Tooling costs to make plastic bumpers and fascia can be reduced by a factor of five using a thermoformable sheet, which for the first time can now be laser welded. Fittings can be welded that allow attachment to cars. “In the past, it was impossible to fasten components to the thermoformed sheet in a cost-effective way,” comments Thilo Stier, innovation manager for A. Schulman, a plastic compounder based in Akron, OH. The main reason is that the visible surface of the sheet would show sink marks on the cosmetic surface.The solution is use of a black laser-absorbing layer to concentrate the heat zone on the area that is being welded. A fitting can be welded in two to three seconds, Stier says.
The new technology could put Invasion five-layer extruded thermoformable sheet on a fast track. Schulman introduced its Invision sheet product in 2006 and formed A. Schulman Invision, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary. Schulman is building a new Invision plant in Findlay, OH. Sheet can be extruded in thicknesses ranging from 0.4 mm to 12 mm. Properties include good impact strength, UV stability and Class A surface, according to Stier.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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