ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom

On Sunday 17 January, Virgin Orbit successfully launched its first satellites into orbit, however, unlike any method ever used before, the company used an out of service 747 jumbo jet to launch a rocket from 35,000ft, meaning it is now possible to send spacecraft from anywhere in the world at a much lower cost than traditional rocket launches.

Engineering & Technology report that the specially modified 747, named Cosmic Girl, took off from California's Mojave desert on Sunday morning to fly out over the Pacific Ocean. An hour into the flight, the jet banked to the right, dropping its payload, a 21m-long rocket, called LauncherOne, which ignited its booster and climbed into space.

Currently, the only place that has a special license to launch such satellite-carrying planes is in California, but it is hoped that many more places will be granted permission in the near future. Virgin Orbit hopes to launch from Cornwall later in the year to tie in with the G7 summit in June.

The team behind Virgin Obit confirmed that the satellites onboard LauncherOne made it successfully into orbit a few hours after the launch.

"A new gateway to space has just sprung open," said Virgin Orbit chief executive officer, Dan Hart.

Space launches have always been massively expensive, and until recently has been carried out by governments. But there has been a growing interest in getting smaller, lower-cost satellites into orbit.

Many of these satellites are used to monitor weather and climate on Earth, while others turn their gaze outwards to study the universe. A vast number are also used for communications.

But some of the satellites launched on Sunday were about the size of a shoebox and had been developed by university research teams, to be used as part of Nasa educational missions. It is hoped that lower-cost launches will help smaller companies and organisations get equipment into space, and open up space exploration and research to many more people.

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AE Aerospace, a firm based in the West Midlands, has won a contract to supply components for the Airbus A220.

Reporting on the news, Production Engineering Solutions noted that this contract will boost sales levels at the firm back to where they were in 2019, before the pandemic hit and the aerospace sector took a significant knock.

Airbus has awarded AE Aerospace a three-year contract, with the news provider pointing out that this lucrative deal is in part due to the company’s continued investment in its facilities, manufacturing technology and team.

The news provider also revealed that, due to the investment in technology and facilities, the company was able to offer the manufacture of the required components at a more competitive price.

Peter Bruch, managing director at AE Aerospace, told the publication that the order is a “welcome boost”, not only to the company but also the West Midlands. He added that it also ensures jobs in the UK.

There are currently two aircraft in the A220 range, both of which are single-aisle aircraft that, according to the company, are designed to cater for the 100-150 seat segment.

The A220-100 and A220-300 share over 99 per cent parts commonality, as well as the same pilot rating. What’s more, they are highly fuel efficient, delivering 25 per cent lower fuel burn per seat than any previous generation aircraft. They also generate lower emissions and half the noise footprint.

If you need specialist electron beam welding as part of an aerospace project that you’re working on, contact our team of experts today to find out more about our services.

A research team for the University of Pittsburgh have invented a new way to create programmable quantum materials by using an electron beam to “sketch” patterns of electrons together.

This enables tiny two-dimensional electronic materials to be created that can be used for quantum simulation and quantum transport.

There are many industries in which electron beam services are used, from aerospace electron beam welding to lithography, and it was the latter technology that was used by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh.

Electron-beam lithography is where a focused beam is used to draw custom shapes onto an electron-sensitive resist film.

This is used to create exceptionally tiny structures only nanometres in size, by first exposing a resist using a programmed electron beam then immersing the resist into a solvent for developing.

If the voltage of an electron beam is lowered to just a few hundred volts and it is used not on a resist but a programmable quantum material such as lanthanum aluminate/strontium titanate (LAO/STO), quantum devices and artificial lattices can be sketched with exceptionally high precision.

The team at Pittsburgh claim that this method of creating quantum structures is 10,000 times faster than the previously used method of using an atomic force microscope, and is much easier to reprogram.

Graduate student Dengyu Yang, who developed the technique described as like using a pen to sketch onto a canvas, highlighting the ease in which complex structures can be designed and tested.
2020 has seen major upheavals in the healthcare sector, as routine treatments have been side-lined to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a backlog of cases in cancer care in particular. The BMA has reported worrying statistics in patient referral for treatment, which are at half the 2019 value for the same time last year.

The bottleneck in the system means that future cancer patients will have to wait longer for treatment. However, there is some good news for clinicians and patients, with Health Tech Digital reporting a recent breakthrough in cancer care technology.

Scientists have learned from the rapid production of the COVID vaccines, which saw development timeframes reduced dramatically from a typical 10 years to just under 12 months. One response has been to speed up cancer radiation delivery by employing hypofractionation.

This is a technique where patients are given fewer radiation sessions at a higher dosage rate. Hospital visits are therefore reduced, and the treatment timeframe is shorter. The more powerful radiation doses require a higher degree of accuracy, and the NHS is employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to enable this.

AI Autocontouring technology is playing an important role in speeding up and improving the crucial task of outlining a patient’s organs that would be vulnerable to radiation treatment.

Angela Rubio, former Chief Medical Dosimetrist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Centre comments: “Prior to using AI, contouring for a head and neck cancer patient would take about two hours to complete. With autocontouring it takes about 30 minutes. That is a 75 per cent time-saving for each head and neck patient.”

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed his support for AI technologies, and the NHS has announced an £140m investment programme. While this is positive news for the overstretched healthcare system, experts acknowledge that implementing the new technologies will take time and training.

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