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Blue Sky

Putting Less Weight Behind Your Argument

A greener argument for structural weight loss

Like all businesses and all industries, sustainability and building a more environmentally-friendly approach to design and manufacture plays a key role in our strategic thinking – and that of our clients.

The UK government’s Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener identifies a number of industry sectors that need to contribute. It also outlines the key improvements needed across all those sectors if they are to meet the government’s target. Each sector identified within the strategy has then needed to consider how they can make significant and sustainable gains to meet these demands. 

At Cascade we are particularly interested in those sectors that might leverage efficient structure to achieve these aims, as the design and analysis of these is the specialist skillset we offer within the market. In this article, we look at the transportation sector – an area where we can make a valuable impact.  

Delivering the required change

If we take International Transportation, we can look at two key initiatives: Jet Zero and Maritime 2050. Both are strategy documents published by the Department for Transport, clarifying how international aviation and shipping should concentrate their efforts to deliver the necessary changes.

The focus of these strategy documents appears to be about developing the existing systems and modifying the current fleets to realise significant improvements. 

By improving routes to reduce distances travelled, there is a quick return, for example. Developing sustainable fuels for existing engines, with minimised modification, also gives a great return on investment over a longer period. Zero emissions technologies can continue to develop alongside sustainable fuels, gradually replacing it, as performance improves. Influencing markets and consumers may take time, but once again the results will be worth the effort.

Within these strategies, structures only really appear as a side note wrapped up in general comments that there should be improvements in efficiency of the various modes of transport. This is understandable on a general level – realising the advantages of more efficient structures within existing fleets is a long-term project rather than an immediate focus. 

But is there a different way to approach this?

The strength of innovative thinking

The transportation market is changing. There are new players coming into the market who are innovative and proactive. This influences both technologies and regulation, and gives an impetus to mainstream manufacturers.

For example, commercial drone innovation is already improving the efficiency of domestic and international goods delivery, communications and data acquisition. Electric leisure craft and work boats are showcasing evolving technologies and utilising improved design and manufacturing techniques to gain efficiency.

In the case of drones, we have been following Dronamics’ progress as they have worked with the regulatory authorities to enable uncrewed cargo services, initially serving the Greek islands. This is a great example of how industry can work with regulators to realise an opportunity for the benefit of the mass market.

At Cascade, we have been considering novel approaches to the use of composite materials, to improve efficiency of all kinds of structures, not just for transportation. Balancing customer requirements with cost demands, materials efficiency, ease of manufacturing and meeting regulatory requirements is what we do every day.

Updating the regulatory approach

The main reason for this is to make the most efficient use of resources. Many material prices have seen escalating costs, because of reduced supply and increased demand. This means manufacturers, from all sectors, are looking for reductions in quantity – by which they usually mean weight – or are investigating alternative materials. This is happening across the board, as some materials become difficult and expensive to resource. 

With our certification expertise, we acknowledge that these highly regulated industries take time to develop and adopt new standards. We can’t necessarily just shoehorn innovative new materials or novel weight-driven designs into existing standards.

To realise the benefits of these innovations, we are talking to our customers about how we need to work closely with regulatory authorities to redefine the way some structures are considered – so that all parties are confident. The sooner we start to engage, the sooner the technologies we need in the future will be ready for those who need them, to help them face the challenges that we know will arise.

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