Mechanical Engineering: Research @ Brunel

Articles (co)authored by MAE Brunel staff

Below are recent articles (co-)authored by Brunel academic staff. Please click the title of the article to access the full-text.

  • Revealing the Supply Chain 4.0 Potential within the European Automotive Industry
    Milosavljevic, M. et al
    Sustainability, Vol 16, No 4, Art No. 1421
    With the rapid advancements in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the widespread enthusiasm of both theoreticians and practitioners, the broader transition to Industry 4.0 (I4.0) in major industries appears imminent. This empirical study analyzes business data from 1140 automotive companies operating in Europe, utilizing various business intelligence platforms and employing decision tree analytics to establish connections between enablers, drivers, company size, and financial resources. The goal is to identify persistent barriers hindering the rational transition to Industry 4.0. The findings reveal an uneven transformation within the industry nexus. While larger companies possess the financial means to allocate collective intelligence, technical resources, and drive necessary for fulfilling I4.0 requirements, smaller members of the nexus lag behind despite their enthusiasm and intent. This imbalanced evolution poses a threat to the comprehensive transformation required for realizing all the benefits of Industry 4.0 within the sector. The primary discovery indicates that small to medium-sized enterprises do not exhibit the same rates of Industry 4.0 adoption, a lag highly correlated with their available financial and human resources for digital transition. The decision tree proposed in this study offers guidelines for achieving an Industry 4.0-compliant nexus. Given its diversity and substantial global impact, the case study from the automotive industry proves intriguing and may later be generalized to other sectors. The study's outcome could empower engineering managers and researchers to implement, execute, and assess the impact of digital strategies based on the financial capabilities of industrial institutions.

  • An Interactive Web-Based Platform for Support Generation and Optimisation for Metal Laser Powder Bed Fusion
    Dimopoulos, A.
    Materials, Vol 17, No 7, Art No. 1639 (Apr 2024)
    Powder bed fusion-laser beam (PBF-LB), a prevalent and rapidly advancing additive manufacturing (AM) technology nowadays, serves the industry by producing thin, complex, and lightweight components for various sectors, including healthcare, automotive, defence, and aerospace. However, this technology encounters challenges related to the construction of critical parts and the high overall process costs. Equally significant is the role of support structures in metal laser powder bed fusion (PBF-LB/M). The absence of supports can lead to defective and collapsed parts, while the incorrect selection of a support type or the addition of unnecessary supports results in increased material usage and additional post-processing efforts. Therefore, there is a pressing need for advanced software capable of generating appropriate support structures and predicting the thermomechanical behaviour of a part under PBF-LB/M printing conditions. Such software would be beneficial for the industry to avoid printing defects caused by high thermal stresses, minimise material usage, reduce printing time, and ensure high-quality prints. In this study, we introduce a web-based support generation and optimisation platform for PBF-LB/M. Through this platform, among other features, users can import three-dimensional (3D) parts and generate block-type support structures with diamond perforations based on the PySLM library, all within a user-friendly web environment. The first release of the platform (v0.6) is fully interactive and accessible online at no cost.

  • Shape Sensing for Continuum Robotics Using Optoelectronic Sensors with Convex Reflectors
    Osman, D. et al
    Electronics, Vol 13, No 7, Art No. 1253 (Apr 2024)
    Three-dimensional shape sensing in soft and continuum robotics is a crucial aspect for stable actuation and control in fields such as minimally invasive surgery, engine repairs and search and rescue operations, as the estimation of complex curvatures while using continuum robotic tools is required to manipulate through fragile paths. This challenge has been addressed using a range of different sensing techniques, for example, Fibre Bragg grating (FBG) technology, inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor networks, or stretch sensors. Previously, an optics-based method using optoelectronic sensors was explored, offering a simple and cost-effective solution for shape sensing in a flexible tendon-actuated manipulator in two orientations. This was based on proximity-modulated angle estimation and has been the basis for the shape sensing method addressed in this paper. The improved and miniaturised technique demonstrated in this paper is based on the use of a convex shaped reflector with optoelectronic sensors integrated into a tendon-actuated robotic manipulator. Upgraded sensing capability is achieved using optimisation of the convex reflector shape in terms of sensor range and resolution, and improved calibration is achieved through the integration of spherical bearings for friction-free motion. Shape estimation is achieved in two orientations upon calibration of sensors, with a maximum Root-Mean-Square Error (RMS) of 3.37 degrees.

  • Tree waste based advanced thermal insulation - Vacuum insulation panels - For application at up to 70oC
    Raad, T. et al
    International Journal of Thermal Sciences, Vol 200, Art No. 108971 (Jun 2024)
    Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs), despite being the best performing thermal insulation, face the challenges of high cost and environmental concerns associated with the core material, which typically consists of fumed silica (FS) or glass fibres. This study experimentally assessed the suitability of two novel core materials, which were generated from waste tree-based natural fibres (TNF), as potential substitutes for the expensive and widely used fumed silica. A series of composite samples were developed by mechanically mixing TNFs with FS and compressed to manufacture cores (150 mm x 150 mm). Samples were investigated for their radiative, gaseous and solid conductivities using extensive experimental techniques to identify the most cost-effective core composite for VIPs exposed to temperatures up to 70oC. The spectral extinction coefficient of TNFs was determined by the use of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and results indicated that TNFs exhibited a greater spectral extinction coefficient compared to fumed silica within the short infrared wavelength range of 2.5-7.5 µm. The radiative conductivity of fumed silica at a temperature of 70oC was determined to be 3.33 mWm-1K-1, whereas the radiative conductivity of TNF composites varied between 0.53 mWm-1K-1 and 0.39 mWm-1K-1. The VIP sample, which consisted of 100% FS material, had a thermal conductivity 7.84 mWm- 1K-1 when measured at an average temperature of 20oC. The observed value exhibited a substantial increase with the rise in temperature, reaching 11.58 mW-1K-1 at a temperature of 70oC. VIP containing 30% tree-based natural fibre had the lowest thermal conductivity of 6.75 mW-1K-1 and 8.28 mW-1K-1 at 20oC and 70oC, respectively, among all composites studied. For this sample, VIP core material cost decreased from 3.46 pound kg-1 per R-value (100% FS) to 2.19 pound kg-1 per R-value at 20oC. The study has concluded that a content of 30% of TNF is optimum for FS cores to deliver the most cost-effective VIP.

  • A Pilot Study into the Use of Qualitative Methods to Improve the Awareness of Barriers to Sustainable Medical Waste Segregation within the United Kingdom's National Health Service
    Webb, C. et al
    Sustainability, Vol 16, No 7, Art No. 3027 (Apr 2024)
    Within the United Kingdom, most medical waste is incorrectly classified as hazardous and disposed of via incineration or alternative treatment. Currently, no research has been conducted on why such a large quantity of medical waste is erroneously segregated. This pilot study explores the barriers to correct segregation with the aim to decrease the volume of incinerated waste by investigating why medical waste is wrongly identified as hazardous. No previous data are available to compare results, and so this study demonstrates the significance of using qualitative methods (questionnaires and focus groups) to bring awareness to issues faced within medical facilities when segregating waste. The low availability of different bins as well as lack of space and the healthcare workers' busy schedules were identified as main reasons for poor segregation. Bins were sparsely placed, and staff lacked time to find the appropriate one leading to incorrect segregation of non-hazardous waste. Lack of information around whether a material was recyclable or not led to less recycled waste. When ways to engage with this issue were discussed, most medical staff favoured quick forms of information provision, such as posters, whereas a participant proclaimed longer hands-on style sessions as more effective. The findings of this study provide evidence that governmental strategies focused on sustainable medical waste management should direct their attention to the placement and availability of bins, whilst including 'on-the-ground' personnel in their decision making. This pilot study showed the value in using qualitative methods when current data are lacking and can be repeated by other healthcare facilities to collectively grow a greater awareness of the sustainability issues faced by the UK healthcare waste management system.

  • Macroprolactin over time: Is there any point in rechecking it in people with a persistently elevated serum prolactin?
    Livingston, M. et al
    Clinical Endocrinology, Vol 100, No 5, p. 450-458 (May 2024)
    Objective and Design: Macroprolactinemia may influence the interpretation of serum prolactin levels-a recognised phenomenon since 1981. The degree of macroprolactinaemia over time is less well described. We determined how macroprolactin status (based on polyethylene glycol (PEG) precipitation) varied by analysing serial measurements in hyperprolactinaemic individuals over a period of 9 years. Patients and Measurements: Results from 1810 individuals were included. All serum total prolactin results (measured using Roche Cobas 8000 analyser) were extracted from the laboratory information system for the period 1 January 2012 to 1 April 2021, along with relevant patient demographic/test data. Samples with a macroprolactin screening test performed (on samples with prolactin > 700 miu/L) were included in the main analysis. Results: During the study period, 2782 macroprolactin checks were performed (12.5% of all prolactin tests) in 1810 individuals (599 males/2183 females, median-age: 35, interquartile range: 25-47, range: 16-93 years). Multiple macroprolactin checks were carried out on 465 patients (1437 measurements) with 94 patients (141 measurements) screening positive (<60% recovery). Only 19 patients (18 female) had at least one result above and one below the 60% screening cut-off, with 10 of these patients having results close to the 60% cut-off; in 9 patients, results were clearly different between repeat samples. In seven cases, the adjusted monomeric prolactin showed a potentially clinically significant difference. Conclusions: In this study, only 19/465 patients appeared to change macroprolactin status based on a 60% PEG recovery cut-off. The majority of these 19 patients were on antipsychotic/antidepressant medication(s) or had a prolactinoma; in only 7 did monomeric prolactin change significantly. This suggests that once macroprolactin status has been determined, clinical decision making is rarely affected by repeating it.

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