A research team builds robots from living cells

ROBOTS COME in all shapes and sizes. Some are humanoid. Others resemble animals. Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. But one thing all robots have in common is that they are mechanical, not biological devices. They are built from materials like metal and plastic, and stuffed with electronics. […]

An emergency landing system that passengers can activate

ON NOVEMBER 9TH 2018 a Piper Dakota light aircraft flying over Iowa broadcast a distress call. The pilot seemed to have suffered a heart attack. One of the other three people on board, a student aviator, had taken over the controls, but to no avail. The plane crashed shortly afterwards, killing all four. How often […]

Giant 3D printers for making boats, bridges, buildings and rockets

BOAT BUILDING is a long-winded and tedious business, even when what is going down the slipway is a small craft made from modern materials such as fibreglass, rather than something nailed together out of planks of wood. Construct a mould. Build up layers of resin and glass fibre inside that mould. Extract the completed structure […]

Flying taxis are taking off to whisk people around cities

In october 1908, on a windy field at Farnborough, south-west of London, a handlebar-mustachioed former Wild West showman named Samuel Cody completed the first official controlled flight of a powered aeroplane in Britain. Since then many other pioneering aircraft, from Concorde to the giant Airbus A380, have flown at what became the biennial Farnborough air […]

Extreme robotics: cleaning up nuclear waste

Some people worry about robots taking work away from human beings, but there are a few jobs that even these sceptics admit most folk would not want. One is cleaning up radioactive waste, particularly when it is inside a nuclear power station—and especially if the power station in question has suffered a recent accident. Those […]

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 […]