Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

I used to be a joiner

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Not many people know this about me, but I started my work life doing a joinery apprenticeship. My dad was a career joiner and I began working with him when I was a teenager. It wasn’t always much fun – at that age you get all the jobs no one else wants to do like crawling in loft spaces – but the work was honest and there was plenty of job satisfaction to be had. However, one winter, in Worksop, whilst digging in frozen-solid ground for the shutters needed for the foundations of the new Bassetlaw hospital extension, I had a moment of clarity. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life doing this? No! My next full-time job was working as a bench-joiner building furniture for banks and supermarkets. Now this job I loved! Not only was it indoors, but the work was interesting, my colleagues were goof fun, and there was even more job satisfaction to be had. It’s a great feeling looking at a well-crafted piece of furniture you’ve made practically from scratch. And my life would have panned out very differently if by a twist of fate, the company lost a contract and they had to let some of the workers go – last ones in, first ones out. And that was the end of that chapter of my life. I moved to France a few weeks later and didn’t end up back in Sheffield until 7 years later.

I may not work with wood anymore, but I do still know my way around a joinery workshop. Back in the days of shop furniture we’d be using a lot of chipboard and wood-effect laminate. Why? Because it was cheap and hard-wearing. However, if you’re more interested in making something authentic and beautiful, you’d probably be looking at using solid wood instead. However, the problem is that large, solid, real-wooden boards are expensive and potentially contain weaknesses like knots. A good alternative is finger jointed panels as this provides incredibly large panels up-to 6 metres and in a range of different woods such as beech, ash, oak, maple or walnut. This allows you to not only save time but it’s also often a much cheaper alternative. And many people also like the ‘striped’ effect you get!

Written by Chris

March 9th, 2020 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

A recent visit to the University of Sheffield got me thinking…

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Having spent several days, whilst doing some recent work, exploring some of the sprawling University of Sheffield research sites, I began to wonder how on earth they keep track of their equipment. Honestly, I saw hundreds of huge, expensive machines and I dread to think how many smaller items there are that I didn’t see but still need accounting for nevertheless! Every chair, table, computer, on their own, would add up to an incredible number of items that need to be accounted for including their location.

We were there to create virtual tours of many of their buildings and facilities – in the new, international age of university learning, it’s not so easy for potential students to turn up for the ‘open day’, or to just ‘pop-in for a look around’, the a virtual tour is an excellent way of allowing these students to explore an building from the comfort of their own home. Our virtual tours are an incredible immersive way of allowing someone to view the interior of a space – in fact, they’re often described as second only to being there in person in terms of the experience. For more information on virtual tours, visit the 360 Virtual View website

However, how is everything logged and tracked by such a behemoth of an organisation? A company in France called TechnoMark may have part of the solution. They provide dot peen machines and a great range of other industrial marking solutions to help businesses and organisations keep track of their inventory. If ‘dot peen’ is a new phrase to you, you will have probably, nevertheless seen the results – it’s where a word, sentence or code is physically etched onto an item using ‘dots’. These marked, unlike stickers, are impossible to remove and also difficult to cover up, and can provide you with a unique identifier for every item that need traceability. Other ways to mark items include using lasers, and scribing, and long with a robust computer-based solution, provide a great option in terms of keeping tally of all your assets when you’re looking at this on a huge scale!

Written by Chris

February 3rd, 2020 at 9:45 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

What is a Phytochemical?

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A phytochemical substance or phytochemicals are chemical compounds produced my plants and are generally designed to provide a benefit of some sort such as a defence against pathogens, to help thwart predators (for example they may be a poisonous substance in leaves), or provide a competitive advantage (such as growth inhibitors that are released and affect other nearby plants). Many of these phytochemical substances have been used throughout history as, for example, poisons or in traditional medicines. The root of the word ‘photochemical’ comes from ‘phyto’, the Greek for ‘plant’ and the word chemical (which is a distinct compound or substance, especially one which has been artificially prepared or purified) comes from the French chimique or further back, modern Latin chimicus, chymicus, or even further back from medieval Latin alchymicus.

Phytochemicals are usually regarded as research compounds as opposed to essential nutrients (until any health benefits have been properly established). Phytochemicals that are being researched are generally classified into major categories such as carotenoids and polyphenols (which include phenolic acids, flavonoids, and stilbenes/lignans). Flavonoids are again often also divided into groups based on their similar chemical structure (such as anthocyanins, flavones, flavanones, isoflavones, and flavanols). Flavanols can also be classified as catechins, epicatechins, and proanthocyanidins.

The job of studying phytochemicals is done by a phytochemists begins by extracting and isolating the compounds from the origin plant, before defining their structure or testing in laboratory model systems, such as cell cultures, in vitro experiments, or in vivo studies using lab animals.

An example of a company that manufactures, sells and qualifies phytochemicals is Extrasynthese (based to the North of Lyon, in France) who have been working for over 30 years in extraction, separation, purification and analytical technologies from which they have developed more than 1000 substances in their catalogue. These substances, herbal standard and the reference substance are supplied to academic, regulatory, agricultural and industrial bodies dealing with plants and herbal products.  

Written by Chris

December 31st, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Molecular extraction from biological samples

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Following on from the recent series of articles on the subject of industries you probably didn’t know exist, this latest one is on molecular extraction from biological samples. There are many reasons that molecules may need to be extracted and this technology is used by many different industries such as the nuclear industry (for example, in a radiation monitoring system); the defence & security industry; life sciences, safety; and environment & recycling.

How is this done?

The most common method of sample preparation involves initially disrupting the sample with a tissue homogenizer before extracting the molecules of interest. Machines such as the Precellys Tissue Homogenizers are used here to provide a good range of fast and reproducible solutions to achieve any type of sample preparation. These products are designed to avoid cross-contamination with optimal tissue grinding or cell disruption. Sample preparation is critical to master molecules extraction from biological samples.

When is this used?

This is used for many different purposes such as the following:

In cancer research

Hard tissues such as those from tumours can be particularly difficult to homogenize, and animal models are often used in cancer research. molecule extraction and tissue homogenisation is used here to facilitate the creation of samples used in analysis and research.

In agronomy

Agronomy is the science of soil management and crop production. Sample preparation is currently a major part of research into new GMO foods, food allergies and plant studies. These often require ground, hard samples such as seeds, roots or frozen food, which are particularly hard to grind.

In forensics

Samples of very hard materials such as bone, teeth, and hair are commonly analysed in forensic laboratories. These samples are analysed in order to extract, for example, DNA from bone or teeth or drug extraction from hair.

In pharmacology

Pharmaceutical research is currently big business but begins with molecule identification from a natural or artificial model. Animal toxicology model analysis requires the homogenization of tissues.

In environmental analysis

Soil and environmental analysis often focus on microbiology studies and pollution impact on wildlife. Microorganisms included in a biological matrix are often a particularly difficult challenge to analyse.

In microbiology

The study of microorganisms is critical in industries such as bio-production and health research. And they are often very difficult to analyse due to their thick cell walls, which makes nucleic acid extraction difficult.

Written by Chris

October 28th, 2019 at 11:22 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

A new approach to preventable lifestyle illnesses

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Did you know, according to many doctors, for humans, biological ageing, by itself, is not a major problem until your about 80. In other words, take preventable ‘lifestyle’ illnesses out of the equation and many of us would be fit and healthy right through to our 9th decade – preventable lifestyle illnesses are the major problem – not ageing.

In the UK, these ‘preventable’ illnesses are linked to diet, smoking and inactivity and cost the NHS £11 billion per year, according to Public Health England, with conditions like type 2 diabetes at near-epidemic levels.

Sir Muir Gray has held various senior positions within the NHS and is very highly regarded. According to him, ‘wellness rather than illness’ should become the focus of the UK national health strategy. In other words, ‘Instead of giving lifestyle advice to healthy people and tablets to the unwell, we should be giving “activity therapy” to the 15 million people who are swallowing pills every day.’

However, this is not a new idea. For example, UK Active has warned that neglecting ‘preventative’ strategies and choosing to focus on illness instead if wellness with eventually bankrupt the NHS.

So, if we agree that the old focus is not working and we should try this new approach, where do we start?

UK Active have recently called for a £1 billion regeneration scheme to transform leisure centres into ‘community wellness hubs’ combining GP drop-in centres with gyms, swimming pools, and libraries to encourage and facilitate individuals leading healthier lifestyles.

Of course this regeneration would take a huge investment in the creation of new resources such as new tennis court construction, swimming pool construction, increasing the availability of gyms, and the construction of school canopies, however, to avoid many preventable illnesses, this would be a small price to pay – both metaphorically and literally – compared to the billions spent every year on preventable illnesses

Written by Chris

August 22nd, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

The fascinating world of ceramics

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I have to admit I knew very little about the ceramic industry when I was tasked with creating an article for a manufacturer of vibrating screens & sieves; industrial agitators and mastelli; electric pumps for the ceramic industry; magnetic iron removers & filters; and products for companies that are specialised in industries where materials screening is required. However, it turns out that this is a large and fascinating subject.

The English word ‘ceramic’ comes from the ancient Greek word for ‘potters’ and ‘potter’s clay’ and is a solid material comprising of inorganic compounds – metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. The most common examples of ceramics are earthenware, porcelain, stoneware, bone china, and brick. The earliest known ceramics made by humans were pottery objects such as pots, vessels or figurines made from clay. Later ceramics were glazed and fired to create smooth, coloured surfaces, to decrease porosity. Ceramics are now used throughout the world in countless domestic, industrial and building applications as well as in art. In modern times, newer ceramic materials have been developed for use in advanced ceramic engineering, such as in semiconductors.

The discovery of ceramics from archaeological digs provides a lot of very important information helping us to understand historical cultures, ancient technology and the behaviour of ancient civilisations. They are a very common artefacts found at arachnological sites among the most common artefacts to be found and are generally found as fragments or chards of broken pottery. By analysing these fragments and shards, it’s possible to distinguish between different cultural styles providing invaluable historical information about peoples from the past.

Ceramic art is also a fascinating subject and these items take many forms such as pottery, tableware, figurines, and sculpture. We have evidence of a long history of ceramic art in almost all developed cultures, and often ceramic objects are all the artistic evidence left from vanished cultures. Examples of ancient, vanished cultures include the Nok who lived in Africa over 2,000 years ago, the Nabateans who existed from around 312 BC, the Clovis people who lived in the deserts of New Mexico around 9000 years ago, and the Catalhoyuk, a very old Neolithic civilization who lived where modern-day Turkey now stands from 7500 to 5700 BC, living in mud-brick housing similar to other extremely early civilizations – they seem to have disappeared around 8000 years ago. Much can be learned from these early cultures by examining ceramic fragments they left behind.

In the modern world, the production of ceramics for all domestic and industrial applications has mainly been industrialised (besides the production of art) and there is a whole industry built up around the production of machinery and associated maintenance supplying this industry. An example of one of these companies is Bi technology who produce vibrating screens & sieves; industrial agitators and mastelli, electric pumps for the ceramic industry, and magnetic iron removers and filters. This Italian company specialise essentially in all those industrial departments where materials screening is required.

Written by Chris

July 25th, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Filler Metals in Fabrication

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For many metal fabrication purposes, aluminium is relied up on for its versatility, strength, and often, its corrosion resistance – used in hundreds of applications right the way through from ship-building all the way to aerospace manufacture. However, certain procedures must be followed during the welding process to ensure proper application, for example, pre-cleaning procedures, careful control of heat input, and use of appropriate welding equipment. However, one of the most important considerations is the use of the proper filler metal.

Aluminium alloys 4043 and 5356 are two of the most common filler metals and are available in wire form for GMAW (gas metal arc welding) and in cut-length filler rods for GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) In more than 85 percent of aluminium applications, 4043 and 5356 filler metals are the appropriate alloys for the job. They also are the most readily available in the marketplace and the least expensive to purchase

One of the most reputable manufacturer, supplier and repairer of heat exchangers is Mataconcept, located in Chaponpost, just outside Lyon in the South-East of France. They now also provide a complete range of welding products including filler metals which are used in all kinds of industrial applications where aluminium-silicon based alloys need to be welded. For example:

  • TIG rod : Filler metal, in rod form, for TIG welding (Tungsten Inert Gas) aluminium-silicon alloys.
  • MIG wire : Filler metal, in wire form, for MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas) aluminium-silicon alloys. This process is in direct competition with the MMA welding. It is the most frequently used welding process in the 21st century.
  • METALU rod : Non-corrosive, aluminium flux cored wire, in rod form, for flame brazing or welding aluminium-silicon, aluminium- copper and aluminium-brass alloys.

The Metaconcept Group also supplies pure tin ingot along with alloys in the form of various sized ingots and billets. The billets are vacuum cast in just one step and therefore offer the best quality price ratio on the market. Bars and flat bars are also available and are often easier to handle for small foundries. These products are mainly used for surface treatments, for manufacturing flat glass, silverware and white metal casting.

Written by Chris

July 22nd, 2019 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Essential Mixing Technologies

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Processing Magazine recently wrote an excellent article on the subject of essential mixing technologies subtitled ‘For fast-growing food processing companies, efficient powder-blending and high-shear mixing is key’ on the subject of the different types of mixing and blending machines used by start-ups and small food businesses.

In the article they talk about a couple of the different types of blending and mixing machines such as the ribbon Blender and High-Shear mixers and also discuss the pros and cons of buying outright vs. rental, concluding “Trial or rental programs offer a way for manufacturers to determine if a certain mixer is the right choice before a large capital expenditure. Visiting a testing facility to run a demo mixer and complete a batch or two using actual raw materials is even better. Some testing laboratories allow un-witnessed simulations, but the manufacturer’s expertise on the characteristics and properties of specific products will boost the trial’s chances for success. Plus, this allows observation of how the mixer operates and a chance to learn useful techniques and identify any potential issues well before the equipment is delivered. Ask about optional features that could help increase productivity, lower operating costs and simplify cleaning.”

Sofraden is an expert in the design and manufacture of the industrial mixer machine. A French manufacturer of mixing equipment founded in 1991, they design and produce a full range of industrial mixers for different applications. They design and manufacture a standard range of high-performance mixers which meet the needs of most industrial applications. They’re also able to design and adapt our standard machines according to your specific needs or to manufacture special mixers.

Their range of machines include an intensive industrial blades mixer (for batch or continuous processes), a vacuum mixer dryer (batch processes), a reactor-disperser (a high viscosity mixer), a rotary drum mixer (for batch or continuous processes), a ribbon mixer (for batch processes), an overlapping paddle mixer (for continuous processes) and laboratory mixers

Written by Chris

May 29th, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

How Many Surveillance Cameras are there in London?

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Have you ever stopped and wondered how many cameras have recorded you on an average day during, for example, a regular trip to the shops or your usual commute to work? Well the answer may surprise you if you live in London or some of the other CCTV hotspots around the world

The most recent estimates tell us that there are at least half a million CCTV cameras in London alone. Over recent years there has been a huge increase in these for several reasons including the price of the technology plummeting and the legal and insurance requirements placed on many businesses to help improve their security. Domestically, CCTV also helps deter crime, certainly in London where crimes rates are often higher, and the population density is greater.

To help ensure the safety of travellers, there are over 15,500 cameras in current use in the underground alone. Within King’s Cross and St Pancras there are over 400 cameras alone recording around 80 million travellers per year.

To answer the original question, it’s estimated that the average Londoner is captured on CCTV around 300 times per day (the London Underground footage is kept for an astonishing 2 weeks!)

But what about the cost of installing such a huge number of CCTV cameras? Estimates put this cost at over £300 million.

Worldwide the estimates are that there are a staggering 25 million CCTV cameras currently in operation with Britain accounting for between 4 and 5.9 million of these in total. The very high percentage of London CCTV cameras is also reflected in the surprising fact that Wandsworth borough in London has more CCTV cameras than Boston, Dublin, Johannesburg and San Francisco put together.

But who makes these cameras that are installed all over the world? It turns out there are thousands of different commercial & monitoring camera manufacturers in the world with China manufacturing the vast majority of the components that go into these devices. The most well know camera manufacturers include companies such as Bosch, Canon, Cisco, D-Link, Extreme CCTV, GE Security, Honeywell, Logitech, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, & Toshiba. Lesser known manufacturers include Visio Probe who manufacture cameras such as their industrial inspection camera or their remote inspection camera.

Written by Chris

April 23rd, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

LED advertising

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Traditional advertising has seen more of upheaval in the past few years than at any time since the first business in mediaeval times decided to put a wooden plank above its door advertising Mrs McReedy’s Herbal Cure-All Remedies. The move away from physical wood, paper or plastic installation has been swift and adopted by many of the biggest organisations in the world such as Coca-Cola & Nike. An LED display or LED advertising hoarding is a flat panel display, which uses an array of light-emitting diodes as pixels for a video display. The brightness of this type of display allows them to be used outdoors where they are visible in daylight and direct sun for store signs and billboards. They have also become commonly used in destination signs on public transport vehicles, in recent years, as well as variable-message signs on highways. LED displays are capable of providing general illumination in addition to visual display, as when used for stage lighting or other decorative purposes.

The main benefit of an LED screen display is the fact that they can be programmed and updated remotely meaning they can be real-time and do not require a technician to physically visit the hoardings. Traditionally, and certainly for the larger advertising hoardings you’ll find in bigger cities, you’d need someone with a ladder and bucket full of wallpaper paste to turn up and replace the signs. However, we can certainly see a time soon when nearly all large format advertising signage will be replaced with dynamic LED screens. Of course, one of the other main drivers behind this is the fact that the price of LED panels has fallen massively. You can now be at the cutting edge of advertising technology for the fraction of the price it once would have cost.

Written by Chris

March 21st, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous