The Future is Electric……………….#innovation

The main constraints of electric car technology – range & charging time – have been surmounted by an exciting ‘new’ technology developed by research company Nanoflowcell.

quantinoUsing a liquid battery technology originally developed in the 1950’s & perfected by NASA their Quantino concept car combines positively & negatively charged fluids in fuel cell to generate electricity & harmless water vapour.

The car has achieved a range of over 600 miles on one ‘charge’

Major OEM’s have shown a lot of interest in the technology and the company is in talks with one ‘large manufacturer’ to put the technology into production.

Time will tell but there is little doubt – the automotive future is electric.

Rise of the nanobots………………….#innovation

NanotechnologyThe global nanotechnology-based medical devices market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 11-12% from 2014 to 2019. The rapid surge in aging population, increasing international research collaboration, and increased government support for nanotechnology are the major factors driving the growth of the nanotechnology-based medical devices market.

This is one of the areas in which nanotechnology is set to make an impact and who’s use will grow exponentially & prove to be truly disruptive. It may not be long before, instead of going into hospital for major surgery we simply down a glass of nanobots which travel through the bloodstream to arrive at their pre-programmed destination to perform corrective survey without any disruptive invasive procedure.

Another exciting example of Nanotechnology is self-healing materials. These will be able to repair themselves by utilising tiny robots which live on or in the material itself. The Automotive industry is actively engaged in research to develop self -healing paints which will remain scratch free indefinitely.

Nanotechnology is a truly disruptive advance which is set to transform our world forever.

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Internet of Things edges closer #innovation

The Internet of Things edges closer at the Port of Hamburg. 40,000 vehicles move through the port daily & a smart network of sensors on roads & in parking places is helping to speed the flow. This is the Internet of Things (IOT) in a real world application. The system delivers real time information to a variety of computer systems enabling Logistics to be managed more effectively.

IOT2The real benefits will come with machine to machine communications completely independent of human input. This is the ultimate destination of the IOT & is truly ‘disruptive technology’.

Imagine in the near future the same technology willM62 take direct control of your car during periods of heavy congestion, eliminating bunching & moving large volumes of vehicles inches apart at a constant speed.

The Internet of Things will change society forever & is another example of technology which causes a seismic shift.

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#Innovation leads to Future Disruption……………..#technology

disruptiveIn 1947 Engineers at Bell Labs invented the Transistor. This was followed up by a team at Fairchild Semiconductor who developed the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit (I.C) in 1958. Both examples of ‘Disruptive Technology’ which changed the world forever. The phones & computers we take for granted today would not have been possible without these developments.

The invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 is another example of Disruptive Technology which brings about a seismic shift in society.

So what is the next Disruptive Technology ? In the next posts we will examine some of the emerging technologies which may change the fabric of society forever:-

Graphene – is an allotrope of Carbon which forms a 2D hexagonal lattice one atom thick. It is incredibly strong (100 x that of steel, by weight) & also very light & flexible. It is also incredibly conductive to both electricity & heat. The potential is enormous as a material to be used in the manufacture of aerospace & automotive components.

A number of U.K companies are involved in the development of Graphene including Applied Graphene Materials as are a number of Universities. In March George Osborne officially opened the National Graphene Institute in Manchester  with a government grant of over £38 million.

Once Graphene is produced in industrial quantities its use will transform society with lighter, stronger structures in Aerospace, buildings & Automotive. to name a few. It’s electrical properties will revolutionise electronics. More efficient battery technologies will make electrically powered vehicles commonplace on our roads & its use in solar cell technology will lead to cheaper greener energy.

Graphene will Disrupt Society in ways bounded by our imaginations.

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Flexible circuits promise IOT rewards……….#innovation

flex circuitCambridge 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.

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Who needs driverless cars ? #automotive

driverless__mercedeslMercedes 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.

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10 Technology Predictions which failed…………….#tech

It’s that time of year again when we’re all trying to peer into the fog of the future & predict what’s going to happen in 2015 & beyond. A good rule of thumb to employ is that if the person doing the predicting is described as an ‘expert’ then their forecast will inevitably turn out to be a load of codswallop.

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2014 – Year of Discovery……..#automotive

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.

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#Engineering is boring

auto-innovationEngineering is boring right ? All that clanking with spanners & hammers & getting covered in grease.
This is a common view of people who haven’t got the first clue what engineering is or what it involves.
In the automotive industry there are thousands of engineers working on all kinds of projects & products. The job may involve design using autocad, working with suppliers to develop new components, building prototype cars, testing them in Alasks or the Sahara, getting involved in the manufacturing process, generating business plans and a whole host of other activities. It is tremendously fulfilling to be involved in the design & development of a new car model & see it come to fruition.
There are some fantastic opportunities in Engineering which are highly paid & offer the option to travel which are simply not available in other industries so next time someone says “Engineering is boring” ask them what they do which is so damn exciting.

Jaguar Land Rover goes from strength to strength #innovation

evoque2This week Jaguar Land Rover released the following press statement:-

‘JLR creates 250 new jobs as Halewood is confirmed as the home of the new Discovery Sport
The Land Rover Discovery Sport has been confirmed as the latest model to be produced at Jaguar Land Rover’s Halewood plant. The additional jobs announced to support Jaguar Land Rover’s newest model will see the Halewood workforce reach 4,750 – more than treble the number employed there in 2010. The Halewood plant has benefited from a £200 million investment to support introduction of the first member of the all-new Land Rover Discovery family, taking the total amount invested in Halewood over the last four years to almost £500 million.’
So why are JLR doing so well when volume manufacturers like General Motors Vauxhall and other Marques are struggling:-
1) JLR are taking advantage of a global rise in premium SUV’s driven, to a large extent, by the Chinese market.
2) Their customers are relatively well off & have higher disposable income.
3) They have targeted the export market, with over 80% of sales destined for overseas.
4) Their Quality standards are superior, the attention to detail is exceptional .
5) They have an excellent engineering pedigree with a stable workforce with many, many years experience. There is no other company in the World knows as much about four wheel drive systems as Land Rover.
6) Jaguar Land Rover has a flexible business model & employs many talented & experienced engineering contractors. 
7) They use a proven stage gate development process (described in an earlier post)
8) They have enjoyed massive Capital Investment from Tata investing over 2.75 billion pounds in 2014. Not bad for an organisation which was on its knees before the Tata takeover.