Similar to a lot of organisations, Jigsaw’s commercial experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has been like the proverbial ‘Curate’s egg’ – mostly bad but with redeeming features. At least on a personal level we are grateful that, as yet, we at Jigsaw and our immediate families have not had close dealings with the virus itself.
It is perhaps trivial but nevertheless profound to observe how social distancing and our physical proximity with others has impacted every area of our lives and how this has accelerated the implementation of autonomous and remote services, which segues into an update on our robotics activities.
So with regard to the on-going Innovate UK funded Robotics and AI project – Connect-R – there has naturally been a reduction in receipt of scheduled key design data inputs from Consortium partners over recent months as a result of the pandemic, but we have endeavoured to continue to support activity where possible. In particular, Jigsaw has begun rapid prototyping of alternative robotic technologies appropriate not only for lightweight use cases but also as potential Connect-R technology mitigation solutions, should they be needed, and has initiated associated IP processes accordingly. Jigsaw is also pleased to announce that our application to the recent Innovate UK COVID-19: Continuity Grant Call in the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Innovation Area has been successful. We are grateful to the UK Government for this additional funding support which will facilitate and underpin our contribution to the successful completion of the Connect-R project.
One of Jigsaw’s key aerospace innovations is the development of a drag-reducing laminar flow structural seal which bridges assembly steps and gaps in aircraft wings. Subsequent to the successful participation in and completion of the Innovate UK funded ALFET (Advanced Laminar Flow Enabling Technologies) project, funding for a follow-on three year project (LOFT – Laminar Optimal Flow Technology) had been approved by Innovate UK/ATI with a start date of April 1st this year. However due to the impact of Covid-19, Airbus, as the lead partner have requested that the project start be delayed until April 2021. This is naturally disappointing for us and other Consortium partners who are ready and able to proceed with the project, and we remain in talks with Innovate UK/ATI and Airbus to identify potential next steps.
Progress on the Future Piano ‘Standing Grand’ has continued during the pandemic where possible. The design and sizing of the frame and joints is maturing, but the lockdown has inevitably impacted the identification of suitable manufacturing partners (particularly those servicing the aerospace and automotive industries). Nevertheless, production of design drawings has started and supporting structural calculations are being documented addressing not only strength, but as importantly, overall frame stiffness and management of thermal behaviour.
On rapid prototyping, Jigsaw is increasing its capability, with higher printing volume capacity and speeds, and we are looking to expand our capability to composite and metal 3D printing in the near future.