Tag Archives: innovation

Aircraft inspection

A few months I took this series of photographs while waiting to board a trans-Atlantic flight home.  First, a small ladder was placed in front of the engine.  Then a technician arrived, climbed onto the ladder and spread a blanket on the cowling before kneeling on it and spinning the fan blades slowly.  He must have spotted something that concerned him because he climbed in, lay on the blanket and made a closer inspection.  Then he climbed down, rolled up the blanket and left.  A few minutes later he returned with a colleague, laid out the blanket and they both had a careful look inside the engine, after which they climbed down, rolled up the blanket put it back in a special bag and left.  Five or ten minutes later, they were back with a third colleague.  The blanket was laid out again, the engine inspected by two of them at once and a three-way discussion ensued.  The result was that our flight was postponed while the airline produced a new plane for us.

Throughout this process it appeared that the most sophisticated inspection equipment used was the human eye and a mobile phone.  I suspect that the earlier inspections were reported by phone to the supervisor who came to look for himself before making the decision.  One of the goals of our current research is to develop easy-to-use instrumentation that could be used to provide more information about the structural integrity of components in this type of situation.  In the INSTRUCTIVE project we are investigating the use of low-cost infra-red cameras to identify incipient damage in aerospace structures.  Our vision is that the sort of inspection described above could be performed using an infra-red camera that would provide detailed data about the condition of the structure.  This data would update a digital twin that, in turn, would provide a prognosis for the structure.  The motivation is to improve safety and reduce operating costs by accurate identification of critical damage.


Slow-motion multi-tasking leads to productive research

Most of my academic colleagues focus their research activity on a relatively narrow field and many have established international reputations in their chosen field of study.  However, my own research profile is broad, including recently-published studies on the motion of nanoparticles, damage propagation in composites and stress analysis in aerospace components  as well as current research on the fidelity and credibility simulations and tests (FACTS) in the aerospace, biomedical and nuclear industries.  My breadth of interests makes it difficult to categorise me or to answer the inevitable question about what research I do.  And, I have always felt the need to excuse or apologise for the breadth and explain by making  tenuous connections between my diverse research activities. However, apparently my slow-motion multi-tasking is a characteristic of many high-performing artists and scientists.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has proposed that slowly changing back and forth between different projects is a standard practice amongst people with high levels of originality and creativity.  Scientists that work on several problems at once and frequently refocus their research tend to enjoy the longest and most productive careers according to another study by Bernice Eiduson.

So, no more excusing or apologising for my range of research interests.  It is merely slow-motion multi-tasking to achieve a long and productive career characterised by original and creative research!


Tim Harford, Holidays hold the secret to unleashing creativity, FT Weekend, Opinion 25/26 August 2018.

Root‐Bernstein RS, Bernstein M, Gamier H. Identification of scientists making long‐term, high‐impact contributions, with notes on their methods of working. Creativity Research Journal.  6(4):329-43, 1993.

Fourth industrial revolution

Have you noticed that we are in the throes of a fourth industrial revolution?

The first industrial revolution occurred towards the end of the 18th century with the introduction of steam power and mechanisation.  The second industrial revolution took place at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and was driven by the invention of electrical devices and mass production.  The third industrial revolution was brought about by computers and automation at the end of the 20th century.  The fourth industrial revolution is happening as result of combining physical and cyber systems.  It is also called Industry 4.0 and is seen as the integration of additive manufacturing, augmented reality, Big Data, cloud computing, cyber security, Internet of Things (IoT), simulation and systems engineering.  Most organisations are struggling with the integration process and, as a consequence, are only exploiting a fraction of the capabilities of the new technology.  Revolutions are, by their nature, disruptive and those organisations that embrace and exploit the innovations will benefit while the existence of the remainder is under threat [see [‘The disrupting benefit of innovation’ on May 23rd, 2018].

Our work on the Integrated Nuclear Digital Environment, on Digital Twins, in the MOTIVATE project and on hierarchical modelling in engineering and biology is all part of the revolution.

Links to these research posts:

Enabling or disruptive technology for nuclear engineering?’ on January 28th, 2015

Can you trust your digital twin?’ on November 23rd, 2016

Getting Smarter’ on June 21st, 2017

‘Hierarchical modelling in engineering and biology’ [March 14th, 2018]


Image: Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Industry_4.0.png [CC BY-SA 4.0].

Spontaneously MOTIVATEd

Some posts arise spontaneously, stimulated by something that I have read or done, while others are part of commitment to communicate on a topic related to my research or teaching, such as the CALE series.  The motivation for a post seems unrelated to its popularity.  This post is part of that commitment to communicate.

After 12 months, our EU-supported research project, MOTIVATE [see ‘Getting Smarter‘ on June 21st, 2017] is one-third complete in terms of time; and, as in all research it appears to have made a slow start with much effort expended on conceptualizing, planning, reviewing prior research and discussions.  However, we are on-schedule and have delivered on one of our four research tasks with the result that we have a new validation metric and a new flowchart for the validation process.  The validation metric was revealed at the Photomechanics 2018 conference in Toulouse earlier this year [see ‘Massive Engineering‘ on April 4th, 2018].  The new flowchart [see the graphic] is the result of a brainstorming [see ‘Brave New World‘ on January 10th, 2018] and much subsequent discussion; and will be presented at a conference in Brussels next month [ICEM 2018] at which we will invite feedback [proceedings paper].  The big change from the classical flowchart [see for example ASME V&V guide] is the inclusion of historical data with the possibility of not requiring experiments to provide data for validation purposes. This is probably a paradigm shift for the engineering community, or at least the V&V [Validation & Verification] community.  So, we are expecting some robust feedback – feel free to comment on this blog!


Hack E, Burguete RL, Dvurecenska K, Lampeas G, Patterson EA, Siebert T & Szigeti E, Steps toward industrial validation experiments, In Proceedings Int. Conf. Experimental Mechanics, Brussels, July 2018 [pdf here].

Dvurcenska K, Patelli E & Patterson EA, What’s the probability that a simulation agrees with your experiment? In Proceedings Photomechanics 2018, Toulouse, March 2018.