The rapid unwinding and consolidation in the global plastics industry is happening so fast that it seems major technology innovations are in danger of getting caught in the shuffle. Example: three to four years ago LPKF Laser and Electronics signed licensing agreements with BASF, Ticona, Degussa, and Bayer to develop materials that could be used in laser direct sintering. Most importantly, the materials need to incorporate laser-sensitive additives that contain metal. The plastics are then treated with lasers that engrave conducting tracks on the molded component. The parts are then metallized. The process is booming despite the fact that previous efforts at molded interconnect devices stalled, primarily due to high cost of tooling and equipment for two-shot processes. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Bayer spun out its polyester business to a new company called Lanxess, and Degussa last fall became part of a company called Evonik Industries, a major specialty chemical company. Lanxess didn’t seem to lose a beat, and even introduced a new application last year. It’s less clear what’s happening with the Degussa project.
Although plastics make up only about 11% of all US municipal solid waste, many are actually more energy-dense than coal. Converting these non-recycled plastics into energy with existing technologies could reduce US coal consumption, as well as boost domestic energy reserves, says a new study.
This year's Dupont-sponsored WardsAuto survey of automotive designers and other engineers shows lightweighting dominates the discussion. But which materials will help them meet the 2025 CAFE standards are not entirely clear.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
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