10 Made-in-Singapore Engineering Innovations We’re Proud Of

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Good food, the world’s first night race and an impressive city scape – Singapore is known for a lot of good things, including some of the world’s best engineering innovations! From changing the way data is stored to combatting SARS, these innovations have transformed Singapore and changed the way we live. Here are some of our top picks. 

1. The Shell that Takes Strain Out of Firefighting

Photo credit: Trigen Automotive

Imagine having to carry about 40kg of equipment up several storeys. That’s what our firefighters had been doing every day until July 2018, when Trigen Automotive unveiled its Auberon Pneumatic Exoskeleton. The fully mechanical suit is made without electrical parts and batteries, eliminating any chance of a power malfunction for better reliability. It was also designed to lessen the strain on a fireman’s shoulders by allowing the equipment to be slung across specially designed frames. There’s even a quick release catch so a fireman can swiftly jettison the skeleton in an emergency, much like an ‘eject’ button!

2. The Air-conditioned Bus Stop that Keeps the Air Clean

Photo Credit: The Straits Times

Waiting for your bus is a breeze at Plaza Singapura’s bus stop (along Orchard Road). Developed by Innosparks, the world’s first next generation smart bus stop cools the surrounding air to as low as 24 degrees, and keeps it clean by removing harmful airborne particles. We don’t even need to feel guilty about harming the environment, because it’s 70 per cent more energy efficient than air-conditioners and doesn’t use any compressors or generators. Sounds like a pretty cool bus stop! 

3. The Tiny Tool with Big Potential

Photo Credit: CNET

The ThumbDrive – a “don’t leave home without it” essential used all over the world. But did you know that the first ever ThumbDrive was created in Singapore, by local firm Trek 2000 International? Launched back in 2000, it was not only smaller than a floppy disk, but had eight times more storage space and could plug into computers universally without cumbersome cables, external hardware or adapters. It was so transformative that floppy disks became obsolete within the decade!  

4. The Fever Scanner that Helped Stop SARS

Photo credit: NBC News

Remember the SARS outbreak in 2003? If not for the MTech FeverScan S3000, the outbreak might not have been controlled as quickly. It was developed by local firm, MTech Imaging, who responded quickly to develop the highly advanced virus scanner, the most sensitive scanner in the world at the time! Using advanced thermal imaging, its sensors could detect the virus in its early stages – walk through the scanner with even a slight fever, and a burst of red dots would show up on the computer screen. Today, it’s still being used in airports around the world. How’s that for national pride?  

5. The Sewage Water that is Cleaner Than Tap Water

Photo credit: Today Online

Water sustainability has always been a concern for Singapore, so how are we addressing this? In 2000, the Public Utility Board (PUB) created our own source of fresh water, that is actually cleaner than regular (drinkable) tap water and surpasses World Health Organisation standards! It goes through a four-step process involving advanced membrane technologies, ultra-violet disinfection and numerous rounds of testing to ensure its purity. Today, NEWater meets 30 per cent of our water needs, with plans to nearly double this percentage over the next few decades. 

6. The Unusual Firetruck

Photo credit: Trigen Automotive

It may not look like your usual boxy red firetruck, but don’t be deceived by the Red Rhino’s small size. Built on the frame of the Isuzu D-Max pickup truck, it’s been designed to access the crowded streets of Singapore and even go off-road! The latest version, developed by home-grown engineering firm, HOPE Technik in 2015, can respond to both fire and medical emergencies by providing an additional seat for a medical technician and increased storage space for medical equipment. It also features an electronic throttle control, allowing for more accurate engine pump control to put out fires more efficiently. 

Fun-fact: the front of the LF5G Red Rhino (pictured) was inspired by a firefighter’s helmet! 

7. The Oil Rig that Ended an Oil Spill

In 2009, Keppel Offshore & Marine completed the DSS 51 semisubmersible (semi), an ultra-deepwater drilling rig. One of the most technologically advanced semis in the world at the time, it was designed with the most stringent safety features and can construct wells as deep as 11,430 metres and operate in waters up to 3,000 metres deep. It can also withstand a load of 13,500 tons, which greatly reduces the problem of transporting supplies to and from the rig. This is especially important, as the rigs often operate in remote and harsh environments. In 2010, the semi was even used to help end one of the largest marine oil spills in history. 

8. The World's Largest Solar Panel Testbed

Photo credit: Solar Energy Research Institute Singapore

Floating on top of Tengeh Reservoir is a 10,000 meter2 solar panel – the world’s largest floating panel in terms of size and power generated. Although still in its pilot, it can generate one-megawatt of energy, which is enough to power 250 four-room HDB flats for a year! Temperatures are much cooler over bodies of water, improving the efficiency of the solar panels and making them even more environmentally sustainable. 

Singapore is committed to increasing the adoption of solar energy. In fact, in October 2018, PUB announced that the Tengeh floating solar farm will be commercially deployed in the next three years. The Economic Development Board (EDB) will also be launching a feasibility study for a 100 megawatt peak (MWp) floating solar farm at Kranji Reservoir. Keep an eye out for even more floating solar panels, including an even bigger one being built north of Woodlands Waterfront Park.  

9. The Next Generation of Masks

Photo credit: iF World Design Guide

In 2015, a new N95-class mask took Singapore by storm when haze from forest fires in Indonesia reached record highs. Responding to the haze, Innosparks developed their revolutionary AIR+ Smart Mask – the first time in the world a mask had been re-engineered in the last 20 to 30 years. While other standard masks tend to accumulate heat and carbon dioxide, causing headaches and breathing difficulties, the AIR+ Smart Masks’ detachable micro ventilator cools the air inside the mask and removes carbon dioxide. It also came in three sizes to keep vulnerable groups like children protected! 

10. The Future of Cleaning

Photo Credit: The Straits Times

Scrub 50 is Singapore’s first fully autonomous cleaning robot, developed by JTC, WIS Holdings and Gaussian Robotics. Equipped with laser detectors and ultrasonic sensors, it only requires two hours of maintenance each month. Should its battery charge or clean water supply be low, it will independently navigate to its docking station to charge, rinse or refill its tank. It can also squeeze itself into narrow spaces to clean, which larger robots are unable to do. 

Scrub 50 is currently being piloted at CleanTech One which is within Singapore’s first eco-business park, and hopes to ease the burden on its human counterpart and provide a sustainable solution to the labour crunch. 

These are only a handful of engineering innovations that have changed the way we live. As a country that lacks natural resources, engineers are even more important in helping us grow – not just to develop new solutions and products, but also to maintain and upgrade existing structures. These haven’t been developed by one engineer alone, but by a team, working together on different aspects from designing to assembling and testing. If you’re inspired and think engineering is for you, take a look at the many different opportunities available.

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