Fasteners—usually the less glamorous part of a mechanical design—have been grabbing headlines lately. First it was a lack of fasteners that created (or was at least blamed for) the first delay announcement for the Boeing Dreamliner. Now two metallurgists have put out a book that really dredges up the past. In “What Really Sank the Titanic” , coauthors Jennifer Hooper McCarty and Tim Foecke say that substandard rivets were responsible for the rapid descent of the supposedly unsinkable vessel. Metallurgical testing of 48 rivets recovered from the Titanic showed that slag concentrations were at 9 percent, six or seven percent higher than they should have been. Slag is a brittle byproduct of the iron making process. Design engineers put the weaker rivets in areas expected to see less stress, such as the bow. Unfortunately, that is right where the Titanic scraped an iceberg. McCarty and Foecke postulate that fewer compartments would have burst if better rivets had been used. It’s possible, they say, that the Titanic could even have limped into Halifax. They also suggest that the bad rivets may have resulted from a rush to get the boat built at a time when rivets were in tight supply.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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