Engineering Materials Blogs

Read the views and opinions from the materials community. Share your thoughts and write us a blog. Just email and let us know your thoughts, dilemmas, questions and opinions.

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Lack of rare materials could prevent transition to renewable energy

New research claims that, in the race against climate change, the renewable energy industry must embrace the circular economy. Failure to do so will result in a shortage of the rare materials used to create solar panels and wind turbines, as well as electric cars and consumer electronics. Here, Matthew Stone, commercialisation director at organic polymer solar cell producer NextGen Nano, explains how energy companies can overcome this obstacle.  Read More


How to minimise project disruption due to trade instability

The power of human relationships that create interpersonal bonds, whether in a family, friends or business setting, is more important than ever in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world. Here, Melissa Albeck, CEO of online materials supplier platform Matmatch, explores the critical nature of the supplier-engineer bond.  Read More


Why design engineers should consider mechanical stress on materials

It’s unlikely that any design engineer would knowingly develop a product that was unfit for purpose or unable to last. But without close attention to materials selection, this can be the fate of many products due to mechanical stress and natural creep. Here, Richard Huber, materials scientist at materials comparison site Matmatch explains the impact of mechanical stress on commonly used materials.  Read More


How to activate the surfaces of difficult-to-bond materials

The first man-made plastic Parkesine was patented in 1856 by Alexander Parkes and many other plastics have since been developed. Today, these materials are a mainstay for many manufacturers. However, despite their favourable physical properties, some present challenges in bonding well with adhesives. Here, Peter Swanson, managing director of adhesives specialist Intertronics, explains why some materials are difficult to bond and how the challenge can be overcome.  Read More


Medical devices are copping a new material

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognised copper as the world’s leading anti-bacterial metal. This has led to a number of uses and opportunities for copper in medical applications. Here, Melissa Albeck, CEO of materials comparison website Matmatch, explains the benefits of using copper in comparison to other materials on the market.  Read More


Taking a closer look at tantalum

Last month, comic book fans flocked to cinemas as Black Panther hit the screens. Underpinning the film’s plot was fictional metal vibranium, which powered the titular hero’s kingdom of Wakanda. Interestingly, this metal was, in part, inspired by tantalum. So, what of the marvellous metal’s real-life counterpart? Here, Heiko Wildner, refractory metals specialist for materials comparison site Matmatch, examines the value and considerations of using tantalum.  Read More


Why manufacturers need to take ownership of the plastic problem

A recent study by Plymouth University reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, while a second report, by scientists at Ghent University in Belgium, calculated that people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Here, Miguel Campos, export sales manager at leading European packaging manufacturer, Advanta, explains why manufacturers, particularly in the food sector, must take control of getting the plastic epidemic under control by stopping it at the source.  Read More


Will A.I. make engineers redundant?

I’ve heard it said many times, if the industrial revolution was about amplifying muscle power, the information revolution is about amplifying brain power. More than that, it is about amplifying computation and dealing with incomprehensible amounts of data and complexity to find fresh insights into our world. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the modern-day equivalent to the steam engine. The roll out of these two broad technologies will fundamentally change life as we know it. Except, instead of it happening over 150 years like the industrial revolution, it’s predicted to happen in just 20 to 40 years.  Read More


Buckling Pin Relief Valves and bursting discs – Which is best for you?

Buckling Pin Relief Valves (BPRVs) and bursting discs (rupture discs) are used when gas and liquid applications are at risk of becoming over-pressurised in order to relieve pressure. Information from ASME VIII Division I suggests the two are interchangeable — but which is best suited to your application?  Read More


Driven by e-motion: ICE's long goodbye

In pre-recession 2007, I attended a lecture at Imperial College London on Peak Oil. The speaker, an academic with close ties to the oil and gas industry, believed Peak Oil had, in fact, happened. He claimed, it was entirely possible the lights would go out beyond 2012 and that the internal combustion engine would become obsolete almost overnight as the pumps ran dry.  Read More


Is technology in danger of allowing anyone to think they can be an engineer?

There are some clear technology trends rapidly coming to the fore that are set to fundamentally change the way engineers think about design... and they are both being driven by manufacturing systems.  Read More


Pressure is building on the automotive industry to reduce emissions

Deadlines mean different things to different people. To some, they're rigid; stuck hard and fast with little or no wiggle room. For others, it's simply a moment to reassess progress. Regardless, the general trait is to leave more to the last minute than is comfortable. So, as pressure mounts to deliver, the last push is often the most productive time of a project.  Read More


GUEST BLOG: UK suppliers mitigate ‘Brexit risk’ for manufacturers

UK-based producers of plastic goods would benefit from operating in a more secure and lower-risk raw material supply chain if they switched to locally-based suppliers, thereby lessening the potential of impact of Brexit, claims Keith Freegard, director of Axion Polymers.  Read More


Expect things to get more complex in 2017

It’s a year that’s been, well, unexpected. By all accounts 2016 will be remembered as the year the UK voted for Brexit, Trump won the White House and numerous celebrities passed away. So what on Earth can we expect from 2017?  Read More


The potential of graphene for the composite market

Stronger than a diamond yet a million times thinner than a human hair, the properties of graphene are astounding. The market for this material may still be in its infancy, but graphene is already being hailed as one of the most disruptive technologies of our time. For the composite market, there is no doubt that using graphene could open up a host of new possibilities. Here, John Cove, marketing manager of test and measurement specialist, Starrett, discusses the impact this new technology will have on product design and manufacturing.  Read More


Are biopolymers a green choice?

Biopolymers, as discussed before on the pages of Engineering Materials, are a bit of a confusing topic. Everyone from the engineers looking to specify them to the general public that will consume them, feels a bit baffled about what they actually are and what they offer. For plastics, using the word ‘bio’ is akin to those in the electronics industry adding ‘i’ in front of the name. It can be... misleading.  Read More


Composites to plateau

The use of composites throughout industry has been on an upward and expanding path this last decade. It was kicked off, at least in a major way, by Boeing when it announced the Dreamliner all the way back in December 2003.  Read More


BEEAs spring to action

Our search is now on for this year's industry stars. The entry process for the British Engineering Excellence Awards is now underway and open to any company or individual who are carrying out engineering design in the UK.  Read More


Brexit: Mudslinging begins as mixed messages, propaganda and misinformation dominate debate

Batten down the hatches and tie them tight. There is a storm coming and it’s going to hit everyone. It’s a political storm of course, so expect copious mudslinging from all sides.  Read More


Design Evolution vs Technology Revolution

Did you know there is such a thing as the VW Golf syndrome? It's not those that simply love the car, but rather more of a condition that most engineers and designers suffer from at some point in their careers.  Read More


Are we about to say goodbye to the steel industry?

The metals industry's woes continued this week, as Tata Steel, the UK’s largest producer, announced a further 1050 job cuts. While the material has seen a steady decline in demand by most major sectors, its actual manufacture tells another, more troubling, tale.  Read More


The changing face of engineering

At the time of writing this, I’m at the LiveWorx conference in Germany. The event is run by PTC, which many will know as a CAD and PLM software provider. So, why is it turning its focus away from design and the management of engineering activities, to tell European press and analysts about the Internet of Things?  Read More


Disruptive technology? More like frustrating promises and slow progress

We are living in an age of ‘disruptive technologies’. At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. But for me, like many engineers, the promise of it all often falls short of being delivered. And it’s frustrating.  Read More


Inspired by nature: the next generation of medical textiles

Chemists and materials scientists have long been inspired by Mother Nature. High-performance swimwear based on the texture of sharkskin, and smartphone screens that have learned from the naturally-antireflective coatings in moth eyes are just two high-profile examples. At the University of Bolton, we’re working on a range of bio-inspired materials that may change the way the human body heals itself.  Read More


Is it time to take humans out of the loop?

I admit it, I'm a pretty terrible back seat driver. It is not so much that I'm particularly vocal with advice to others, it's more that I'm what's called 'a flincher'. Get too close, brake too late or even change lanes, and there I am, quietly tensing up, getting nervous and generally looking uncomfortable.  Read More

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