a large plant which covers several square miles & employs over 8,000 people. Most of the Product Coaches & Line Engineers were involved in the Browns Lane builds so there were many familiar faces at Halewood as well as plenty new ones. Halewood is one of JLR’s centres of excellence & the Engineering knowledge here is second to none.
Over the next 8 months we embarked on a number of builds increasing in numbers & complexity. This is a very stressful period for all & the nearer Volume Launch approaches the pressure piles on.
It was with a mixture of relief & a great sense of achievement when Volume Launch in December was achieved and cars began rolling off the production line at a rate of one every 40 seconds !!
It is important to recognise the economic importance of this model; Tata have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in this venture which has created several thousand jobs at Halewood & employed hundreds of thousands in the wider supply chain. With JLR’s commitment to source 60% of parts within a 40 mile radius the importance to the Regional Economy cannot be underestimated.
To play a small part in this great venture & to help take the Discovery Sport from initial concept to volume production brings a great sense of pride & achievement. firstname.lastname@example.org
You must be doing something really important eh ? running around like a headless chicken all day putting those fires out. You haven’t got time to think about future products because your far too busy fixing the current ones!
But hang on a minute……if your not focusing on those future products where is your future revenue coming from when all the old ones become obsolete?
How do you escape this vicious circle ?
Keep a timesheet to find out how much time you spend fire fighting & how much on future products.
You will probably find it’s 80/20
To turn this around you need to gradually increase the time you spend on future product development to 80%
Resist the urge to persist in fire fighting.
As time progresses the time you spend on fire fighting will decrease because you have put more effort into your future product development, getting it right first time and minimising the need for fire fighting.
In the Automotive# industry thousands of individual components are designed, developed, prototyped, tested and tuned silmultaneously to be brought together as a finished car which has to meet exacting standards for safety, perfomance and reliability.
An incredible feat of engineering and project management which is made possible by the effective use of a rigorous stage gate process based on ISO9001 . Here the output of one stage has to meet pre-defined standards before the project is allowed to move to the next stage.
The key to continued success is the fine tuning of the process itself based on ‘lessons learned’ from previous projects. email@example.com
Quality has a number of definitions, ‘fit for purpose’, ‘exceeding expectations’ ‘meeting specifications’. It can be a tricky thing to measure but we all know it when we perceive it.
Take a Rolex watch for example, the materials used in its construction, its finish, its mechanical integrity all tell us it is a ‘Quality’ item – this is naturally reflected in its price.
Although lots of fakes exist it is impossible to replicate the original without investing the same levels of workmanship and materials into it’s manufacture. This gives us a clue as to the origin of the Quality of the object. It lies in the specification & manufacture of the object within a given set of tolerances.
This is reflected in the luxury end of the automotive industry where body panels are specified as beng within a tight dimensional tolerance which in previous generations of product may have been deemed impossible.
Such tolerances lead to a vehicle which is perceived as high Quality without the buyer neccesarily understanding why.
So, if we can capture the expectations of the customer & translate them into product specifications with tolerances we can design & build something which has increased added value & perceived customer Quality.
How many times do you hear “we can’t get enough Engineers” from Industry & Academia. A recent visit to a Children’s History Museum made me realize how important ‘Meccano’ was to my career in Engineering.
I learned so much from this self assembly kit of parts & fasteners. How to join parts together with nuts & bolts, how gears work, the principle of levers, product design, worm gears, pulley systems, motors, drive systems, how to interpret instructions & so much more.
All this was fundamental to my understanding of basic engineering principles.
If we want to encourage more young people into Engineering we should give them all a kit of Meccano before their 10th birthday – FREE – as part of the Schools budget.
Scientist’s in California are developing a fantastic new process utilizing revolutionary 3D printing techniques & laboratory grown brain matter.
Dr F Stein describes the process:-
” Human brain matter can be grown quite successfully in the laboratory from stem cells. This process can be accelerated using standard pressure cooking techniques which enables us to grow 1kg of pure brain matter in less than a week. This material is then fed into a 3D printer cartridge. A 3D Cat Scan image of the donors brain is then fed into the 3D printer program & an exact duplicate is then ‘printed’ layer by layer.”
“The next step of the process is to store the donors brain which may then be transplanted into her body at a later date; perhaps at the onset of any sign of brain disease”
This incredible innovation ranks alongside other 3D printing firsts like printing your own house, your own robot or your car.
Even Nokia have got in on the act by releasing templates so you can print your own phone cover.