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29 July 2012
Stone Age tools streamline modern manufacturing

Innovative research by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Bradford (UK) used laser microscopes to explore how stone tools were employed in prehistory.
     The analysis of stone tools 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. 3-dimensional maps made by NPL of the surface structures on each replica tool before, during and after wear experiments on two natural materials - antler and wood - reveal variations that can predict the use of the tools.
     The measurements also form part of a development process for new instruments in a wider NPL project to support all aspects of manufacturing: from turbine blades to grinding machines to mobile phone screens. 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, who led the work at NPL, said: "Using new ways to conduct surface measurements provides the opportunity for businesses to meet consumer demand for better quality and more streamlined products."

Edited from ScienceDaily (20 July 2012)

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