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 […]

New technologies could slash the cost of steel production

Recasting steel A 150-year-old idea finally looks like working ALTHOUGH he is best known for developing a way to mass-produce steel, Henry Bessemer was a prolific British inventor. In the 1850s in Sheffield his converters blasted air through molten iron to burn away impurities, making steel the material of the industrial revolution. But Bessemer knew […]

Adidas’s high-tech factory brings production back to Germany and America

BEHIND closed doors in the Bavarian town of Ansbach a new factory is taking shape. That it will use robots and novel production techniques such as additive manufacturing (known as 3D printing) is not surprising for Germany, which has maintained its manufacturing base through innovative engineering. What is unique about this factory is that it […]

A breakthrough in miniaturising lidars for autonomous driving

EXPERIMENTAL self-driving cars continue to make regular forays onto the roads. After a trial in Pittsburgh, Uber, a taxi-hailing-app company, launched several of its “autonomous” vehicles onto the streets of San Francisco on December 14th—and promptly ran into a row with officials for not obtaining an operating permit, which Uber insists is unnecessary as the […]

At last the 48 show

VOLTAGE is to electricity what pressure is to water: the more you have of it the more oomph you get. That is why electrical power lines work at high voltage. In the 1950s carmakers needed extra oomph of this sort to start the powerful high-compression engines then being introduced, so they increased the voltage of […]

On a roll: printed electronics

MAKING things with 3D printers is an idea that is being adopted by manufacturers to produce goods ranging from false teeth to jet engines. Conventional printing, though, has not remained idle. Machines that have their origins in the high-speed rotary presses that apply words and images to large reels of paper, like the ones which […]

The replicator

WHEN great designs are turned into products compromises are made. The beautifully sculpted “concept” cars that regularly appear at motor shows never get built, at least not in the form they left the design studio, because they are inevitably too difficult and expensive to engineer for mass production. For decades this has meant products have […]