Electric cars: putting a motor in the wheels is an old idea due to return

At the dawn of the motor industry one of its pioneers, Ferdinand Porsche, caused a sensation at the Paris World Fair in 1900 with a vehicle driven by a pair of electric motors incorporated into its front wheels. This arrangement allowed the Lohner-Porsche (pictured above) to dispense with cumbersome belts, chains and gears. It was […]

Inside the body shop: 3D printing replacement body parts

A robotic lawnmower keeping the grass neat and tidy outside a modern industrial building in Carrigtwohill, near Cork in Ireland, is a good indication that something whizzy may be going on inside. And so it proves. The airy production hall contains row after row of 3d printers, each the size of a large fridge-freezer. The machines […]

How to knit a sports car: carbon fibre manufacturing

Bertha resides on a quiet industrial estate in Bristol, in the west of Britain. The affectionate name has been given to what at first appears to be a giant loom from the Industrial Revolution. And in some ways it is. Bertha (pictured above) is an automated braiding machine. Like a horizontal maypole, ribbons of carbon […]

Helicopters of the future will fly in new ways. Pilots will be optional

UNLIKE a helicopter, aeroplanes are inclined to fly, Harry Reasoner, a veteran American newsman, wryly observed after watching choppers in action during the Vietnam war. He wrote: A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if […]

Welcome to the wingbot

JULY 16th sees the opening of the Farnborough air show. Plane spotters attending the show, which by entente cordiale alternates annually with that in Paris, will be hoping for an appearance by one of the F-35 Lightning fighters delivered recently to Britain’s air force and navy. The F-35 represents the best that the present has […]

Rise of the robochef

CREATOR, a new hamburger joint in San Francisco, claims to deliver a burger worth $18 for $6—in other words, to provide the quality associated with posh restaurants at a fast-food price. The substance behind this claim is that its chef-de-cuisine is a robot. Until recently, catering robots have been gimmicks. “Flippy”, a robotic arm that […]

3D printing the factory of the future

SLOWLY but surely the sole of a shoe emerges from a bowl of liquid resin, as Excalibur rose from the enchanted lake. And, just as Excalibur was no ordinary sword, this is no ordinary sole. It is light and flexible, with an intricate internal structure, the better to help it support the wearer’s foot. Paired […]