Brilliant Young Engineers About the Future

“Good science is never dead!” With that statement the 2019 EU–US Frontiers of Engineering symposium, 18–20 November in Stockholm, was officially opened, with the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) as host. The Frontiers of Engineering is a programme run by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE). It brings together a select group of emerging engineering leaders from industry, academia and government labs. The intent is to facilitate collaboration in engineering as well as the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields.
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About 60 outstanding engineers under the age of 45 met for an intensive two and a half days spent discussing cutting-edge developments in four areas: 5G and the Internet of Things, Materials Engineering Enabled by Advances in Imaging, Systems Approaches to a Clean Environment and Smart Manufacturing. Below are some of the highlights from the discussions.

The conference kicked off with an account of the history of 5G and the future of 6G and 7G. The development summarised as: 2G: Voice; 3G: Basic multimedia; 4G: Heavy data streaming; 5G: Internet of things; 6G: Internet of everything?; and 7G: Quantum internet of everything? It is likely that 6G will be a multi-purpose system not only used for communication but also for things like charging mobile phones (wireless). So when 5G is explained to be final generation, that is just not the case.

On the topic of 5G in manufacturing, the prediction was made that in 2025 non-human data demand will be greater than human-centric data demand. AR (Augmented Reality) is used to improve quality assurance and maintenance. A key challenge that was brought up was the human-to-things-interface. Haloportation was also brought up in the context of the future of work. AR already has the potential to be used for training, although VR (Virtual Reality) is the technology normally used today. The difference between the two being that AR adds an object/us to an actual environment rather than taking us into a virtual environment/reality. The next step is mixed reality (MR), where an object can actually interact with its environment.

On the topic of Smart Manufacturing, it was mentioned that Smart AM (Additive Manufacturing) can bring unprecedented design freedom to several sectors, such as the aerospace and automotive industries, and in medical applications. It is, however, not suitable for simple designs or large production volumes. The biggest challenge with AM is how to measure the quality of components and materials. “Model-based Intelligent feed forward” was explained as being “the dream” – an approach where results from the process of a model are “fed forward” to improve the next step in the process. Using a model-based approach makes it possible to eliminate defects that can occur, for example pores. However, more research is needed in order to fully realise this approach. In a decade it will be a reality.

One of the researchers from industry pointed out that digitalisation in manufacturing is happening at a much faster pace than anticipated due to start-ups driving development.

Imaging and advances in spectroscopy was also discussed. Spectroscopy has enabled us to identify new ways to affect and control the materials we have. It is, for example, being used to explain the phenomena of the surface of chocolate “cracking” when exposed to oxygen. Atomic-scale imaging and spectrology are not only used in materials science but are also essential in planetary science to reveal the earth’s history and possibly help us find useful material resources on Earth.   

Many more topics were presented during the conference. The fact that dust in space contains diamonds and that the nausea many people experience when trying VR is because the sound we hear doesn’t match what we’re seeing were among the many interesting phenomena presented.

“Science doesn't necessarily have to follow business”. That was one of many conclusions during the discussion about the potential of these future technologies. The message from the session on Systems approaches to a clean environment, was that science however needs to effect policy and businesses, if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met.

The symposium was hosted in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering Sciences (NAE) and the European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies, and Engineering (CAETS). 

Contact information

Elin Elliot
Head of International Affairs
Phone +46 8-791 29 28