Britain’s ‘blindingly cool’ engineering innovation

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1972 winner: EMI Ltd, for the application of X-ray techniques for diagnosing brain diseaseImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption The CT scanner as envisioned by Ted Humble-Smith: “It’s a hell of an invention”
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Ted Humble-Smith is a conceptual still-life photographer. He’s well-known for his style work. Ted can take a lipstick or a watch and along with his extraordinary imaginative and prescient and talent flip the gorgeous into one thing much more attractive.

But converse to him for only a few minutes and it is clear he sees not simply the color and type of his topics, however the engineering that underpins their design.

In truth, it is apparent Ted has a ardour for it. He factors to the 4-inch stiletto heel.

“Everyone laughs when I talk about it,” he informed me. “But you’ve gotten this factor that is so elegant, so stunning – and but on the similar time, there must be some critical engineering and arithmetic in there as properly.

“Eight stones at least is going through a square centimetre. These are big loads but you rarely see people snap their heels these days.”

Ted has simply put his inquisitive eye to a venture for the Royal Academy of Engineering.

He’s produced a collection of photos to have fun the 50th anniversary of the MacRobert Award, which honours examples of exceptional British innovation. From the aerodynamic design of the Severn Bridge to the composite wing of an Airbus jet.

2019 winner: Bombardier, for developing an innovative, resin-infused advanced composite wingImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption 2019 winner – Bombardier: The firm developed a resin-infused superior composite wing that now options on the Airbus A220
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The images are clearly conceptual in nature however the concepts that went into their creation are drawn straight from conversations with the engineers concerned.

Ted took their explanations, extracted the essence after which reimagined his topics. His favorite photograph – in the mean time; the selection modifications – is the EMI X-ray mind scanner, the world’s first computed tomography (CT) machine for use in a medical setting (MacRobert winner: 1972).

An illuminated, clear cranium is minimize by by a rotating disc. The visible narrative describes the method by which X-rays are in a position to construct an image of the mind, slice by slice.

“It’s a hell of an invention,” says Ted. “When you consider that if you wanted to look inside someone’s brain previously, you basically had to take it out, slice it on a bacon slicer and then put it on a lightbox. The CT scanner is phenomenal.”

1989 winner: British Gas, for the 'intelligent pig', allowing internal inspection of operational pipelinesImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption 1989 winner – British Gas: There’s a hidden realm beneath our toes the place “intelligent pig” gadgets examine pipelines
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Ted builds most of the objects he images. At first look, you may assume he is achieved every thing in a software program package deal on his pc. You’d be incorrect.

Ted makes use of fashions which have been lit in attention-grabbing methods and captured beneath totally different exposures. For positive, some picture frames have been stacked and any scaffolding, equivalent to rods and wires, has been digitally erased. But you’d be capable to maintain his MacRobert fashions in your palms.

Witness the image he produced of Quantel Paintbox (MacRobert winner: 1988). Wholly apposite on this context.

1988 winner: Quantel Ltd, for the Paintbox television graphics system and the Harry video editing systemImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption 1988 winner – Quantel Ltd: TV climate forecasters had been among the many first to undertake Paintbox. It allowed them to dump magnetic stick-on clouds on their maps
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Paintbox revolutionised pc graphics on TV and movie. It enabled the business for the primary time to correctly digitise color and actually play with it on our screens (see the Dire Straits video Money for Nothing).

In his picture, Ted encodes this in his thoughts’s-eye as paint flying round curved plastic sheets. “You can freeze liquids in photography now so well. I wanted it to look like paint was exploding on to the screen. So, you can do it in a very complicated way with robots and paint cannons, or you can do it in the slightly haphazard fashion that we did. Basically, you fling paint around.”

An exquisite mess within the studio made for a hanging picture.

In the studioImage copyright RAENG
Image caption A photograph shoot in Ted’s studio can get very messy

Ted’s photos for the MacRobert 50th anniversary are being showcased in a web based exhibition the Royal Academy of Engineering has developed with the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. You can see it right here. And for a style of the kind of photos Ted is greatest recognized for, check out the gallery on his web site.

The finalists for the 2020 MacRobert award have simply been introduced. There are three on the shortlist and they’re all recognised for contributing innovation to a greener future. They are:

  • Babcock’s LGE enterprise (Fife, Scotland), which has developed a system referred to as ecoSMRT to seize “boil off” from the tanks holding the liquefied pure fuel on board transport ships, lowering emissions.
  • Jaguar Land Rover (Warwickshire) for creating its I-PACE battery-electric sports activities utility automobile (SUV)
  • JCB (Staffordshire) for creating and manufacturing the world’s first volume-produced absolutely electrical digger (19C-1E).
2002 winner: CDT, for Light-emitting polymersImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption 2002 winner – CDT: Plastic electronics underpin our smartphones. Richard Friend’s patent is projected on to curved plastic sheets (courtesy of GREAT Campaign/IPO)
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Prof Sir Richard Friend is the chair of the judging panel. He’s additionally himself a previous winner for his work on “plastic electronics” – know-how that has attained ubiquity within the touchscreens of our cell phones.

He informed me: “The shortlisted companies this year are splendid examples of things you might have thought the UK wasn’t the natural place for their innovations to emerge. We sometimes write ourselves out of being world players in quite a few technologies. There’s no reason for it and the MacRobert award keeps presenting with cases that are very obviously world-beating.”

It’s a theme emphasised by Ted Humble-Smith, who confesses to have gone on one thing of a conversion throughout his photographic initiatives.

“I started out quite despondent about where Britain was in the world – that the UK never seems to do anything anymore,” he recalled. “But then I started talking to the present-day people and it just gave me a whole new belief that actually there’s some blindingly cool stuff happening in the UK. The UK does make and innovate some incredible things.”

1969 winner: Rolls-Royce, for the Pegasus engine used in the Harrier aircraftImage copyright Ted Humble-Smith
Image caption 1969 winner – Rolls-Royce: The Pegasus engine enabled the Harrier jet to take off and land vertically
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Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and observe me on Twitter: @BBCAmos