Many sectors are already harnessing the power of open innovation, but the UK’s defence industry seems to lag behind. Plextek’s Chief Executive Officer, Nicholas Hill explains the benefits of open innovation for defence manufacturers and highlights examples of successful collaborations.

Brite Innovation Review interviews our Chief Executive Officer, Nicholas Hill.

To read the full article click here.

Plextek’s micro radar system to enable autonomous resupply of emergency equipment on the front line by UAS

Cambridge, UK – 14th September 2017 – Innovation consultancy, Plextek have announced their development of a game changing technology that will have a significant impact on the way that emergency equipment and supplies are transported to the battlefield.

The company have been funded by the newly formed Defence and Security Accelerator to develop a millimetre wave micro-radar to enable an Unmanned Air System (UAS) to autonomously provide resupply of equipment up to 30 km away from the front line battlefield.

The system is planned to deliver food, water, medical equipment, fuel and even mechanical parts for vehicle repair; reducing the need of travel across potentially dangerous areas and the probability of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) exposure.

The sensor has a major benefit that it can work in extreme weather environments and in both day and night, showing its future use in emergency response and disaster relief. When the risk of sending in recovery teams is high, this solution facilitates quick delivery of supplies and help, instantly reducing risk and improving outcomes during such situations.

Peter Doig, Business Manager, Plextek:
“The potential that this technology has will have a real impact on people’s lives, not only does it show a significant impact in the defence sector reducing danger and potential exposure to IED’s, but the benefits it could have in disaster relief, emergency response and natural disaster is really exciting. It really shows the benefits of how developments in the defence sector can have use in everyday situations.”

The sensor will be demonstrated later this year with a view to system level trials late 2018.

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts via email: press@plextek.com or call: 01799 533200

From Kindles to Protecting Tanks: The Different Uses for Electrophoretic Displays

From Kindles to Protecting Tanks: The Different Uses for Electrophoretic Displays

Dr Matthew Roberts - Senior Consultant, Data Exploitation

By: Matthew Roberts
Senior Consultant, Data Exploitation

6th September 2017

Home » Defence » Page 2

Most people have heard of a Kindle or an e-reader: a device that uses an electronic paper display to allow users to read on a paper-like display in bright sunlight. What many people won’t have heard of is the other uses for this technology.

The display technology used in e-readers is usually an electrophoretic display (an ‘EPD’). EPDs work by suspending charged pigments in a fluid contained within a capsule. A voltage can be applied between electrodes on either side of the capsule in order to move the pigment. This configuration can vary, but typically a clear fluid is used with black and white pigments. The white pigments are positively charged and the black pigments are negatively charged. Varying the voltage moves the pigments to control how much of each pigment type is at the visible surface of the microcapsule. The pigments at the visible surface determine how much light is reflected and therefore how white that part of the display looks.

This is a very different approach to producing an image compared to the display technology used in TVs, laptops, and mobile phones which typically use liquid crystal displays (LCDs) or organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. LCD and OLED technologies alter the amount of light that is emitted. An EPD, on the other hand, is a reflective technology.

Reflective display technologies don’t need to compete with sunlight in order to be visible outdoors. This is why it is much easier to read an e-reader than a smartphone when in direct sunlight. In addition to this, EPD technology allows text and images to be displayed in such a way that doesn’t require power to maintain the image (you only need power to move the pigments).

The combination of these two properties makes for a very compelling technology for low power displays that can be used both indoors and outdoors. The applications of this technology are more varied than some people might realise. For example, EPD technology has been used in electronic supermarket price labels, indoor signs, bus timetables, bracelets, and watches. There have even been attempts to incorporate EPD display technology into phone cases and shoes.

Plextek has experimented with using the same technology to create an adaptive visual camouflage system for vehicles. We essentially use thin and flexible EPD panels to cover a vehicle with displays that are low power and visible in daylight conditions. To use an emissive display to achieve this would require huge amounts of power (and produce a lot of heat)! It would also need careful control of the brightness to blend in, whereas, the reflective nature of EPDs naturally varies in brightness as lighting conditions change.

Most EPDs create a greyscale image. We have used a colour filter array to convert black and white into shades of green and yellow. It’s a bit like putting colour overhead projector acetate over a piece of paper. The colour gamut that is produced is surprisingly flexible, ranging from light green and cream to dark green and dark brown.

This allows us to display a wide variety of camouflage schemes that are similar to those found on military vehicles. We can even display pictures and text, such as messages relating to humanitarian aid. A scheme can be changed in seconds. The versatility that this provides is very different to the traditional method of repainting a vehicle in order to change the scheme. The new capability that it provides allows schemes to be chosen that work well in one environment rather than finding a compromise for the range of environments that might be encountered.

The possibilities don’t stop there. Colour EPD technology is currently being developed, where more pigment colours are used in each capsule instead of an overlay. This will enable EPDs to cover a much richer colour gamut enabling new applications such as tablet PCs with daylight readable low power screens and large colour billboards that can be updated remotely and consume significantly less power than emissive versions.

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Most people have heard of a Kindle or an e-reader: a device that uses an electronic paper display to allow users to read on a paper-like display in bright sunlight. What many people won’t have heard of is the other uses for this technology.

The display technology used in e-readers is usually an electrophoretic display (an ‘EPD’). EPDs work by suspending charged pigments in a fluid contained within a capsule. A voltage can be applied between electrodes on either side of the capsule in order to move the pigment. This configuration can vary, but typically a clear fluid is used with black and white pigments. The white pigments are positively charged and the black pigments are negatively charged. Varying the voltage moves the pigments to control how much of each pigment type is at the visible surface of the microcapsule. The pigments at the visible surface determine how much light is reflected and therefore how white that part of the display looks.

This is a very different approach to producing an image compared to the display technology used in TVs, laptops, and mobile phones which typically use liquid crystal displays (LCDs) or organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. LCD and OLED technologies alter the amount of light that is emitted. An EPD, on the other hand, is a reflective technology.

Reflective display technologies don’t need to compete with sunlight in order to be visible outdoors. This is why it is much easier to read an e-reader than a smartphone when in direct sunlight. In addition to this, EPD technology allows text and images to be displayed in such a way that doesn’t require power to maintain the image (you only need power to move the pigments).

The combination of these two properties makes for a very compelling technology for low power displays that can be used both indoors and outdoors. The applications of this technology are more varied than some people might realise. For example, EPD technology has been used in electronic supermarket price labels, indoor signs, bus timetables, bracelets, and watches. There have even been attempts to incorporate EPD display technology into phone cases and shoes.

Plextek has experimented with using the same technology to create an adaptive visual camouflage system for vehicles. We essentially use thin and flexible EPD panels to cover a vehicle with displays that are low power and visible in daylight conditions. To use an emissive display to achieve this would require huge amounts of power (and produce a lot of heat)! It would also need careful control of the brightness to blend in, whereas, the reflective nature of EPDs naturally varies in brightness as lighting conditions change.

Most EPDs create a greyscale image. We have used a colour filter array to convert black and white into shades of green and yellow. It’s a bit like putting colour overhead projector acetate over a piece of paper. The colour gamut that is produced is surprisingly flexible, ranging from light green and cream to dark green and dark brown.

This allows us to display a wide variety of camouflage schemes that are similar to those found on military vehicles. We can even display pictures and text, such as messages relating to humanitarian aid. A scheme can be changed in seconds. The versatility that this provides is very different to the traditional method of repainting a vehicle in order to change the scheme. The new capability that it provides allows schemes to be chosen that work well in one environment rather than finding a compromise for the range of environments that might be encountered.

The possibilities don’t stop there. Colour EPD technology is currently being developed, where more pigment colours are used in each capsule instead of an overlay. This will enable EPDs to cover a much richer colour gamut enabling new applications such as tablet PCs with daylight readable low power screens and large colour billboards that can be updated remotely and consume significantly less power than emissive versions.

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Further Reading

Armor Integrity Monitoring System (AIMS)

AIMS – Body Armour Smart Sensor for the Tactical Environment

Bede O'Neill - Business Development Consultant, Defence

By: Bede O’Neill
Business Development Consultant, Defence

16th August 2017

Home » Defence » Page 2

Throughout the ages, from earliest forms of protective shields, such as leather panels, chain mail to full armoured suits – body armour has always played a crucial role in protecting the lives of combatants. Modern day armed forces personnel wear configurations that can typically include ceramic body armour plates. Ceramic plates are highly effective at minimising the effects of projectiles presenting much greater stopping power than the soft armour variants typically found in lightweight ballistic vests. Whilst ceramic armour is hard and lightweight, its inherent design is to disperse the kinetic energy and, therefore, the penetration ability of the projectile by fracturing.

As a result, it is imperative that the ceramic body armour plate is regularly checked to verify the integrity of the ceramic structure and without specialist x-ray analysis it can be very difficult to spot this damage. The consequence of x-ray analysis as an integral element of maintenance support is a prolonged inspection cycle.

To address this issue, Plextek have developed a sensor system that removes the need for regular x-ray analysis. The Armour Integrity Monitoring System (AIMS) uses a small low power inertial sensor to detect impact events sustained by the plate. The wearer of the armour can then use a smartphone with near-field communication (NFC) to interrogate the AIMS sensor to check for plate damage following an impact event.

With an estimated five year operating life, the AIMS sensor is truly a ‘fit and forget’ device that can be retrofitted to existing ceramic body armour stocks. Whilst each plate requires only one AIMS monitoring sensor, a single smartphone can be used to check the condition of an entire deployed fleet of plates.

What AIMS delivers to the user is a first line confidence test to verify that their ballistic protection is fit for use. Previously only confirmed by x-ray analysis, AIMS provides an immediate status update ensuring that personnel have the protection that they deserve.

The introduction of AIMS to an existing fleet significantly drives down the equipment whole life costs by removing the logistic and unit costs incurred when dispatching body armour back to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for specialist x-ray analysis. As an active monitoring sensor, AIMS continues to provide an updated status of the body armour even if it has been in storage for a significant period since the last x-ray.

A truly smart sensor for the tactical environment, AIMS can be reconfigured to record multiple impact events. This information, presented on the smart phone app, can be used by medical professionals to help understand the trauma that the user has experienced. This valuable data could be used to help triage patients and diagnose the possibility and likely severity of internal injuries.

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Throughout the ages, from earliest forms of protective shields, such as leather panels, chain mail to full armoured suits – body armour has always played a crucial role in protecting the lives of combatants. Modern day armed forces personnel wear configurations that can typically include ceramic body armour plates. Ceramic plates are highly effective at minimising the effects of projectiles presenting much greater stopping power than the soft armour variants typically found in lightweight ballistic vests. Whilst ceramic armour is hard and lightweight, its inherent design is to disperse the kinetic energy and, therefore, the penetration ability of the projectile by fracturing.

As a result, it is imperative that the ceramic body armour plate is regularly checked to verify the integrity of the ceramic structure and without specialist x-ray analysis it can be very difficult to spot this damage. The consequence of x-ray analysis as an integral element of maintenance support is a prolonged inspection cycle.

To address this issue, Plextek have developed a sensor system that removes the need for regular x-ray analysis. The Armour Integrity Monitoring System (AIMS) uses a small low power inertial sensor to detect impact events sustained by the plate. The wearer of the armour can then use a smartphone with near-field communication (NFC) to interrogate the AIMS sensor to check for plate damage following an impact event.

With an estimated five year operating life, the AIMS sensor is truly a ‘fit and forget’ device that can be retrofitted to existing ceramic body armour stocks. Whilst each plate requires only one AIMS monitoring sensor, a single smartphone can be used to check the condition of an entire deployed fleet of plates.

What AIMS delivers to the user is a first line confidence test to verify that their ballistic protection is fit for use. Previously only confirmed by x-ray analysis, AIMS provides an immediate status update ensuring that personnel have the protection that they deserve.

The introduction of AIMS to an existing fleet significantly drives down the equipment whole life costs by removing the logistic and unit costs incurred when dispatching body armour back to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for specialist x-ray analysis. As an active monitoring sensor, AIMS continues to provide an updated status of the body armour even if it has been in storage for a significant period since the last x-ray.

A truly smart sensor for the tactical environment, AIMS can be reconfigured to record multiple impact events. This information, presented on the smart phone app, can be used by medical professionals to help understand the trauma that the user has experienced. This valuable data could be used to help triage patients and diagnose the possibility and likely severity of internal injuries.

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Further Reading

Data driven defence

The defence industry is facing stagnating or tightening budgets in many of its traditional key markets while, at the same time, having to adapt to changing security threats and embracing new technologies.

Bede O’Neill, Business Development Consultant, Defence, features on New Electronics.

To read the full article click here.