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3D laser structuring can burn microstructures into free form surfaces

May 30, 2007 Micrometer-fine patterns in surfaces endow components with amazing properties: Plastic dashboards can be made to look like leather, sharkskin patterned ribs on an aircraft’s fuselage can significantly reduce air resistance and micro-recesses in human implants can dramatically improve connection with the bone. There are many reasons for applying microstructures but actually doing so is by no means easy. While lasers have been used for quite a long time to structure flat surfaces, the problems associated with using lasers on three-dimensional components of complex shape has ensured that etching techniques have had to be deployed, involving the use of large quantities of chemicals and costly processes. Now European researchers have developed a machine that can burn microstructures into free form surfaces.  Read More

With the swipe of a 'loyalty' card at the experimental Retail Shopping Assistant, HP Labs ...

May 30, 2007 With computerisation now an integral part of most retail store infrastructures and the general tech-savviness of the population underpinned by a new generation raised on computer games and the internet, it will be interesting to see how quickly very sophisticated systems come to market. A glimpse at what’s possible in the very near future came this week when HP showed off its Retail Store Assistant, an experimental system designed to enhance the consumer shopping experience and improve efficiency for retailers by bringing the power of online access to brick-and-mortar stores. The idea is that the customer swipes their loyalty card on entering the store, receiving a printout that includes a personalized shopping list, relevant coupons, notice of associated store discounts or sales, and even a map to where the items can be found in the store.  Read More

New software helps you make better decisions

May 29, 2007 We’d all like to think that we can read the play better than the next person, that we can use our innate intelligence, intuition and gut feel to make well considered business and personal decisions, even though human intuition is seldom sufficient in complex decision-making situations. After several years of research at Mid Sweden University, the decision tool DecideIT has been developed for the purpose of enhancing the ability of decision-makers to reach rational decisions. The advantages include a more structured decision-making process and the capacity to analyze problems that previously were too complex for analysis.  Read More

Skimmed milk and spreadable butter - straight from the cow

May 28, 2007 Genetically selecting for superior produce has been a staple of farming for hundreds of years. The dairy industry is now looking at how it can selectively breed dairy cows to bring their output closer to the way consumers are choosing to use it. In particular, they're having good results identifying cows that can produce tasty low-fat 'skim' milk - which accounts for 75% of milk sold in some countries. What's more, they've also found a cow whose butter is spreadable right out of the fridge. Her name? Marge.  Read More

The SmartSert fastener insert requires no tapping

May 25, 2007 Alcoa Fastening Systems (AFS) has introduced a new insert, called SmartSert, which can be installed in plastic or aluminum-based materials without a pre-tapped hole. The innovative product, which was developed by AFS in Melbourne, Australia, is both cost effective and efficient because steps previously required for thread-forming inserts are eliminated. The SmartSert insert can be installed quicker without a pre-formed hole resulting in both cost and time savings.  Read More

The Sentinel fire hose tripod concept

May 17, 2007 This simple idea could help overstretched fire departments to make the best use of limited personnel. The Sentinel is a strong, directional fire-hose holding tripod that allows firefighters to set up fixed, unmanned fire suppression points while firefighters get on with the business of saving lives.  Read More

digiwax = DRM-free MP3 + Vinyl

May 16, 2007 Vinyl records, for all their wonderous qualities, are such impractical things. You have to store them correctly, take care to ensure your turntable isn't destroying them, and even if you have the equipment to rip them to digital formats at high-quality (USB turntables don't count), you're left with a recording of a recording that was mastered specifically for the qualities (and limitations) of the vinyl format. Well aware of the dilemmas facing record collectors with iPods or digital DJ rigs, U.K. based First Word Records have released their first "digiwax" vinyl record, which includes a code allowing purchasers to download DRM-free 320kbit MP3's of the album.  Read More

Trading on the mind market – buying and selling innovation

May 16, 2007 In many ways it’s a dream come true – IdeaConnection is quite seriously offering a penny for your thoughts. The newly launched website is marketing itself as a trading ground for ideas; allowing users to post problems and handpick a team of thinkers varied in age, experience, location and field of expertise to work on the solution. Whether you’re an armchair expert or battle hardened industry veteran, you can register to post a problem, propose your ideas, or place yourself in the site’s directory, allowing future posters to call on you for assistance. With a price tag of at least US$1000 per problem, the service does not come cheaply – however, by concentrating such a large amount of intelligence and experience into a collaborative community, it is likely the benefits that emerge from the site will far outweigh the costs.  Read More

Keys to success in SME Globalisation

May 16, 2007 Before the internet came along, the term “Multinational” signified big business. Forging a beachhead on another continent signified substance, lots of resources, a successful home market and a long term commitment. No longer – the internet enables business with someone in Kazakhstan as easily as it does with your next door neighbour and there’s a growing trend for small and medium-sized companies to successfully launch themselves as international businesses from start-up. Rapid internationalisation is occurring because a company need not establish itself in its home market before venturing overseas. Siv Marina Flo Karlsen of the BI Norwegian School of Management recently completed her doctoral thesis on this very subject and it provides insights for anyone doing business on the internet. “The key to success is having a strategic network and unique products,” says Flo.  Read More

New fund available to businesses to introduce sensor technology into their products

May 15, 2007 Now that we have enough computing power to crunch even the most gargantuan computing tasks, we are only limited in what we can do, by what we can measure. That’s why the advancement of sensor technology will become so very important in the coming decade. Sensors are currently used in many products to detect things like motion, light, temperature, pressure and flow, and play a vital role across a range of industries, for example as household smoke detectors, vehicle reversing aids and for ingredients monitoring in the food processing industry. The image at right is a 3D foot scanner designed to enable the easiest selection of comfortable shoes developed by Qinetiq. The development of new sensing technologies is hence critically important in generating new products and improving processes. British technology company Qinetiq’s purpose is “delivering Brilliant Solutions to Important Problems”. From integrating legacy weapons systems with state of the art sensors and software for the British MOD, to fielding advanced robotic systems for the US Department of Defense; providing port security products for the US Department of Homeland Security, or designing advanced security systems for many of the City's computer systems, QinetiQ’s technological prowess in the field of sensors and systems is vast. So we’re accordingly pleased to report that Qinetiq and Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands are establishing a new multi-million investment fund to be made available to businesses from early next month to stimulate the technical development of advanced sensors and their integration into technologies used in everyday life.  Read More

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