Our pick of the Royal Academy of Engineering most innovative UK products
For a small island, on the Western fringes of the European continent, the UK certainly isn't out on a limb when it comes to world class engineering. In fact, Britain's industrial engineering processes are right up there among the best. To prove the point, PIF has taken a look at three examples of manufacturing technology from the Royal Academy of Engineering's Innovation now website.
Chas A Blatchford & Sons Ltd: prosthetic and orthotic products and services
Founded in 1890, Basingstoke's Blatchford & Sons has been manufacturing lower limb prosthetics components for well over a century.
The Echelon is a new breed of combined ankle-foot prosthesis that helps amputees to gain natural posture and maximize comfort levels. Uniquely, it can handle small and temporary variations like uneven terrain, or prolonged standing on a slope, far better than traditional devices.
At the core of its design is a complex myriad of hydraulics and mechanics. According to Innovation now, “A hydraulic damping unit provides ankle flexibility with six degrees of plantarflexion (pushing the foot downwards) and three degrees of dorsiflexion (raising the foot back upwards).
“Separate carbon-fiber [sic] heel and toe springs provide additional 15 and 25 degrees respectively, as well as energy storage and release with each step. The system can be tuned to the needs of each individual by adjusting the hydraulic damping settings and matching springs with amputee shoe size, weight, and activity level.”
Flybrid Systems: breakthrough technology for greener driving
Flybrid Systems develop kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) for use in road vehicles. This green technology system stores kinetic energy during braking to then bring the car back up to speed. Thus, fuel consumption goes up and carbon dioxide emissions go down.
In theory this technology is nothing new, having been used in buses and trams since the 1950s. But in stark contrast to their large, slow, cumbersome flywheels the Flybrid system rotates at very high speed and can be made much smaller while storing the same amount of energy.
According to Innovation now, “The Flybrid flywheel runs in a vacuum to prevent air friction heating up the outside surface and it spins at up to 64,500 RPM. Because energy stored is proportional to the square of speed, a typical Flybrid flywheel for a road car is only 200 mm in diameter and weighs just 5 kg.”
Brilliantly, thanks to those featherweight proportions, the Flybrid system is a third cheaper than the cost of battery-based systems and a full life cycle analysis has shown that it takes a mere 12,000 km of driving to offset the carbon dioxide released during the manufacturing process.
Solarcentury: Solar energy solutions
One of Europe's leading lights in solar energy, Solarcentury, specialises in integrating solar technology into buildings. Their affordable and 'aesthetically sensitive' renewable energy solutions have brought solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to countless communities, enterprises and households.
Keeping their engineers busy is the premise of boosting the effectiveness of solar technologies to promote speedier widespread adoption. They use a wide range of power-guaranteed solar technologies, with a particular focus on using monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon cells. They also constantly update their clever framing and roof mounting systems to counteract wind loads, improve installation times and provide unbeatable structural rigidity.
The in-house Solarcentury engineering team “has designed and fitted more types of solar technologies to more types of buildings than any other company,” say Innovation now – including the world’s tallest solar façade on the CIS Tower in Manchester.
For more information about UK innovations in engineering, visit the RAENG's Innovation now website.
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