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While autonomous systems that make decisions and perform tasks without human intervention are already deployed in industry, their use is largely limited to controlled settings, such as on automated production lines. The systems struggle when the task becomes more complex or the environment is uncontrolled – for example, when drones are used for offshore windfarm inspection. So, an academic consortium dedicated to researching trust in autonomous systems has been announced. Led by Heriot-Watt University, home to the


Autonomous Systems (TAS) programme, funded through the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The TAS programme brings together the research communities and key stakeholders to drive forward cross-disciplinary fundamental research to ensure that autonomous systems are safe, reliable, resilient, ethical and trusted. The project, led by Professor Helen Hastie

National Robotarium, the £3 million project brings together expertise in robotics, cognitive science and psychology with colleagues from Imperial College London and the University of Manchester.

from Heriot-Watt University and the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics, will explore solutions to manage trust in autonomous systems, covering scenarios that require interaction with humans. Examples include self-driving cars, autonomous

wheelchairs or ‘cobots’ in the workforce. The group’s work will help design the autonomous systems of the future, ensuring they are widely used and accepted in a variety of industry- relevant applications. Professor Hastie explains: “The challenge of

managing trust between the human and the system is particularly difficult because there can be a lack of mutual understanding of the task and the environment. The new consortium will perform foundational research on how humans, robots and autonomous systems can work together by building a shared reality through human-robot interaction.” robotarium.htm

FULL-COLOUR 3D PRINTER NOW SUPPORTS 3MF FILES Erik Fickas of Priority Designs, a

The full-colour, multi-material, Stratasys 3D printers and the latest version of KeyShot from Luxion both now support the new 3MF file format, said to be a significant improvement over legacy STL, OBJ, and VRML files. By saving designs to 3MF, KeyShot 10 produces files ready for printing, with accurate colours and bump/ displacement maps to three-dimensionally simulate textures like fabric and wood. Additional enhancements are planned for 2021.


beta user, said: “We developed a Bluetooth speaker model and used KeyShot to add all the textures like the speaker grill, then just saved to the new 3MF file format for 3D

printing. Overnight, we had five different models with five different wood samples and different fabric samples. To rapid prototype a wood texture would have been a lot of work. It’s really incredible what we can do now.”

o me, 2020 – and in particular both times we’ve headed into

lockdown – has felt a bit like that scene in the film Apollo 13 when they had to power down all non- essential systems and, as the Lunar Module starts to head into the dark

side of the moon, Jack Swigert says: “So long, Earth. Catch you on the flip side”. Tense moments follow as the time they’re expected to come out of blackout passes… COVID-19 seems to have had this effect. We powered down, worried

about what would happen, but are we about to re-enter into the light? As I’m writing this, there are reports that not only is a vaccine on

the horizon, but the UK’s economy showed record growth of 15.5% from July to September. And while this is understandably expected to drop again following the second lockdown we’re currently in, perhaps we can start being optimistic about the future once more? Despite many dark moments this year, there have been some

amazing achievements. Look at how, as the pandemic gained strength, companies began designing and building medical equipment such as ventilators, creating essential components, and producing PPE. In fact we introduced a new Medical & Pharmaceutical section into Design Solutions specifically in order to celebrate those companies producing products, technologies and services to help in the fight against COVID-19, and it has been absolutely fascinating to see all the developments. This year has also caused many to question their supply chains,

been a catalyst for development (from medical equipment to contactless touchscreens), changed our way of working (technology has made working from home so easy for many), and resulted in the manufacturing sector thinking about, among other things, ways to enable machinery and production equipment to be controlled and even maintained by someone off-site. So, as we head into 2021, I look forward to sharing with you all the

latest developments, technologies and solutions that will be introduced in the coming year. Wishing you a happy, healthy and positive New Year!



Mitsubishi Electric UK has announced a new network of Drive Solutions Centres (DSCs). Each one will share technology, experience and ideas to focus on providing a full service offering for the entire lifecycle of larger capacity low voltage and medium voltage variable speed drives. National sales manager, Stuart

Woodhead, said: “Having helped UK industry move forward with our class leading low power drive systems, it’s now time to further improve our overall service proposition for larger capacity drives. This will include system design & build, installation, commissioning and the ongoing need for site service and support. “By working together, we believe

Mitsubishi Electric and a select number of key partners can deliver better operating efficiency with improved system performance and visibility using intelligent automation solutions as part of a turnkey service. Dedicated project management and client communications are expected to improve turnaround times in all the major industry sectors.”

SKF and Imperial College London are extending their R&D partnership. The SKF University Technology Centre (UTC) has been housed at Imperial College London since 2010 and has delivered research that helps bearings perform better and longer, whilst also contributing to lower energy consumption in the machines they operate in. This work will now continue until 2025. Prof. Dr. Guillermo Morales,

Principal Scientist at SKF, says: “It’s great to partner with universities like Imperial College London to make sure some of the brightest minds out there apply their skills to the field of tribology.”

Variohm Holdings has added Phoenix America, a magnetic encoder and magnetic sensor solutions specialist, to its group of companies. The acquisition provides significant opportunities for both parties: a European marketing platform for Phoenix America; and, for the five European-based members of the Variohm Group, a USA sales and support channel for its various sensor, measurement and motion control solutions businesses.

ABB has moved its variable speed drive (VSD) customer services team from Aberdeen to Daresbury, Cheshire, ensuring improved access to extensive technical support services across the UK. Rebecca Giles, customer support

manager, said: “With this relocation we can provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all customers, whether they have a service contract with us or not, and provide enhanced support for our network of ABB Value Providers. By working closer together with the sales team, field service engineers and partners, we can provide better coordination and collaboration with our customers.”


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