In a new process, a metal insert is partially premolded and then overmolded using conventional technology with traditional plastics used for housings. In the premolding ptocess, conductive paths are affixed in place, and are also tightly sealed in one step. Application targets are sophisticated automotive mechatronic parts such as transmission and brake controls, sensors and plug-in connectors. A key new material is a nonreinforced copolyamide that overmolds the electrical conductive paths in electronic components, ensuring there is no contact with moisture or oil. According to a technical expert at BASF, the material’s developer, the polymer adheres very well to either metals or plastics. To compensate, other sealing methods, such a silicon adhesives or hot melts, were used. Some engineers even precoated metals to improve adhesion
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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