Engineering News (April 2017)

Really rapid prototyping

3D printing could expand track glory for McLaren if their latest tests go to plan. The team based in Surrey has announced that they are using 3D printing technologies, improving identical designs and reducing weight in McLaren Honda’s MCL32 track car.

McLaren have successfully printed a hydraulic line bracket, a flexible radio harness location book, carbon fibre composite brake cooling ducts and rear wing flaps, and have already applied it to their 2017 race car.

3D printing has improved production time. For example, the bracket for the MCL32 took only four hours build time, compared to the original manufacturing time of 2 weeks.

Design and Development Director of McLaren Racing, Neil Oatley said, “We are consistently modifying and improving our Formula 1 car designs, so the ability to test new designs quickly is critical to making the car lighter, and more importantly increasing the number of tangible iterations in improved car performance. If we can bring new developments to the car one race earlier – going from new idea to new part in only a few days – this will be a key factor in making the McLaren MCL32 more competitive”.

Tunnel vision

Plans have been announced in Norway for the world’s first full-scale ship tunnel in the Stadhavet Sea, known for its hazardous coastline and history of navigational problems. The proposed tunnel will be used primarily for commercial shipping, however leisure vessels will also have access to the tunnel. The 1700m long tunnel will take an estimated 3 to 4 years to build, with the removal of over 3 million m³ (cubic metres) at a cost of 2.7 Billion Norwegian Krona.

In a statement by Terie Andreassen, Project Manager for Stad Ship Tunnel at The Norwegian Coastal Administration, he said “There are still many pieces of the puzzle that need to be put into place before construction can start, but we have previously stated that the actual construction could be at the earliest in 2019”.

Should the project go ahead, the tunnel will stand at a height of 49 metres, with a 36 metre width between the tunnel walls. The tunnel will be situated at the narrowest point of the Stad Peninsula where the coastline experiences 45-106 days of the worst weather conditions, a combination of strong winds, currents and treacherous waves each year. The tunnel will offer both commercial and leisure cruise ships a safer route of passage.

The Future of Engineering Conference 2017

This month see’s the 6th Future of Engineering Conference taking place at The Institution of Engineering and Technology on 26th April in London.

The conference will highlight innovations showcasing the UK’s long-term success within Engineering and Technology. The event aims to answer key questions and more, and demonstrate standards in the UK that provide valuable frameworks for innovation.

It will also provide fantastic opportunities to discuss engineering careers and professional matters. Although the event covers engineering matters, this year it will also have a direct interest to those within the electro-technical sectors.

This conference is being held to a large extent to allow engineers and fellows to raise questions and answers to these key questions and more, and will demonstrate how standards and standardization provides a valuable and necessary framework for innovation, ensuring the appropriateness and safety of the application of future technologies.

Building bridges

An international research project in Queensland has moved a step closer to introducing the “next-generation” of steel and metal alloys, which could reduce embrittlement in structures that have been built and reduce the number of catastrophic disasters in major engineering and building projects.

According to reports, problems with hydrogen alloy embrittlement has been known of for nearly 140 years. Professor Roger Wepf from the University of Queensland Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, said “The current generation of these metals can suffer hydrogen embrittlement, where they become brittle and fracture due to the accidental introduction of hydrogen during manufacture and processing”. A major example of alloy embrittlement occurred in 2013, when bolts in the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland bridge failed tests during construction.

Professor Wepf explained how hydrogen was ‘extremely volatile’ and how the research has shown how if hydrogen was localised at an atomic scale, by combining alternative technologies in protected closed environments including state-of-the art “Cryo Electron Microscopy” freezing techniques, the effects of embrittlement can be mitigated.


German based researchers have been busy designing and developing a graphene-based coating with a distinctive likeness to fish scales that change colour when smeared on buildings, showing any defects and providing perhaps early indications of damage to buildings and structures. Structural failures often start with slight deformations and cracks, often invisible to the human eye.

It works similarly to the effect seen in rainbow fish scales; in this instance, the pigmentation of the compound would change where a surface has been coated, and damaged areas would change from red to yellow – to add to this colour change, green would appear should cracks be present. The reflection of light would cause these colour changes, thus giving early warnings that could prevent catastrophic disasters.

Feed development

A three year global engineering contract has been secured between Amec Foster Wheelers and BP International, providing engineering, procurement support and project management services for pre-Front End Engineering and Design (pre-FEED) projects, aiming at works across a range of different developments and schemes. The joint venture, if successful, has the option to extend for an additional two years.

Services provided will include contracts with engineering services for onshore, offshore, subsea, green field and brown field drilling in Alaska, Angola, Azerbaijan, Egypt, the Gulf of Mexico, Indonesia, Oman, and Trinidad, as well operations within the United Kingdom.

Reinforcing the long-term relationship with Amec Foster Wheeler and BP, the contract has cemented global access to expertise and technology between the two companies.

This comes in the wake of a possible takeover of Amec Foster Wheeler by the Wood Group in a £2.2 billion bid. The Wood Group have recently been successful with a multi-year contract from Karoon Petróleo & Gás providing engineering services for Echidna Field, an off shore project in Brazil. The contract will be carried out by Wood Group’s Rio de Janeiro office, and focused on the technical needs of a new Floating Production Unit (FPU), which would include subsea structures. The FPU will be based in the Santos Basin to a depth of 400 metres.

Managing Director of Wood Group Brazil’s Office, Hugues Corrignan told a press conference, “Our ability to deliver local world-class design capabilities with a range of available tools and software made Wood Group a partner of choice for the Field Development Project”.

Should the takeover take place, Amec could make savings of over £150 million, whilst Wood Group could make reduce its costs by £190 million in the first year. These savings would be made by streamlining their corporate and administrative operations, and potentially realising even greater savings in the future.

Shell companies for beginners

The winner of the Shell Springboard competition Upside Energy has won £150,000 to help develop it’s cloud-based aggregation service, based on the supply and demands on the UK’s out-of-date electricity grid. Shell will be ‘shelling out’ a total of £440,000 worth of funds during 2017 to support new ground-breaking low-carbon business ideas and supporting young entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom towards sustainability projects.

The £150,000 competition winners have developed a cloud-based energy aggregation system, creating a “Virtual Energy Store”. This is then sold to the National Grid, which will help balance the supply and demand, and thereby reducing the use of some of our more antiquated and expensive power stations.

In a recent interview, Graham Oakes, the founder of Upside Energy explained how the cloud service will ‘talk’ to thousands of back-up power supplies, including those of traffic lights and mobile phone towers. It will use these conversations to monitor the grid, informing them when to charge or discharge their energy. During times of low energy usage, the system can recharge the connected ‘batteries’, smoothly balancing the flow of energy, and allowing more efficiency within power plants. Oakes has also commented that the funds will help accelerate plans within Upside Energy to provide flexible energy services, which would include solar photovoltaic systems, and batteries used for domestic properties.

£30,000 has also been awarded to the Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Carlton Cummins from Aceleron a company that is currently developing it’s own technology embarking upon converting dead lithium-ion batteries into ‘Energy Storage Solutions’.

Currently the UK has no facilities to deal with dead batteries, and even though they are collected throughout the UK within companies and collection centres, additional costs are then involved to actually export them for recycling. Aceleron have introduced its own processes, identifying the need to re-use and repackage ‘used’ batteries into new energy storage modules for other uses. To date, over 1000 batteries have been processed using the new technology from Aceleron, and they are now ready to take their waste technology to the “next level”.

Engineering News – March 2017

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