How Do They Do It?

Monday 18 October, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert focuses on two transportation giants – the largest container ship in the world, the Estelle Maersk, and a classic amongst American trucks, the Peterbilt. It is a warm July morning in southern Spain, and the year’s plum crop has ripened. Fifty workers start the harvest and eventually fill their buckets with over 40 tonnes of fruit. The produce is then taken to a packing facility for grading and sorting, destined for a Danish supermarket over 1,500 miles away. The plums are placed in a cold-storage lorry that contains a high-powered air-conditioning system. The fruit is delivered to the port of Algeciras and placed aboard the Estelle Maersk, one of the largest container ships in the world. At 400m long and 56m wide with a 157,000 tonnage, the ship is four times the size of the Titanic. Regularly loaded with some 11,000 containers, the vessel is powered by the largest diesel engine ever built, which generates an enormous 110,000 horsepower. The containers are sorted by destination and weight and loaded onto the ship as night falls. The Estelle then sets sail at night, much to the chagrin of Captain Jenson. “It is a lot harder to navigate in the dark – there is no doubt about this,” he announces. Whilst in transit, the containers are regularly inspected to make sure they are cool enough. The boat’s engine room is also constantly checked to avoid catastrophic breakdowns. “It is very rare that I see the sun,” an engine room inspector says. After four days of plain sailing, the crew safely docks the ship with the aid of a harbour pilot, then Danish dock workers use a mobile crane to pick out the container of plums. The fruit is then driven by van to the supermarket. The plums have travelled the length of Europe in five days and are still fresh enough to eat. While marine transport in such giant vessels as the Estelle clearly has its benefits, it is not always an option- especially when moving produce around America. Due to the long distances involved and the extremity of weather conditions in the USA, the lorries used must be reliable and rugged. “You need a truck so fearsome it makes a Hummer look like a Reliant Robin with a flat battery,” Robert says.

Monday 11 October, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert examines how an American freeway handles a quarter of a million cars a day, and explores the process of printing cash. Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway is one of the busiest roads in the world. Every day, it is used by over 300,000 vehicles -more than twice as many as it was originally built to handle. There are seven accidents on an average day, making a total of 2,000 per year. In order to keep the traffic moving, the Illinois Department of Transportation has just invested almost a billion dollars to strengthen, widen and improve safety on this essential road. The main problem faced by the department was that the old highway was just 69cm thick. To cope with modern traffic, it needed to be 111cm thick – but building on top of the old road was not an option owing to the clearance required beneath the freeway bridges. Therefore, the entire road had to be removed – lane by lane – at a rate of 3,000 tonnes per day. This rubble was then crushed and reused as the foundations of the new road. So much new material was needed to complete the expressway that a factory was constructed next to the road, ensuring that the concrete never stopped pouring. Every year, the US Mint produces up to 20 billion coins – the equivalent of 60 for every American. Each new coin to be issued is the culmination of a complex design and engineering process. In December 2005, Congress approved the creation of a series of dollar coins featuring the US presidents. The process of making these new bucks begins with the designers at the US Mint in Philadelphia. Working in clay and plaster, they produce a detailed relief portrait 12 times larger than the coin. A transfer engraving machine then copies all the fine details of the relief onto a master hub, from which the dies – steel plates used to strike an image onto a coin – are made.

Monday 4 October, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert focuses on the science and technology behind satellite navigation, and the mass production of aluminium. This week’s show sees Robert turn his attention to a piece of technology that millions of motorists take for granted – the satnav. Since it was completed in 1994, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has become indispensable for aeroplanes crossing continents, ships crossing oceans and for countless weekend car journeys. In-car satnav devices can pinpoint a vehicle’s position to within three metres and provide accurate directions for journeys over thousands of kilometres. But how does the system work? GPS has three stages, known as the space, control and user segments. In space, nearly 30 NAVSTAR satellites orbit the Earth. These satellites relay signals bearing details of both their flight path and the time, accurate to within a few nanoseconds. On the ground, the 50th Space Wing control station at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado monitors the satellites and ensures their signals are accurate. And in each little satnav device, a GPS receiver picks up the signals from at least four satellites, then uses the time taken for the signals to arrive to pinpoint its position. The device then uses that information to place the driver on a detailed map. Aluminium has become so indispensable to modern industry that some 100,000 tonnes of the metal are consumed every single day. From cans to cars, foil to fighter jets, life would not be the same without aluminium. But how is enough metal produced to cope with such a high demand? At Alcoa’s Huntly mine in Western Australia, some 18 million tonnes of the aluminium ore, bauxite, are extracted each year. In order to be turned into aluminium, the ore is first carried along a 15km conveyor belt to be crushed and washed, then dissolved in hot caustic soda. As the solution cools, seed crystals are added and the valuable metal crystallises as aluminium oxide.

Monday 27 September, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert examines the design of paper cartons used to hold liquid, explores a revolutionary new construction technique, and investigates how a casualty ward is scaled down to fit inside an ambulance. Each year, food-packaging company TetraPak produces more than 130 billion paper cartons – the equivalent of around 20 for every person on the planet. In TetraPak’s home country, Sweden, the process begins with the felling of trees in specially managed forests. The timber is chopped, pulped and boiled to remove the chemical that binds the cellulose fibres together. The fibres are then sprayed onto a fine metal mesh where they bind back together to produce paper. The resulting product is coated with plastic and formed into a long tube – at which point it can be filled with milk, fruit juice or any number of other liquids. Finally, a machine pinches the tube into individual cartons, which are then sealed, packed and distributed worldwide. Traditional houses can take months to build. But German construction company Huf Haus has pioneered a system that can see a customdesigned house erected in under a week. Threedimensional computer modelling allows Huf Haus customers to plan a property that will suit their own individual needs, meaning they do not have to make do with an off-the-shelf prefab design. The layout is so flexible because there are no loadbearing walls, with a special post-and-beam construction carrying the weight of the building. However, ensuring all the parts of a Huf Haus building fit together on site requires absolute precision. Even huge beams measuring some 15 metres are cut to an accuracy of 0.1mm. The result is that when the construction team arrives at a site on a Monday, the owners can be sure there will be a house ready to furnish by Friday afternoon. Every Friday night in Cardiff, paramedics Adrian Cook and Graeme Jones attend a number of emergencies. In order to save lives, their ambulance needs to be fast and stable, and must be big enough to house a range of hi-tech medical equipment. Luckily, Adrian and Graeme have one of a new fleet of �120,000 vehicles complete with everything they could possibly need.

Monday 20 September, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert shows us the fascinating workings of a large-scale coal mine, and demonstrates how packages can be delivered across continents within a single day. “Wonderful stuff, coal: It’s what built the modern world, and it’s still going strong,” Robert says. Forty per cent of the world’s electricity is generated by coal power, with over six billion tons of the material used each year. “Digging up enough to keep the lights on is no mean feat – so how do they do it?” Robert asks. To answer this question we travel to Pittsburgh, USA, to the Bailey and Enlow Fork Mine, which holds the largest complex of tunnels in America. The site mines 20million tons of coal a year, collected by over 200 workers who toil 200 metres below the earth’s surface. After travelling down the mineshaft, the workers have to traverse the 35 square mile network of underground tunnels. At present the coalface is a five-mile journey from the shaft, and it takes half an hour to reach it via the mine’s railway system. First, a Continuous Miner machine carves out access tunnels from the sheer coalface. After every few metres of digging the roof is shored up with metal supports known as ‘ribs’ in order to maintain the mine’s stability. As the exposed rock surface is covered in coal dust it becomes highly flammable and so has to be constantly hosed down by retardant. Furthermore, methane has to be funnelled out of the mine to ensure there is no explosive build-up of the gas. Although the Continuous Miner produces more coal in five minutes than a 1920s miner produced in a day, the machine is used mainly to make room for the Long Wall Shearer. “This beast is armed with a set of teeth a tyrannosaurus would be proud of,” Robert says. With its 300 metre long cutting edge, the shearer can smash out 50 tons of coal per minute. A conveyor belt then takes the coal to the earth’s surface. But how is this amount of material then sorted and shipped out to the world’s power plants?

Monday 30 August, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert learns how electricity is supplied to people’s homes and takes a look at the world’s biggest floating crane. ‘How Do They Do It?’ puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. As the world becomes progressively more automated and mechanised, people grow further removed from the means and methods of production. To rectify this, actor, writer and presenter Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) gets his hands dirty in a quest to understand modern technology. This week, Robert meets people who work around the clock to provide electricity to homes. High above the Appalachian mountains in North America, linesman Daniel ‘Spider’ Lockhart works from a narrow helicopter platform to repair electrical cables. From his precarious position, the linesman must grab on to the live wires and fix new dampeners to prevent the cables swinging in the wind. Spider is shielded from the line’s half a million volts of electricity by a wire-lined hot suit that carries the current around his body. However, one false move and he could suffer a fatal shock – or fall 50m to the treacherous ground below. A kilometre offshore in Wakasa Bay on the east coast of Japan, a new breakwater is being built. This mammoth task requires a very special type of crane. Enter the Kaisho, one of the world’s largest floating cranes. Standing at over 120m tall, this amazing piece of machinery is capable of lifting up to 4,100 tonnes at a time and placing it directly onto the seabed. Robert learns all about the technology behind this awe-inspiring machine.

Monday 23 August, 7:30pm on Five

This factual series lifts the lid on the incredible engineering behind everyday life. Presenter Robert Llewellyn is on a quest to understand the extraordinary engines, machines and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert takes a look at the world’s sharpest knives, the process of manufacturing diamonds and how the bricks used to restore St Pancras station were made. ‘How Do They Do It?’ puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. As the world becomes progressively more automated and mechanised, people grow further removed from the means and methods of production. To rectify this, actor, writer and presenter Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) gets his hands dirty in a quest to understand modern technology. Each episode contains three stories that venture out of the ordinary, as Robert meets the boffins who are constantly striving to make things bigger, faster, smaller or better. This week, Robert gets the lowdown on the sharpest new knife on the block. On the Japanese island of Kyushu, a factory at the cutting edge of technology is breaking with tradition to produce knives made from a super-sharp ceramic known as zirconia, which is second only to diamond in terms of hardness. This groundbreaking new material does not stain or rust and is almost impossible to blunt. Elsewhere, Robert takes a look at the fascinating process of growing man-made diamonds. While people assume that diamonds are a strictly natural entity, companies all round the world are capable of manufacturing diamonds in their own labs. Sarasota, Florida is home to one of the world’s leading diamond laboratories, which reproduces the very same conditions that cause natural diamonds to develop. Inside the lab, temperatures of over 1,500 degrees Celsius and atmospheric pressures 58,000 times higher than normal allow a tiny seed diamond to be turned into a brilliant one-carat stone in just four days.

Thursday 11th December at 7:30pm

Robert Llewellyn hosts the show that examines the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. In the final programme of this series, Robert is in Milford Haven to visit one of the UK’s largest oil refineries, where 88 million tons of crude oil are turned into petrol, diesel, jet fuel and all manner of other useful products every year. Robert also learns how the classic American fire engine is built, and explores how air traffic control at Hong Kong International Airport handles more than 300,000 flights a year.

Back in the 1860s when prospectors started drilling for oil in Pennsylvania, they stored the stuff in old whiskey barrels, each of which could hold over 40 US gallons. Luckily, the modern industry no longer has to rely on whiskey barrels –since the world consumes over 84 million barrels of oil every day. Around 100,000 of those barrels arrive at Murco’s oil refinery in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire.

Robert’s first trip this week takes him to the huge installation in south Wales, where every 159-litre barrel is heated to over 300°C, at which point it separates out into 75 litres of petrol, 34 litres of fuel oil, 15 litres of jet fuel and another 41 litres of other products –from propane and tar to petroleum jelly.
A small gain in the process means that the volume of the liquid increases by about five per cent.

A fully loaded US fire truck weighs over 30 tons and carries a crew of ten, but is capable of reaching
speeds of over 60mph. This is all thanks to what lies beneath the bright-red paintwork –a mighty 13-litre, 525-horsepower engine. However, the engine’s work is not over when the truck reaches the fire, because it also powers a 45-metre telescopic ladder. These ladders alone take five weeks to assemble, and are designed to be capable of smashing through windows, doors and even walls –while also reaching over ten storeys high.

Robert’s final voyage of discovery this series takes him to Hong Kong’s International Airport, one of the
fastest growing and busiest airports in the world. Here, the air traffic control team handles almost 50 million passengers and 300,000 flights a year. To keep such a busy airport running smoothly, the 250 air traffic controllers can each look after up to 12 planes at a time, meaning that they must translate the two-dimensional information on their radar screens into a three-dimensional image in their minds to ensure each plane is a safe distance and height from the next one. Each sector of air space is looked after by a separate team of controllers, so responsibility for the plane is passed on like a baton as it moves from one sector to the next. Finally, controllers in the tower combine their computer and radar information with good old binoculars to watch the plane as it moves from touchdown right up to the gate.

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.

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 fresh water is piped to London’s taps; reveals how wind power is transformed into electricity at one of the world’s largest wind farms; and unveils the secrets of an American ice-hockey icon – the Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine.

Almost twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, the Thames Water Ring Main is a hidden engineering marvel. Each day it carries a billion litres of liquid, keeping millions of homes supplied with fresh tap water. Robert descends 40 metres underground to witness the work of the tunnel boring machine that is slowly extending the ring main at a rate of about 30 metres a day. The tunnellers have to steer the giant contraption to create a gentle downhill gradient from the reservoirs to the city centre, since the whole system relies on gravity alone to keep the water moving.

On the edge of the Mojave Desert in California, the blades of over 5,000 wind turbines sweep rhythmically through the air. Owing to a steady wind flow in the area, the Tehachapi Mountains overlooking the desert are home to one of the largest wind farms in the world. The farm generates almost one and a half billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year – enough to supply more than 75,000 homes. But the wind turbines have one big enemy – flies. Every day, hundreds of insects are swatted by the revolving blades, and as the resultant debris builds up, the windmills become less and less efficient. Since the Mojave is one of the driest places on Earth, the turbine operators have to create their own rain to wash the dead flies away…

Staying in North America, Robert’s final voyage of discovery this week takes him into the world of ice hockey. In this part of the world, the sport is immensely popular and is supported by a multibillion dollar industry. But every 20 minutes during every game, the action halts as the ice is resurfaced. The Zamboni company has been making ice-resurfacing machines for over 50 years. The secret of this unlikely sporting icon’s success is that it not only shaves off the scratched and pitted ice, but in the same movement lays down a new, slippery smooth surface, allowing play to carry on after the shortest of breaks.

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