You might want to consider new design strategies for materials that contain large amounts of nickel, such as stainless steel. Prices entered the year at very close to a record high on an inflation-adjusted basis ($22/lb). Average prices for 2006 were 63% higher than 2005. Tags may rise slightly again this year because of some supply disruptions and booming demand in China for stainless. China produced 5 million metric tons of stainless steel last year. Amazingly, about 10 million more metric tons of stainless are under construction. About two-thirds of all nickel output goes into stainless. The addition of nickel to aluminum creates a super alloy that maintains structural integrity during changes in atmospheric pressure. For that reason, they’re widely used in aircraft, another area under pressure because of Chinese expansion.
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.