Friday, 25 July 2014
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The deepest horizon takes centre stage

Last week saw the publication of images taken from depths of between 2,000 and 7,000m in the New Hebrides Trench.

The stills-images of cusk eels and shrimps were captured as part of the world’s first deep sea biology expedition to the area in the South Pacific.

Aberdeen University’s Oceanlab carried out the expedition in collaboration with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in New Zealand and the images were captured with Oceanlab’s remotely operated video camera, more on which can be found here.

In 2012 film director James Cameron manoeuvred his Deepsea Challenger submersible 11km into Challenger Deep, the lowest point of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench to gather samples and visually record the experience with multiple cameras.

Previous expeditions into Challenger Deep - Kaiko and Nereus - saw the application of unmanned underwater systems in what is arguably the world’s most hostile environment and this week those that study and make a living from the ocean will gather at London’s Excel Centre for Oceanology International (OI 2014), which hosts the Unmanned Underwater Vehicles Showcase (UUVS).

Deepsea Challenger was donated to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the organisation’s Andy Bowen is one of the many speakers presenting at UUVS on March 13.

In publicity material Prof Ralph Rayner, conference chairman said: ‘In the wider world of technology we see an accelerating pace of change. We see the emergence of new materials, new sensor technologies, new computing capabilities; and all of this is changing very, very rapidly, and these changes are influencing what’s happening in the world of marine technology.

‘Perhaps the most significant technological change that we’re seeing is the move from using conventional ships to using unmanned vehicles. We’re seeing the emergence of many new unmanned vehicles and platforms made possible by novel new materials, novel power sources, and advances in computing.’

As you’d expect, ocean science and technology lies at the core of OI 2014, with the conference programme picking up on each major technology strand featured in the exhibition. Two new conference programmes - underwater positioning and metrology; and underwater communications - join more well established areas of interest such as observation systems, hydrography, geophysics, and site investigation.

Still with robotics and a call for help from Creative Robotics’ Dr Bill Bigge, who is trying to raise funds for his company’s LEO robot kit via Kickstarter.

The Warwickshire enterprise tell us: ‘LEO is an open source robotic platform, perfect for fledgling roboticists who want to experiment with robotics, electronics and programming, or for the experienced maker, educator or researcher in need of a robust, versatile and expandable platform.

‘With its interchangeable HUB-ee wheels [containing gears, motors and sensors] you can quickly transform LEO from two wheel drive to four wheeled drive, or remove the tyres and add tank tracks to make LEO drive across almost any surface. LEO is easy to use and can be programmed using…the Arduino software environment.’

As witnessed in The Engineer’s February 27 Thursday Video, robots are an excellent platform on which a young person can nurture their interest in technology and those wishing to donate to LEO should click here.

The Geneva Motor Show finishes this Sunday, which brings to mind a conversation had last week with a colleague from Centaur Media’s The Lawyer magazine.

He’d spotted a Rolls-Royce Wraith and wasn’t particularly happy with what he saw, owing to the car’s use of monocoque. In his opinion, the brand is worthy only of coach works so best not to tell him of EDAG’s offering in Switzerland.

Their EDAG Genesis concept offers a vision of the future where a car’s bodywork in made through additive manufacturing

‘Even though industrial usage of additive manufacturing processing is still in its infancy, the revolutionary advantages with regard to greater freedom in development and tool-free production make this technology a subject for the future,’ they say on their website.

Additive manufacturing - or 3D printing - is the subject of an event this Thursday that will debate the industry and explore possible impacts on competitiveness and business opportunities.

Representatives from Renishaw, RegenHu, Steiner 3D, and Ultimaker will gather at Swiss Business Hub UK in London to discuss the impact of additive manufacturing on Swiss-UK trade and business cooperatio


Readers' comments (1)

  • Fascinating to read about deep-ocean research. As was said, perhaps the most hostile environment going and great credit to those who are gradually unlocking its secrets. I did read somewhere that we know more about much of the surface of our nearest planetary neighbour than what is beneath both much of our feet and most of the deep water that surrounds us. That is until the same water moves to where we really do not want it -directly under our feet! on land!

    Apropos additive manufacture: I am delighted to repeat a comment made many years ago in a lecture I gave to Boeing staff. "When making aircraft you start with vast pieces of metal and chip away at them until you get the shapes you want. In textiles we do it the other way around. We start off with very small pieces of fibre and filament and add them together until we get the shape we want/need. Just at I tell my computer literate colleagues that Mr Jacquard was the first programmer -is the yarn 'up' and hence in the pattern (1 in binary) or 'down' (0 in binary) out of it...so perhaps there is another whole industry/process waiting to follow our 'textile' lead.

    Best wishes
    Mike b

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