Scientists and industry are dashing to make more ventilators

ONE OF THE most worrying symptoms of covid-19 is the way the coronavirus attacks the lungs of those infected. This means some patients need a ventilator to help them breathe until their lungs recover. But there is a dire shortage of these machines in hospitals, so intensive-care units will be overwhelmed. Urged on by worried […]

Farming with Tom, Dick and Harry

SLOWLY BUT surely, a spidery machine about the size of a golf cart swings an electrode over a tray of plants. Every few seconds there is a small puff of smoke as a weed keels over, having been zapped with a high voltage. The device doing the zapping is a prototype weeding robot developed by […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]