Hadrian X is a giant truck-mounted robot that can lay up to 1,000 bricks an hour using a 30-metre arm, meaning it can stay in a single position throughout.

Bricks are fed on to a conveyor belt that sends them along the robot’s long telescopic boom. At the end of the boom is a “hand” which grabs and arranges the bricks, securing them with construction glue instead of cement.

It is smart enough to leave spaces in the brickwork for wiring and plumbing, and can even cut and shape bricks to size.

The robot was created by Australian firm Fastbrick Robotics, “People have been laying bricks for about 6,000 years and ever since the industrial revolution, they have tried to automate the bricklaying process” said Mark Pivac – Fastbrick Robotics founder. Mr Pivac insists he has “nothing against bricklayers”, but says he just wants to streamline the construction process.

The robot took 10 years to create, and has cost about £4.5m in research and development so far. The prototype needs no human intervention once the process begins.

Fastbrick Robotics says it will take about a year before the robot is ready to hit the market.

A revolutionary urinal that uses bacterial metabolism to turn urine into electricity is set to be used to improve sanitation facilities in refugee camps.

The toilet, which has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Fund, generates enough electricity to light facilities, aiding the safety of people in communal accommodation.

The technology was trialed by over a thousand people a day at last month’s Glastonbury festival, where the electricity was used to illuminate the cubicle housing the urinal.
In collaboration with Oxfam and other organisations, the researchers are now planning to test the urinals in India and in some regions of Africa.

The facilities will be installed in refugee camps, communities, schools and in public toilets that lack lighting.

The ‘184’ autonomous passenger drone from Chinese company, Ehang, has been given approval for test flights in Nevada. A prototype was shown off at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with the company hoping to sell the drones later this year.

Officials from the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems granted permission for the drone to be tested and offered to help Ehang submit the results to the Federal Aviation Administration in a bid to win further approval.

Mark Barker, business development director of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, said: “I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system.”

The prototype drone is 1.2m tall, weighs 200kg and has four double rotors fitted under the body at each corner of the vehicle making it resemble a remote control consumer drone. The passenger enters their destination on a touchscreen and the drone’s on-board computer works out the best route. It can carry a single passenger for 23 minutes at 60mph. Upon landing the rotors fold up so that the drone can fit into a space the size of a car parking space.

There is no passenger over-ride function, meaning the user cannot take control in an emergency. In the event of a malfunction, the drone has a ‘fail safe’ system that would land it in the nearest available area.

Ehang hopes to begin testing later in 2016. Gamechanger?

HP has unveiled two industrial 3D printers that it claims will produce high quality parts up to 10 times faster, and at half the cost of current systems.

The Jet Fusion 3D 3200 is suitable for prototyping, and will cost circa £90,000 when it is released in 2017. The higher-end Jet Fusion 3D 4200, whose price has not yet been announced, is designed for prototyping and meeting same-day demands for short-run manufacturing and will be available from the end of 2016.

Stephen Nigro, president of HP’s 3D printing business, said: “The new HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution delivers a combination of speed, quality, and cost never seen in the industry. Businesses and manufacturers can completely rethink how they design and deliver solutions to their customers.”

Instead of using lasers, the HP printers use ‘multi jet fusion’ technology – similar to its inkjet printing technology – to print functional parts at the individual ‘voxel’ level. A voxel is the 3D equivalent of a 2D pixel in traditional printing – “a pixel with volume”.

The company says it can precisely apply materials at up to 340million voxels per second; further claiming that it can create 12,600 copies of a typical plastic gear in the time it would take a competitor to make 1000.

As yet, the printers can only print in monochrome thermoplastic, however HP has promised additional materials, including metals, as well as full colour printing in the future.

Jaguar Land Rover’s project ‘REALCAR’, the recycled aluminium project that contributes to the Jaguar XE saloon’s aluminium-intensive body, has reached a significant milestone.

The project has reclaimed over 50,000 tonnes of aluminium scrap back into the production process during 2015/16, preventing more than 500,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from entering the atmosphere by not using primary aluminium material.

REALCAR involves 11 UK press shops implementing a closed-loop, segregating waste aluminium scrap so that it can be sent back into production to be re-melted into recycled aluminium sheet for use in Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.

The Jaguar Land Rover-led research project, part funded by Innovate UK, also saw the development of a recycled aluminium-based alloy which can accept a higher percentage of the recovered scrap. In 2014, the Jaguar XE became the first car in the world to use this high-strength aluminium alloy.

Recovering aluminium in this way offers huge sustainability benefits, with aluminium recycling requiring up to 95% less energy than primary aluminium production.

Thames Water is constructing what it says will be Europe’s biggest floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir five miles from Heathrow in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The farm, which will be made up of more than 23,000 solar photovoltaic panels and will have a total peak capacity of 6.5MW, is expected to be completed by the end of March 2016.

The floating pontoon will measure 57,500m2, the size of eight football pitches, and is expected to generate 5.8million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, enough to power 1800 homes, and will be used to part power a nearby water treatment works.

The reservoir is run by the water company, while the farm is being funded and operated by solar energy company, Lightsource. Thames Water’s energy manager, Angus Berry, said the farm would help the firm become “a more sustainable business”. The company is looking to self-generate a third of its energy by 2020.

The previous largest floating solar farm in Europe measured 45,500m2 andwas opened in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in December 2015. However, both it and Thames Water farm will both be dwarfed by the world’s largest. Kyocera is building what will be the biggest floating array on Yamakura Dam in Japan, which it claims will measure 180,000m2 when completed.

Innovate UK is investing up to £1.5million in technical feasibility studies to encourage new entrants to the energy sector and stimulate the adoption of disruptive technologies. Further funding of up to £500,000 is also available from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for support of relevant projects.

The aim of this competition is to find radical, innovative and cost-effective solutions to long-standing challenges faced by the energy sector, either by the development of new ideas or through technology transfer from other sectors.

The areas of interest for the competition include ‘taking inspection to the limit’, dealing with data’ and ‘engaging in energy’ in the areas of oil and gas, nuclear and energy systems.

Projects must be led by an SME whose main business lies outside the energy sector either alone or collaboratively with partners of any size from any sector.
Small businesses could receive up to 70% of their eligible project costs, medium-sized businesses up to 60% and large business partners up to 50%. Projects are expected to last six to 12 months and to range in size from total costs of £25,000 to £100,000, although projects outside this range may also be considered.

The competition opens on 28 March 2016 and the deadline for submissions is at noon on 11 May 2016.

Mcor has unveiled its latest 3D printer at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. The ARKe is said to be the world’s first industrial quality full-colour desktop 3D printer.

The printer is also low cost, around £4000; something that Mcor says will enable “3D printing to jump the chasm to a much broader range of creative professionals and truly facilitating creative learning like no other 3D printer has to date”.

With a resolution 4800 by 2400 dots per inch – twice that of industrial machines, the ARKe can provide photorealistic colour models by using razors to cut plain paper into shape, inkjets colour the paper which is then glued together and laminated.

As a development over its previous IRIS machine, the ARKe uses a roll of paper, which saves space and reduces the risk of feed issues. Another feature that Mcor thinks will make the ARKe a more attractive proposition to schools as well as offices is that it is safe and eco-friendly.

Because paper is used instead of plastics no harmful particle emissions or toxic chemicals are used during printing.

Dr. Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor Technologies said “I believe that this is a disruptive step that will transform this industry stimulating widespread adoption of 3D printing particularly in education and among creative professionals.”

Jake Dyson, son of Sir James has created an entirely new kind of light – Ariel, a sleek, suspended light that lasts 40 years before anything (even the bulb) needs replacing.

“LEDs have the ability to last for life – that’s why they were invented in the first place,” he says. “But companies sell LED lights that only last seven years so they can sell more in seven years’ time. I want my product to go into spaces where the interior doesn’t want to be changed for at least 25 years: airports or high-profile buildings, for example.”

Ariel will maintain its brightness for 180,000 hours, which if the light was on 12 hours a day, every day, at full brightness, is around 40 years.

Available in two models – a downlight and an uplight– and retailing at around £1,400 when it will be released next May, Ariel certainly isn’t cheap. But it is clever.

The Ariel is ZigBee WiFi-enabled, so can be controlled via an app, allowing users to set timers, or to link up their Ariel(s) to external light sensors so the light is dimmer on a sunny day, and brighter when it gets darker.

It also records the light’s electricity consumption and converts that into the KW/hour cost in the country it’s installed in – something that, surprisingly, other apps haven’t yet caught onto at this energy-conscious time.

US automotive firm Local Motors has announced that it aims to start selling the world’s first commercially available 3D printed electric car by the middle of 2016.

The LM3D Swim is the follow-up to the Strati, demonstrated at 2014’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Its chassis is roughly 75% 3D printed with a mix of ABS plastic and carbon fibre. But Local Motors plans to up this to 90% by consolidating as much of the traditional bill-of-materials into a single, 3D printed piece as possible.

Each LM3D Swim is constructed with less than 50 individual parts by one machine in a matter of hours, compared to the 30,000 plus parts by an assembly-line of machines that go into the construction of a traditional vehicle. Local Motors claims that this ‘microfactory’ technique produces a fraction of the emissions of large automotive factories.

The company says on its website that it wants its 3D printed cars to be safer than traditionally manufactured cars and claims that industry leading IoT companies have provided a range of connectivity and monitoring technologies that will help make driving safer and more efficient.

A strange tiny animal, the microscopic tardigrade is the inspiration behind a new material that could improve the efficiency of products like LED lights and solar cells.

The material under investigation is glass, and tardigrades (sometimes known as “water bears” or “moss piglets”) appear specialists in its production. These water-dwelling micro-organisms, which resemble minute caterpillars with eight stubby legs, are capable of shedding almost all of the water in their cells when exposed to extreme conditions, such as heat, cold or even the vacuum of space.

Read More

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) report that an innovative prosthetic hand that is connected directly with the brain has enabled a paralysed man to successfully feel again.

The 28-year-old male, who suffered a spinal cord injury and has been paralysed for more than a decade, was able to control a robotic hand with his brain and reported being able to sense physical sensations.

DARPA researchers attached electrodes to the man’s sensory cortex — the area of the brain responsible for identifying tactile sensations, such as pressure. Electrodes were also placed on the patient’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that directs body movements.

The success of this procedure involving multiple innovations undoubtedly provides new hope to those with spinal injuries and may also pave the way for life changing prosthetic solutions for amputees.

RWM is Europe’s leading event for resource management professionals, a three day event that brings together the entire industry to help influence the way we think about and manage waste.

The show attracts more than 700 brands and over 13,000 visitors, championing innovation by promoting achievable strategies, case studies and quality networking opportunities.

Read More

An atomic clock that sets the time by the tiny oscillations of strontium atoms is so precise that it will neither gain nor lose a second for the next 15 billion years.

The new strontium clock, which is three times as precise as the previous record holder, now has the power to reveal tiny shifts in time predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which states that time ticks faster at different elevations on Earth.

Read More

“Growth is dependent on innovation – it’s a key determinant of our economic success. Innovation is more than just technological innovation. It includes a wealth of creative endeavours and, of course, the design of new processes and changing the way people interact with the world.”

Rosa Wilkinson, Innovation Director, IPO

March 27, 2015 Design

Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. It has been developed by the research team at PrakashLab at Stamford University.

Although it costs less than 1$ US Dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than 8.8 g, is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person.

Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education.

The 10,000 unit Beta program has seen microscopes deployed worldwide and participants are currently posting their experiences and videos at http://www.foldscope.com

Disruptive innovation indeed!

Since the industrial revolution, many global populations have prospered as a result of the mass production business model.

We find and extract raw materials, convert them into products, and when they have brought utility to the consumers who buy them, we dispose of them as waste.

It’s undoubtedly a simple and widespread business model but is now increasingly seen as horribly wasteful by global manufacturers and consumers alike.

Read More

“HMRC offers financial reward to UK inventors and innovators”.
From 1st April 2013, UK companies are able to elect to enter the UK Patent Box and effectively reduce the rate of Corporation Tax paid on their qualifying profits to just 10%.

The Government aims to make the UK the most competitive tax regime in the G20 from 2013 and the Patent Box is a key piece of legislation designed to reward innovative UK companies through substantial tax relief on profits derived from the worldwide sales of their eligible products and services.

Read More

“If we are obliged to buy something, we have to buy something intelligent, which has longevity, so that you don’t put it in the trash five years later because it is no longer a good look,”

Philippe Starck

November 25, 2014 Design