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

There has long been concern in the engineering sector that we don’t have enough people entering the profession, and it’s a problem that many believe will only get worse as we move towards Brexit.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers revealed that nearly half of engineers believe Brexit will widen the skills gap.

What’s more, 73 per cent feel the government needs to do more to clarify the effects of leaving the EU on the engineering sector.

Engineering UK figures previously put the shortfall at 69,000 engineers, but there are now concerns that this figure could be even higher if it becomes more difficult to recruit from the EU.

The engineers surveyed were also asked about what challenges they feel their industry can help solve in the coming 10 years. 78 per cent stated renewable alternatives to plastic, while two-thirds stated that work on urban infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions would come to fruition in this time.

Helping alleviate the global water crisis and food shortages were other areas cited where engineering could play a pivotal role.

Tanya Spencer, who organised the recent Institution of Engineering & Technology’s Achievement and Innovation Awards, commented: “In a challenging climate, our engineering workforce is doing all they can to continue to progress and build new innovations and solutions to today’s major issues.”

The skills crisis may mean more firms seek specialist engineering assistance, such as with the likes of electron beam welding.

One area the UK is aiming to be at the forefront of is electric aircraft. Last month Heathrow Airport offered to give the first electric-hybrid aircraft to operate out of the transport hub free landing fees for a year.
There could still be considerable oil and gas reserves on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) a new study has suggested.

Researchers at Aberdeen University estimate that a further 17 billion barrels of oil and gas could be recovered from the area, bringing up to £330 billion in investment, Herald Scotland reported.

The aim of the study was to determine whether it was realistic for the the Oil and Gas Authority to expect that a further 14.9 billion barrels of the fuels could be recovered from the UKCS by 2025.

Authors of the study professor Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen commented that the remaining potential of the UKCS is “very substantial”. They also described the ambitious targets set by the regulator in its Vision 2035 plan as achievable.

By their estimation, a further 529 fields could be developed on the UKCS in the coming 30 years, which could deliver 17 billion barrels of oil equivalent reserves.

However, they noted that there are some conditions to this being achieved. “Important caveats are that the benefits of the painfully achieved cost reductions and the productivity gains from enhanced production efficiency have to be maintained,” the report stated.

Earlier this month, Shell announced that it would be investing in the Arran field and furthering its development there.

The Oil and Gas Authority’s chief executive Dr Andy Samuel praised the company and its partners for “showing real adaptability and tenacity to drive this project forward to what is Shell’s fourth field development approval this year”.

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Heathrow Airport has taken a bold step towards backing the use of electric-hybrid aircraft. The airport announced that the first electric-hybrid aircraft will be given one year of free landing charges at Heathrow if it is put into regular service at the transport hub.

That equates to almost £1 million, a significant cost saving and one that the airport is hoping will incentivise operators to focus on clean growth, and use their cleanest and quietest aircraft at Heathrow.

Speaking at a BusinessGreen Leaders Summit John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said that this is just the next logical step in the airport’s quest to promote sustainable aviation.

“We championed carbon neutral growth in global aviation, which will come into effect in 2020. The next frontier is zero carbon flying, and I hope this prize will help to make it a reality at Heathrow by 2030,” he asserted.

Many within the industry have welcomed the announcement, with Airbus chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini and easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren among those to support the initiative.

Liz Sugg, aviation minister, added that the government is exploring other ways in which to support the development of “cleaner, greener technology in the sector”.

Although Heathrow Airport’s announcement is making headlines, one small airline in Scotland appears to be ahead of the game where the introduction of electric aircraft is concerned.

The Press and Journal recently reported that Loganair, a Scottish regional airline, intends to start using electric planes on its services between the Orkney Islands by 2021.

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Although there is much talk of the maturity of oil and gas operations in the North Sea, the area West of Shetland offers a multitude of exploration opportunities.

Proactive Investors noted that this region is still considered a frontier area as far as oil and gas exploration goes, noting that recent discoveries have put it back at the front of people’s minds when it comes to further developing the UK’s oil and gas resources.

The news provider pointed to the recent announcement by Total SA, SSE PLC and INEOS that they had made a major new gas discovery in the area. It’s expected to contain 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with Total explaining that existing infrastructure nearby would allow them to access it quickly and at a relatively low cost.

West of Shetland is on the UK continental shelf (UKCS), rather than in the North Sea. It’s in an area with more challenging conditions, which is why it’s comparatively unexplored.

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said that the discovery by Total highlights the “exciting potential” of the area.

“As our Economic Report recently highlighted, an increase in drilling activity is key to unlocking the remaining potential of the UKCS,” Ms Michie added.

There were already indications that the big petroleum companies were increasing their activity in the West of Shetland. The Herald Scotland reported in January that exploration well numbers in the region were expected to grow in the coming year.

For example, Wood Mackenzie predicted that five wells would be drilled in West of Shetland in 2018, which would be the highest number in a single year since 2014, the newspaper revealed.

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Medical students will soon be learning how to operate surgical robots, virtual reality headsets and interactive anatomy stations when they undergo healthcare training.

This is because they will all feature at the Dundee Institute for Healthcare Simulation (DIHS) at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine.

The facility opened today (September 20th) at Ninewells Hospital, having been developed by the university together with NHS Tayside and industry partners Medtronic.

Doctors will be able to learn both surgical and clinical training at the single-site facility, as well as keep up to date with the latest medical technology with the help of electron beam welding, transforming the lives of patients.

Chief medical officer for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “This exciting development provides a safe environment for healthcare professionals to learn and rehearse both technical and non-technical healthcare skills, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.”

She added that the new centre “has the potential to make a significant impact locally, nationally and internationally”.

Co-director of the DIHS Dr Neil Harrison added that the centre will help Scotland maintain its position as “one of the world’s top providers of medical education”.

Technology is growing increasingly important in medical care, and health secretary Matt Hancock recently told BBC’s Newsbeat the NHS needs more apps to improve its communication with patients, make the service more convenient for the public and to make “doctors’ and nurses’ lives … easier”.
This month – on August 18th, in fact – noble gas helium celebrated its 150th birthday, initially discovered back in 1868 by French scientist Jules Janssen. He was looking at the sun’s atmosphere during a solar eclipse using an instrument that separated the light into a spectrum, later realising that he could observe this even without an eclipse – eventually spotting a yellow line in the resulting data.

Moving on from this a few months later, English scientist Norman Lockyer also spotted this yellow line, suggesting that it was in fact evidence of a new element… which was later christened helium.

According to Inside Science, it took a further 27 years before helium was found inside a mineral called cleveite, this time by chemists William Ramsay, Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet.

At the turn of the century, helium was liquified for the first time ever, thanks to one Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. Liquid helium is very clever because it can be used to cool everything from new materials to superconducting magnets in MRI machines. This is apparently the biggest single use of helium today, making up approximately a quarter of all production.

Are we running out of helium?

Unfortunately, supplies of helium have been running short (which is why calls have been issued in the past to ban it for use in balloons and other non-essential pursuits), but a few years ago a huge source of helium gas was discovered in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania.

According to New Scientist, the reserve was so big that it could fill around 600,000 Olympic swimming pools!
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Electron beam services have been used for a wide variety of applications over the years, but they haven’t yet been used on fruit.

That could be set to change as electron beams could be used to ensure that insects don’t make it to your fruit bowl along with your fruit.

We have all heard horror stories about people finding poisonous spiders on their bananas, but this arachnophobes nightmare could be prevented if electron beams were used to get rid of insects on imported fruit.

Ensuring that there are no insects on fruit is an important regulatory step for many sellers, but one that can prove costly. This is set to change as a researcher has discovered a way to target the DNA of insects, break it up and kill them, without affecting the fruit itself, as this has different DNA.

This technique also has the added benefit of being more ’natural’ as it doesn’t involve the use of various chemicals and additives in order to kill any insects that may be on the fruit.

The presence of insects on fruit is not only a problem for people with a hatred of creepy crawlies but it can also pose a threat to the ecosystem as invasive species can cause issues for native species. This is as they can present new challenges to native species that they cannot adapt rapidly enough to.

This is why many counties have strict bans on the import of unregulated live matter, be it plant or animal.
Those with shares in the oil industry have seen their assets plunge in value this week, as a result of huge stockpiles of the fluid in the USA.

Last week, the Energy Information Administration revealed that American crude inventories unexpectedly reported 6.81 million additional oil barrels last week – news that has hit the overall market hard.

Following this, light, sweet crude oil for September delivery came in three per cent lower yesterday (August 15th) at the New York Mercantile Exchange. This took it to the lowest level since June 6th, finishing at $65.01 (£51.17), which is significantly lower than last month’s figure of $74.

Similarly, brent crude dropped by 2.3 per cent to $70.76 per barrel, a decline of $1.70 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Phil Flynn, senior market analyst for Price Futures Group, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “The headline number along with the negativity in the overall market was taken as a very bearish number. We’re reacting to the shock value of the big build.”

In addition to this, investors have become concerned about a trade war between America and China, as well as financial problems in Turkey, as the value of its currency falls.

Its lira has dropped 40 per cent against the US dollar recently, which could end up having an impact worldwide. Not only has Indian currency fallen to 70 rupees to $1 following this, but the peso in Argentina and the rand from South Africa have also declined in value, reported.

The Turkish crisis could also have a ripple effect on oil prices, with many investors fearing there could be a contagion among emerging markets.

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The application of electron beam welding in producing medical technology could be completely different in years to come, as tech is poised and ready to really revolutionise the healthcare sector. From robotics with the ability to perform the most precise surgeries to quick diagnostic systems, the future of medicine is an exciting space for technology.

However, the future of medical care may also involve more apps, if incoming health secretary Matt Hancock has anything to do with it. Taking over from Jeremy Hunt just this month, he told BBC’s Newsbeat that there was ‘loads to do’ when it came to the NHS adopting new technology such as apps.

Matt Hancock launched his own app in his previous role as an MP and Culture Secretary, so that he could better communicate with his constituents, however, it came under fire for some privacy flaws. He described getting the government to engage with new digital technology as a personal passion.

His comments also were not well received by opposition politicians and frontline NHS staff, who criticised funding issues which meant that current technology, such as computer desktops, don’t work properly and need upgrading.

Labour critics said that proper funding needs to be in place to make new technology, such as apps, fair and accessible by everyone: "The Conservative government has made big cuts to some NHS budgets like capital funding, which has meant the NHS just hasn't been able to take advantage of new technologies."

Matt Hancock was speaking at the launch of a new scheme looking to place hundreds of newly trained mental health staff around schools and colleges in the UK.
Sutherland, on the north coast of Scotland, is set to be the site for the UK’s first spaceport. The project was announced by the UK Space Agency, which is committing £2.5 million of funding towards the development of a vertical launch pad here.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is leading the project and the aim is to have the first launches from the location as early as the 2020s, the BBC reported.

The government agency is also looking into potential sites for a horizontal launch pad, with Cornwall, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia the locations aiming to develop such facilities. A further grant of £2 million was also announced to further horizontal spaceport development across Britain.

Greg Clark, business secretary, commented: “The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the UK in a leading position to develop both vertical and horizontal launch sites.”

Secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell added that this project in Sutherland will create hundreds of jobs and boost the region’s economy.

The BBC noted that American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin will be part of a consortium of aerospace experts working closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise on the project.

According to the news provider, one of the reasons why this development is possible in the UK is because a number of firms in the country have pioneered the launch of small satellites.

Having a spaceport is a big step that would put these businesses at the forefront of the industry because they would be able to offer a full package of services, from the design and build of a satellite to its launch.

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