One of outcomes of the drive to reduce fuel consumption will be a major drive to composites. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner will improve fuel efficiency 20 percent through use of composites in half of its structure. All of the material is coming, at least for now, from Toray Industries, the world’s largest supplier of PAN-based carbon fiber. Toray says demand for the material is growing at a 15 per cent annual rate, with much of the immediate push coming from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. But Toray says a major demand developing from auto producers, which are already experimenting with high-tech thermoplastic composites. The carbon fiber matrices will also be used more in CNG tanks. Prices of the materials are soaring, and there have been reports of supply constraints. Toray is spending close to $1 billion now to boost capacity.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.