How Efficient Engineering Can Solve Health and Safety Issues

Health and safety problems can take myriad different forms, and there are many methods and techniques that are used to tackle these issues before they arise. The efficient implementation of the science of engineering is one such vital factor to get right, as engineering innovation can make a colossal difference to health and safety compliance. Here are three examples we’ve come across:

Engineering and Food ProcessingBoston Gear

Engineers are the problem solvers of our world, and this branch of science is regularly called upon to tackle some genuinely important health and safety issues. For example, take a look at the Boston Gear power transmission products that are sold on the Motion Drives and Controls website. They might not seem like much, but Boston Gear has just used one of these devices to greatly reduce the risk of food contamination in the food processing industry. In this case, the design flaws were ironed out to minimise the areas in the drivetrains where bacteria could gather, thus solving a recognised health and safety problem.

Engineering and Railway Safety

In a similar manner, engineering is relied upon to provide efficient solutionsRailway to railway safety issues. Nobody would possibly dispute the need for railway safety, and companies like SCG Solutions are among the services that help to keep things running as they should. To name but a few health and safety innovations, these businesses can develop…

  • Barriers.
  • Fire resistant coatings.
  • Anti-roll bars.
  • Signal antenna.
  • Brakes.

As you can see, once again efficient engineering is a firm contributor to high standards of health and safety.

Engineering and Fire Risk100505-N-2218S-003

The risk of fire is something that all owners of residential and commercial premises are aware of, and fire engineering is an essential discipline. Many buildings can have fire safety concerns inherent within their plans, and it’s therefore up to businesses like Flamerisk Safety Solutions Ltd to come up with safer designs. Sometimes, fire safety solutions are obvious – we’re thinking fire shutters and fire extinguishers – but for the times when some technical problem solving is required, engineering is undoubtedly essential.

PharmEngineering and the Medical Industry

Just as we mentioned in the aforementioned food processing section, engineering can work wonders for standards in the medical industry. For example, European Springs and Pressings Ltd (a provider of springs for use in the medical industry) treat specially made Platinum-Tungsten and Platinum-Iridium components to ensure that they remain clean and hygienic, which is an essential requirement when a component is being used within something with a medical purpose. Similarly, the child-safety bottle cap was developed using engineering expertise, so the discipline is fundamental in ensuring medical and pharmaceutical health and safety.

Our three examples should go some way towards indicating how engineers help to solve the health and safety problems of the world. There’s obviously a lot more that could be said, but what can’t be denied is that engineering is vital. So, the next time someone within earshot is tempted to pigeonhole engineering into the stereotypical area of repairing cars, be sure to put them right!

Plastic Injection Moulding Explained

Do you know how we get many of the complicated plastic things that make our lives safer, more sterile and much more convenient? Many of them are formed by a process known as plastic injection moulding.

According to a recent article on Plastipedia, available at http://www.bpf.co.uk/plastipedia/processes/injection_moulding.aspx, this is a manufacturing method that has been in use since the 19 century. Since then, the process has been refined to make it better structured and to enable manufacturers to use different types of plastics that have different qualities.

Commonly used materials:

1) Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene ABS

2) Nylon PA

3) Polycarbonate PC

4) Olypropylene PP

4) Polystyrene GPPS

 Key steps in the injection moulding process:

Clamping. An injection-moulding machine consists of three basic parts; the mould plus the clamping and injection units. The clamping unit is what holds the mould under pressure during the injection and cooling. It holds the two halves of the injection mould together.

 Injection.  Chuck Tuck in his article on Technology Student, http://www.technologystudent.com, argues that during the injection stage, plastic material, typically in the form of pellets, are loaded into a hopper on top of the injection unit. The pellets feed into the cylinder where they are heated until they reach molten form (think of how a hot glue gun works here). Within the heating cylinder there is a motorized screw that mixes the molten pellets and forces them to the end of the cylinder. Once enough material has accumulated in front of the screw, the injection process starts. The molten plastic is inserted into the mould through a sprue, while the pressure and speed are controlled by the screw.

Dwelling. The dwelling period consists of a pause in the injection process. The molten plastic has been injected into the mould and the pressure is applied to make sure all of the mould cavities are filled.

Cooling. The plastic is allowed to cool to its solid form within the mould.

Mould Opening. The clamping unit is opened, which separates the two halves of the mould.

Ejection. An ejecting rod and plate eject the finished piece from the mould. The un-used sprues and runners can be recycled for use again in future moulds.

This complicated process requires highly skilled engineers and technicians to create great products. Tool Craft are one of the leading plastic injection moulding companies in the UK and will modify and adapt this process to suit any requirement. Their website has full details of their services, http://www.toolcraft.co.uk/.

Typical Products Produced

1) Automotive Plastics (auto parts, aircraft parts, and tires).

2) Packaging Plastics (boxes, egg cartons, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys).

3) Industrial Consumer Plastics (plastic toys, furniture)

Advantages:

1)High production rates

2)Design flexibility

3)Repeatability within tolerances

4)Can process a wide range of materials

5)Relatively low labour

6)Little to no finishing of parts

7)Minimum scrap losses

Disadvantages

1) High set up costs (moulds etc)

2) Complicated process

3) Can only be used for large quantities due to costs

In summary, there are more than 30,000 unique products that can be moulded using injection process. The major advantage of plastic injection moulding is that products with complex geometry can be made which is not possible in any other processes. And it is clear, as long as there is a need for plastic components of complex shapes and sizes, the business of manufacturing plastics will continue to grow.

The Importance of Cleanroom Practices

Cleanrooms are environments where the level of environmental contamination is carefully controlled. They are subject to strict standards to ensure that the products being created or research being conducted is not contaminated by unwanted pollutants.

The air entering a cleanroom is filtered to remove contaminants, and staff entering the area must go through an airlock to ensure that contaminants carried on their body and clothing are removed. The entry and exit procedures for a cleanroom can be extensive (www.mic4.com/articles/entry-exit.php) and often include going through a pre-change zone, where cosmetics, jewellery and street clothing are removed, to a change zone where special cleanroom garments are put on, and finally into the cleanroom itself. Cleanroom garments generally include a cap to cover the hair (and beard covers where applicable), an overgarment such as a coverall or gown, and shoe covers.

While the general public may think of them as something used only for highly dangerous medical research, they are in fact used in a wide range of manufacturing industries as well, and even in industries where a fully classified cleanroom is not in use, some cleanroom practices may be used to reduce contamination in their products, such as the wearing of cleanroom style garments and requiring staff to wash their hands before beginning their shift.

The most obvious use of cleanrooms in manufacturing is in association with the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Products which are used to deliver life-saving drugs, like metered dose inhalers used for the treatment of asthma, must be free from pollutants which could affect the end patient. The companies who manufacture them, like Presspart Manufacturing, therefore maintain large cleanroom manufacturing sites with stringent standards to ensure the safety and quality of their products. You can see full details on their website, www.presspart.com. Microelectronics manufacturers also use cleanrooms, as the processes and products they work with are so small that they can be badly affected by the tiniest particles of dust.

Contamination can have other adverse effects on products. German police spent fifteen years on the trail of a serial killer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_of_Heilbronn) who didn’t exist – the DNA which had been found at 40 different crime scenes was eventually found to be the result of contamination at the German medical supplies company which provided the cotton swabs.

To this end, companies who specialise in the construction of cleanrooms, like CRC Ltd have clients which include leading universities, biotechnology, microelectronics, pharmaceutical companies and general research laboratories. You can find out more about their services, from design to maintenance on their website, www.crc-ltd.co.uk.  Cleanroom practices are essential to the end result of many goods and services and it is therefore essential that the practices are maintained from the manufacture of small components to the implementation of the whole.

Hazards in the Lab

Hazardous Waste DisposalThe dangers of a lab are manifold. In relation to conducting experiments and dealing with dangerous chemicals full and proper risk assessments and extensive training procedures ought to be in operation. There are both British and European regulations in effect with regard to which materials may be used, how they must be stored and then latterly the way in which they are disposed. Research is important but safety is imperative at every stage of the process.

Thankfully, most scientists and researchers understand these protocols well. Large scale laboratory accidents are quite uncommon: it is far more likely that the evidence or experiment will be spoiled than anyone will be injured. The significant factor for both the public and professionals to understand is the prevalence of hazardous materials in our lives and to take adequate measures to protect ourselves from them.

In laboratories, hazardous waste refers to everything from the chemicals used in experiments to the laboratory clothing and, of course,  waste which is deemed hazardous wherever it is found like batteries and white goods such as fridges and freezers. Check out this page from the company Red Industries, found here: www.redindustries.co.uk/services2.html, who offer hazardous waste collection services to both individuals and businesses alike. For laboratories, they can conduct characterisation and composition reports to identify hazardous materials and implement a safe collection service.

In each workplace, there ought to be someone responsible for safety. This person should understand the dangers and how to deal with them. For advice, the Environment Agency has a lot of information on their website, www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/waste/32180.aspx, regarding the Waste Framework Directive as updated in March 2011.  The changes made were in relation to record-keeping, consignment and differing definitions of what constitutes hazardous waste so it is essential that those in business study these to ensure they are keeping to the law.

An assessment of which materials are hazardous should be carried out only by trained professionals like Red Industries listed above. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to have a resource on hand for all staff members. The University of Edinburgh has a guide to identifying hazardous waste within university laboratories, www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/estates-buildings/waste-recycling/laboratory-waste/special-waste/hazardous-properties, the information can be used as a guideline for other business too.

Waste designated as hazardous is not the only risk in laboratories of course. Non-hazardous waste must also be treated efficiently and quickly in an environment such as this. Commercial waste management companies like Biffa, http://www.biffa.co.uk/ are able to deal with non-hazardous waste in a timely manner, ensuring that recycling practices are followed. This helps to keep the workplace safe and secure as tripping hazards like bins and overflowing bins are dealt with before they become problematic.

The laboratory is a dynamic environment but one in which safety protocols should take precedence over everything else.  A well-managed laboratory should be a safe place; focussed waste management procedures will help to diminish the number of hazards and create an environment in which scientific exploration may flourish.

Protein: The Building Blocks

The human body is a vastly complex and marvellous machine, and the oil that makes it all run smoothly comes in the form of protein. Protein strands comprise of a series of amino acids joined together in peptide bonds, and there are many different varieties of protein strand in the body. When they’re not building or repairing muscle tissue, they are acting as catalysts for biological reactions all over the body. Protein truly is a marvellous substance, and it doesn’t stop with the human body.

1021157_cracked_egg
Thanks to fantastic scientific discoveries, we are able to manipulate protein strands to achieve some truly incredible things. Just take a look at this article from Food Production Daily on the production of whey protein coating in commercial packaging. So what other discoveries have we made about this dynamic substance?

Whey protein is not only being used to boost recyclability, it is a common supplement for body builders. Companies like Muscleforce Supplements here supply a myriad of useful protein supplements to add to your diet: and there are a lot of different kinds to choose from. You can often find high a protein count in foods like cottage cheese or a steak, but with supplements the protein strands are mixed in a solution which makes them easier to digest. The less work your body has to do breaking down the proteins, the quicker they will enter your system and begin building. This is why companies like Lucozade have never gone out of fashion. The three fact sheets, which you can download from the provided link, show just how vital protein is to our diets and how much of it can be found in energy drinks. Hydration fuels muscle mass, hence why many sports enthusiasts drink energy drinks to keep going, and take protein supplements to build up.

Regulating a high protein diet requires more, however, than simply supplements and drinks; supplements are after all designed to supplement, not replace. Thus a high protein diet must include high protein foods, such as red meat, lentils, and eggs. To make the most of every meal it’s worth consulting some high protein recipes which you can find on Food.com here.

According to The Dr Oz Show, as mentioned here on Nerdles, we are not getting enough protein in our diets. Your protein intake has much to do with your metabolism, and as Dr Oz says at the bottom of the article, whey protein powders can actually help speed up your metabolism and help you lose weight. Have I convinced you of proteins’ incredible versatility yet? How about this article from News-Medical on Alzheimer’s development? I particularly enjoy the line ‘This is the first time a protein that functions as a controller of motors has been reported.’

The human body is a complex machine, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential: and it all starts with the foundation blocks.

AU! Put Your Goggles On!

There are some jobs that require you to don a new suit so that you can look presentable in the office. Other jobs require you to wear a full hazmat suit, goggles, thick gloves, indestructible boots and a respirator, so that you don’t melt. Working in a lab might seem like a daunting experience to some, but it’s a real opportunity for those who have the passion for discovery. Science is not a subject to be taken lightly, just look at the most recent developments in the search for dark matter. The study of the properties of life and the universe is not all charts and diagrams, and with developments like this coming to light, more and more young people are aspiring to discover more about this universe.

While enthusiasm is certainly a good thing, scientists are known better for their practical thinking, so when you’re working with hazardous materials all day it is pivotal that the correct personal protective equipment is worn in the lab. It goes without saying that you should check and double check all of your own equipment before entering the lab, but what about your environment? Because of the nature of some scientific research, it should be your responsibility to watch each other for faults as well as your own, besides, I hear this helps encourage friendly competition as well as keeping everyone safe.

It doesn’t matter how gifted you are at separating chemical compounds, if someone else makes a mistake you could all end up in trouble for it. I suggest reading this short guide to lab procedures in case one or two of the fundamentals have slipped your busy brain.

I have nothing but respect for the study of science, but no one will respect carelessness. Take the time to remind yourself of proper lab procedure, and check every piece of equipment including your safety gear, your lab partners will thank you.

Doing the Heavy Lifting

When it comes to working in the lab, precision is everything. Essential for measuring accuracy and keeping test conditions optimal, precision was the reason for scientists originally wanting to split the atom as well as how they were able to do it. As with any experiment, or project, conducted within the lab, it is essential to have the right equipment. The right equipment can allow you to keep most of the variables at a constant and manage to look at one aspect of the experiment at a time as well as manage the items on your site much easier.

But not everything that you need can be fitted inside a cardboard box, glassware, microscopes and other pieces of conventional equipment will suit a certain type of experiment, but there may be plenty of experiments where you need to be operating materials on a much larger scale such as cutting large deal of metal with an industrial saw, or using industrial tools to create a new piece of equipment.

If you are considering buying some heavy duty equipment for your site or your lab, it can be really worth looking at the second hand market. Used forklift trucks are available at a great price and can be a great starting point if you are looking for some advanced equipment. Before investing heavily in brand new equipment, you can use a used forklift truck to assess your needs, you’re likely to find that this machinery fulfills all of your criteria as well as making you a great saving.

Industrial equipment can allow you to scale up your experiments to the point where your only limits are the very limits of your imagination. The correct tools combined with ample materials allows for a huge number of experiments to be carried out and heavy lifting machinery will allow you to improve your efficiency by increasing the speed, scale and volume of each of your projects.

The equipment can be used for much more than ferrying goods and can allow you to really open up your lab into a much larger and ambitious project as you are unencumbered by many of the physical logistics that otherwise restrict the growth of your project/business

Getting Started With Astronomy

I had always been fascinated by the night sky, so when a friend of mine bought a book on astronomy and suggested a night out under the stars, I jumped at the chance. We looked up at the stars and picked out the constellations. Getting out of London, I could really see things properly for the first time, and from then on I was hooked.

I got up the next day and started looking for the best deals on used binoculars (tip-check out Ace Cameras) for our next trip out. I have since purchased increasingly more elaborate and expensive binoculars and telescopes, finding that I need to see more and more to experience the same high that I did on that first trip out- I feel like an addict!

There is nothing more rewarding than looking at the night sky if you know what you’re looking for and where to find it. As well as all of the books that are available (go the library if you don’t want to spend any money without trying it out first, you’ll also find loads of really useful info on the internet, check out http://www.lightandmatter.com/binosky/binosky.html for more information on looking at the sky with binoculars.

You may begin by wanting to find something specific in the night sky, if you’re a beginner, choosing planet that you want to see is a good place to start. Seeing it up close will be such a revelation I can assure you. If you’re just starting out you may want to look at the Messier Catalogue, which is a list of interesting objects in the sky, distinguished from ordinary stars. It was started in 1758 by a French astronomer Charles Messier who wanted to make sure that these nebulae wouldn’t be mistaken for comets. Each object has been given an ‘M’ number- and astronomers still use this today to identify the objects, in total their are 110 Messier Objects. A great site can be found at SEDS.org, where you can find out more about each object.

HAPPY GAZING!

Isolating the Lab

When it comes to laboratory conditions, one of the most important factors for experiments is to make sure that the lab is isolated from contaminants and clean. This is not because of the often feared myth that some lab will accidentally release some form of super-virus. But simply because a small amount of contamination can skew results on even the most simple and basic of tests. So much so that a small degree of contamination is often assumed on the part of lab technicians and so tests are repeated ad infinitum to ensure that contaminants aren’t producing wild outliers and contamination in general is a huge issue among professionals.

An important factor for reducing the number of contaminants in the laboratory environment is to make good use of wash basins and sanitation products. This is understandably a mandatory requirement for all lab technicians or anyone working within such a delicate environment. The wearing of disposable gloves and other protective gear is a good way to eliminate a lot of the possibility of cross-contamination, but extremely careful hygiene is also essential. As a good tip, look at how surgeons in operating theaters wash their hands; with high taps and low basins they wash their hands from the fingertips right to the elbow with their fingers facing up into the running water. This is different to how many of us wash our hands and it is to ensure that any contaminants are washed away towards the wrist or arm rather then trickling downwards towards the fingertips which are used more in the precise work.

 

One of the best ways to help to reduce the contamination of the outside environment is with roller shutter doors or PVC strip curtains on the entrances to the lab. These high speed doors can be of great help not just because they limit the amount of contaminants that can get into the lab, but also because they are great at insulation and can help you to create the perfect working conditions that are necessary. When it is easier to manage temperature controls, experiments can be performed at very precise conditions and proper insulation will mean that on average the results should come out more standardised.

Another important way to limit contamination in the lab is simply by limiting access to those who are absolutely essential to the project that is being worked on. Even if superiors or VIPs would like access to the materials, it is important to make sure that the fewest number of people possible have to deal with the materials in order to reduce the chances of accidental contamination.

Common sense is the best approach

Every step that you take towards decontamination is just the application of very simple principals and methods that ensure that you are doing everything you can to create a clean environment. With careful planning and well thought out scientific method, there is no reason that your lab should suffer from major cross-contamination or temperamental environmental conditions on a regular basis.

 

Imperial vs. Metric

As you may have noticed, the UK uses a combination of both imperial and metric forms of measurement, unlike any other country in Europe. For example, buying petrol you will see the volume measured in litres, but go to the pub and beer is served in pints; similarly weights of ingredients are usually in grams, but babies are always pounds and ounces. Although we, as a country, have taken on some of the metric system it has not yet garnered enough support for the older imperial system to be completely taken away.

Steve Thoburn was known as a "Metric Martyr" for refusing to sell his produce in metric.

There are a few reasons behind this, the major one being that it is “traditional” to use such measurements, and also the fact that so many people have either lived with, or are being brought up with, the imperial system alongside the metric. I began my school life in 1990, and remember being taught with the metric system, but this has not stopped me preferring to use imperial whenever I can.

In fact, the thought of referring to someone as being 1.8m tall instead of 6 foot seems a bit strange and during my time working in a DIY store I had to get quite adept at being able to convert between the two, as all of the packaging was in metres and centimetres. This was absolutely of no use to most customers, as they still worked in feet and inches. A famous example of such a problem was highlighted in 2011, when Asda discovered that 70% of its customers were confused by metric measurements and preferred the imperial way. As a result of this, the company reverted to selling strawberries by the pound for the first time in over a decade!

Britain joined the European Common Market in 1973, and a requirement of doing so was to aim to change to the standardised measurements along with the rest of Europe, but the deadline was pushed back further and further every time. In 1995 it became mandatory for all European countries to use the metric system, but the UK was allowed special dispensation to continue using imperial until 2009, when only milk, beer and cider would be allowed to be measured in pints, and distances in miles. However, in 2007, the European Commission admitted that convincing Britain to get rid of its old system was a lost cause, and this is why we are allowed to carry on using both systems.

Asda went back to selling strawberries by the pound.

The whole debate has come back into the spotlight recently due to the Olympic Games being held in Britain, with Lord Howe, a former chancellor, foreign secretary and consumer affairs minister, stating that British weights and measures we “in a mess”. He stated that with many foreign visitors this year, the separate systems would cause a lot of confusion, and added, on the subject of two systems, that “It increases cost, confuses shoppers, leads to serious misunderstandings, causes accidents, confuses our children’s education and, quite bluntly, puts us all to shame.”

Still, no matter what is said regarding the apparently obsolete imperial system I feel as though we will be using it for many more years to come. I, for one, will continue to refer to people as being 6 foot and babies weighing 8 pounds, and I think many more people will do too.