Stone Age tools help modern manufacturing

Jul 10, 2012

Innovative research by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Bradford used laser microscopes to explore how stone tools were used in prehistory, and the process has helped streamline surface measurement techniques for modern manufacturers.

The analysis of is a key factor in understanding early human life including social organisation and diet. Archaeologists at the University of Bradford hypothesised that reconstructing past activities was the best way to study what each tool was used for. They proposed to measure the surface structures of replica stone tools before and after they were used in different reconstructions on two natural materials - antler and wood.

NPL conducted surface measurement investigations on the replica tools using a confocal microscope to create a map of . Richard Leach, who led the work at NPL, said: "We measured the surfaces of each tool using a to create a map of its surface structure. Optical measurements create 3D constructions of each surface recorded without physically contacting the surface."

The measurements taken by NPL on each tool before, during and after wear experiments revealed variations in the surfaces that can be used to predict the use of the tools. The results offered interesting insight into the breadth of future experiments necessary to provide conclusive results on the use of stone tools in prehistory.

These measurements also formed part of a development process for new instruments being used in a wider NPL project to support all aspects of manufacturing: from to grinding machines to mobile phone screens.

NPL has produced a range of equipment which allows the manufacturing world to gain a better understanding of , without using stylus instruments - which have proved slow for in-process applications. NPL has worked in conjunction with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop the use of optical systems to conduct areal surface measurements, including instrumentation, calibration artefacts, good practice guides and reference software.

More accurate surface measurements allow manufacturers to revolutionise designs of existing and developing technologies, for example by controlling how the surfaces glide through air, absorb or repel water, or reflect light.

Richard Leach said: "Greater accuracy and more intelligent use of areal surface measurements impacts outputs such as improved fuel efficiency or the intelligence of touch screens. Using new ways to conduct surface measurements provides the opportunity for businesses to meet consumer demand for better quality and more streamlined products."

Explore further: Beams come knocking on the LHC's door

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fuel cells show potential

Mar 20, 2012

National Physical Laboratory scientists have developed an innovative fuel cell reference electrode that has been used to map changes in electrode potential inside a working polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) ...

Finding rough spot in surface measurement

Jul 14, 2005

For makers of computers, disk drives and other sophisticated technologies, a guiding principle is the smoother the surfaces of chips and other components, the better these devices and the products, themselves, will function.

A warmer future for watersports (w/ Video)

May 19, 2010

Watersports enthusiasts will soon be able to surf in colder waters and keep warm for longer, thanks to The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and UK wetsuit manufacturer, Spartan.

Recommended for you

Tiny magnetic sensor deemed attractive

18 hours ago

Ultra-sensitive magnetic sensor technology pioneered at PML may soon be commercialized for a host of applications from detection of unexploded bombs and underground pipes to geophysical surveying and perhaps ...

Beams come knocking on the LHC's door

18 hours ago

Over the weekend, proton beams came knocking on the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) door. Shooting from the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and into the two LHC injection lines, the proton beams were stopped ...

Climate control in termite mounds

20 hours ago

When they make their way into homes, some species of termites can be destructive pests. Their fungus-harvesting relatives in Africa and Asia, however, are known for their construction prowess, collectively ...

The secret of dragonflies' flight

21 hours ago

Dragonflies can easily right themselves and maneuver tight turns while flying. Each of their four wings is controlled by separate muscles, giving them exquisite control over their flight.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.