Investment in design engineering is a sure-fire way for corporations to boost their market share and bottom line. No where is that more evident than at Whirlpool, which has increased its design engineering staff by 25% since 2002 and is reporting steady progress in corporate performance. CEO Jeff Fettig says that innovation is the company’s new growth engine. Whirlpool has $4 billion in its innovation pipeline this year, up from $1.3 billion in 2003. Earnings from continuing operations are up 15% in two years, and that’s despite a North American slowdown in appliance shipments and soaring materials costs (up $400 million this year). Fettig made the comments at the Raymond James investors’ conference last month. The results were very apparent at the Innovations Conference sponsored this month by the Appliance of Plastic Processors in Memphis, TN. Whirlpool walked away with all of the big prizes
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.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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