Engineering highlights of 2016

general engineering imageAs we approach the year end we thought we’d take a look back at some of the new and innovative engineering stories and reports that came out this year.

There were some astounding breakthroughs in the medical and healthcare sectors as well as enhancements in the more run of the mill procedures.

Osseo integration (the practice of using pins to implant directly into the bone) has been in the news throughout the year. Despite many successful surgeries overseas, growth in the use of the procedure has been relatively slow. A UK pilot of the procedure for military personnel who have lost limbs launched in September this year. If successful it is hoped the use of the procedure can be adopted more widely.

A second level of the surgery which uses electrodes connected to muscles to give precise and controllable movement was successfully tested overseas, with the test subject eventually getting back to work as a heavy machine operator.

Whilst hip and knee replacements have become run of the mill in surgical terms, there is no doubt that they can be as life changing to some as receiving prosthetic limbs like those mentioned above. Engineering systems and machinery continue to develop allowing for more complex and comfortable component parts to be produced.

Improvements in rail transport seem to have continuously been in the news throughout the year. The longest rail tunnel in the world opened in Switzerland in the summer revolutionising travel between northern and southern Europe. Crossrail, the project linking services from West to east London, confirmed in April that they were on target and that the project was more than 70% complete. Hot on the heels of that came the news that Crossrail 2 was granted development funds for a proposed new railway serving London and the South East. Major improvements continue to be made across services and lines. All good news in the long term, if somewhat frustrating for commuters in the short term.

There have been so many developments in the defence sector. Autonomous vehicles are being developed and tested on land, sea and in the air. Wearables are being developed for improved communication and accuracy for military personnel and the fabrics of their uniforms are also being developed to ensure the best protection. Lightweight body armour and improved methods of bomb disposal have all been in the headlines this year.

Cars and HGVs continue to evolve in many ways. Battery life on electric vehicles and battery charging is improving and there is ongoing testing of autonomous vehicles and ‘road trains’ in a bid to improve road safety. Whether all of these innovations are eventually allowed onto the public roads is yet to be known, but if introducing only some of them results in fewer deaths and accidents on the roads, that can only be a good thing.

When it comes to aerospace, 3D printing was completed in space, Solar Impulse 2 crossed the Atlantic non stop and towards the end of the year, Boom, the new supersonic passenger aircraft was unveiled. With testing planned for 2017, it is hoped that commercial services can begin from 2023.

And let’s not forget that innovation and development in one sector can often lead to improvements elsewhere. Fire services can benefit from many defence sector innovations; there are some types of business that could benefit from the introduction of short autonomous journeys. And who would have thought that advanced Formula 1 racing technologies could have such an impact in areas like premature baby care and supermarket refrigeration systems.

Here’s to another year of innovative engineering developments!