Materials World June 2020

When putting together this Technology themed issue, it goes without saying that the articles will explore aspects ranging from artificial intelligence, robots and Internet of Things to simulation, data management and digital twins.

But while this might not be our designated ‘People’ issue, what struck me is that all our contributors emphasise the role of people in making sure the technology works for them. One does not replace the other.

Peter Giddings of the National Composites Centre notes in our feature on p20 that ‘the real crux of digital engineering…is the engineer’s understanding of the process so that the right questions are asked in the right way’. While Mark Gray of Universal Robots remarks on p37 that the use of cobots (collaborative robots) ‘does not mean a shift to the lights-out factory, where all human workers are replaced with robots’. He believes that ‘to fully reap the benefits of Industry 4.0, it is necessary to reframe the concept as a balance between human skills and robot capabilities’.

A joint workshop held by IOM3 and the British Standards Institution, meanwhile, further highlights how technology needs to be implemented with consideration of strategy and standards (p44), and there needs to be collaborative effort around this.

We are of course preaching to the converted. And so it has been heartening to see the more public spotlight on individuals and companies that are making the best use of technology through the Ventilator Challenge UK. 

Many industries involved in the UK materials, minerals and mining sectors have furloughed employees to retain skills and expertise or had to make difficult decisions around job cuts. We would like to remind you that there is support available through the Members Benevolent Trust and free advice from IOM3 on gaining professional accreditation to help bolster CVs for those seeking work.
I hope you enjoy this issue.

Rupal Mehta, Editor

News this issue:

3D Printing coral-inspired structures

Biomedical device for health monitoring is powered by sweat

Creating high-performance plastic with water only

Cleaning water using steam

3D printing army parts on demand with a new filament

How post-water treatment steel slag can strengthen concrete

Working through the pandemic

Trainers leave lighter footprint using recycled materials

Carbon nanostructure stronger than diamond

Tin dioxide ultra-thin films become more mobile

Elastic folding on soft matter surfaces aids high-contrast optical sensing.

Keeping food ripe with wood

Get talking – Structural concrete in a zero-carbon future

Get talking – LGBT+ and the data disparity in STEM

Patent of the month – Intellectual property for R&D