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Connecting Engineers

Publication of the Chamber of Engineers May 2012 | Issue 41

ACTA: Tackling Piracy on a Global Level p6

Computer Aided Engineering p33

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Contents

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Publication of the Chamber of Engineers

Cover Image Marine Renewables – New challenges for the world of engineering?

May 2012

www.coe.org.mt

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From the Editor

02

From the President

04

ACTA: Tackling Piracy on a Global Level

06

The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries

11

The Engineering Research Conference 2012

21

Latest Technology in ievo Products

27

A Fit Tribute to Frank Fenech

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Computer Aided Engineering

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Vocational Education at MCAST

39

The Five Most Amazing Engineering Feats

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Editor Ing. John Pace

Editorial Board

© Chamber of Engineers 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Chamber of Engineers – Malta. Opinions expressed in Engineering Today are not necessarily those of the Chamber of Engineers – Malta. All care has been taken to ensure truth and accuracy, but the Editorial Board cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions in the articles, pictographs or illustrations.

Ing. John Pace Ing. Paul Refalo Ing. Ray Vassallo Prof. Robert Ghirlando Chamber of Engineers, Professional Centre, Sliema Road, Gzira, GZR 1633, Malta Tel: +356 2133 4858 Fax: +356 2134 7118 Email: info@coe.org.mt Web: www.coe.org.mt

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From the editor by Ing. John Pace

Most engineers are proud of their profession. It is they who get things done and who understand the inner meaning of things. This has to be so as otherwise things will not work so that the knowledge of an engineer is being tested continuously. Other professions may subsist on conflicting theories that come and go as fashions change, but engineering is about hard facts, the properties and behaviour of materials and the logical use of these materials in a product that uses these properties to achieve a tangible objective. The power over nature that a knowledge of engineering provides brings with it a fascination that dominates the whole life of the engineer, often to the exclusion of the social aspect. While members of other professions take leading roles in politics and non government organisations, it is quite rare to see engineers in such activities. Such activities are mostly voluntary and do not bring any financial gain to the person, but obviously they give other forms of satisfaction; otherwise so many people would not sacrifice so much of their private time. Such satisfaction is the opportunity to meet other people with similar interests, and the sense of making something useful besides the daily grind of working for one’s daily bread. It also fulfils a sense of duty to one’s fellow men, or of fulfilling a need to further some objective, be it the running of a sports activity or an environmental movement, that needs the contribution of persons like you. Furthering the profession of engineering is an activity in which all engineers should feel the need to participate and make their contribution. This may take the form of increasing the body of engineering knowledge by research and

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development, or by helping other persons, especially young persons, in their progress. It may also consist of taking an active part in organisations as the Chamber of Engineers whose aims are the furthering of the profession. It is unfortunate that only a minority of engineering graduates feel the need to be members of the Chamber and take an active part in its activities. Witness the low attendance at the Annual General Meeting. Still there is a core of persons who selflessly dedicate a good deal of their own time to their colleagues in the profession, organising seminars and conferences, meeting other bodies, contributing to national projects in representation of the Chamber and in general administrative duties. By the efforts of people such as these the profession of Engineer has achieved the status it deserves and the respect of society. Engineering Today provides a platform where engineers can contribute their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the rest of the profession. Engineering is a discipline which manifests itself in a wide range of areas, in teaching, in manufacture and in the service industries, from heavy plant to microchips. Once he leaves University each engineer moves on to his own area, different from that of any

of his former colleagues. This can hardly be said of the other professions where every job is a duplicate of that of his colleagues. Dentists, notaries, pharmacists and psychologists come in mind, not belittle to the knowledge needed to practice the profession, but to illustrate the breadth of engineering. Every engineer has his own story and other engineers benefit from reading the story of their colleagues in the profession. Every job has its history, its challenges and its peculiarities. The individual engineer is often a specialist in a particular field but is at the same time a complete engineer able to move into other fields if need or opportunity dictate. We have to update ourselves continuously, not only in our limited field, but as much as possible in the whole range of the profession. We at Engineering Today would like to read your story. Do come forward and describe the technical or the human aspect of your field of experience. Through Engineering Today you will share your experiences with others to your mutual benefit. ET

Ing. John Pace Editor, Engineering Today

May 2012

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From the President by Ing. Saviour Baldacchino

Dear Colleagues... The last week of February 2012 was marked with the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Chamber as announced in the previous issue of Engineering Today. The meeting was well attended and this year there were five nominations for election on Council, out of which, three members had to be elected. The three members who were already on Council have been confirmed. During the first Council meeting, held a few days after the AGM, all Council members were confirmed in the post they occupied during the previous term. I take this opportunity to thank the nominees for the interest shown in serving on the Council and encourage them to be part of the team whose sole interest is to promote and raise the stature of the engineering profession. The salient points mentioned during the President’s report presented during the AGM included:

• Activities • International participation • Meeting stakeholders • Main issues • The Future 2011 • Where to ... • Acknowledgements A copy of the full report is available online at: http://www.coe.org.mt/images/stories/ agmpresident2012.pdf

• Council support structure • Chamber governance • Training courses • Financial position • Membership trend • Communications and PR

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During April 2012, sixty five engineers were presented with the Engineering Warrant by the Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs after having taken the professional oat in front of Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri at the Supreme Court, to serve as professional engineers according to law and the professional Code of Ethics. During his address, Minister Pullicino emphasised the importance that engineers take an active part in the Chamber of Engineers. The new warrant holders were encouraged to consider taking up a political career and eventually be members of the House of Representatives. The Council is in full support of more active participation of engineers in politics with the ultimate aim of having a voice in the Maltese parliament. I congratulate the newly warranted engineers and invite them to join the Chamber and take an active part in it’s events and activities.


Recently a delegation from the Chamber met the Engineering Board about a number of issues including updating of the Engineering Act and the use and abuse of references to engineers in the media and other public events. The Chamber will continue to insist that public speakers and journalists should be more informed when referring to the profession. Organisation of this year’s annual engineering conference is in full swing and we are looking forward for a successful event in less than a week’s time. The topic for this year is “Water: A 21st Century Challenge”. The conference is being organised in collaboration with Water Services Corporation, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary during this year. A number of local and foreign speakers will be presenting their papers during the event.

Following the loss of our dear Frank some weeks ago, the Council embarked on a review of the existing training function within the Chamber. A sub-committee was set up to draw short and long term plans and to develop a strategy for the coming years. More information on this subject will be communicated to you in due course. Finally, the Chamber encourages its members to follow its activities on line at www.coe.org.mt and through our E-newsletter which is being circulated by email to members every month. We look forward to your feedback. ET

3rd May 2012

Yours Sincerely,

Ing. Saviour M. Baldacchino President, Chamber of Engineers

president@coe.org.mt http://www.coe.org.mt

Ing. Saviour Baldacchino President, Chamber of Engineers

May 2012

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ACTA: Tackling Piracy on a Global Level by Ing. Ray Muscat

ACTA, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has been debated strongly. Its supporters say it guarantees the rights of intellectual property owners while its opponents say it adversely affects the rights of freedom of expression and the privacy of the individual.

Ing Ray Muscat, Director General of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry explains the views of the Malta Chamber. The importance of intellectual property cannot be underestimated. Its enforcement drives growth, innovation and job creation. On the other hand, counterfeiting and piracy are a serious threat to this same growth, creating an unlevel playing field for legitimate economic activity. In this light, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry stands by its recent statement that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) protects jobs and investment. Furthermore, it also states that ACTA protects intellectual property rights (IPR) of companies of all sizes, including SMEs, who are arguably the ones with the higher need for such protection. As stated by the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, “ACTA outlines for dealing with IPR infringements would cover countries accounting for 50% of world trade, which will have a positive impact on their growth, the profits they make and the jobs that they offer.” Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), an initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce together

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with the International Trademark Association (INTA) have also expressed themselves firmly in favour of ACTA. They explain that those companies that have grown through their intellectual property “represent a substantial part of the jobs, tax revenues, GDP growth and competitiveness of the EU.” As an instrument to protect this same intellectual property, BASCAP and INTA state that ACTA will also help to strengthen international trade, through effective enforcement and protection for companies that choose to venture abroad. Thus, if implemented, ACTA will improve the IP scenario, counterbalancing the negative effect on trade caused by other countries that allow counterfeiting and piracy. The Malta Chamber believes that confusion may have been caused by incorrect information and by certain lobbyists who chose to keep referring to the first text, which came out roughly around the same time as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Indeed, misinformation has led to 2.5 million people signing an anti-ACTA petition. Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil has also spoken out in this regard, stating that the whole situation was allowed to spiral out of control, and could have been handled better by the EU Commission.


Concerns were also raised by the generic medicines industry that the original agreement could create confusion between counterfeits and the marketing of generic medicines, by extending sanctions aimed at copyright and piracy to the area of patent disputes. However, these concerns were also settled following negotiations on behalf of the industry by the European Generics Association (EGA). The amended agreement will not impact the legitimate generic medicines industry. The Malta Chamber also refers to fears that governments will subcontract their regulatory function to private internet service providers (ISPs). As the Commissioner stated, these fears are unfounded and incorrect. Delegating this duty to the private sector would give rise to ethical issues of private sector interests and client policing.

ACTA does not require that current IP rules and legislation be changed, but aims to make existing standards more effective across Member States and with many other non-EU countries. It must be noted that Member States can introduce further legislation should they deem it necessary. However, this can even be done today, irrespective of ACTA, as long as the legislation does not impinge on other existing EU laws. A possible rejection of ACTA by the European Parliament and / or the refusal of a Member State to sign the agreement would set a negative precedent in Europe in terms of IPR protection.

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ACTA: Tackling Piracy on a Global Level (cont.)

This would represent a further setback in terms of Europe’s catch-up with other blocs in the area of research, technology, development and innovation. This means that its competitiveness and future growth prospects would be threatened even further. ACTA reflects the ever increasing globalisation of trade and through its implementation, countries will be in a better position to work together in order to tackle

counterfeiting and piracy. Above all, the EU will stand to benefit from enhanced monitoring of a huge trade of counterfeit products that is entering the EU from non-EU countries, which trade is not only threatening the economic viability of enterprises, but also of direct threat to the well-being and safety of European citizens. ET

Ing. Ray Muscat

Director General, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry

May 2012

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A Balance of Efficiency and Aesthetics By Martin Vella

The economic viability of PV systems and their positive impact on our environment represent a significant opportunity for businesses throughout Malta. By installing this latest attractive Kyocera / Hyundai PV module system on the Golden Harvest Manufacturing Company Limited’s facility, Solar Solutions are setting a new benchmark for commercial PV installations, and leading Malta into the solar age.

W

hat began at Solar Solutions as a two man vision with a fully dedicated operation has developed into one of the largest photovoltaic system suppliers in Malta. And to confirm this you need not go further than Golden Harvest’s manufacturing facility in San Gwann, where the company has made their second PV investment in less than four years. Their first PV outlay was for a 19kWp back in 2008. Designed as a unique balance of PV modules and inverters brought exclusively from first-rate reputable manufacturers Kyocera and Hyundai, Solar Solutions fuses function, aesthetics, and sustainability in their latest project at Golden Harvest. Data has been actively monitored since Golden Harvest purchased their first PV system in 2008. This was an important part of the feasibility study. Results encouraged CEO Mark Aquilina to make the next step and go ahead with the second investment. “With this contract, we are able to provide local and personal support to Golden Harvest. We have been serving as a point of contact for the photovoltaic market in Malta since 2005. Solar Solutions Ltd is committed to evolving to the challenges of a rapidly growing market – and further into the future,” states Karl Azzopardi, Marketing Director. Karl and his team at Solar Solutions have been directly contributing to the creation of a secure, sustainable energy supply and are actively distributing environmentally friendly sources of electricity. “We are devoted to supporting the further development of photovoltaic technologies in concert with our suppliers and customers. Our first priority with Golden Harvest was always the sustainability and durability of our products and services. We see ourselves as a partner for our customers: our dedication is their guarantee for perfect solar technology!” exclaims Mr Azzopardi. The second investment at Golden Harvest was for a 71kWp for a total 420 panels which increased the total

system to 90kWp of Kyocera / Hyundai PV modules and high efficiency SMA inverters. “The heat tolerant IP65 gridtie PV inverters have been developed using the most advanced technology and design techniques. This means that inverters can be installed outdoors to take full advantage of naturally provided ventilation whilst achieving over 98% efficiency,” explains Karl. Solar Solution includes over 30 employees, who offer a wide range of different services for any photovoltaic project. The company combines a longstanding know-how and experience in the photovoltaic market with local expertise to offer an ever growing customer base personalised support. Mere customer support is for them simply not enough. They also seek to expand their knowledge and experiences through close collaboration with their partners. Karl is keen to state that, “Solar Solutions Ltd follows a clear operational philosophy with both our customers and our suppliers. We maintain and build on our superb relationship with our customers by offering high-grade products and individualised services. Our quality standards are our first and foremost concern. We view our customers as partners; therefore we provide them with guidance and solutions to a wide range of issues in the photovoltaic industry. We distribute and recommend only those products that have been carefully selected for quality, high efficiency and durability.” The energy generated at Golden Harvest is approximately 150,000kWh per year, with an export value of €30,000 per year. This is also a European Regional Development Funded project applicable for the 90kWp. Summing up his satisfaction, Golden Harvest Managing Director John Aquilina confirms, “We are very pleased with the technology, design and service adopted by Solar Solutions Ltd for a complete turnkey project from grant application to system implementation.”


The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries

by Ing. George Schembri

An Internationally-Patented ABERTAX Product. In the 2011 Malta Engineering Excellence Awards, Abertax Technologies of Corradino Industrial Estate won the award for Innovation for their work on a central degassing system for automotive batteries. Ing. George Schembri, General Manager and team leader describes the patented product.

This internal cell process describes in principle the main functions required of the valve: 1. Avoid any penetration of outside air into the cell. 2. Allow internally generated gas to escape.

The low capacity lead acid battery market is nowadays dominated by either AGM or GEL type lead acid batteries and is gaining an increasing share in higher capacities, both in network and motive power applications. For a long life function of both technologies, AGM and GEL alike, a reliable safety valve is required to seal the inside of the battery from ambient air penetration. Such a valve is available on the market in different designs and different qualities - in terms of pressure tolerances and pressure stability. However, during the development of a new VRLA block battery it has been found difficult to find a valve in such a quality standard to satisfy the needs of this battery. This finally led to the development of a new safety valve or so called the ABERTAX GRS - Gas Release System.

Until today the originally designed valve has not changed a lot. It´s either a rubber membrane or a U-shaped rubber piece fixed in either the valve body or the battery lid. Most of these valves fulfill the basic requirement and for the majority of small AGM batteries used in standby application, a price driven low solution is used. For larger batteries and in particular those that have a longer operational life of more than 5 years, a more sophisticated valve is utilised. However, forced by a new design of VRLA batteries – the ABERTAX intelligent block system, the development of a new valve was initiated. Up to now there has not been any valve available on the market to satisfy the need for this type of battery. In particular, valves with a good long term consistency and the essential small tolerances in opening and closing pressures could not be found.

Introduction

Valve Design

VRLA Batteries, in either GEL or AGM technology, have been around since after the invention in 1959. In such VRLA batteries the negative plate is not sealed by liquid acid but exposed to gas or air within the cell which means that any oxygen in the cell will oxidize the negative plate. As this will lead to a premature failure of the battery, the cells need to be “sealed” in a way that no ambient air can penetrate inside the cell. On the other hand, gas generated inside the cell will create an internal pressure which needs to escape somehow.

There are a number of important features that a valve needs to have. The most important of which, are: • Completely sealed in the direction into the battery cells • Lowest possible tolerance in opening and closing pressure • Smallest possible difference between the opening and closing pressures • No memory effect of the membrane • Lowest risk in accumulating dirt towards the inside the valve • No fatigue failure & resistant to acid.

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The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries (cont.)

Valve Design. Comparison between a standard valve and the valve with the ABERTAX Technology. Basically the valve needs to be functional without any dramatic change of the initial parameters during the whole battery life. It is important to note, that the closing pressure is the more critical value rather than the opening pressure - which is usually quoted by the manufacturer. A valve with an opening pressure of about 150 mbar and a closing pressure of lower than 50 mbar is absolutely useless and should not be used in a high quality VRLA battery. Our test results as part of our development work, led to the following statements: Statement 1: It has been verified, that if the valve is set at high opening and closing pressures (restricted by the strength, construction and material of the battery box) the cells loose less moisture. This will increase the expected cycle life. Statement 2: Since batteries are made up of a number of cells, it is imperative that the

individual cells retain the same percentage of moisture. This can only be contained if the valve is set to close tolerances as is mechanically possible. Intense research and testing resulted in a valve design, where the lowest tolerances and the highest consistency could be achieved by an ideal construction of the valve and avoiding malfunctions due to the harsh battery environment. Tests and Test Results The valve tests include standard laboratory tests and also the so called “field-tests� where the valve was tested in real life applications that are more notable and more meaningful to the qualification of a good product. Most of the tests were carried out in comparison to valves which are considered as high quality products and used in many VRLA batteries.

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The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries (cont.)

1. Opening and Closing Pressure As already mentioned, the pressure variation of the single valves is even more important. The graphs below illustrate the pressure difference in comparative tests carried out on ABERTAX valves and other already available valves.

OTHER VALVES - Maximum difference – 138mbar. Average difference - 93mbar.

Large variations in closing pressure have a big impact on the good functionality of the VRLA battery. Apart from the above the ABERTAX GRS can also be calibrated to any desired pressure. This is a patented feature of the valve. Comparative results between ABERTAX valves and other commercial valves showing the close tolerances of the ABERTAX valves.

Manual Lab Test 2. Lab Cycling Tests

ABERTAX- Maximum difference between Opening and Closing pressures: 58mbar. Average difference – 31mbar.

This test gives information on the durability of the valve during the battery life and shows any weaknesses of the membrane like memory effects.

Equipment for cycling (opening and closing) the valves.

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

17


The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries (cont.)

4. IATA Test

Graph for opening pressure measuring pressures vs No. of cycles. 3. Ignition Tests Many of the “already available” valves need to be fitted with a flame arrestor to avoid any outside spark or open flame to penetrate through the valve inside the cell and cause an explosion. The ABERTAX GRS does not need such a device. This has been proven in extensive tests. A VRLA battery was placed on load and continuously overcharged at 2,65v/cell. An open tube with an in-built ignition system was placed on top of the valve. The generated gas flow through the valve was then ignited frequently with the spark. This test was carried out successfully several times on various batteries.

Ignition test – view from top showing the valve under test in the cylinder below the ignition plug.

To simulate the battery under induced vibrations, a closed cylinder with one aperture was constructed to take pre-tested GRS M18 valves. This tube was fitted on a Vibrating Table. The amplitude was fixed i.e.: + 0.8mm to – 0.8mm to give a stroke of 1.6mm. The frequency was changed from 10 Hz to 55 Hz over a controlled time of 45min (rate of change of 1 Hz per minute). The whole set-up was checked in x, y, z axis. The test then was repeated 3 times on each axis. The Valves were then again tested and recorded for opening and closing pressure. No adverse changes or leaks were observed. 5. Waterloss Test To measure the loss of water in a battery cell a number of different tests were carried out, both for cycling and stand-by operation, and at different charging voltages. Main objective was to quantify the loss of moisture in a cell in dependence of the closing pressure of the valves. The battery was charged at a certain voltage by measuring each single cell voltage. The gas generated during the charging phase was collected in glass cylinders which allowed direct measurement of volume. The charging routine was according to standard IU charging procedures. Beside intense laboratory tests, a high number of valves were placed in field-tests under extreme conditions with very positive results. The intensive R & D programme which was carried out over a period of 6 years resulted in a superior valve, now being sought all over the world by leading Battery Manufacturers. It does make us extremely proud that our ABERTAX team from tiny Malta has established a name among the giants in this industry.

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

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The Abertax Gas Release Valve for VRLA Batteries (cont.)

Anthony Cassar Technical expert on Tool and Automation Design Stefano Cassar Mechanical Engineer & Quality Officer Malcolm Tabone Electrical Engineer responsible for the electrical design and setup of Automation Simon Cutajar Tool-Making Specialist - Toolroom Officer Deo Schembri Mechnical Tech – Jig and Automation construction Water-Loss Test. Measuring and comparing the volume of gas released from each cell together with the weight loss of the battery with different battery charging regimes.

The Abertax team members involved on this project were: Ing. George Schembri General Manager and Team Leader Prof Joseph Cilia Research Director Joseph Pule Injection Moulding Expert, Tool Designer Klaus Dieter Merz Chemical & Battery Expert Anna Dulska Product Representative Engineer Project Coordinator Aaron Farrugia Mechanical Engineer involved mainly in Materials Testing

The team started on this project with much enthusiasm after the Patent was filed in 2004. Were it not for the dedication of the entire team and the full support of all other ABERTAX Staff, Management and the ABERTAX Board, success would not have been forthcoming. The amount of investment in terms of salaries, equipment and machinery was provided thanks to the full support of the Board who believes in the abilities of the employees. Part of the profits of the company is channeled back into R & D investment. Were it not for this financial investment it would not have been possible to succeed with this now highly sought-after product.

The ABERTAX Team.

ET

Ing. George Schembri General Manager, Abertax Technologies

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

21


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The Engineering Research Conference 2012 by Dr. Joseph Buhagiar

Villa Bighi, the headquarters for the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), was the location for the one-day Engineering Research Conference 2012. The conference was organised by the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta on Monday 23rd April in order to showcase research carried out at the Faculty. A total of 12 presentations were delivered by students reading for Masters of Science Degrees, together with a display of 32 posters prepared by 20 Doctoral and 12 Master of Science students at various stages of their research work. The event was well attended by academics, postgraduate students, current undergraduate students, members of the general public and industry. The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) supported the event by awarding a prize for the best poster. A panel of academics and students voted for Ms Stefania Cristina’s poster displaying her research work on: Eye-gaze tracking for human-computer, behaviour and cognitive analysis and computerassisted living. The work presented spanned over the many fields in which the Faculty actively conducts research, such as development of novel

materials, renewable energy systems, advanced manufacturing techniques and control of aeronautical systems. Novel Materials Luke Formosa has developed a novel biomaterial that will be used as a root-end filler in dental applications. This work is an ongoing collaboration that the Faculty of Engineering has with the Faculty of Dentistry. David Vella presented his work on environmental degradation of polymer-matrix materials. Sophie Briffa spoke about the use of nanoparticles in the treatment of Globigerina limestone. Renewable Energy Systems With relation to energy generation by wind power Kris Scicluna gave a presentation on a sensorless control of a matrix controlled variable speed double fed induction machine. On the same theme David Bonnici presented his work on the rotor wake characteristics of a floating wind turbine, whilst Thomas Gauci spoke about his design of an offshore deep water wind turbine support structure for central Mediterranean conditions. The research of Annalise Xuereb in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Energy concerned the design of an electric machine for a wave generation system. Advanced Manufacturing Techniques

Owen Falzon, PhD student discussing his research. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Edward Duca)

Christian Spiteri presented his work on a novel hybrid manufacturing technique on Titanium alloys that uses Electron Beam Melting (EBM) together with Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Lawrence Farrugia developed a tool for module interface design and Luke Said explained how his new design and manufacturing guidelines will assist during multi-material micro injection moulding.

May 2012

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The Engineering Research Conference 2012 (cont.)

Matthew Micallef, MSc by Research student presenting his work (Photo courtesy of Dr. Edward Duca)

Control of Aeronautical Systems Matthew Micallef presented his work on improving the efficiency of flights on the approaches to Malta International Airport and Christian Zammit gave details about a novel design for the autonomous taxi of fixed wing aircraft in low visibility conditions. Faculty of Engineering: Postgraduate Research The Faculty of Engineering currently has a total of 50 research students registered at postgraduate level. As shown in the breakdown in Figure 1, the number of part-time and fulltime students evenly balance each other. This soar of postgraduate students, especially at Master of Science by Research level can be directly accredited to four reasons:

1. The change in student mentality towards forwarding their studies at postgraduate levels. 2. The availability of state-of-the-art equipment and premises within the University of Malta thanks to the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF), MCST’s Research and Innovation Projects (R&I), the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the University of Malta Research Fund and other funding bodies. 3. The availability of scholarship schemes such as Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarships (STEPS) and the Malta Government Scholarships Postgraduate Scheme (MGSS). 4. The high level of academic supervisors and students within the University of Malta.

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

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The Engineering Research Conference 2012 (cont.)

Lawerence Farrugia, MSc by Research student explaining his project during the poster session. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Edward Duca)

Science and Engineering at post-graduate level originate in dialogue. The research process only reaches its culmination, when a carefully verified set of discoveries is made openly accessible to everyone. This goal is also being reached within the Faculty thanks to publications in peer reviewed international journals and presentations in respected international conferences. On a national level this research is being showcased in national conferences such as the Engineering Research Conference that is now being held annually. ET

When compared to Master of Science by research the amount of PhD students are fewer in number, and the amount of part-time PhD students is greater than that at full-time. The reasons for this is that PhD’s are longer (≈ 4 years) than MSc’s (≈1 year) and therefore require more commitment and financial stability from the student side. The nature of a PhD requires novelty in the research being conducted. The student must contribute to new knowledge in the field that he/she is working on. Opportunities to read for a PhD within the Faculty of Engineering has increased a lot. This is due to the fact that the Faculty is becoming a centre of excellence both in supervisor / student quality and the availability of state-of-the-art equipment.

Figure 1 - Postgraduate students registered with the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta (26-Apr-2012).

Dr. Joseph Buhagiar Lecturer, University of Malta

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

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biometrics evolved features...

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Latest Technology in ievo Products

Leveraging over a decade of biometric experience, ievo™ develops biometric solutions for the access control market. Their background has driven them to consider all aspects of biometric installation in the design of their products, from the specification process and installation all the way through to the end user experience. Both products, Ultimate™ and Micro™ deliver a minimalist, reliable and fit-for-purpose solution that allows seamless integration and works alongside currently installed systems using card/fob/PINs, as opposed to looking to replace whole systems. ievo™ utilises the renowned multi-spectral imaging fingerprint sensor which surpasses the conventional optical scanning method by using ‘special lights’ that scan below the surface of the skin, as well as the top layer. Even if the external print is damaged or obscured by dirt, oil, grease, dust or cosmetics the ievo™ sensor will be able to produce a clear and reliable image. Coupled with a world leading algorithm, the ievo™ solution takes biometrics into new markets that have previously withdrawn from or have not been suitable due to the low quality of traditional products. ievo Ultimate™ is the dual internal and external biometric fingerprint reader which will secure any access point due to its indisputable robust exterior. Manufactured in polycarbonate ABS with a reinforced, toughened glass sensor, it is vandal resistant making it perfect for high end, durable use. It maintains functionality even in the harshest weather conditions and has been certified IP65 rated (dust tight, water jets). Due to the components of the highest quality possible a Police forensic manufactured print could not dupe the Ultimate™ reader with the ievo™ spoof detection feature enabled. Combine these features together and it has

Different colors of light penetrate skin to different depths. Surface and subsurface structures are imaged and the resulting data is combined to create a high-quality fingerprint image every time.

been labelled the ‘best they’d seen’ by a respected independent reviewer in the UK. The newest ievo™ offering is the Micro™ fingerprint reader which is less than half the size of the original Ultimate™ yet still as feature rich. Using a type of multi-spectral imaging technology the Micro™ is a fast, accurate and reliable internal application solution. It functions perfectly with levels of cream and powder present on the skin as well as with some types of latex gloves worn by the user. Uniquely, Micro™ can be installed in various mounting positions, including mullion or surface which enables it to fit into the most awkward places whilst simultaneously maintaining the aesthetics of its surroundings. Both Ultimate™ and Micro™ offer a unique 8,000 fingerprint capacity and seamlessly integrate into many access control boards, including; Paxton, Nortech, ACT, BSB, Inner-Range, CDVI and PLAN. This has the potential to ease installation time and reduce disruption on site.

May 2012

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A Fit Tribute to Frank Fenech by Ryan Callus

Frank was not an engineer, but he surely understood and appreciated the work of one.

Frank was for many years the Administrative Secretary of the Chamber of Engineers. In fact, his name is synonymous with the institution and that is where I had the pleasure to get to know him. The first instance Frank and I came in contact together was back in September 2002, when he had phoned to congratulate me for my new position as President of the University Engineering Student Association, better known with the engineering community as UESA. As always, he successfully managed to inject a generous dose of positivity and encouraged me to strive towards the concept of allowing engineering students to appreciate their profession for its wider role within today’s reality and society. I must say that throughout the years, the Chamber of Engineers and the University Engineering Student Association worked extensively together towards this new way of thinking, partly due to his involvement. The determination and persistence that Frank manifested in his endeavours clearly showcased how close the engineering profession was kept to his heart. Many will undoubtedly remember his various emails every week to all the members of the Chamber, and non members alike, incessantly promoting the courses which were so dear to him. Such courses provided additional skills to engineers and technicals, whilst providing significant financial contributions for the Chamber.

His love for the engineering profession also explains how he remained actively participative within the Chamber until his very last years of his life. I recall a conversation we had in Republic Street some months ago. Naturally, our conversation evolved into the engineering profession. I was impressed when Frank told me that he was at the time working on another idea for the Chamber. Did he not have enough if it by now? I could not but ask him! His usual reply included an array of flattery about the engineering profession. Another subject that Frank spoke about from time to time was politics, nothing about the current political climate, but more about the lack of engineers that decide to take this path. He could never understand why engineers would not bother to join the political world in view of the change they could bring through technology. It is precisely for this reason that the Malta University degree should encapsulate in a more inclusive way the engineer’s wider role on society and its positive implications. The Chamber of Engineers likewise has an important role here, in voicing its opinion on matters of national importance, which are, after all, of direct relevance to the engineering community. Frank may have not studied at the University, he did not have the opportunity to gain the skills of an engineer, but through his contribution towards the engineering profession, he had undoubtedly become one of us. ET

Ryan Callus

Former Council Member, Chamber of Engineers

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

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Computer Aided Engineering by Dr. Ing. Pierluigi Mollicone

The setting up of a Computer Simulation Laboratory at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta. Every profession has its necessary evil. Mathematics might arguably be the one for engineers. Engineers want to design, build and maintain complex systems and in order to do this there is always a recurring step that needs to be taken: to predict the behaviour of the chosen design. Prototyping and testing is undoubtedly essential, however there will always be a point when the engineer will have to get an estimate without a test, or at least an extrapolation based on the test. This is when the evil becomes a necessity: the somewhat abstract mathematical notions can take up practical meaning and become the only tool to obtain data. Mathematical and physical understanding of the problem is certainly a limitation when modelling, but there is one simple trick that can help in passing the hurdle: if the problem is too large and complex, it can be split it up into smaller manageable ones for which the available physical assumptions can be used and which can hence be solved. The downside to this? Smaller domains mean more donkey work, or number crunching: luckily computers can take care of this. Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) is precisely the application of some of these mathematical techniques (called numerical techniques) to various fields of engineering. In the realm of Mechanical Engineering, CAE can be split

into two main domains, each deriving from the respective mathematical technique: Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). FEA is mainly used to tackle structural, thermal or thermo-mechanical problems. Initially developed by mathematicians soon after the Second World War, it quickly became an important tool for mechanical design, especially when, the development of computers, made it possible to solve realistic problems. The underlying principle is simple: the component being modelled is split into elements of a finite size (hence the name), equations describing the structural, thermal or thermo-mechanical response are applied for each element and are assembled to form a set of linear simultaneous equations. If the appropriate loads and constraints (referred to as boundary conditions) are applied to the equations, a solution can be computed. In order to get a low error, an adequate level of discretisation needs to be used, in other words elements that are not too large. Large number of elements means large number of equations, hence the need to solve with the aid of computer software. CFD works in a similar way, but this time the domain represents space through which the fluid is passing, and the corresponding boundaries of the component being subject to the fluid, e.g. the profile of an aerofoil.

Examples of meshed structural components and the corresponding results in contour form (software used: ANSYS)

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E-box & E-Power Energy Saving Auto Transformer from Electrofix Energy: Whilst the majority of engineers consider transformer as a necessary evil to allow transmission of power through large distances, intelligent set up of auto-transformers can in fact protect equipment and yield substantial energy savings. The 1-Phase E-BOX and 3-Phase E-Power, manufactured by Intelligent Europe, represented by ElectrofixEnergy, are such devices.

E-Box E-box consists of an electronically controlled static autotransformer that applies the principle of electromagnetic transformation (the no harmonics transformer principle). By regulating the electrical operating magnitudes, the electromagnetic interference is reduced. E-Box operates by: • Voltage Optimization • Current Control • Harmonic Filtration from the 3rd upward • Power Factor Correction With the result of: • Electrical Consumption Reduction (20% - 40% in Non-electronic Fluorescent, Sodium Vapour, Mercury Vapour, Metal Halide, Halogen) • Extended Lamp Life – up to 300% • Less Bulb Replacement (highly relevant for fixtures in high altitudes, such as hotel receptions) • Less wear and tear in the power supply lines, in the electrical components and in control panels

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where some phases work much harder than others, also avoiding accelerated consumption. • Control of output voltage to avoid voltage peaks and/or current which could damage consumers of the load. • Power Factor Correction • Reduction of Harmonics from the 3rd upward • E-POWER contains a bypass system which makes it possible to “unplug” the system in the case of system malfunction without the loss of power. The function is so quick that it is transparent to the end user. Benefits: • potential energy savings of between 6% and 20% • reduce electromagnetic interference • re-balances energy transmission, user status of the electricity lines and the consumer devices • average working life stands at 20 years • contractual guarantee of savings • Permissible load variation of 0 to 100%; • Efficiency greater than 99%; • On site or remote selection of energy-savings levels; • Specification of type of wave output ± 10% per phase with closed ring design; • Magnetothermal bipolar auxiliary switch

E-Controller The E-CONTROLLER is an electronic device based on WEB technology designed to monitor industrial and domestic plant, and it can be used in extreme environments. No additional software is needed because access to the information pages and configuration is via a browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. Examples of Possible Use: Local authorities (buildings such as schools and town halls); Airports; Hospitals and rest homes; Commercial centers, HQs, offices and shops; Industrial areas and trade-fair venues; Sports centers, hotels and banks; Server hubs.

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Computer Aided Engineering (cont.)

CAE Lab at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta (photo: Tufigno.com)

The computations can give all the relevant physical quantities: stresses, strains, temperatures, fluid velocities etc. There are essentially two main advantages when using these techniques. The first is that any (or almost any) shape can be modelled: this is important since classical analytical solutions are usually limited to simple (usually prismatic) shapes. Hence the actual designed shapes can be used to create the best possible geometrical representation. The integration with other technologies such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) means that CAE can be used in the product’s design life cycle by importing actual design models. The second advantage is that the methods can be extended to complex scenarios such as time dependent or transient solutions and cases with high non-linearities, such as components that undergo large deformations, loads that induce material nonlinearities or regimes where properties are not easily computed (e.g. structural properties affected by temperature).

Creating software that implements these methods is not a trivial task, and many Universities and Companies have in fact based their work on this, establishing themselves, over the years, as experts or market leaders. In order to make best use of this technology, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta has invested heavily in both human and financial resources in order to be able to utilise state of the art CAE software. A laboratory was recently refurbished and equipped with computers with specialised software, namely ANSYS, which is a market leader amongst FEA and CFD solvers, MaxSurf for applications in naval architecture and Ricardo for engine design. Since the integration with CAD is of utmost importance, licences for Solidworks, a leading CAD software were also sourced. Funding was obtained through European Union structural funds, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Hardware consists of 25 workstations, a dedicated server and interactive whiteboard, to serve both research and lecturing needs.

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

37


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Computer Aided Engineering (cont.)

The new lab helped to boost the Department’s Research portfolio. Members of staff were recently awarded with a number of research grants, at both national and EU level, for work in which CAE is used heavily. Apart from the enhancement in research, the lab also provided the springboard to update the B.Eng.(Hon.) in Mechanical Engineering curriculum, with the introduction of subjects that provide both theoretical and practical aspects of the various CAE technologies.

Just to mention a few. The projects usually have a strong element of simulation, even though this is never the only aspect. CAE technologies find their biggest potential not when used alone, but when used in conjunction with physical testing. Experimental work does not only serve as a validation, but as the basis on which simulations are performed. This is usually the ideal scenario through which resources are maximised in terms of the range of achievable results.

Applications of CAE technologies in Mechanical Engineering are wide ranging. The Department is currently running projects in the following fields:

Maths might still remain the necessary evil, but it might take up a more attractive role if used in a CAE fashion.

• Novel wind turbine and wind turbine support structure designs • Applications of advanced composite materials • Ship design • Welding simulation for structural integrity assessment • Biomechanics

More information can be found on the Department of Mechanical Engineering Research page: www.um.edu.mt/eng/mec/research ET

Dr. Ing. Pierluigi Mollicone

Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, University of Malta, Faculty of Engineering

May 2012

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Issue No. 41

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Vocational Education at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (Mcast) by Ing. Vince Maione

When one speaks of vocational education and starts listing the areas that it encompasses one may be forgiven if at the top of the list one finds engineering education especially if the person compiling the list happens to be an engineer. The reason is clear. The economic well being of every country depends on a strong and well developed technological infrastructure and this requires well trained technicians and engineers. This article however will focus on general vocational education and not just engineering.

professional education and training with an international dimension, responsive to the needs of the individual and the economy.“ We shall explore the focus areas mentioned in the mission statement and illustrate how these are indeed shaping MCAST’s strategy.

MCAST as the leading VET provider on the island gives great importance to engineering education. Out of ten institutes no less than five are for engineering or closely related fields like

Accessibility

Information Technology and Applied Science. Engineering education is not however the only possibility. Courses are available in Agricultural science, Art and Design, Business studies, Social Care, Hair and Beauty and Maritime studies. In this article I will not list the type and range of courses that MCAST offers in these institutes as these are easily viewed on our website (www. mcast.edu.mt) but shall focus on the vision adopted by MCAST as this is fundamentally different from the way vocational education was viewed prior to MCAST’s foundation..

MCAST considers the issue of accessibility to its VET programmes as a priority and has looked at this problem from two different perspectives. The first is from the perspective of the continuing education student who at sixteen years of age has finished his/her compulsory education but doesn’t have the necessary entry qualifications to join a vocational course. The second is from the perspective of the employed person who wants to upgrade his skills and maybe change jobs but does not have the formal qualifications even if he has considerable experience. MCAST caters for the first by offering entry level preparatory courses that do really give a second chance to those who missed their first opportunity. MCAST is also putting a lot of effort in the adoption of new teaching methodologies as well as assessment techniques to recover these learners.

Possibly the best starting point to understand what MCAST is trying to achieve is by starting from its mission statement. “To provide universally accessible vocational and

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Vocational Education at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (cont.)

For the second type of potential learners MCAST has a very ambitious project where the concept of Accreditation of Prior Learning and Prior Experiential Learning (APL and APEL respectively) will be explored and developed. Once implemented we are certain that this will be of benefit to hundreds of employed persons who have acquired a multitude of skills and competencies but cannot as of today use them as possible transferable credit that could be used to obtain higher level qualifications. This concept though very interesting and powerful will be very carefully developed and controlled with tight procedures . It must be made clear that no-one will be given qualifications based solely on practical experience but rather

they can have their practical competencies translated into credits that can be used as part of a qualification being studied, thus making the route shorter and more interesting since they will be devoting study time to things which are really new to them rather than repeat what they probably know better than most. International Dimension MCAST’s main objective is that of creating an excellent VET operation that caters for Malta’s needs. This however should not stop us from adopting a profile that makes it attractive also away from our shores. This is certainly the case and there are a number of initiatives

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that make this possibility more realistic. The first series of actions is related to the structure of our courses. All our courses are now level rated and have ECVET points assigned. Thus anyone can now gauge the level and value of our qualifications. Other important steps are the numerous memoranda of understanding that we have with foreign colleges and other types of institutions in Germany, France the UK and other countries. In this respect one must also mention the development of our degree programmes that was done in partnership with a major German research Institute namely Fraunhofer and through their many contacts with Universities across Europe we have built an impressive network of Universities that offer interesting collaboration possibilities. Our students and staff will greatly benefit from all this.

is no longer an ‘event’ totally distinct from the teaching aspect, now they have to move to the concept that the assessment is an important integral part of the learning process itself. This type of approach necessitates well prepared and trained educators. This is why MCAST uses people who are qualified in their particular area (many graduate engineers, many of whom with higher qualifications for instance are employed to teach engineering subjects) and in many cases with some years of industrial experience but then trains them specifically in pedagogical skills. Thus many of our lecturers are both experts in their fields and expert teachers.

Needs of the Individual Like many other educational institutions MCAST has totally adopted the shift to Learning Outcomes. To those who are out of the educational sphere this concept might not be very familiar. Without being too technical let us just say that this concept means that the focus of the educator is no longer on what to teach but rather what the student actually learns. Thus curricula are not developed by defining a syllabus with its course contents first but rather one first determines what the learning outcomes need to be and then build the content to support that. This shift to a student centred approach has also some serious implications on the assessment methods used. This is a very difficult concept to accept and transmit to lecturers who have themselves been educated in the classical way facing regular examinations. Teachers are now faced with the situation that the assessment process

It is also worth mentioning in this respect that MCAST has put a lot of effort in making sure that the needs of the individual are really catered for. Over the past few years a lot of effort has been made to ensure that qualifications offered allow a progression route to the higher levels. This is because we want to avoid the previous situation of learners ending up with dead ends. Needs of the Economy Industry in its various forms is the force driving the country’s economic status and thus Industry is a major stakeholder for VET. With this in mind it is natural that the needs of industry are looked at as the major point of reference when designing new courses

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Vocational Education at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (cont.)

or when reviewing current courses. MCAST has a very effective communications channel with industry generally through the various associations and federations that represent the particular sectors. One characteristic that has distinguished positively MCAST’s performance over the past few years is the speed with which it reacts to Industry needs. It is a strength on which we want to build even further.

offers and where these can lead. Probably engineers would have preferred that, however it is really felt that with what has been achieved by MCAST so far and the ambitious plans ahead it is important that people appreciate the importance of vocational education in general and how this has changed to become an attractive and gratifying career rather than a fallback to a failed academic route. ET

In this short article the author has resisted the temptation of discussing the technical aspects of the many engineering courses that MCAST

Ing. Vince Maione

Lecturer in Mechincal Engineering, MCAST

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The Five Most Amazing Engineering Feats As human beings, we continually evolve and progress. We are able to build and design marvels of engineering that inspire awe and wonder. Sometimes, they truly seem to achieve the impossible. Our ingenuity knows no bounds and, as a tribute to the pioneering nature of the human spirit, we look at some of the great engineering feats that we have seen in history. Selecting ten was not easy as there are so many, but we have chosen those that really pushed the boundaries of the human imagination to make fantasy into reality. 5) The Moon Landing On 20 July, 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed in Apollo 11 and stepped onto the surface of the moon. Not only was this a definitive point in the history of the 20th Century, but it also was an engineering marvel, especially as much of the technology that got them there did not exist just a few years prior to the event. In fact, soft lunar landings were only achieved in 1966 using unmanned craft. $24 billion were committed to the project and, at its peak, the Apollo program had over 400,000 people, as well as 20,000 industrial firms and universities, working together to achieve what was thought to be impossible. The flight computer designed for this project spearheaded research into integrated circuits, while the program’s fuel cell was hailed as the first practical fuel cell created.

Still frame from the video tranmission of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the Moon The sheer scale of this project and the man hours that went into the rigorous design and testing is a testament to the engineering profession and its problem solving abilities. 4) The Panama Canal The opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914 revolutionised American marine travel. Ships could now avoid sailing around Cape Horn, cutting 4,000 miles off of a 12,000 mile trip for ships travelling from New York to San Francisco, or vice versa.

Construction of locks on the Panama Canal, 1913

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The Five Most Amazing Engineering Feat (cont.)

This was a colossal engineering project. The US took over from the French, whose companies had gone bankrupt in their eight year attempt to build the canal. In order to complicate the project, he US also instigated a revolution that saw the country of Panama gain independence from Columbia. During the construction process thousands of workers died from disease, especially malaria. Around 14 million kilos of explosives were used, as well as 102 massive steam shovels. The project saw the excavation of 152 million cubic metres of earth and 1.5 million cubic metres of concrete were poured. The project also saw the construction of, at that time, the world’s largest dam. 3) The Hoover Dam Construction on this massive structure began in 1931 and it was opened in 1936. The largest dam in the world, it is 221.4 metres in height and 379 metres in length, holding almost 2.5 million cubic metres of water. At its peak the project had over 5,000 workers toiling away. They toiled pouring a phenomenal

Hoover Dam by Ansel Adams, 1942 amount of concrete. In fact, the concrete was delivered in 18 tonne buckets which held 6.1 cubic metres of concrete. Between the dam, the power plant and other works, almost 3.5 million cubic metres of concrete were poured. More than 937 kilometres of cooling pipes were laid to help the concrete set properly. Today it produces 4.2 billion KWh per annum through its 17 generators. This powerhouse has been instrumental in making the desert bloom.

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The Five Most Amazing Engineering Feat (cont.)

1) Pyramids of Giza It is widely believed that the Great Pyramid of Giza took 20 years to complete and was constructed as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu. It originally stood 146.5 metres high and each base side was 230.4 metres in length. The volume of the pyramid was 2.5 million cubic metres and has an estimated mass of 5.9 million tonnes.

2) Great Wall of China Built as a defensive measure, the Great Wall of China runs for about 5,500 miles, of which almost 4,000 miles are actual wall. It was not constructed as a single project, but was a continual development and joining of walls, the earliest of which were built in the 7th Century BC. The wall is famously visible from the moon, although this is a myth that has been debunked many times. In fact, to see the Great Wall from space is the equivalent of seeing a human hair from a distance of two miles.

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This vast structure is built so accurately that the four base sides only differ in length by 58 millimetres. A staggering 2.3 million limestone blocks were used in its construction, while 8,000 tonnes of granite were brought from Aswan which is located almost 500 miles away. The largest granite block to be transported weighs up to 80 tonnes. The pyramid continues to hold secrets and has many come to marvel at the accuracy and sheer scale of the construction project. Just like the others on this list, the pyramids are truly a remarkable feat of engineering and a standing testament to the ingenuity of the human race. ET


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Engineering Today 41  

Publication of the Malta Chamber of Engineers

Engineering Today 41  

Publication of the Malta Chamber of Engineers

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