6 Top Tips for Dealing with Undercuts on Moulded Parts

6 Top Tips for Dealing with Undercuts on Moulded Parts

Wondering what the implications are of design features on injection moulded parts? Find out how you can best deal with undercuts to reduce the impact on the manufacturing process – and ultimately the component cost.

 

May 5, 2021

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It would be great if parts were always designed for manufacture; not only would it be easier for the toolmakers and moulders, but it would also be more cost-effective for the customer. However, life is rarely that straightforward, and many plastic parts perform functional jobs such as acting as a clasp or fastener, or interconnecting with another component using features like snap-fits or threads. We take a look at why undercuts in plastic injection moulding create a challenge for the moulding process and how to overcome them when designing your injection moulded parts.

How does injection moulding work?

Injection moulding uses a tool made of two parts; a core and a cavity. Heated plastic is forced into the cavity of the tool to create the shape of the part, and, once formed and cooled, the two halves are released to extract the moulded component, an automated process known as ejection. When high volumes are manufactured a tool can contain multiple cavities, all injected at the same time through runners which take the molten material to each mould cavity.

What is an undercut in injection moulding terms?

An undercut is a feature on an injection moulded part that prevents the component from being ejected from the mould tool in the usual way. Examples of an undercut feature include lips, cavities, threads, holes for bolts or screws, hooks and clasp features.

Why do undercuts create a challenge for injection moulding?

Undercuts prevent parts from being extracted easily if tooling is designed in the standard method using a core and a cavity. When undercuts are included in the part design, adjustment of the mould design is required to enable the moulded part to be removed from the tool. There are times when a redesign of a part is preferable to an alternative mould design because the cost of creating some tool features can be prohibitive; it may be simpler and more cost-effective to alter the component’s geometry to suit the manufacturing process.

Where possible, then, the question of the feasibility of redesigning the part for manufacturability tends to be asked first, because a mould that requires secondary operations can quickly add extra cost to the tooling manufacture, and the requirements of the moulding process may result in both manual intervention (and therefore higher labour costs) as well as a higher scrap rate due to the additional room for error, particularly where multi-cavity tools are planned. However, where this is not possible or practical, there are some guidelines you can follow which will help to ensure that the injection moulded part uses the most effective manufacturing process and therefore provides the most aesthetic and cost-effective result.

#1 Parting lines

By adjusting the parting line between the two halves of a mould, you can create the split line right at the point of the undercut so that it intersects with the desired feature, removing the need for secondary operations. If the part design allows, it may be possible to have a parting line that incorporates more than one undercut by having the two halves of the tool separate across multiple features – the parting line may appear to be a little haphazard as it runs the length of the part, but it will be easier and more cost effective than having a tool with secondary operations. However, the position of the parting line of a tool is also influenced by the geometry of the moulded part, how well the material is likely to flow, the aesthetics of the part and critical features/faces, so it is not always possible to position the parting line purely based upon undercuts and the avoidance of secondary operations. If you choose to move the parting line to incorporate an undercut it is important to remember to adjust your draft angles to allow for this feature.

#2 Side Actions

If there is the need for an undercut or a cavity within the part itself, such as you might find in a beaker or a hand tool grip, then the mould tool design solution tends to be to lay the part on its side so that the parting line is along the length of the part. There is then a third part to the tool, which travels in sideways on an angled pin to create the undercut within the part. The side action can be automated so that it slides in at the same rate as the other two parts of the mould, and retracts when they do so that the moulded part is available for extraction only once the side action has completed. The side action insert must travel perpendicular to the part itself.

#3 Lifters

Lifters are not dissimilar to the side action mechanism, except that in this case there is an angled insert which, as the relevant half of the mould is released and the part ejected after moulding, the insert moves away from the moulded part at an angle to release it from the undercut. Compared to some of the other undercut solutions, this one is reasonably cost effective as it can be automated and becomes part of the standard ejection process, relying on the geometry of the tool design to allow for demoulding of the part.

#4 Sliding/telescoping shutoffs

Sliding shutoffs are used when a feature cannot easily be created through other means, such as a hook protruding from the side of a moulding. To create the hook, there will be a sliding shutoff through the hole in the wall of the main component to create this undercut. The rest of the hook feature will be produced by the half of the mould.

The difficulty with sliding shutoffs is that, if designed as two mating parts of a tool, there will be significant friction each time the tool is opened and shut; plastic cannot be allowed to form beyond the shape of the feature and so the shut-off must be extremely tight. To overcome damage to the mould, which would in turn very quickly produce moulded parts with an unacceptable finish, each of those surfaces must be drafted by around 3˚ so that full metal-to-metal contact is not made until the mould is fully closed and a mechanical seal is formed between the two faces.

#5 Bumpoffs

Bumpoffs are used for products that snap into place with a slight lip, such as lens covers and mobile phone cases. An insert is created to form the geometry of the pocket required and is bolted into the mould. If the material is pliable enough (softer plastics rather than reinforced materials), it will simply pop back over the mould feature during the ejection process by briefly deforming, but will retain its finished moulded shape. In order to achieve successful ejection, the bumpoff must be smooth and have radiused rather than sharp angles. Bumpoffs can only be used if they are located away from strengthening features such as ribs, and must have a lead angle of between 30˚ and 45˚.

#6 Hand-loaded inserts

Where an undercut is required with more difficult features such as a lip with a sharp angle, or an additional feature such as an awkwardly positioned hole does not allow for a solution like a bumpoff, then hand-loaded inserts are used. This solution sounds exactly as it is described; one or several machined parts of the mould are individually hand loaded into the necessary section of the cavity prior to the plastic material being injected. Once the moulded part has been formed, the two halves of the mould separate and then the hand-loaded inserts are retrieved in person. The downside to this is that it extends the cycle time of the part production, therefore increasing cost – and, of course, if the tool has multiple cavities, the person must load and unload each individual cavity.

For further detail around how to design a moulded part for manufacture, why not check out our injection moulding design guide; although we provide a free DFM (design for manufacture) service, it will save you time – and ultimately money – if you can approach the initial design process of your component with some of these manufacturing considerations in mind from the outset.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

10 ways 3D Printing will disrupt traditional manufacturing

10 ways 3D printing will disrupt traditional manufacturing

3D printing has already exceeded expectations in many fields and is hailed as a game-changer in the world of manufacturing technology. We take a look at some of those predictions.

 

April 29, 2021

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Additive manufacturing technology has evolved dramatically since the days when we were all creating 3D printed novelty cartoon characters and watching with wonder as television painted a rather sci-fi image of a future with 3D printing at the heart of the home. In recent years, 3D printing has indeed become democratised, and even if not an integral part of everyday home life, ordinary people are able to afford this technology. However, the domestic market is already slowing and, by comparison, the development of 3D printing as a manufacturing technology is gargantuan. Particularly applicable to industries where innovation and complex components are commonplace – such as aerospace, automotive and medical markets – additive manufacturing has been embraced, not only for rapid prototyping but also with an eye to serial production. There is seemingly no end to the limits to which this on-demand manufacturing technology can be pushed. We take a look below at some of the predictions for the future of 3D printing.

1. Serial production techniques

The majority of 3D printing is currently used for rapid prototyping during the development phase of production, where the 3D printed component is used as a sample rather than a final, functional solution. Higher quality output, improved materials and bespoke finishes will move the market towards using the technology for serial production. We are already seeing the adoption of additive manufacturing technology in areas where cost- and weight-reduction are paramount and where fast response times provide a competitive edge. There is no reason for larger scale manufacturers not to look to 3D printing for the same benefits. GE Aviation used 3D printing to take a nozzle for a jet engine from an almost impossibly intricate build made up of 20 separate pieces, to a single-piece 3D printed in a nickel alloy, weighing 25% less than their usual nozzle and five times more durable. Their former head of engineering describes the manufacturing technology as ‘an engineer’s dream’.

2. Automation

Although the actual printing process in additive manufacturing is automated, the level of human intervention in both the setup and finishing of production is still disproportionally high. A shift towards better simulation software and smarter tools will allow 3D printing to be better integrated into the automated production processes.

3. Sustainability

Whilst additive manufacturing is, by its very nature, less wasteful than existing subtractive processes, we are likely to see a further shift towards energy efficiency and recycled or reusable media. The University of Louisville have found a process that will transform the 8 million tons of soybean husk produced every year during the processing of soy, into micro and nano scale fibres that can be used for fibre composites and thermoplastic packaging products in 3D printing.

Image source: enablingthefuture.org

4. Customised prosthetics and organs for healthcare

Whilst 3D printed prosthetics are already starting to gain wide acceptance, we’ve not seen much uptake as yet in bioprinting. The 3D printing of tissues and organs will become commonplace as the technology matures and people become more comfortable with the concept. e-NABLE is a global community of volunteers who use their domestic 3D printers to make free prosthetic limbs for children and adults who have lost limbs through war, natural disasters and accidents. Their open-source designs mean that just about anyone with access to additive manufacturing technology can get involved.

5. Metal

Metal printers will become cheaper, with better tolerances and higher quality finishes, which will, in turn, create a greater uptake in the market. One of the fastest growing segments of the additive manufacturing market, 3D printing in metal is already widely used for the rapid prototyping of components. However, because 3D printing can facilitate the production of parts with internal structures and shapes that cannot be machined, this is a potential game changer and could drive the push to serial production of metal components. One of the world’s largest metal 3D printing machines is already making entire rockets for NASA to be trialled in space during the coming year.

6. Production of fully customised drugs

Bespoke medication is the goal of 3D printing in the pharmaceutical sector. This would enable manufacturers to combine multiple prescriptions into a single pill which is then printed on demand, saving billions in healthcare – not to mention saving lives. There are some drugs on the market which are already produced through additive manufacturing, an example being Spritam, an epilepsy drug and the first 3D printed medicine to be approved by the FDA. The main benefit currently is that the dosage can be customised for the recipient so that the dosage is accurate in a way that mass-produced drugs are not.

Image source: bigrep.com

7. Modular and bespoke vehicles

3D printing in the automotive industry is mostly used for product development and rapid prototyping. In the future, we can expect to see more and more cars with 3D printed parts, allowing for bespoke customisation of vehicles. We’re not going to see fully 3D printed vehicles in the general marketplace just yet because the technology is not ready to replace the current processes involved in volume production of vehicles, but the potential is there. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t currently feasible; NERA is the first 3D printed e-motorbike, with all parts except for the electronics produced through additive manufacturing.

8. Composite materials

Composites are lightweight, strong materials usually found in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and oil and gas. Their production is costly in terms of labour and resource, but material development is allowing more of these to be 3D printed with the potential to scale the process up to larger volumes. This could make lighter, stronger components available for serial production and reduce costs.

9. Architecture

There are already examples of some 3D printed homes, but as the cost savings, flexibility and efficiency of on-site printing become increasingly attractive to both architects and the construction industry, we can expect to see more homes produced through additive manufacturing in the coming years. As innovative architects around the world tussle to out-do one another, this project by SQ4D claims to be the world’s largest 3D printed home at 1900 square feet, only taking 48 hours to print over an eight-day period.

10. 3D fashion

Whilst much of the innovation and development in the world of additive manufacturing is based around manufacturing technology in engineering settings, not all 3D printing is destined for industry. The possibilities that 3D printing opens up is also catching the eye of fashion designers. With the ability to grow a fabric 3-dimensionally and define the characteristics of that garment – flexibility, waterproofing, opacity – not only can clothing become aesthetically novel, but also functionally smart too. These dresses from ThreeASFOUR were designed as a point of crossover between biomimicry and fashion.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Sustainable Manufacturing: How is Geomiq Fighting the Climate Crisis?

Sustainable Manufacturing: How is Geomiq Fighting the Climate Crisis?

Today, the Geomiq team are beyond excited to announce our newest sustainability initiative. Read on to learn why sustainable manufacturing has never been more crucial – and how we can all work together to fight against climate change.

 

April 22, 2021

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Manufacturing is faster, easier and more efficient than it ever has been, and each year it operates on an even larger scale. We celebrate the innovation, dynamism and power of the manufacturing industry, but with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s vital we recognise its environmental footprint too. Since 1950, the metal manufacturing industry has grown by more than six times. Unfortunately, so have global carbon emissions. In 1950, the world emitted just over 5 billion tonnes of CO2. Today, we emit over 36 billion tonnes each year.

If we continue this way, our planet will not be habitable for future generations. As David Attenborough puts it, “the moment of crisis has come”, and something has to be done. Luckily, we still have time to change course. We can avoid more dire impacts of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5°C, according to one recent report by the United Nations, which stated that emissions of the greenhouse gases heating the planet – from power stations and factories, vehicles and agriculture – should be almost halved by 2030. With this in mind, sustainable manufacturing is the only way forwards – and the only ethical option for engineers and manufacturers everywhere.

At Geomiq, we’re on a mission to reduce our carbon footprint, promote real sustainability in the manufacturing industry and lead by example. That’s why, from April 22nd, we are committing to planting one tree for every order we receive on our platform. Our ultimate goal is to become a carbon neutral company by 2022, and to facilitate real change within the manufacturing industry as a whole.

To understand why sustainable manufacturing is so important, let’s start by taking a look at the industry’s current carbon footprint, and explore what we can do to reduce it.

The engineering and manufacturing industries’ current carbon footprint

When it comes to unsustainable processes, the manufacturing sector is currently one of the world’s largest perpetrators, emitting an annual total of 880 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent greenhouse gases) each year. This makes it one of the largest single emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe.

In 2018, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2018, industry accounted for 22% of US greenhouse gas emissions in the USA. However, this figure only takes into account direct emissions – so the real figures are likely even more worrying. When you consider manufacturing companies’ use of electricity and transportation in their operations, the manufacturing industry’s share of emissions rises to nearly 30% – a larger percentage than any other industry.

As manufacturers, therefore, we have an enhanced duty to act quickly to reduce the damage we are currently doing to the environment, and reach carbon neutrality as soon as possible.

How can engineering and manufacturing become more sustainable?

There is plenty of guidance out there for those in the manufacturing industry who are looking to live more lightly on the planet. To name just one helpful resource, ‘ISO/TR 14062:2002, Environmental Management — Integrating Environmental Aspects into Product Design and Development’ is a great start for manufacturers and engineers looking to ‘go green’.

Here are some of the key things engineers and manufacturers are currently doing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions:

#1 Use environmentally friendly materials

With plastics proven to harm the environment, many manufacturers are looking to use more environmentally friendly materials, such as biopolymers/biodegradable polymers, in their manufacturing processes.

#2 Turn to additive manufacturing (3D printing)

In subtractive manufacturing processes, such as CNC machining, products are made by chipping away at blocks of material. By contrast, additive manufacturing (3D printing) is a process whereby three dimensional objects are created layer-by-layer using 3D object scanners or CAD (computer aided design). Since additive manufacturing forms an object on the build platform from material fed into the machine, there is far less unused waste. This makes 3D printing a more sustainable technique – as it’s far kinder to our planet.

#3 Focus on remanufacturing

Manufacturers can also reduce carbon emissions by remanufacturing; reusing durable materials (such as steel) in their manufacturing processes. Before parts can be used again, they need to be cleaned by sand blasting, pressure washing or abrasive blasting. Once this has been done, they’re almost as good as new – and the planet will thank you for using them!

#4 Be energy-efficient

As we touched on earlier, when you consider the manufacturing industry’s use of electricity and transportation in their operations, carbon emissions rise even further than the EPA’s estimated 22%. To save energy, manufacturers should consider buying energy-efficient machinery and equipment, lighting their facilities with LED light bulbs (which use 80% less energy than incandescent light bulbs), or look to renewable forms of energy, such as solar or wind. In fact, sunlight is one of our planet’s most abundant energy sources. According to Business Insider, the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface in an hour is more than the planet’s total energy requirements for an entire year.

How is Geomiq working towards sustainable manufacturing?

At Geomiq, we are proud to be keeping our carbon emissions to a minimum through employing all of the strategies outlined above. But we believe there’s more we could all be doing.

That’s why we are excited to be launching an exciting new sustainability initiative today. From April 22nd, we will plant one tree for every order placed on our platform, as part of our ultimate goal to offset our carbon emissions and become a carbon neutral company by the end of 2021.

We’re excited about this initiative because science has demonstrated that planting trees is one of the best ways to help keep the planet green. According to The Grantham Institute (Climate Change and Environment), one tree saves one ton of CO2 during its lifespan. In other words, one tree can do a whole lot of good – and so can one company!

Let’s work towards a more sustainable kind of manufacturing

We are all responsible for fighting the climate crisis, and it’s crucial that we all come together – across every industry – to play our part in doing so. Of course, the first step is understanding the way our actions might be damaging the environment, so that we can start becoming more climate positive in the work that we do.

We would encourage everyone in the engineering and manufacturing space to think carefully about the above tips, and about what they can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and take care of Mother Earth. When we work together, we can ignite real change in the manufacturing industry – and make real sustainability a priority, alongside innovation.

It is everyone’s responsibility to help ensure a healthy planet for future generations. At Geomiq, we don’t just want to make high-quality mechanical parts, we want to make a better world too. Have a look at all the cool stats about our tree planting scheme: https://ecologi.com/geomiqltd

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

The time of drone delivery: A new chapter in transportation & logistics

The time of drone delivery: A new chapter in transportation & logistics

Over the past year, we’ve seen an unprecedented boom in tech investment and adoption around the world – and drone delivery is now set to change the future of commercial delivery forever. Today, we’ll be exploring the challenges, the potential and the future of drone delivery.

 

April 15, 2021

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In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for businesses across almost every industry. However, necessity is often the mother of invention, and the obstacles of the past year have created a huge boom in tech investment and adoption around the world.

Throughout the pandemic, drone delivery proved to be a highly efficient way to transport delicate deliveries that require careful handling and minimal human interaction, leading the UK government to approve their use for medical deliveries during the pandemic, and the US to use drones to transport personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests.

However, drone delivery is by no means a new phenomenon. Over the past few years, drone delivery has been trialled by several commercial companies, and in 2016, Amazon carried out the first successful ‘Prime Air’ drone-delivered package; delivering a TV streaming stick and a bag of popcorn directly to the garden of a nearby customer.

Although commercial drone trials like these were already underway in pre-pandemic years, they were often restricted by strict regulations. COVID-19 seems to have accelerated drone manufacturing, technology and delivery by paving the way for new airworthiness criteria and regulations. November 2020 marked a critical point for drone delivery, as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) proposed airworthiness criteria for the certification of delivery drones for commercial operations.

With the FAA’s new airworthiness criteria, a new chapter in transportation and logistics has begun, as market leaders experiment with using drones to transport food, post, health supplies and other goods to businesses and consumers across the globe.

As we look to the future of airborne transportation, let’s start by examining the current state of delivery drones; from today’s biggest players, to how they work, and the challenges that still need to be overcome for drone deliveries to be successful on a wider commercial scale.

Delivery drones in 2021

From vaccines to cinema snacks, drone technology can clearly be used to address a wide range of government, corporate and consumer needs. Here are the key ways drones being used by companies, agencies and individuals today:

#1 Healthcare delivery

Drones can be used to transport medicinal products such vaccines, medical samples, protective equipment and other supplies. Perhaps the biggest benefit of drones for healthcare deliveries is that they can fly into remote or otherwise inaccessible regions more easily and quickly than other forms of transportation.

In addition to transporting supplies in the UK and the US during the pandemic, medical drone delivery is credited with saving lives during emergency deliveries of blood in Rwanda and post-hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

#2 Food delivery

In addition to delivering medical essentials, drones have also been proposed as a solution for rapidly delivering prepared foods, such as pizzas, ready meals and frozen beverages. For example, Tesco have recently announced their plans to trial a drone delivery service, which will see small items dropped off at customers’ homes within 30 minutes of ordering.

#3 Post delivery

Several postal companies from the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, and Ukraine have undertaken various drone trials as they test the feasibility and profitability of unmanned delivery drone services. Notably, the USPS (United States Postal Service) has been testing deliveries using HorseFly drones.

#4 Ship resupply

Both the Port of Rotterdam and the shipping line Maersk have recently experimented with using drones to resupply offshore ships, instead of sending smaller boats to do the same job.

Image: Zipline

Drone technology: today’s biggest players

In recent months, the US has seen ten companies receive Federal Aviation Administration approval, allowing them to expand their drone testing programs. Here are three of the world’s biggest players:

#1 Amazon

Ecommerce giant Amazon’s Prime Air is a future commercial delivery system, designed to safely get small packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using drones.

#2 Zipline

San-Francisco-based medical drone delivery company Zipline is redefining the supply chain by making vital medical shipments within the US and across borders. Zipline has made more than 70,000 medical deliveries by drone to date, and its impact so far has been enormous. Zipline has saved lives by sending emergency deliveries of blood in Rwanda, sending post-hurricane relief to citizens in Puerto Rico and delivering COVID-19 tests and protective equipment in the US during the pandemic.

#3 Wingcopter

Wingcopter is a German aerospace company providing worldwide drone solutions for commercial and humanitarian applications. To date, the company has partnered with commercial and humanitarian organizations to perform drone delivery of critical supplies in Africa, the South Pacific, Ireland, and Scotland. During the pandemic, Wingcopter partnered with the NHS to deliver medical test samples and other supplies to a hospital on a remote Scottish island. As such, Wingcopter has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a ‘2020 Technology Pioneer’.

Drone technology: what makes it possible?

As a leading manufacturing platform ourselves, at Geomiq, we’re fascinated by the efficiency and innovation of commercial-scale drone manufacturing. Let’s take a look at the drone technology that gets these aircrafts off the ground:

Overview of drone manufacturing:

The specifics of drone manufacturing will vary greatly depending on what the delivery drone was designed to do/deliver, and where it is heading to. However, two of the most common drone configurations are a multirotor and a fixed-wing design:

  • Multirotor drones: Multirotor drones (such as quadcopters or octocopters) are drones with horizontally-aligned propellers. A multirotor design provides power to lift the drone and payload, redundancy to powertrain failure, and an ability to hover and descend vertically (VTOL). However, a multirotor configuration is less efficient and produces more noise.
  • Fixed-wing drones: A fixed-wing configuration provides an order of magnitude increase in range, flight at higher airspeeds, and produces less noise, but requires more space for take-off, delivery, and landing.

Notably, there are also hybrid approaches that use multiple horizontal rotors for take-off and landing, and vertical rotors paired with a fixed-wing for forward flight.

Manufacturing drone motors:

Drone manufacturers typically use brushless DC motors to keep drones in the air as they are cheap, light, small and extremely powerful. The propeller blades of the drone turn at very high speeds, so manufacturers look to use material for these rotor blades that maximises the strength to weight ratio.

Some brushless DC motors are made from carbon-fiber reinforced composites, while others are made of thermoplastics (which are cheaper). Drone manufacturers also use lithium ion batteries for most drone configurations because they provide a lot of energy and power, but are still relatively light (so do not weigh down the drone).

Manufacturing autopilot drones:

Drone manufacturers use sensors to help drones fly autonomously:

  • These include inertial sensors, such as accelerometers, which help drones fly by providing data to allow the autopilot to adjust motor speeds (also known as multirotor configuration) or control surface deflections to steer the drone (fixed-wing configuration).
  • Navigation sensors (like GPS or magnetic sensors) help drones fly along a specific path, route or to a particular point by measuring its location as it flies.
  • Air flow sensors measure air speed, temperature, and density, and that information maintains safe control of the drone. Drones may also use these sensors to estimate wind speed, to assist with package delivery and/or landing manoeuvres.

Of course, in addition to all of these sensors, it’s also vital to have a great Ground Control System for safe commercial drone operations. The drone operator needs to manage their fleet of aircraft and monitor the broader airspace, and for commercial deliveries, ground control systems are also vital for receiving and tracking orders.

The challenges of drone delivery

Although drone manufacturing and drone technology has come a long way in recent years, there are still significant social concerns surrounding the widespread use of delivery drones.

For example, many fear that drones – like other forms of automation – may lead to higher levels of unemployment. There is, of course, a counterargument to this; drones may actually create entirely new jobs for packers, drone maintenance staff and ground control personnel.

Additionally, there are concerns that drones littering the sky might constitute a form of visual or noise pollution, and may be potential hazards to citizens below. It’s highly likely that a period of adjustment will take place before drones are widely accepted in society. As Mischa Dohler, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Professor at King’s College London, puts it: “Socially, it will take a while (if ever) for us to accept volatile things flying over our kids’ heads, which we know could potentially crash any time.”

On top of these social concerns, there are also many practical considerations to be taken into account. For example, according to Mohammed Shaqura, of the University of Leeds’ Real Robotics Lab: “While the price of the technology is justified by the value of the service provided – with 80% reduced cost claimed by DHL in China – scaling and generalising these systems can be tricky.”

Shaqura also makes the point that “Flying conditions like wind and rain can affect the stability of the flying robot and pose risks of degraded or potential hazards. Innovation is also needed for autonomous accessible charging systems. Wireless charging pads or hot-swappable batteries might be the answer”.

Nevertheless, the FAA’s new regulations allowing commercial companies to trial drone delivery (if specific criteria is met) marks a new chapter of possibility for safe, efficient drone delivery systems, which had previously been inhibited by strict UK laws that prevented flying in public areas (aka: almost everywhere!).

The future of drones

As we’ve explored, socially and logistically, there are still several complex challenges associated with drone delivery transportation and logistics.

However, with the introduction of new airworthiness criteria, the excitement of consumers around faster ecommerce delivery and the key players’ impressive track records of saving and improving lives around the world, it looks like drone delivery might be about to truly take off.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Top Ten 3D Modelling Software – Beginner to Professional

Top ten 3d modelling software - beginner to professional

With the growth in popularity of 3D printing, the CAD software market has boomed. We explore the most popular – from free 3D software through to premium packages.

April 7, 2021

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CAD software is used in the mechanical design process, allowing users to create, modify, analyse and optimise a design. The key benefit of 3D software is that it allows us to build a component in a virtual space, enabling the visualisation of its physical geometry as well as visual aesthetics, aiding in the product development cycle and digitising steps in what used to be a largely physical prototyping process. We take a look here at some of the most popular CAD software.

#1 Tinkercad

Popular with hobbyists, this free 3D software is great as an introduction to CAD and is used in schools to provide entry-level experience.

  • Cost: Free.
  • User profile: Beginners/hobbyists.
  • PC requirements: Low.
  • Training: Great resources available on the website including online classes and videos.

Advantages:

  • Extensive library of pre-built objects.
  • Saves directly to the cloud.
  • In-built integration to some third-party 3D printing services.

Disadvantages:

  • Simplistic; complex designs are not possible.

#2 Wings3D

Developed largely for low to mid-range polygonal modelling, Wings3D is great for creating models for 3D printing if you are looking for an organic shape.

  • Cost: Free.
  • User profile: Beginners, but has scope to accommodate more complex requirements.
  • PC requirements: Very low.
  • Training: Whilst there are plenty of training materials available, they have been developed by the user community and there is nothing formal from the developers.

Advantages:

  • Full tool set subdivision modeller.
  • Many supported file types for working in existing 3D workflows.
  • Virtual mirror for extremely fast and powerful symmetrical modelling.
  • Full support for 3D printing and supports many file types.

Disadvantages:

  • Bundled documentation is limited and relies on the on-line forums.
Image: Wings3D

#3 3D Builder

3D Builder was developed by Microsoft with 3D printing in mind. Not only does it contain the essential modelling tools for a 3D product development process, but it also contains features designed specifically to prepare your finished model for 3D printing.

  • Cost: Free to Windows 10 users.
  • User profile: Beginners.
  • PC requirements: Very low.
  • Training: Limited, very simple online training aids.

Advantages:

  • Specific tools for manipulating and preparing objects for 3D printing.
  • Simple to use.
  • A large existing project library.

Disadvantages:

  • Very limited outside of basic use.
  • Poor documentation and resources.

#4 Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is intended as part of an integrated product development process, with CAD software connected directly to CAM, CAE and PCB so that the engineering, electronics and manufacturing processes are all held in their cloud-based platform. There is dedicated 3D printing support but it is not as developed as some other 3D software packages.

  • Cost: Free for hobbyists, start-ups and educational use. £430 per year for professionals.
  • User profile: Intermediate/professional.
  • PC requirements: Resource-heavy, requiring a lot of memory for larger projects.
  • Training: Great learning resources on their website.

Advantages:

  • Extremely powerful modeller.
  • The cloud platform stores the entire history of the modelling process.
  • Facilities for design teams to collaborate on projects.
  • Wide ranging support for file types.

Disadvantages:

  • Live development risks functional changes mid-project.
  • Steep learning curve for users.
Image: Formlabs

#5 Rhino 7

This CAD software package uses the NURBS mathematical model to create precise curves and freeform surfaces – an alternative to the polygonal model. This popular software option is used widely for 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing processes.

  • Cost: €995 for a one-off commercial license, €195 for students.
  • User profile: Intermediate .
  • PC requirements: Resource heavy.
  • Training: There are a wealth of online training resources and good documentation in support.

Advantages:

  • Extremely powerful free-form modelling tools.
  • Read and repair meshes for 3D printing.
  • Good support for varying file types.

Disadvantages:

  • Steep learning curve.

#6 Blender

Blender is an open-source 3D software option. It supports a wide range of functions from 2D animation and video editing through to product development and simulation.

  • Cost: Free.
  • User profile: Intermediate/professional.
  • PC requirements: Can be run on low-end machines but higher spec configurations are recommended.
  • Training: Online documentation and tutorials, with a huge community support forum.

Advantages:

  • Extremely well featured.
  • Powerful 3D modeller.
  • Massive community and resources.
  • Good file type support.

Disadvantages:

  • Extremely complex.
  • Very steep learning curve.

#7 FreeCAD

Designed specifically for product development, this open-source CAD software uses parametric modelling to enable you to go back to previous design iterations within your model history and change its parameters.

  • Cost: Free.
  • User profile: Intermediate.
  • PC requirements: Very low, though larger projects can be demanding.
  • Training: Poor learning resources, although there is comprehensive documentation.

Advantages:

  • Excellent modelling tools including FEA and parametric modelling.
  • Good support for file types.
  • Modular design makes it infinitely extendable.

Disadvantages

  • Very steep learning curve.
  • Stability can be an issue.

#8 SOLIDWORKS

With a 25 year history of supplying CAD software into engineering businesses, SOLIDWORKS is a well-known and trusted name for product development and computer aided manufacturing processes.

  • Cost: Licences cost around £3,500 with annual maintenance of £1,500.
  • User profile: Professional.
  • PC requirements: Very heavy, with dedicated graphics accelerators required.
  • Training: Excellent support and tutorials online.

Advantages:

  • Great 3D modeller with good tools, including FEA, weight and centre of gravity analysis.
  • Intuitive user experience.
  • Excellent support and ongoing development.
  • Multiple file types supported.

Disadvantages:

  • Resource heavy with larger assemblies.
  • Stability issues.

#9 AutoCAD

Aimed at professional architects, engineers and construction professionals, AutoCAD is used for both 2D and 3D modelling. Although it does offer some 3D printing support, this isn’t its primary intended usage.

  • Cost: £1,986 per licence annually.
  • User profile: Professional.
  • PC requirements: Can be run on low-end machines but higher spec configurations are recommended.
  • Training: Excellent training with a full Academic Partners Programme. Huge on-line resource library.

Advantages:

  • Extremely accurate for 2D drafting and 3D modelling.
  • Scope for managing extremely large and complex projects.
  • Extremely mature.
  • Good support for file types.

Disadvantages:

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Time intensive design/drafting process because of its accuracy levels.

#10 CATIA

Developed with product design and experience in mind, both from a product development and manufacturing processes perspective, CATIA’s unique selling point is that it allows the designer to experience the product in its environment. It also offers unrivalled 3D printing and manufacturing support.

  • Cost: £9,700 per licence plus £1,700 maintenance annually.
  • User profile: Professional.
  • PC requirements: Very heavy resource requirements including dedicated graphics accelerators.
  • Training: Extensive support and training available, including e-learning.

Advantages:

  • Well developed 3D modeller with unparalleled functionality.
  • Excellent support for production with dedicated analysis for various manufacturing types.
  • Mature – almost industry standard.

Disadvantages:

  • A huge package that is difficult to learn.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Tech Products to Watch Out for in 2021

Tech products to watch out for in 2021

Find out how the demand for environmentally friendly, personalised products are influencing the gadgets in our homes – and how advances in manufacturing technology and robotics are helping to fulfil that demand.

March 31, 2021

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Every generation past has been astounded at the rate of technological change in their time; from steam to electricity, computer technology to global travel. The speed of advancement is still as heady as ever, but the drivers behind it are changing along with our priorities and lifestyle choices. Our desire for personalised, bespoke products that suit our needs – and quickly – has increased the demand for 3D printing technology. Our drive to save our planet and protect it for future generations is pushing the development of electric vehicles as well as drones. And busy lives, the constant battle to free-up our time, is driving us to take robotic technology to places that, until recently, would have been seen as pure science fiction. We take a look at some of the technology we should all be watching out for in 2021 as R&D teams and manufacturers around the world continue to push the envelope.

Drones

Drones are fast becoming a mainstream gadget and are popular in industrial settings where they are disrupting traditional processes, in small businesses where they are complementing traditional information gathering techniques, as well as with hobbyists. This study by dronesdirect shows that when it comes to embracing drone technology in the home, rather than Gen Z taking the lead, the main proponents are actually in the age groups of 46-53 years and 55+, and are using them to enhance traditional pastimes.

According to Business Insider, the drone services market is expected to climb to $63.6 billion globally by 2025, with ecommerce stores like Amazon taking up the technology to provide driverless deliveries, and commercial drone sales largely responsible for this explosion in growth.

Still struggling to see where a drone might fit into your life? How about this Ring Always Home Cam, a drone which patrols your property on the lookout for intruders.

Electric Vehicles

We couldn’t write a piece on gadgets without including the critical green technology that is on everybody’s lips at the moment. The demand for guilt-free travel is forcing key players in the automotive industry into a race to produce affordable, practical electric vehicles that will capture the imagination of even the most staunch petrolhead. This research by next greencar shows that up until 2019, plug-in hybrid vehicles were by far the more popular choice, but with the UK infrastructure for charge points improving year-on-year, so too does the popularity of full battery electric cars, with over 215,000 pure electric cars on UK roads by the end of February 2021.

The two cars raising expectations for this year? The Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Model 3, both cited by Whatcar and Top Gear as classy, fast, practical and fun to drive. Just as long as you have a cool £40-60k in your back pocket.

As for electric bikes, there is a quiet revolution happening on our streets. Unlike electric cars or scooters, the aim of the electric bike is to assist the rider rather than do the work for them, reducing the level of effort from the cyclist without completely removing the fun factor or exercise benefits. Electric bikes are available in all styles, and generally come with eco tour and turbo modes so that you can select your riding style according to your location and battery life. Electric bike sales currently sit at around 60,000 per year in the UK. However, with cities investing in cycle lanes and hire points, plus the impending ban on electric and diesel cars later in the decade, Halfords are predicting a significant growth in the sale of electric bikes over the next ten years.

A particularly cool combination of electric bike and 3D printing technology comes together in the Superstrata E bike; you send them your dimensions, riding style and other choices, and they will use 3D printing technology to manufacture a bespoke carbon fibre electric bike to order.

Image source: superstrata.bike

3D Printing Technology

The market for additive manufacturing has been growing year on year since it emerged and is forecast to double in size every three years. According to Jabil’s research on 3D printing trends, even in the past two years the use of 3D printing technology by manufacturers has skyrocketed, with Research and Development now by far the most common reason for using the technology.

One of the greatest users of 3D printing technology has become the automotive industry, embracing this manufacturing technology not only for development cycles but also to reduce lead times on the production of custom jigs and low volume parts.

But with 3D printing available so widely, including in some people’s homes, what are we actually printing? Everything from prosthetic limbs to musical instruments and shoes. With the vast array of materials available for 3D printing now, you would struggle to find a product which couldn’t be printed through additive manufacturing, one of the reasons why platforms like Geomiq are becoming so popular; simply upload your design, select the material and go. What could be simpler?

Robotics

We are all pretty familiar by now with how robotics is used in manufacturing technology, creating efficiencies and precise, repeatable processes. However, robotics technology is entering our homes, workplaces and educational settings. Here are just a handful of innovative robotics gadgets that are finding their way into everyday life:

  • Oregon State University use Starship robots to deliver food to students and staff across their 500-acre campus using a combination of machine learning, AI and sensors to traverse sidewalks and avoid objects in their way.
  • We can soon expect robotics technology to help with domestic care; Samsung are launching a range of care robots which can undertake tasks such as reminding you to take your medicine, monitoring your heartrate and calling the emergency services if you need help.
  • If you’re looking for a greener and healthier lifestyle, the obvious choice is to leave the car at home. But that means carrying all your shopping home… or does it? Gita Bot is designed to follow you around, carrying your bags so you don’t have to, taking on board up to two shopping bags.
  • If what you really want is some help around the house, then the Foldimate not only washes and dries your clothes, but has a robotic folding machine built in so that you don’t have to sort and fold your clothes.
  • Want to take your chore reduction a step further? The Moley Robotic kitchen will cook for you as well!

Never before have we been in a position to make such individual choices about our purchases – in some cases designing them ourselves for immediate production. Could online, on-demand manufacturers like Geomiq be the future not only for industry, but for consumers, too?

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

How Does CNC Machining Work?

How Does CNC Machining Work?

In recent decades, CNC machining has completely transformed the world of engineering, becoming one of the most popular methods of digital manufacturing today. Read on to find out what CNC machining involves, the different kinds of CNC services available and which might be the best fit for your rapid prototype or production needs.

March 24, 2021

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As CNC machining is renowned for being one of the most high-tech manufacturing methods in the business, you might be surprised to hear that the first steps towards modern-day CNC machining were taken way back in the 1950s. This was when manufacturers at MIT found that they could reduce the time spent on manufacturing parts from 8 hours to just 15 minutes by allowing computers to take the lead on rapid prototyping and production. Now that’s what we’d call a life-changing discovery!

Since then, CNC machining has continued to evolve, and to completely transform the world of engineering. Today, it’s one of the most popular methods of digital manufacturing across almost every technical industry.

At Geomiq, we’re proud to be partnered with 180+ highly vetted CNC manufacturers, specialising in both CNC milling and CNC turning, who have a proven track record of making high-quality mechanical parts for customers all over the globe.

As experts in the field who are passionate about all things CNC, we’re excited to help you understand today what CNC machining is, how it works, the many benefits of CNC machining and which industries it can help the most.

What is CNC machining?

Computer numerical control (CNC) machining is a form of subtractive manufacturing, meaning that material gets removed (rather than added) during the production process. This means CNC machining starts with a block of material (called a blank), and uses fast-moving cutters to quickly carve away material and create the finished part.

This essentially makes it the opposite of additive manufacturing (e.g. 3D printing), where three dimensional objects are created layer-by-layer from materials loaded into 3D printing machines.

Crucially, CNC machining is also a metal fabrication method where written code controls the CNC machinery in the manufacturing process. Let’s take a closer look at what this means:

How do CNC machines work?

As we just touched on, CNC machines are run by a digitalised computer that automates, monitors, and controls the movement of an industrial machine. In large industrial plants, the computer is usually installed in the machines, but for hobbyists’ machines, the computer is generally attached externally.

The exact movements that this code controls depends on the type of CNC machine that is being used. Let’s take a look at some of the most common CNC machines in use today, and how they work:

Types of CNC Machines

#1 CNC milling machines

CNC milling is one of the most common types of CNC machining, known for its great accuracy and tolerances. CNC machines feature built-in tools for drilling and cutting, and after materials are placed inside them, the computer will guide the drilling and cutting tools to work their magic.

At Geomiq, we’re proud to offer both 3 axis and 5 axis high-precision CNC milling capabilities. 5 axis CNC milling is generally suited to more complex geometries and is typically done in a single operation, while 3 axis CNC milling is often the more suitable choice for creating more simple parts.

#2 CNC lathe machines

CNC turning is essentially the opposite to CNC milling, as instead of the cutting tools moving to cut material away, the material itself is rotated as it is cut. CNC lathe machines feature a lathe in the center that manipulates and moves the material into the position as programmed on the computer. This is another of our talented partners’ specialties!

#3 CNC plasma-cutting machines

Like CNC milling machines, CNC plasma-cutting machines are also used to cut materials. However, they differ from their milling counterparts as they performing this operation using a high-powered plasma torch, which can achieve temperatures up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and are strong enough to cut through rough materials like metal!

#4 CNC laser-cutting machines

Not to be confused with plasma-cutting CNC machines, laser-cutting CNC machines are also designed to cut through tough materials, but they use a laser to perform this task (rather than a plasma torch). These lasers tend to have a higher level of cutting accuracy, but aren’t quite as strong as plasma torches.

#5 CNC electric discharge machines

A CNC electric discharge CNC machine, also known as a spark CNC machine, is a special type of CNC machine that uses electrical sparks to manipulate materials into the desired shape. Materials are placed between a top and bottom electrode, after which the computer dictates how much electrical discharge the electrodes produce – and how the part is reshaped.

5 benefits of CNC machining

Because CNC machines allow manufacturers to automate many manufacturing processes that would otherwise have to be performed manually, they increase productivity, accuracy, and help reduce the risk of human error.

Here are 5 key ways they have transformed the world of engineering:

#1 CNC machining is great for creating large quantities of parts

It’s far cheaper to create large quantities of prototypes and parts through CNC machining than it is to go with 3D printing, so if you’re looking to create larger quantities of mechanical parts (from the higher double digits into the 100s) CNC is likely to be the most cost-effective choice.

#2 CNC machines can work with many materials

While 3D printing is largely focussed on plastics, CNC machines are relatively indifferent to what they are cutting – so long as the material is rigid enough not to deform or melt under the pressure of the cutting action. At Geomiq, we offer over 60 production grade materials for CNC machining, and take great care to ensure the right material is used for every part. Most commonly, metals used include aluminium, stainless steel, magnesium alloy, zinc alloy, titanium and brass.

#3 CNC machines can create parts quickly

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that machines work quicker than humans do! When you order your CNC machined parts through Geomiq, we’ll not only get you a quote within one business day – you’ll receive the finished products in as little as 5 days!

#4 CNC machines are highly accurate

To give you an idea of how accurate they are, at Geomiq, our standard CNC tolerance is +/- 0.127mm, and when you use our tolerance configurator, you can expect precision machining down to +/- 0.005mm.

#5 CNC machining allows for a variety of post-processing and finishing options

For example, at Geomiq, we offer high-quality finishing processes for most CNC machined parts; from anodising, polishing and plating, to heat treatment, powder coating and more.

Which industries use CNC machining?

At Geomiq, we are proud to offer CNC machining capabilities for an extremely wide range of industries. From aerospace and energy products to electronics and automotive goods, we’ve seen firsthand how useful beautifully CNC machined parts can be used for almost any and every industry.

In particular, we’ve seen CNC machining being very important to engineers in sectors where high accuracy is absolutely necessary, such as the aerospace industry, robotics industry and the medical industry.

However, it is also used in a wide range of other industries, such as:

  • Electrical
  • Defence
  • Mining
  • Industrial machinery
  • Food & beverage
  • Clothing
  • Automotive
  • Agriculture

Essentially, there are no limits to what you can do with CNC machining! If you need a part made (either for prototype or production) accurately or in large quantities, CNC might just be the right choice for you.

Let’s get CNC machining

Ultimately, CNC machining is a great option for engineers in any industry who are looking to order high volumes of accurate mechanical parts for rapid prototyping or production.

To find out which method is right for you and your project’s unique requirements, we’d advise you to speak with a trustworthy digital manufacturing platform or provider and ask for their advice.

When it comes to a manufacturing method as reliable, precise and diversely applicable as CNC machining, there is a world of possibilities at your fingertips. Simply choose the right supplier – and the right digital manufacturing platform – when ordering your CNC machined parts, and you really can’t go wrong.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

The Space Race is for Everyone!

The Space Race is for Everyone!

Private companies have entered the domain of space exploration and are propelling the sector forward more vigorously and swiftly than ever before. Today, we’re introducing you to some of the biggest players – and exploring the implications of this new ‘space race’.

March 16, 2021

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Space exploration has come a long way since the United States–Soviet Union space race of the 1960s, and in 2021, the global fascination with extraterrestrial missions is greater than ever.

On one level, it seems multiple countries are still competing to achieve firsts in spaceflight capability. While the US currently remains the world’s biggest space power, China has poured huge amounts of money into its own space program over the last 20 years, and Russia is looking to send people to the moon by 2030 – an ambition shared by much of Europe and Japan.

To heat up this international competition even further, it’s not only government agencies that are fighting to win the modern-day space race. Over the last 10 years, the competition has also been raging among billionaires and private companies – who compete with government agencies as much as with each other to become pioneers in the nascent space tourism industry. These ambitious corporations are working to organise private spaceflight expeditions for commercial purposes, and ultimately change the way humans see space travel forever.

Essentially, the space race is no longer between the US and the Soviet Union, but among multiple nations, government agencies and billion-dollar businesses – who all want to be the first to take mankind further than the moon!

The privatisation of space exploration represents an exciting new era for space discovery, aerospace engineering and human innovation, but has also made the space race fiercer and faster than ever before.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at what lies at the finishing line of this new space race, who the biggest players are, and what its implications are for aerospace engineers, government agencies, and society at large.

What is the new space race?

When we talk about the new space race (often called ‘NewSpace’), we refer to the competition between a handful of ‘space entrepreneurs’, who entered the space tourism industry as billionaires from other industries, such as tech, engineering and computing.

These successful entrepreneurs are competing to be the first to take people to space for commercial purposes, and organise private spaceflight expeditions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Of course, many of the private companies competing to take people into space aren’t driven by the same purely geopolitical goals as government agencies such as NASA, but also by a desire to make a huge amount of money. After all, with current estimates for the price of a spaceflight ticket set at about $52 million per seat, space tourism is likely to be an extremely lucrative business!

Naturally, with this much money at stake, the biggest players in the billionaire space race are fighting hard to be the ones who pass the finish line first. Let’s take a look at who they are:

Who are the big players in the billionaire space race?

The four key entrepreneurs making the greatest strides in the private space race in 2021 are:

  • South-African-Canadian-American billionaire Elon Musk (Founder of SpaceX)
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX is currently working on a 100-passenger vehicle called Starship, which the company envisions carrying people to the moon and Mars. SpaceX already has one passenger flight planned for 2023, and Elon Musk has described his ultimate goal as to one day colonise Mars.

  • American billionaire Jeff Bezos (CEO of Blue Origin)
  • Operated by Amazon’s Founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is working on a project called Blue Moon, which will deliver science instruments, lunar rovers and, eventually, astronauts to the moon. Bezos describes his greatest ambition as to establish a true industrial base in space.

  • British billionaire Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit)
  • Richard Branson has big plans for space tourism. Virgin Galactic are currently hard at work developing commercial spacecrafts, and they aim to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists, as well as suborbital launches for space science missions.

  • Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner
  • Yuri Milner is funding the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project, which aims to send multiple interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri star system a staggering 4.37 light-years away!

    What does the billionaire space race mean for government space agencies?

    It must be acknowledged that NASA is still renowned for being the world’s leading space exploration company. For example, just a few weeks ago, they landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars; an incredible milestone for mankind and an important step in learning more about whether the Red Planet could ever have harboured extraterrestrial life.

    Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    This is just one of NASA’s astounding achievements since the last space race, of course. NASA’s Voyager probes have given us amazing images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their Mariner and Viking missions to Mars led to Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. When NASA’s New Horizons launched to Pluto in 2006, it was a mission to visit the last planet left unexplored in the solar system.

    Other government agencies have also seen huge success over the last decade. Last year, China conducted the world’s first lunar sample-return mission (Chang’e 5), and Russia’s programme of flights to transfer cosmonauts and cargo backwards and forwards to the Mir orbiting space station was revolutionary.

    However, these achievements don’t mean that the reputation of government space agencies – including NASA – can’t be challenged by the exceptional success of private aerospace companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, who have stated that it’s their intention to design the best lunar exploration programs yet.

    On top of this, space politics expert Whitman Cobb has stated that “NASA’s bureaucracy has stagnated since the 1960s”, making it “more difficult for NASA to contract, make changes and adapt to new circumstances”.

    On the other hand, according to Cobb, private companies such as Blue Origin have demonstrated that they can develop and evolve at a rapid rate, incorporating design and technology changes “almost immediately”. This is notable because when it comes to winning the space race, being able to adapt quickly is crucial.

    Plus, despite NASA’s recent successful landing of the Perseverance rover, it’s looking like Elon Musk’s SpaceX might be the first company to take people to Mars, and the private company Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC) have plans to open the world’s first space hotel as soon as 2027!

    As for the effects of private space exploration on government agencies, Whitman Cobb believes it may create a problem. She says: “If private companies get to the moon first, it will likely cause an existential crisis for NASA. If private companies can do it, what do we need NASA for? In other words, it will only matter who gets there first if NASA fails to get there.”

    Still, while the billionaire space race may be a worry for government agencies like NASA, it may present a whole new world of opportunities for smaller companies and the manufacturing industry at large. As more companies enlist the help of engineers and digital manufacturers to create rockets, shuttles, spacecraft and probes at scale, there will be more opportunities than ever for ambitious non-government companies to play a part in the race to the moon, to Mars and beyond.

    The race is on

    While the majority of the universe remains shrouded in mystery, multiplanetary travel is becoming a real possibility for humans. Indeed, there are heavily funded government agencies and multi-billion dollar private companies putting everything they’ve got into making extraterrestrial experiences a ‘new normal’ for mankind.

    Whether driven by a desire to improve humanity or simply make more money, private companies are disrupting the aeronautics industry as we know it – and space itself is becoming an even playing field for those who are wealthy, ambitious and driven to explore.

    At the moment, we have no absolute certainty about who will win the new space race – or what this will mean for our species a century down the line. But one thing’s for sure: we are living in a time of unprecedented possibility.

    In the words of space entrepreneur Elon Musk: “It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

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    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

    Empowering Women in Engineering

    Empowering Women in Engineering

    This International Women’s Day, we are honouring some of the truly inspirational women in STEM who have changed our world for the better. Together, let’s be inspired by their achievements, celebrate the power of diversity and learn how to empower women in engineering today.

    March 10, 2021

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    In honour of Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day on March 8th), we’re celebrating the women in engineering, manufacturing and other STEM careers who are working to transform all of our lives for the better.

    To do this, we want to showcase some of the women throughout history whose contributions to society have made our lives what they are today. We’ll also take a look at how we can nurture and empower the talented women working in engineering and manufacturing roles who are already shaping our future.

    Let’s start by taking a look at how many women work in engineering, manufacturing and other STEM careers in 2021.

    The rise of women in engineering

    As of 2021, just 12.4% of engineers in the UK are female, and women make up 21.8% of people working in the engineering sector in the UK.

    However, the number of female engineers in our country is gradually rising, and one recent report by WES showed that 46.4% of girls in the UK aged 11-14 would consider a career in engineering one day.

    In fact, the data shows that more women are beginning careers in all STEM fields than ever. In 2019, government data showed that there were over a million women working in core STEM occupations, and WISE found that between 2016 and 2019, the percentage of women working in STEM roles grew from 21% to 24%.

    At Geomiq, we’re passionate about doing our part to keep accelerating these numbers across the country. We want to do all we can to encourage girls and women everywhere with an interest in engineering or manufacturing to pursue their passions and help transform society forever. We believe that to do this, we must celebrate the work of inspiring female engineers throughout history.

    After all, although engineering roles have only become widely available to women in recent decades, women have been playing vital roles in engineering, manufacturing and other STEM fields for centuries.

    Without further ado, let’s celebrate and remember some of the wonderful women – both past and present – who have transformed the world as we know it. What can you learn from these inspiring women today?

    10 women in STEM who have changed the world

    Here are just a few examples of the women who inspire us at Geomiq:

    Katherine Johnson – NASA Space Scientist

    Born in 1918, Katherine Johnson graduated from University at 18 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for a lifetime of work as a pioneering physicist, mathematician and space scientist. She did the calculations that guided NASA’s 1962 Friendship 7 Mission, co-authored over 25 scientific papers and was one of NASA’s first female African-American scientists. A true inspiration!

    Famous quote: “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes, they have more imagination than men!”

    Dr. Radia Perlman – Inventor and Internet Pioneer

    Radia Perlman developed the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), an innovation that made the modern internet possible. Dr. Perlman even developed a child-friendly programming language used by children as young as 3 years old!

    Famous quote: “The world would be a better place if more engineers, like me, hated technology. The stuff I design, if I’m successful, nobody will ever notice. Things will just work, and will be self-managing.”

    Marie Curie – Physicist

    Marie Curie is primarily remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and for her huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. She was the first woman to earn two Nobel Prizes (for Physics and Chemistry), and her discovery of polonium and radium, as well as her championing of the development of X-rays, has helped save millions of lives to date.

    Famous quote: “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”

    Ada Lovelace – Mathematician

    Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace is sometimes referred to as the first ever programmer, because she wrote about how the notion of a specific engine could transition calculation to computation. Every second Tuesday in October is known as Ada Lovelace Day; a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in STEM careers, as we are doing now!

    Famous quote: “Understand well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand.”

    Florence Nightingale – Social Reformer & Statistician

    Florence Nightingale is known for her heroic nursing in the Crimean War, where she helped reduce the death rate from 42% to 2%. She was a visionary designer of hospital systems and pioneered the improvement of sanitation in working-class homes. She had a genius for presenting statistical data in graphic form, and is known today as the inventor of modern nursing.

    Famous quote: “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”

    Grace Hopper – Inventor & Computer Scientist

    An American computer scientist and a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, Grace Hopper invented the first programming language to use English words. Even though she was only 105 pounds, well under the minimum weight for joining the navy, she got an exemption and enlisted in World War 2, and while working for the navy, she coined the term ‘debugging’ before going on to develop the world’s first operational compiler.

    Famous quote: “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologise than it is to get permission.”

    Mary Keller – Computer Scientist

    Born in 1913, Mary Keller was an American Roman Catholic nun who helped develop the BASIC computer programming language, became the first woman ever to earn a PHD in Computer Science, and also went on to develop the first Computer Science Department in a Catholic college for women.

    Famous quote: “We’re having an information explosion, among others, and it’s certainly obvious that information is of no use unless it’s available.”

    Roberta Bondar – Astronaut-Neurologist

    Roberta Bondar was Canada’s first female astronaut and the world’s first astronaut-neurologist. Roberta has received many honours throughout her life, such as the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the NASA Space Medal, over 22 honorary degrees, and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

    Famous quote: “When I was 8 years old, to be a spaceman was the most exciting thing I could imagine.”

    Rebecca Cole – Physician

    After graduating from medical school in 1867, Rebecca Cole became a public health advocate, physician and hygiene reformer in the US. Near the start of her career, she took issue with the biased data used to conclude that a lack of hygiene was the cause of inner city families’ high death rate from consumption. She opened the Women’s Directory Center with Charlotte Abbey, provided medical and legal services to destitute women, and became the esteemed colleague of the first US-educated female doctor.

    Famous quote: “If you imagine a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, this discovery is just one piece in the middle of that puzzle.”

    Adele Goldberg – Computer Programmer

    Born in 1945 in Ohio, Adele Goldberg was the only woman among the group of men who built the Smalltalk-80; a programming language for Graphical User Interface (GUI). Adele presented the Smalltalk-80 system to Steve Jobs, who implemented many of her ideas into his Apple products, so if you’re reading this article from an Apple device, you’ve got Adele to thank!

    Famous quote: “Don’t ask whether you can do something, but how to do it.”

    How can businesses help empower women in technical roles?

    Let’s keep the extensive list of amazing women in STEM careers growing!

    There are many ways your business can help support women in engineering and other STEM careers. Let’s dive into a few:

    #1 Diversify your team

    It’s important to remember that most tech products are created for a wide range of people – so it helps to have a diverse team of innovators behind them!

    Fostering a diverse and inclusive company culture is one of the best ways to invite fresh perspectives, combine a multitude of strengths and ensure that the work you’re doing is beneficial to everyone.

    Diversity is actually one of our core values at Geomiq, as we believe that inviting people of different genders, backgrounds and cultures to work together towards a common goal is crucial for inspiring real innovation.

    #2 Promote and attend ‘Women in STEM’ events

    In their frequently cited article for ‘The Atlantic’ called ‘The Confidence Gap’, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman assert: “Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.”

    This is a complex problem that perhaps stems from factors such as upbringing, societal pressures, and biology. However, there are plenty of organisations, events and workshops that aim to help deconstruct these false beliefs and inspire women to have more confidence in their abilities. We’d encourage all managers in STEM fields to do their research into which workshops and events are being hosted nearby, and consider attending them as a team.

    #3 Openly celebrate the achievements of both male and female engineers

    Most of the most well-known names – and faces – in the history of science are male, and it tends to be male engineers who we talk about the most.

    However, as we’ve seen, there are also a huge number of women who have discovered, achieved and created incredible things.

    In conversations with your team, highlight these women’s achievements as much as you emphasise their male counterparts’ contributions to science, so that more women in STEM get the recognition they deserve – and your female employees feel inspired to make history too.

    Let’s make history together

    In just one article, we can’t even come close to speaking about all of the incredible women changing the world of engineering. Nevertheless, we hope this piece serves as an important reminder to celebrate what engineers of every gender can bring to the table when it comes to innovating, creating and transforming the world.

    It’s wonderful to mark the achievements of women in STEM as part of International Women’s Day, but celebrating the achievements of women in technical fields should not be limited to an annual event. It should be a daily occurrence!

    Let’s continue celebrating the achievements of not only the incredible female engineers that have come before us, but the hardworking women around us who are transforming all areas of society today. The statistics show that there is still much more to be done to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields, so let’s work hard to continue moving in the right direction as a nation.

    From the Geomiq team to you – happy Women’s History Month! Let’s keep learning, progressing and innovating together.

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    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

    Reshoring UK Manufacturing Post Brexit

    Reshoring UK Manufacturing Post Brexit

    Find out about how reshoring options have evolved and how smart businesses are using technology and glocalisation as routes to a new supply chain solution.

    March 3, 2021

    Posted in

    After the Global Economic Crisis in 2008, reshoring was a hot topic among the engineering and manufacturing communities. Twelve years on, similar conversations are commonplace, only this time the focus is on the global supply chain weaknesses highlighted during Covid, as well as shortages of materials and tariff concerns that have arisen thanks to Brexit. But the underlying concerns remain the same; flexibility and reactiveness of supply chains through reshoring versus cost reductions through offshoring. There are other options on the table now, though; nearshoring, direct or indirect reshoring, ‘glocalisation’ of manufacturing and emerging manufacturing technologies, all of which help to paint a more technicolour picture for manufacturers in their renewed quest for an improved UK supply chain.

    Why is reshoring back on the agenda?

    During the past decade, there has been a pressure on procurement teams to reduce supply chains and maximise profitability. Prior to Covid, the globalisation of our supply networks had become the norm, with a bias towards China and other low-cost labour countries for the supply of parts and assemblies. According to the University of Warwick’s 2017 study ‘Realities of Reshoring: A UK Perspective’, the most popular offshoring destinations were China (38%) and India (19%), with Vietnam, Poland and the USA all following with an 8% share each. However, with Covid restrictions in place, production all but stopped in China – followed closely by India and other nations – and the movement of goods and materials became extremely challenging. Those manufacturers with a solely offshore supply had very little control over production and often no local alternative as a back-up. Brexit, in turn, has resulted in concerns over the movement of goods and materials being hampered by onerous paperwork, border delays and tariffs, and has therefore reinforced the view that localisation is the way forward. According to Make UK’s Executive Survey, 47% of manufacturers cited delays at customs as a key risk to their business in 2021. But, once Covid is behind us, will the demand for profitability once again trump our fear of supply shortages or is it a more complicated picture?

    How can reshoring benefit businesses?

    The main motivation for offshoring since the 1970s has been the availability of cheap labour, enabling products to be manufactured at a fraction of the cost in developing countries. However, with labour costs in these regions rising, and the cost of shipping and air freight also on the increase, those savings are less significant. Added to that the common issues of quality control and long lead times, in a world where responsiveness and customer service is critical to success, manufacturers are questioning the benefits of offshore production when weighed up against the risks. Covid threw an unexpected spanner into the works of the reshoring/offshoring debate; never before had global supply chains simply halted and remained out of action for such a long time. This lack of supply and inability to respond to demand was crippling for engineering businesses who had no local options to fall back on.

    What all of this adds up is growing support for the idea that a local supply – whether re-shored, near shored, dual sourced or a ‘glocalised’ solution – could provide businesses with peace of mind over quality of parts and lead times, and a fail-safe for unforeseen downtime on offshore production lines. And yes, this may be at an increased cost, but with the right model in place not only can some of those costs be mitigated, but they may prove to provide a better return in the long run.

    What are the challenges of reshoring

    According to Make UK’s submission to HM Treasury for Budget 2021, a quarter of companies are planning to reshore overseas manufacturing during the coming year, with a further 25% planning to identify new or additional suppliers in the UK to make their supply chains more robust. In terms of challenges and practical steps, UK industry does have some obstacles to overcome:

    • Identifying suppliers: the first challenge will be in finding or creating suitable UK supply chains. Not necessarily because UK manufacturers don’t exist, but because, according to Reshoring UK, we have lost visibility of the UK suppliers that can meet or adapt to suit requirements, meaning that finding, assessing and then contracting those potential suppliers will be a challenge for those looking to re-shore.

    • Lack of heavy industry: the UK does not have the raw materials or infrastructure required for some industrial processes. It may be that the solution for some manufacturing businesses will be near-shoring; moving the manufacture of goods closer to home to reduce lead times and logistics, without actually fully returning to the UK.

    • Skills gap: it is no secret that the UK has an engineering skills gap – and whilst one of the proposed ways to counter the labour savings from offshore manufacture is through Industry 4.0 technologies within UK supply chains, the rolling out of the processes, systems and subsequent data analysis requires a particular skillset, of which we currently have only a limited pool available.

    Does it have to be all-or-nothing?

    There are some practical challenges, then, to reshoring UK manufacturing. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-or-nothing solution. The point of reshoring, after all, is to de-risk the supply chain and provide reassurances that goods of the right quality will be available to meet demand, on time, and still allow a profit margin. To resolve this rather complex requirement set, it is expected that many companies will opt for dual sourcing, with a UK manufacturer supplying lower volumes of a component which can be ramped up if required, and the remainder coming from overseas. Similarly, near-shoring is likely to prove a good solution; moving manufacturing services closer to enable easier control, less problematic logistics and allow production to happen in closer proximity to the market without having to come all the way home. An attractive solution also lies in the area of digital technology; with 3D printing now a realistic manufacturing method for many components, and businesses such as Geomiq offering the assurance of both quality and speed alongside a range of cost options, the world of manufacturing services has become much larger and the range of suppliers vast. As pointed out by Geomiq’s Co-founder and CCO William Hoyer Millar, glocalisation of manufacturing may be the ideal solution:

    There has never been a better time than the present for transformative technologies within manufacturing in line with Industry 4.0. Covid-19 has pushed manufacturing companies over the technology tipping point – and transformed the industry forever. Now Brexit is further accelerating the significant shift to glocalisation as businesses focus on balancing localised and globalised supply chain options in order to stay competitive. A once in a generational opportunity for a digitally enabled UK manufacturing industry, platforms such as Geomiq and our manufacturing partners.

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    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.