Episode 9/10

Robert Llewellyn hosts the show that examines the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living.

In this edition, Robert discovers how an old potato field is being transformed into a championship golf course; heads below ground to see how London’s Heathrow airport sets about handling more than 100 million items of luggage every year; and reveals how the world’s fastest inkjet printer cartridges can pump out more than one billion droplets of ink every second.

Every year, almost two billion air passengers take to the skies, and around 200,000 bags are permanently lost. Though that may seem like an awful lot of luggage ending up in the wrong place, it is actually just one bag in every 10,000 that is lost forever. So how do airlines ensure that the vast majority of bags find their way to the right destination? At the world’s busiest international airport, London’s Heathrow, a 20-kilometre underground network of conveyor belts scans, sorts and delivers bags from check-in desks to the plane in less time than it takes most passengers to pass through duty free.

With almost four millions players in Britain, golf is one of the most popular sports in the country. In the last 15 years, over 500 new courses have been built, bringing the total to almost 2,500 –covering an area twice the size of Surrey. One of the largest and newest courses is being built at Rockliffe Hall near Darlington. Robert meets course architect Marc Westenborg and discovers how he sets about turning a few hundred acres of potato fields into a championship course, and how a computer design becomes reality.

Finally this week, Robert turns his attention to printer cartridges. These essential little devices can cost as much as the printer itself, but a great deal of technology goes into even the most basic of models. Over one billion printer cartridges are produced every year, each containing hundreds of tiny heating elements that vaporise ink before firing it out of up to 400 microscopic nozzles. An ordinary home printer cartridge can fire off 36,000 droplets of ink a second, while a top-of-the-range business model produces over a billion droplets – enabling the machine to print 120 pages a minute.

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