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Ford looks to ‘biomimicry’

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Ford has announced that it is teaming up with Procter & Gamble, to use biomimicry for a range of business solutions.

For years, Ford researchers have considered ways to make auto manufacturing more sustainable. A key challenge is glue used to adhere foams to plastics and metals can make disassembling parts for recycling nearly impossible.

Enter the gecko.

The lizard’s toe pads allow it to stick to most surfaces without liquids or surface tension. The reptile can then easily release itself, leaving no residue. Consider, too, that a typical mature gecko weighing 2.5 ounces is capable of supporting 293 pounds.

The gecko could inspire a host of adhesive innovations for global applications at Ford, said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research.

“Solving this problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings,” said Mielewski. “It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and plastics, and further reduce our environmental footprint.”

Buoyed by the biomimetic method, Ford recently hosted a forum at its Dearborn campus with participation from Procter & Gamble and The Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit committed to promoting the innovative approach of looking to nature for sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges. Nearly 200 researchers and designers took part in the day-long session to learn about biomimicry and how to apply it to their work.

“We are excited for the opportunity to participate, together with Ford – with whom we have a history of collaboration – in The Biomimicry Institute workshop,” said Lee Ellen Drechsler, director for corporate connect and development, The Procter and Gamble Company. “We have an interest within Procter & Gamble for using biomimicry as a way to broaden our approach to solving tough research challenges.”

The biomimetic approach is not new. The Bullet Train in Shinkansen, Japan was inspired by the kingfisher. Velcro took its cues from a burr. And improved medical needles were developed based on the mosquito. Interest in the approach has increased in the last decade as awareness of climate change and environmental challenges is heightened, said Gretchen Hooker, project manager for design challenges at The Biomimicry Institute.

Founded in 2006, the group works to empower people to create sustainable products and services using biomimicry. In addition to mobilizing educators and regional practitioners through the Biomimicry Global Network, the organization provides a platform to learn and practice biomimicry through multiple design challenges. These include open innovation, academic-corporate partnerships and corporate-employee challenges where employees get hands-on training while developing new solutions to issues corporations face. AskNature.org, the organization’s online database of biological solutions, offers inspiration to those looking to find answers in biomimicry.

“Ford and P&G are the first companies to take part in these new corporate-employee challenges,” said Hooker.

Beyond recycling, the Ford design teams have worked for nearly a decade to find nature-inspired technologies, with recent successes in yarn production for seating materials and headliners.

Ford is the only automaker to use Unifi’s high-performance REPREVE fiber, made from 100 percent recycled materials including plastic bottles, in its vehicles. Ford employs REPREVE in five of its vehicles – the new F-150, Explorer, Edge, Focus Electric and Fusion – making it a globally used material. The use of REPREVE represents Ford’s commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle, part of the automaker’s global sustainability strategy to lessen its environmental footprint.

Ford designers are now looking to expand upon that commitment, turning to nature to further improve the sustainable materials in vehicle fabrics. The gecko may also inspire fabric technologies that could transform the cabin of Ford vehicles, researchers said.

“As we look to further our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint, taking a holistic, biomimetic approach makes sense because nature has efficiencies in design and uses minimal resources,” said Carol Kordich, global sustainable fabric strategies and development, Ford. “Nature is the ultimate guide.”

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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