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Industrial software applications spend to soar 16/01/2020

There are plenty of opportunities for all types of suppliers to meet manufacturers' appetite for data according to new research from ABI Research.

Factories today run on data. To harness that data, manufacturers are turning to software applications such as Electronic Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Inventory Management, and CRM and Demand Planning. The spend in the industrial and manufacturing sector on these applications is set to grow from US$18 billion in 2019 to just over US$27 billion in 2024, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

“Data underpins activities such as onboarding raw materials, optimizing the production line, organizing the facility, and even to understand clients and the final customer,” says Michael Larner, Principal Analyst at ABI Research.  

ERP systems account for over fifty percent of the spend as they provide customers with a single solution to monitor activities on the production line, to understand the firm’s ability to fulfill orders as well as automate many back-office functions. MES software is expected to be the highest growing segment as manufacturers look to optimize the performance of individual machines and the production line. The spend on MES is forecasted to grow by 13.5% CAGR and be worth US$2.3 billion in 2024.

A diverse mix of vendors are targeting the industrial markets including software giants Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP, and those with a heritage in industrial manufacturing such as ABB, GE, and Honeywell. The vendor mix includes others with an industrial focused software portfolio, such as Dassault Systèmes and Siemens, and start-ups like Katana and Archdesk, which are helping smaller manufacturers scale. “Supplier propositions are evolving. For example, ERP suppliers continue to add modules such as MES and MOM while inventory management providers are adding demand planning capabilities. Both are blurring segment definitions,” Larner adds.

The software applications no longer just provide data regarding the current conditions. As a result of suppliers investing in AI and machine learning, the applications’ analytical capabilities can help manufacturers plan for future scenarios in their facilities and the wider operating environment.

“Data now flows from the production line to the boardroom and, thanks to APIs, between the software applications. Manufacturers should partner with system integrators to design and assemble their data jigsaw,” Larner concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Software Applications in the Manufacturing Setting application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial & Manufacturing research Service. Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

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New tool for businesses to measure circular economy performance 17/01/2020

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched a new tool that is designed to provide businesses with a unique opportunity to measure their circular economy performance.

Businesses are under growing pressure to move beyond solely measuring impact in terms of revenue, profit, and shareholder value. Increasingly, they are recognising their responsibility and power to play a key role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change and pollution. There is growing understanding that the circular economy can deliver critical solutions toaddress these global challenges, while creating new opportunities for companies to thrive in the long term.

To make strategic decisions that lead to the best outcomes, companies need access to the right data. To date however, measuring the circularity of an entire business, not just its products, has beendifficult. This can slow the adoption of circular economy practices and has made it harder for businesses to fully capitalise on the opportunities they represent.

Circulytics is a tool that helps companies understand the full extent of their circular economy performance with supporting insights from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It provides companies withopportunities for improvement, and the ability to track progress against key metrics over time.

Companies will receive a report featuring a Circulytics score alongside tailored insights and commentary from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The process is designed to enable businesses to fullyrealise circular economy opportunities to generate revenue, design out waste, keep materials and products in use, and create environmental benefits. It will provide comprehensive tracking of company progress against key measures and deliver unprecedented clarity about circular economy performance, opening up new opportunities to generate brand value with key stakeholders. Companies will choose whether they publish their results.

Circulytics has already been tested by a group of more than 30 companies from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s network, including BASF, Brambles (and the subsidiary CHEP), Connected Energy, DSSmith, Enel, Essity, Granta Design, Hera Group (and the subsidiary Hera Luce), Ingka/IKEA, Lucart, Novo Nordisk, The Renewal Workshop, Royal BAM Group, Solvay, Sulapak, Tarkett, Teleplan, and Unilever.

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Call for papers for CM 2020 conference 08/01/2020

The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) has issued a call for papers for the Seventeenth International Conference on Condition Monitoring and Asset Management (CM 2020).

The conference will take place from Tuesday 30 June to Thursday 2 July 2020 at the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel and Conference Centre, London Heathrow, UK. The theme for CM 2020 will be: ‘The future of condition monitoring’.

CM 2020 will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to network with academics and industrialists from all over the world. Leading figures in the fields of CM and asset management will be presenting at the conference, with the very latest developments in these fields being revealed, ensuring all attendees will learn something.

The conference is being organised by BINDT in close partnership with the International Society for Condition Monitoring (ISCM) and the US Society for Machinery Failure Prevention Technology (MFPT). This combination of the efforts of these leading organisations creates one of the largest events of its kind at a truly international level and builds on the highly successful 16 international condition monitoring conferences organised by BINDT, the First World Congress on CM in 2017 organised by BINDT and ISCM and 71 annual conferences organised by the Society for MFPT.

Papers are invited on all aspects of CM including:

  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning and pattern recognition
  • Asset management
  • Big data and data analytics for CM
  • Certification, education and training in CM
  • CM systems and case studies
  • CM for biomedical and healthcare applications
  • CM and diagnosis methods and technologies
  • Data mining and fusion
  • Design and lifecycle integrity
  • Digitisation of CM
  • Engineering standards in CM
  • Equipment troubleshooting
  • Instrumentation for CM
  • Integrated vehicle health management (IVHM)
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Machinery failure analysis and prevention
  • Maintenance including planning, scheduling, repair and overhaul
  • Materials and structure health monitoring
  • Modelling and signal processing for CM
  • NDT
  • Physics of failure, fault/failure modes
  • Prognostics
  • Risk assessment
  • Root cause analysis
  • Sensors and actuators
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EPSRC Executive Chair recognised in New Year's Honours 07/01/2020

Professor Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has been appointed a Dame for services to academic and industrial research in chemical engineering.

Professor Gladden, Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge, has been appointed a Dame having ‘transformed research in her own discipline and created new ways for academics and industrialists in all fields to work together’.

Named as one of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering in 2016, she was appointed as Executive Chair of EPSRC in 2018 and is a fellow of the Royal Society, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a foreign member of the USA National Academy of Engineering.

A number of members of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) community, including two Executive Chairs, have been recognised in the New Year Honours. Read more on the UKRI website.

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Food and drink sector enjoys plenty of festive cheer 07/01/2020

Britain’s food and drink sector is continuing to ignore the uncertain political and economic climate and is forging ahead at home and abroad according to a new report published by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation and Santander.

According to the report the sector is worth 15.9% of total manufacturing GVA with sales in 2018 of £85.6 billion, a sharp increase of 7.6% in just two years from 2016. As a result, the sector is now a major employer across the UK with some 440,000 employees, up 5.3% since 2016 and now at the highest level for fifteen years.

The report shows that a large element of this growth is coming overseas with sales abroad up by just under one quarter in the last two years alone. The EU remains the biggest total market accounting for just under two thirds (61%) of exports worth £13.9 billion, with Ireland the largest single destination (21.4% worth £4.2 billion) closely followed by The Netherlands, France, the USA and Germany. However, the Rest of the World is seeing significant growth with sales to Asia & Oceania up by 295% in the last twenty years and in the same period by 260% to the United States.

The report also analyses the UK’s position in the world supply of food and drink as well as a number of industry trends domestically. Globally the UK is the fourth largest food importer in the world and the second largest drink importer. This highlights that notwithstanding the sector’s positive export growth, the UK is a net importer of food and drink by quite some margin with a total import value of £46billion compared to exports worth £23billion in 2018.

This means the UK imports twice as much food and drink as it exports and highlights the critical need to avoid border and customs checks on fresh food coming into the UK post Brexit.

In addition the report highlights the rapid rise of online shopping for and delivery of food and drink to the home in the UK which far outstrips the trend anywhere else in Europe. Whilst supermarkets still account for the vast majority of purchases (93%) online shopping now accounts for over 7% of the total and is rising rapidly, worth £141.9million a week.

This trend in the UK is some way ahead of other major European countries with the nearest being France at 5.5% followed by the Czech Republic at around half the level of the UK. Online purchases are less than 2% of the total in Germany and less than 1% in Italy.

Commenting, Make UK Chief Economist, Seamus Nevin, said: “The food and drink sector continues to benefit from British public’s desire to eat, drink and be merry. Despite the economic and political uncertainty the sector seems to be shielded from the difficulties experienced elsewhere and is driving hard for growth in the UK and overseas. It is now a key contributor not just to manufacturing but a significant employer in many regions of the UK.

“Despite growth in the Rest of the World however, the EU remains the dominant market for exports of food and drink. As such, it is vital that frictionless trade continues in any post Brexit agreement if the remarkable growth pattern of the sector is to be maintained.

Andrew Williams, Head of Food and Drink, Santander UK, added:

“Today’s data gives food for thought on the importance of this sector to the UK economy which, despite uncertainties in the UK and internationally, has remained resilient. We are committed to helping manufacturers improve productivity and establish new trade partners globally.” 

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More family time and greater mental stimulation luring engineers to temporary working 17/12/2019

A fifth (18%) of engineers are holding down more than one temporary role to chase greater work-life balance and see more of their families, according to research released today.

The research, carried out by recruitment experts Reed Specialist Recruitment asked 5,000 UK employees about their experience of, and attitude to, temporary and contract working.

Of the sample of 5,000, 339 respondents were from the engineering industry. The survey found that, while just 14% considered non-permanent work to be their main job, a fifth (18%) of engineers are holding down more than one temporary role.

The professional outlook for temporary work in the sector was positive, with 33% saying it led to a variety of work, 20% stating that it delivered an increased hourly rate and 21% noting that it helped to avoid getting stale in a company. 

However, the personal benefits of temporary work were found to be even more important to engineers. More than a third (34%) said work-life balance was a positive impact of temporary working, with a fifth (19%) highlighting that it allowed them to see more of their families.

Despite the positives experienced within the sector, more than half (57%) of those asked identified that they preferred the security of a permanent role, while half (50%) said they liked benefits such as sick pay and pension which come with a permanent role.   

Mark Brown, Reed Engineering expert, said: “The engineering sector, when compared with others, differs in its view on temporary contracts. The industry successfully uses contract working, though with a decision on the UK’s exit from the EU on the horizon, there are a number of workers looking towards the security of permanent.

“However, our research clearly indicates that a significant number of engineers see temporary employment as a way to spend more time with their family and still accommodate fulfilling professional lives. With a workforce that is highly skilled there will always be the option to work the multiple roles, with multiple contracts for those engineers with a combination of technical expertise and commercial knowhow.

“There are still concerns for this sector around the long term benefits of temporary work, such as pensions, holiday and sick pay. Fortunately, Reed Specialist Recruitment already has this covered with its own pension scheme for its temporary PAYE workers. We should see the engineering sector continue to use temporary work as a way to bring highly talented workers to businesses, and for candidates to give themselves the flexibility and variety that they crave in 2020.”

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UK needs to act to prevent electric vehicle battery waste mountain 05/12/2019

Recycling technologies for end-of-life lithium ion batteries are not keeping pace with the rapid rise of electric vehicles, according to a new study.

Switching from fossil fuels to electric vehicles is imperative if we are to meet global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in our cities.

But a review of lithium ion battery recycling led by the University of Birmingham and involving experts from Newcastle and Leicester universities, suggests that, while electric vehicles (EVs) offer a solution for cutting pollution, governments and industry need to act now to develop a robust recycling infrastructure to meet future recycling need.

Publishing their study today in the 150th anniversary issue of Nature, the team say that unless there is significant investment in the development of efficient recycling processes, the anticipated 11 million tonnes of spent batteries are destined for landfill in just over a decade.

Urgent look at the whole lifecycle of the battery

Dr Gavin Harper, Faraday Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and lead author on the paper, said: “The recycling challenge is not straightforward: there is enormous variety in the chemistries, shapes and designs of lithium ion batteries used in EVs.

"Individual cells are formed into modules, which are then assembled into battery packs.

"To recycle these efficiently, they must be disassembled and the resulting waste streams separated. As well as lithium, these batteries contain a number of other valuable metals, such as cobalt, nickel and manganese, and there is the potential to improve the processes which are currently used to recover these for reuse.”

Co-author Professor Paul Christensen, of Newcastle University, who has been working with a number of UK Fire and Rescue Services on developing protocols for dealing with lithium ion battery fires, adds:

“These batteries contain huge amounts of power and at the moment we are still relatively unprepared about how we deal with them when they reach the end of their life.

“One of the areas of research for this project is to look at automation and how we can safely and efficiently dismantle spent batteries and recover the valuable materials such as lithium and cobalt.

"But there’s also a public safety issue that needs addressing as second-life EV batteries become more widely available. What we need is an urgent look at the whole lifecycle of the battery – from digging the materials out of the ground to disposing of them again at the end.”

250,000 tonnes of waste

The issue of LIB waste is already significant and is set to grow as demand for EVs increases.  Based on the 1 million electric cars sold in 2017, researchers calculated that 250,000 tonnes or half a million cubic metres of unprocessed pack waste will result when these vehicles reach the end of their lives.

There is also an enormous opportunity for the UK. Analysis by the Faraday Institution – the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research – points to the need for eight gigafactories in the UK by 2040 to service the demand for LIBs. The UK will need to develop sources of supply for the critical materials required for these batteries and recycled material could play a important role.

The study identifies a number of key challenges that engineers and policy-makers will need to address, including:

  • Identifying second use applications for end of life batteries
  • Developing rapid repair and recycling methods, particularly given that large-scale storage of electric batteries is potentially unsafe
  • Improving diagnostics of batteries, battery packs and battery cells, so the state of health of batteries can be accurately assessed prior to repurposing
  • Optimising battery designs for recycling to enable automated battery disassembly, safer than the current manual handling techniques
  • Designing new stabilisation processes that enable end-of-life batteries to be opened and separated, and developing techniques or processes to ensure that components are not contaminated during recycling.   

Professor Andrew Abbott, of the University of Leicester and co-author on the paper, said: “Electrification of just 2 per cent of the current global car fleet would represent a line of cars that could stretch around the circumference of the Earth – some 140 million vehicles.

"Landfill is clearly not an option for this amount of waste. Finding ways to recycle EV batteries will not only avoid a huge burden on landfill, it will also help us secure the supply of critical materials, such as cobalt and lithium, that surely hold the key to a sustainable automotive industry.”

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Customisation key to cure 08/01/2020

With personalised medicine and custom prosthetics gaining in popularity Charlotte Stonestreet takes a look at some of the latest technologies to be used in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors

These days, as I write on the cusp of a General Election, the medical and pharmaceutical sectors seem to only be hitting the headlines over the question of whether the NHS will be sacrificed to American pharma giants as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Whatever your views on the final delivery of healthcare and treatments, and associated social and business models or otherwise thereof, the medical and pharmaceutical sectors are home to some of the most innovative, forward thinking uses of and developments in technology in the world today.

Of course, for almost any operation to remain competitive, automation must be a major consideration. A recent study by the Association for Packaging and Processing technologies (PMMI) has predicted that robots will handle 34 per cent of primary pharmaceutical packaging operations in North America by 2018. An increase in the use of robots is particularly significant in dispensing, sorting, kit assembly and light machine-tending. The advantages include greater speed and accuracy, more flexibility and more  reliability.

As the use of the robotics in the pharmaceutical industry increases rapidly, it's important to consider the benefits of the latest technologies for manufacturers, researchers and scientists, asserts Jonathan Wilkins, from obsolete industrial automation parts supplier, EU Automation.

The pharmaceutical industry produces millions of tablets each week, all of which must be carefully scrutinised before being packed and shipped to distributors. During this inspection, drug manufacturers must ensure that the correct amount of medication, with the exact chemical composition and weight are precisely packed into the appropriate containers.

Most pharmaceutical packaging systems use automation to manage bottle orientation, capping, labelling and collation systems. Automation of packaging also requires a system that monitors the operation on a supervisory level,  checking for low hopper levels, fallen bottles and low-level supplies.

Until recently, Raman spectroscopy was not widely applied in the pharmaceutical industry. However, in the last few years, developments within the industry coupled with improvements in Raman instrumentation have generated increasing interest in the technology. Raman spectroscopy measures the molecular vibration and rotational energy changes of each tablet, ensuring their chemical compounds are correct before distribution.

Raman spectroscopy measures the molecular vibration and rotational energy changes of each tablet

This is just one stage of pharmaceutical inspection — automation and machine learning is also applied to ensure that products are packed in the correct bottles and boxes with the correct labelling affixed.

More recently, the pharmaceutical industry has seen the advent of personalised medicine, bringing the industry closer to more precise, predictable healthcare that is customised to the individual patient. Powered by our increased understanding of genetics and genomics, more doctors are providing better disease prevention, more accurate diagnoses, safer drug prescriptions and more effective treatments.

Personalised medicines need automation to reach their full potential. Automation and around-the-clock processing have already contributed towards an environment where personalised medicine is becoming commercially viable. Broader use of genome sequencing for individuals and continued development of drugs proven effective for particular genetic dispositions will continue to accelerate this trend.

Without automation and robotics, scientists often become hampered by the manual testing of individuals' genomes. Today's automated, high-throughput screening is allowing scientists to access a huge amount of data with little manual interaction. This keeps costs low and increases the speed at which the system can analyse gene sequences.

3D printed medicines

Another technology being harnessed in the move towards more personalised medication is 3D printing. In fact, according to Martin Gadsby, Director at Optimal Industrial Technologies, 3D printing is a gamechanger in drug manufacturing, as it gives industries the ability to fully customise medicines - mostly oral solid dosage forms - with realistic production costs. In this way, patients can be treated with more specific dosages and drug combinations that fully address their needs. Even more, this technology empowers pharmaceutical industries to develop medicines with sophisticated bio-functional constructs, which are not achievable with traditional manufacturing practices.

patients can be treated with more specific dosages and drug combinations

The methods used to produce 3D-printed drugs, or “printlets”, conform to conventional additive manufacturing technologies, such as inkjet printing or fused deposition modelling (FDM). In these systems, the product is often built by depositing highly accurate doses of material layer by layer, until a 3D shape is formed. As a result, reproducibility is a key feature and conventional pharmaceutical manufacturing operations, such as milling, granulating or compressing, do not take place in additive manufacturing.

Instead, in FDM, manufacturers first design a 3D theoretical drug model. Secondly, they choose appropriate printing process parameters, such as layer thickness, extruder diameter, base plate, extruder temperature, printing and extrusion speed. Subsequently, the 3D printing machine reads the models and executes the commands in order to produce the final product.

Therefore, to deliver personalised medicaments with specific drug properties, manufacturers must have a thorough understanding of the different 3D printing processes involved and how they affect the final drug attributes. In this way, they can plan, control and fine-tune the relevant mechanisms to suit.

In order to efficiently monitor the 3D printing line and delivery accurate personalised medicines, it is important to implement a system that can gather, analyse and store analytical and process measurements. Then use these to create and validate models, generate predictions based on these models and provide feedback to the 3D printing system. In this way, manufacturers are empowered with clear actionable insights.

What is called for is a PAT knowledge management tool, a leading solution being Optimal’s synTQ, asserts Gadsby. This is used by over half of the top ten global pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, as it offers a regulatory-compliant, user-friendly platform to detect when a process is moving out of its optimum operating window and correct the relevant CPPs live and in-process.

Customised prosthetics

Another area being revolutionised by the emergence of 3D printing is that of prosthetic devices. With previous technologies prosthetics tended to be heavy, uncomfortable to wear and costly to manufacture. Addressing this, Polish startup Glaze Prosthetics, specialises in customised 3D printed lightweight prosthetic devices that reflect the style, vision, and personality of the wearer.

Because Glaze Prosthetics produces medical-grade equipment, the company needs to ensure that the materials and the production process are fully biocompatible, safe for the user, and free of sharp edges, harsh surfaces, and imperfections. Because each patient has different anatomy and different needs based on their anatomy, Glaze wanted to find a technology that would let them create each product based on individual requirements. Initially, the company began experimenting with 3D printing technologies such as SLS but found that the printing time was slow and costs were high.

Changing to a fishnet-like structure to create the interior of the device rather than printing a solid shell created a device that weighed 70% less than previous devices. Issues with the finish of the product were solved after producing a few iterations with HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, which resulted in Glaze being able to produce parts that were less expensive, lighter, and of a higher quality than previous prosthetics.

With the HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D Printer, Glaze benefited from faster printing times, more durable parts thanks to stronger materials, and lower material costs compared with other 3D printing technologies they had tested.

“It has allowed us to change the scale of production, cut the time of production, and increase the speed of the delivery to the patient,” said Adam Komarowski, Research and Development Leader at Glaze Prosthetics.

Correct Storage

While the manufacture of medical devices such as prothestics has developed, so too have the materials used, often necessitating change in the way businesses handle and store their inventory. For example, Chemstore was recently tasked with improving the storage of Titanium Alloy Powder at the Zimmer Biomet medical manufacturing facility in Bridgend, Wales. Titanium Alloy Powder is flammable and potentially spontaneously combustible, so is imperative that it is stored correctly.
As a solution, Chemstore installed its Firevault. Split into two sections, the Firevault unit has a loading and storage area where pallets of Titanium alloy powder can be accessed by the front by a forklift, and control room accessed via a door on the side, which houses temperature and humidity control, and the fire suppression system.

Titanium Alloy Powder is flammable and potentially spontaneously combustible

Fire suppression components are controlled via a panel, which manages the fire detection and manually operated devices. It enables the user to set how the system behaves so that it either automatically extinguishes a fire or allows the user to manage the occurrence. The fire suppression system will only discharge the fire suppression gas if two zones are activated, at a preset time of 60 seconds from the second zone activation. The user can also use the control panel to manually release the gas.

There are two air sampling smoke detectors connected to the fire suppression system, one connected to each zone. Four types of alarm are reported - alert, action, fire one, and fire two.

When the system is about to release the gas a ‘hold off suppressant button’ becomes operational. If activated, the 60 second countdown to gas release will be reset; this can be done as many times as required, however it does not reset the fire discharge sequence but only functions as a delay device. It is mounted both internally and externally.

The right tool

Surgeons performing small bone orthopaedic surgery need total control over the tools they’re using. In an environment where success and failure can be measured by millimetres, there is no margin for error. Portescap has released three new surgical motors designed for orthopaedic saws, drills and reamers. The compact motors offer controllable, precise torque and have been tested to withstand 1,000+ sterilisation cycles.

Orthopaedic surgery is a broad category that treats a range of musculoskeletal conditions arising from trauma, sport injury, bone diseases, degenerative diseases, infections etc. Where procedures are performed on small bones - such as vertebrates or those found in the radiocarpal or talocrural joints – precision is key with every action. The surgical tools used need to deliver power in a smooth and controllable manner to ensure a positive outcome for the patient.

Portescap is at the forefront of sterilisable motor technology; having committed decades to research and development in the medical fields, its motors have been used in millions of surgeries around the world. The latest additions to its range have been designed specifically with small bone orthopaedic applications in mind.

The B0912N1016 Small Bone Motor (9.6 V - 38K rpm), B0912N4023 Small Bone Gearmotor (9.6 V - 1.1K rpm), and B0912N4024 Small Bone Gearmotor (9.6 V - 12.8K rpm) are sterilisable brushless DC (BLDC) motors that provide optimal torque and speed for drills, saws and reamers. They are well-suited for traditional surgical tools - in addition to robotically assisted surgical devices - and can be paired with a Portescap sterilisable controller for battery powered applications.

motors deliver high peak torque capable of powering through the densest bones

The motors deliver high peak torque capable of powering through the densest bones and feature customisable voltage to accommodate precise control for the surgeon. The 22 mm diameter motors are lightweight and produce low noise and vibration to improve the ergonomic comfort and control in the hand – essential in long surgeries where fatigue may set in. To ensure reliability and cost efficiency the motors have all been tested to withstand 1,000+ sterilisation cycles as well as exposure to saline and other foreign materials.

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Let it snow 05/12/2019

Stephen Roots, past chair of The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) warns that it is imperative that all those responsible for the facilities in which we work, understand their responsibilities and have a plan in place to counter those hard winter days.

As you read this article, the winter season is well and truly upon us. Predicting the weather is a perilous activity even with the accuracy of long term forecasting getting better and better each year.

Any accident or injury sustained on an organisation’s property can have serious repercussions. An ad hoc service approach to winter management is no longer adequate to support business confidence or continuity. It increases the risk of lost revenue, reputation and productivity resulting from accident liability claims or shut-downs caused by snow and ice. At the same time, unpredictable winters are also playing havoc with FMs’ planned preventative maintenance programmes, not to mention landscaping designs and air conditioning use.  

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 defines an employer’s duty of care obligation as: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees." Part of this legal requirement involves providing a healthy and safe working environment. However, the duty of care extends beyond staff to anyone visiting, or passing by the facility, including suppliers on company business and members of the public. What is reasonably practicable?  

Organisations must be able to demonstrate that they have done everything reasonably possible to meet their duty of care and that they have met all health and safety legislation, when it comes to making a site safe for staff and customers during harsh winter weather. An adverse weather policy, that clearly communicates how an organisation will manage/take action in extreme weather situations to protect the health and safety of staff, is a key step towards meeting the duty of care in winter. Cold weather and shorter daylight hours create added risk and more potential for accidents to happen. It is important to prepare for what will happen and establish a framework of risk prevention.

The FM’s role in maintaining organisational resilience to extreme weather is vital for the country’s economy and status quo. The harsh winter of 2012/13, when salt shortages led to airports and public transport grinding to a halt, caught many by surprise. Businesses struggled to remain operational, while meeting their duty of care, making an unexpectedly large hole in some budgets. Many businesses were heavily affected, with employees not being able to travel to work and parents having to stay at home to attend to their children as schools were closed. Facilities in many cases were unsafe as the lack of salt meant car parks and pathways couldn’t be gritted, undoubtedly having a negative effect on British business.

Addressing cost pressures

One of the most fundamental reasons that the UK seems to be lagging behind other countries in managing extreme weather is that preparedness costs money. Looking at the short-term cost implications of having a winter maintenance plan in place detracts from the risk of the even greater financial burden and loss of reputation, should a business be found to neglect their duty of care and the health and safety of their employees by failing to tackle winter risks.

Creating a completely risk free workplace is almost impossible. However, having a well thought out policy and prioritised procedure for dealing with icy conditions, supported by comprehensive documents to show what had actually been done is critical. The essential thing is for businesses to be prepared. A comprehensive winter risk policy, robust management system and good risk assessment processes are key safety measures.

A clear plan will help insurers to refute any injury claims and a good quality winter maintenance/gritting and snow clearance procedure providing evidence to prove all measures have been taken to avoid incidents. In the event of a claim, evidence of a proactive winter maintenance plan will help to ensure that the business is covered by its liability insurance. This could even have a positive impact on insurance premiums and should always be shared with insurers.

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Successful deployment of 5G requires collaborative approach 05/12/2019

5G will dramatically gain importance in providing wireless connectivity to industrial environments, especially in the context of Industry 4.0 and the automation of production processes and monitoring of machine conditions, according to global tech market advisory firm ABI Research. By

2026, there will be 5.3 million 5G connections on the factory floor which will generate a revenue of more than US$184 million (with a CAGR of 623% between 2021 and 2026).  

“As a technology, 5G will be a perfect fit to provide wireless connectivity on the factory floor, since it enables, for example, establishing a massive wireless sensor network or implementing Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) applications for predictive maintenance and product monitoring. Therefore, 5G offers immense operational benefits and productivity enhancements to the implementing manufacturer,” says Leo Gergs, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “Furthermore, the technology opens up new production opportunities by enabling artificial intelligence applications to be integrated into manufacturing processes.”

Early 5G trial deployment projects at companies such as Schneider Electric in France and Germany’s Osram, and Mercedes hint that bringing 5G connectivity to the factory floor will decrease maintenance costs by 30% and increase overall equipment efficiency by 7%. While there are many use cases and areas of application for 5G in industrial manufacturing, targeting the enterprise vertical will fundamentally change the value chain associated with 5G. A much closer collaboration between network operators, infrastructure vendors, and manufacturers will be required.

Targeting enterprise verticals, however, is vitally important for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and the successful deployment of 5G.  A recent Return on Investment (ROI) study conducted by ABI Research has shown that 5G will take approximately 14 to 15 years to break even if it remains solely in the consumer market, versus 10 years if enterprise business models were in place.

 “It is, therefore, highly important for network operators and infrastructure vendors to develop new business strategies taking into manufacturers’ requirements. Centrally, this should include moving away from selling connectivity as such and develop attractive pricing models for additional network capabilities,” concludes Gergs.


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